Saturday, December 31, 2016

Autism Answer: Walking Down The Aisle Into The New Year

Jory and Sabrina

"Is it okay, Sabrina? You don't mind? I don't want you to feel like we're taking over your wedding day." 

"It's fine, don't worry," she promised me from her spot on the bed, snuggled in with my son. "We just want to be married. That's what we care about." 

My son kissed her on the forehead and smiled his agreement.

My oldest son got married on Dec. 27, 2016!

He and Sabrina have been together for less than a year, they are going to be parents, they got engaged a month ago, and now they are married. 

It's a gorgeous timely story! Ending the year with a new beginning.

For many reasons I am confident this marriage will be wonderful. 

Largely because my son is so himself when he's with his new wife. I've watched him grow and explore pieces of who he is and who he wants to be in other relationships, and I've enjoyed that. But with Sabrina he seems so comfortable with who he is while also getting excited about their future.  

"I'll accept the manager job but if it doesn't work out for us, I'll demote myself. Go back to this job that I already know I love," he explained to me a few days earlier. He's always put doing what he loves first and career advancement second. But a little later on I heard him chatting with Sabrina about their evening shift at the cinema where they both work. He was offering to switch roles with her, knowing she prefers working concession and she dislikes ushering. He's putting what he loves first again, and it's her.

It is an ending for me. He is not my man anymore, he's our man (until I let go enough to let him be her man. tee hee!). 

Of course, we are all aware that actually, he is his man. 

Another reason I am confident this marriage will be wonderful; we are all aware of this. Of how we are our own selves, and how our relationships serve us by giving us the freedom to explore that. She is herself. He is himself. They are themselves, together. 

"What time is the wedding?" I asked for the fifth time on the morning of the wedding. Knowing I could be getting my fifth different answer.

"My cousin is going to try to be here by one," Sabrina answered. Her cousin is the person who is going to marry them, and this new time is a good one. 
"Awesome! My niece will probably be able to make it for the wedding if it's at one." I was happy about this. I had been perfectly comfortable with a wedding that shifts and shimmies, dancing to the tune of work schedules. But I also hoped all of my nieces and sons could be there. With this new time, they could be! I was hoping it would stick.  

Mostly I am confident that this marriage will be wonderful because they are clear about what they want. There is no ambiguity, no uncertainty, and no posturing for others. There is only: "We want to be married." 

So, with everyone around them wanting to be there, they allowed us but didn't pressure us. The one thing that mattered most to them was: They wanted to be married. 

And at one o'clock, surrounded by most of our family, they were!  

My son and his wife are stepping into the new year together and are allowing us to join them, although we aren't mandatory to their happiness. (But, man, he's still mandatory to mine! I gotta work on that! ;D )

Moments before the ceremony my son chatted on the phone with my husband, who couldn't be there. "I figured I'd do what you did, dad," my son said. "Getting married. It looks like a good deal." I was beaming. I was amazed. I was momentarily lost in the insight and truth of this statement.

My husband and I have been married for sixteen years and though our marriage has been anything but traditional, it has been wonderful. I remember what my hubby said to me when I told him we couldn't get married, that it could never work because he would never leave our town and I wouldn't stay, he said, "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it." 

I shook my head at his naivete. How could it be that simple? 

And yet, it has been. And that difficult, too. We've had to build bridges with unusual scraps and tools. Yet every time, we've done it. And it's been a good deal. 

So I'm amazed and impressed and grateful to watch my son and his new bride do the same. Build a life that matches who they want to be and how they want to live. Personalized and not traditional. But wonderful!  
They are living life in their way and for themselves.

In this coming year I hope we all remember to do the same. To choose our own goals. To take action. To be clear. To raise the bar. To do so with the world in mind but ourselves at heart. 

"I had a dream that your nieces were my flower girls," Sabrina told me in her barely awake voice from the coziness of her early morning bed. "They can walk me down the aisle, since I don't have anyone to do it, dropping flower petals on the floor leading to the living room." 

Stepping into this new year let's all be willing to see our missing pieces as open opportunities. Let's be open to creating a wedding of our own dreams, not someone else's. Let's walk down the aisle strong in the knowledge that we are marrying the life we choose; not one that is chosen for us. 

May we all remember to do what my son and his wife have done.

Happy New Year my wonderful friends!
I can't wait to build more life with you in the coming year!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Congratulations Jory and Sabrina!!
You have given me more than I could ever hope to give back. Luckily I know that soon you will be getting the same from your own little peanut!!! xoxo
Jory and Sabrina - Bride and Groom!

Flower Girls

Living room wedding family photo

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Autism Answer: An Author Interview And An Internet Crush

I feel so bloody honored every time I'm invited to do an author interview.
With each publication or podcast my honor is authentic and my appreciation of another new and different audience to share ideas with effects the mood of my joy and the focus of my interview answers. Different audiences mean different parts of life get to be explored.
Each time, I want to sing and dance and appreciate a universe that accepts me as a writer and introduces me to passionate thoughtful others I can learn from. 
My interview at Books for the Soul was no exception. I love the literature that is highlighted there, and the thoughtful nature with which it is reviewed, interpreted, and shared. I have a small internet crush on, Bianca Salvant, the gorgeous woman who runs the site. So being interviewed by her, for her audience, was a high point of my 2016!
When I received her interview questions my heart quickened and I felt my online crush grow almost heavy. Her questions were thoughtful. They revealed a host who cares, considers, and knows how to invite deep conversation. I felt a thick desire to return that thoughtfulness with my own brand of the same. So I dug deep and answered honestly. And boy, did I answer! (I think I sent her seven pages worth of answers!)
I swooned ever more when I saw how thoughtfully she edited the interview! Caring for her audience, caring for her online space, and caring for her guest, me, she turned my seven pages into something with shape and appropriate length. Editing is an underappreciated form of creation. I am not skilled, at all, in that area. But, boy, do I appreciate and value folks who are! And Bianca had her work cut out for her when I flooded her inbox with my interview answers!! Her questions were just so darn great! I couldn't help but tell her more and more and more of the things they were helping me learn about myself and our world! Yet somehow she managed to whittle it down, holding the shape of my thoughts while keeping it relevant to her audience. It is beautiful! 

Please, read the interview here, and then give yourself a gift. Spend some time reading more of her essays and reviews. Be sure to like the Books for the Soul Facebook Page and follow Bianca on Twitter
And if you are a writer of literature, consider reaching out to Bianca for a review and an interview. She is uniquely able to be candid and kind. She will help you know your work, and yourself, in a new way.
You may even get a teeny tiny internet crush on her. 
But, stop it. I saw her first! 
tee hee!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Autism Answer: When Our Uncles And Their Stories Are Murdered

My Uncle Henry

My adopted uncle was murdered before he could teach me much about his culture. So now he's dead and I don't know. That's how it happens. #Indiginous
Thinking of my Uncle Henry a lot lately.

My mom was his biggest champion, inviting him to live with us when he'd been kicked out of everywhere, fighting with everyone to see him, to love him, and to listen to him. My uncle was understandably lost, alone, conflicted, afraid to be himself and afraid not to be himself. My sister and I loved it when he sat on our living room floor to make bannock but we weren't ever entirely comfortable around him. Too many people looked at him wrong. Plus, my mom loved him fiercely because she had to. She couldn't just relax and love him because loving my Native American uncle meant fighting for him. So we loved him too, but with a feeling of responsibility we didn't understand.  

My uncle was murdered, the murderer went to jail and committed suicide, my mom continued to fight and love and fight some more. 

I felt conflicted. As a niece who was interested in her mysterious uncle, I wanted her to keep him alive and to tell me more. But as a selfish little girl, I wanted her to stop fighting for him now, to let him go, to just watch me and my sister sing and play.

Mom didn't spend much time on what was wanted and instead focused on what had to be done. She fought on. She gathered more people to care for; diversity of culture and abilities surrounded us. My siblings are from all kinds of cultural backgrounds (Native American, Irish, Japanese) and neurodiversity was the name of our game (autism, Tourette's, genius, retardation) while layers of abuse were all of ours to help peel away. 

My sister and I learned how to love fiercely, too.

And we also learned how to love comfortably.

I think we're always evolving with this issue and I think we do it well. Love, listen, learn, connect, support, teach, ask, tell. Don't fight so much as be and show and love. But don't back down or run away either. Clashes will happen. Loving people who are abused by groups of people means stepping up and standing strong. It means, sometimes, fighting for them.

My adopted uncle was murdered before he could teach me much about his culture. So now he's dead and I don't know. But I can try to learn.

And I do.
I love you, mom.
I love you, Uncle Henry.
I love you, messy messed up world.
I love you.

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

Me with a book that tells a tale of Canada's uncomfortable history with Indigenous people.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Autism Answer: Wings


My son is eighteen and he will talk your ear off about wings. 

He loves to describe (and sometimes draw) one type of angel with very specific wings and then another type of angel with other wings. He'll tell you the history and reason for the wings. Wings with feathers, wings with skin, wings with talons, wings with mechanical sounds and parts. He'll explain why a dragon would have one style of wing while a flying dinosaur might have another. He's uninterested, too, in some types of wings; like birds, planes, and bugs. These wings are all too limiting and real. They don't belong to him. His wings have science and truth that are his own. My son will turn on his music and look far off into himself where, when you ask, he will partly stay in order to better describe the wings. And - most often - he will conclude by telling you the color, style, and size his wings will one day be. 

Because he is absolutely certain that one day he will invent or discover a way to have wings. 

I don't know how, I honestly don't even know why, but I am absolutely certain he will too. 

His imagination is cluttered with wings. 

I love the way it flies.

Wings by Shay Shelton 

Author's Note: A quick thank you to Quirks and Chaos for asking a question on her Facebook page about the often unusual interests some of our friends and family members have. Her question nudged me into sharing this answer. 

Her question gave this answer wings, you could say. tee hee!  

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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Autism Answer: My Favorite Tip For Healthy, Happy Relationships

One of my favorite pieces of relationship advice:

Know the difference between annoying and a problem.

I have been happily married for sixteen years. My husband is about as different from me as humanly possible and yet we haven't, so far, had a fight - although debates and
Me and my hubby.
disagreements are as common as stubbed toes and itchy mosquito bites! I honestly believe one of the biggest reason we don't fight (aside from trusting my decision to want him by my side) is an ability to know the difference between something that is annoying and something that is a problem.

All of my relationships are made happier and more authentic because of this! As a mom, sister, daughter, and friend, I am able to breath deep and truly listen, or shrug off an almost angry feeling, when I recognize that my autistic brother or my socially anxious son or my protection oriented husband is merely doing something that I don't like or that I find annoying, and not actually creating a problem. Also, I have learned to recognize and deal with problems when they do arise (because, of course, they do) with confidence and a belief in finding an answer.

I'm certain everyone we have a relationship with will annoy us at times.  (Heck, I even annoy myself now and then!) Their beliefs or abilities may clash with our own; creating friction, a need for patience, and the necessary skill of listening with an open mind. I think I found the need to learn this because of my four brothers. My mom adopted them when I was a pre-teen and they were all, to varying degrees, cognitively challenged. They were annoying, but they were not problems. Despite the cruel energy the professionals and neighbors used to tried and say otherwise, arguing that my brothers were actually a problem, my mom insisted they were not.

My mom was right. (Although, I'll argue that the professionals and the neighbors were a problem!)

I'll admit that it took me a while to learn the difference, my mom (who is Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad, a renowned international mental health expert) exampled and explained it to me creatively and consistently my entire childhood. However, it wasn't until I thought of it simply in those words, "Know the difference between annoying and a problem," that I truly held onto and successfully incorporated the understanding into all of my relationships. It probably helps that the words materialized while my husband was, well, annoying me. Giggle!

This has shifted me in powerful ways! I am now far more eager to work on solving any true problem in my relationships because I've learned to recognize that there aren't many. Also, I have gained important skills of debate and discussion during the more annoying issues that pop up and can be fun to learn with. 

I have gotten rather good at making all of my relationships healthy thanks to this awareness of annoyances vs problems;  my relationships are healthy, but that doesn't mean they all last long. Some of them are rather short. Sometimes problems are bigger or more prevalent than annoyances, and that can mean saying goodbye. Walking away from a person or a group. But even though some relationships last longer or grow stronger than others, all of my relationships are honest, organic, and built on a foundation of allowing people to be who they are.

My oldest son is getting married next year and I intend, amidst a few other suggestions and relationship tips, to make this one stand out: "Know the difference between annoying and a problem."

I hope he doesn't think I'm being annoying. 
tee hee!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

My oldest son and his lovely wife-to-be!!
AUTHOR EDIT: Thanks to a thoughtful comment/question on my Facebook Page - asking for help knowing the difference between an annoyance and a problem - I thought I'd add my personal definition here.  
An annoyance would be when something makes life inconvenient or uncomfortable vs a problem which makes life dangerous (physically and/or emotionally) or stops people from expressing their own personal beliefs and personality.  
 I hope that helps! Feel free to play with the concept in order to come up with your own definition. Hugs!!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Autism Answer: The Best Source For Your Story Is You

I am happiest and most effective in everything I do when I trim my news time down to less than an hour a day. IMPORTANT: LESS than an hour a day. 

Local, global, sports, niche (autism, environment, race relations, etc.) news explored via trusted and solutions minded sources for LESS than an hour a day is my sweet spot. 

I feel aware, awake, and educated while I also feel happy, able, and action oriented. 

My suggestion, friends, is to find your sweet spot! Don't avoid the news entirely (good journalists - and activists - put their lives on the line to bring us truth) but also make it a rule to barely acknowledge the viral "news" (almost always click bait, propaganda, and lazy lies that are guaranteed to poke at your animal brain and make you share - this includes a whole host of overly simplified "feel good" stories that play irresponsibly with pity language at the expense of entire people and populations). 

Do your best to find a news source that brings you news highlighting solutions; ideally, highlighting already in action solutions while offering ideas for more. News sources that highlight solutions will still bring you the "bad" news, so don't worry about being fooled into complacency. In fact, they tend to fuel you into action by helping you know what works, explaining what doesn't and why, and giving you an understanding that you are not alone, and that you can make a difference.

Most importantly, though, spend more time with your own observations and loved ones that with those being brought to you by others. 

Our autism community is filled with tons and tons of issues we disagree on. Language, therapies, vaccines, and more. Yet, we are seekers of solutions that come from an intense place of love. When we spend more time seeking our solutions based on our observations, and some time seeking solutions based on the experiences and expertise out in the world, we tend to be happier and more effective. 

So, let's always do that! Learn from those out there doing the work of investigating and sharing what they know. Use it as a reference for YOU, you who are also doing the work and investigating. You are the best source for your story, your solutions, and your news.

Be a consistent, strong, and willing source for your story. 
The first and last source; every day. 

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Autism Answer: About Writing

What I love most about writing: 

Those moments when somehow, through struggle and a painful desire to do so, I discover a cadence and the words that say exactly what I'm trying to say.  When I write a sentence or a phrase that brings forth the specific feeling and meaning I'm trying to uncover.  It's like discovering a rare and perfect gem, one you imagined in a dream, on a never-ending length of beach. Except you didn't just discover it; because of your seeking, you are part of it's creation. What a fantastic and addictive feeling! 

Autism Answer: 

My mom is renowned international mental health expert Lynette Louise (aka The Brain Broad). Her journey and unique skills have grown organically from the soil of her unusual mind. As a little girl she was consistently misdiagnosed and considered a brilliant challenge to the grown ups in her world. As a woman she adopted and adored several cognitively challenged children; together they healed and progressed in creative yet consistently authentic to themselves ways. As a woman, she is a powerful passionate advocate and healer. Because I am her daughter, this should have all come pretty naturally and easily to me as well. Right? Well, nope! I pushed her strangeness away and then tried to understand it and then pushed it away again. Until I became a mom myself. It was with mother motivation that I found the ability to nurture what is already there while working my butt of to hone, reveal, and coax it until it shines. It was with writing that understanding filled me even more. It was writing and honing sentences and trimming ideas to their authentic selves that gave me the gift of openly exploring my mom's teachings, customizing them, and making them my very own. 

My biggest dream as a writer: 

Before I actually began writing in public I dreamed of having a shelf full of novels penned by me while I imagined enough of an audience to be considered by the world a real writer. Now, though, my biggest dream has shifted. I was surprised to discover, as I was writing for a possible audience, that being a writer in my own opinion is enough for me, so the audience no longer plays such a significant role in my dream as a writer; although, I adore and imagine them always. My biggest dream now is to have a shelf full of novels that I know are worthy of the stories they tell penned by me. Stories I can honestly say I gave my best service and ability to as a writer. 

Autism Answer:

I watched my mom teach my brothers skills while she nourished and explored their habits and interests. I watched as she celebrated successes that I could hardly see. Until, as a sister, I tried really hard. She didn't seem to be molding them into "normal" people but instead encouraging them to become who they were; while insisting and believing they could gain seemingly impossible-for-them skills along the way. She believed in them and they showed her they could stand on their own, confident in their true selves. As a mom and writer I learned to do this as well. My sons aren't successful only when they make the progression from school to job to living on their own to raising a family to retirement. Nope! They are successful when they are comfortable, confident, and creating their lives in a thoughtful way that matches who they are. Success is kindness and confidence in their true selves. My writing isn't meant to fit into a cookie cutter neighborhood of stories but rather to become what it was meant to be. Still, it is important for me to learn the skills necessary to encourage it stand on it's own. To be confident in it's true self.

What I wish I had known about writing starting out: 

Well, this is one of those questions, isn't it? I mean, I had been told most of the things I wish I knew, but without actually diving in and writing I couldn't quite know them for myself. I was told that writing is not only about the story and not only about the mechanics. But I had to dive into the world of writing myself to truly know the importance of punctuation and format in tandem with story and inspired thought. I was told that every writer writes for different reasons and in different ways, but I had to write for different reasons and in different ways myself before I knew the truth that my way was valid and right; so long as I was writing. Writers  told me the importance of completion; to write and write and write but to, also, come to the end. But it wasn't until I finally finished my first piece of writing (just before my 30th birthday!) that I understood the valuable writing-skill of tying it up and giving it away to the world. Of knowing you've done it; you've written that screenplay, that story, that novel. You're always going to be "writing" but now, also, you've "written". There are so many more things I sort of wish I knew before I began, but in truth I really couldn't know. Not until I knew from doing. Although there is one thing I wish I had believed before I began writing. One thing that might have made a difference for me is: Be friends with other artists. Ideally, with other writers. There is so much they can do for you! They can understand without it needing to be said. They can pull you out of that vulnerable, lonely place that writing often leads us to. They can suggest publications and tell you what to expect. And you can do all of that for them, giving you the ever-valuable feeling of knowing you are valuable. 

Autism Answer (What I Wish I Had Known): 

Well, this is the thing, isn't it? I just shared the truth that my mom told and showed and exampled for me so many things about parenting, autism, differences, and disability. Yet, until I began parenting, I couldn't quite know it for myself. I had been taught that people aren't only about their uniqueness or their ability to fit in; there is a necessary relationship between the two. Yet until I began parenting my own four sons with challenges and differences, until I was diving deep into the waters of wanting them to be who they are while wanting to show them how to be part of the world, I couldn't quite grasp the truth of it. It had been said to me that different parents can parent well in different ways and for different reasons. But I had to be a parent myself, I had to struggle through the need to do it "right" only to discover that I had to do it my way, and differently even day to day, situation to situation, child to child, with a consistency that remained always at the base of things, before I could grasp and know the validity of different parenting styles. I had been told and shown that one day I would have to let go. I had seen my mom let my brothers move away, gently pushing some of them and promising them they were ready. I was there, helping and scared, as they practiced their skills and grew their abilities in the outside world. I saw as mom loved them while they failed and while they succeeded. Yet it wasn't until my own sons grew older and I had to begin the process of letting go that I truly understood. You are never not parenting, but you have to believe that they are able to become who they were meant to be without you, too. Indeed, they must. It is the only way. And, as with writing, I think it is helpful to find a few friends who get it. Who have been there. Who can understand without words. I have those friends. They are few, but they are more than enough. They give me the gift of their understanding while asking me to do the same. 

Autism Answer: About Writing 

My brothers, my mother, my sons, my friends; autism has shown itself in a variety of ways in my life. So I have grown to see people in a variety of ways. Interestingly, it has helped me shed the desire for labels. The variety is just too much. Outliers are my world and though they do fit into groups in a lot of ways (which can be a wonderful way to be understood) they don't fit only into specific spaces and can't be filed under restrictive labels. In this way my writing had been blessed. I don't feel a need to be an autism blogger or a fiction writer or an opinion peddler. I write to explore and share my authentic self while I keep the audience in mind. My mom taught my brothers to be themselves while caring about the world. I ask my sons (and myself) to do the same. But because autism has made so much of that harder and even painful, I've opened myself up to see that caring about the world often means showing it how it can change. Giving it stories that will ask it to shift. 

I don't always do this well - as a sibling, parent, or writer - but I hope always to be brave enough to do it. 

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


RANDOM: My book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up, is not one of those novels I dream of writing. Instead it's a collection of mostly true stories, a book that was an important step for me. I needed to have a book published to push myself past the fear of my first book being published. I'm now working on my first novel. With excitement and far less fear, largely because it isn't going to be my first book!