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.
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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…” Darrin 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)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Autism Answer: Free (A Five Sentence Story)

A Story In Five Sentences: 


I chatted quietly and sweetly in the back of the police cruiser, smiling and giggling and apologizing and nervously covering up my deep fear, taking action by putting my sweetness and youth on display.

I’d never been arrested before and I never imagined that I could be; I was a sweet girl who was afraid of authority so I rarely broke rules, other than ones of necessity.

By the time I was locked up with the others I had reassured myself that I didn’t belong, that I could at least enjoy a night with a roof over my head until this mess was cleaned up and my obvious goodness was clear and understood. Avoiding eye contact with the large black woman pooping on the toilet four feet from my mismatched sneakers I promised myself that I would be extra good and do exactly what I was told.

Then I would be free.

I wrote that five sentence story (which may or may not be almost autobiographical) last year in response to Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge at the time. Which was simply to write a story in five sentences.

This macro-story blossomed into a short story that I wrote a few months later. The main character, Apple, is a socially challenged and easily confused homeless girl who lives under a tree. I adore her! 

However, my short story HOMELESS is still, well, homeless. I've submitted it a couple of times to publications that seem like a possible fit, but short stories aren't easy to find a home for. At least, not when they want to get paid for their time. That's been my experience, anyway. 

So, for now, it's going to continue to live a life of unlimited possibilities; not promised to anyone or expected anywhere at a certain time but ready to tell its story when the Universe (or an interested publisher with payment) finds an audience in want of it. 

Selfishly, I'm not in any hurry. I love Apple. I love the tree she lives under. I love the relationship she has with her friend Mike. I don't mind keeping them to myself for now. 

Particularly because I know that one day she'll look down at her mismatched shoes and they'll make her feel fancy. She'll look at me and I'll know that she didn't get all dressed up for nothing and she has places to go, and I'll be happy for her. I guess I'm not selfish so much as aware. Aware that being ready for an adventure doesn't mean we have to force one on ourselves, or on our loved ones. 

But we should be willing to take advantage when the time is right. 

So Apple is ready, and I'm ready, and one day soon the time will be right. 

In the meantime, I was able to share a snippet of who she is and how she thinks here with you now. 

And in only five sentences! 
What a clever, crafty writer I am! tee hee!

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

I think I found Apple's tree.

Friday, March 10, 2017

100 Word Short Story: The Wrong Answer

The Wrong Answer

“What do you think about gay marriage?” my dad asked, then waited with interest for my reply. In truth, I hadn’t. But my dad had been impressed with my newly emerging opinions at the time, so I gave him a sound bite I’d heard somewhere: “Oh, I don’t know. It’s a slippery slope, you see…” 

I remember that moment often and feel physical pain. 

I dream of my dad now, phone him in my sleep where I know the number to another dimension, and tell him my answer: “Of course they can get married.”

Of course. 

Dad and me
 Hugs, smiles, and love!