Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Autism Answer: My Weird And Wonderful Mom

Author's Note: I was honored with an invitation to write a guest post for the brave and inclusive Jennifer Margulis. I truly hope you'll take a moment to read that post HERE. But for you I have also taken the time to share an edited (with my audience in mind) version of that post here for you!  Read, share, talk about it with your network.  And, if you have the inclination, I'd love you to also read my guest post. It's kind of fun to see the sameness in the posts along with the differences. Some of the stories and ideas I share here with you are different from the ones I share there. It's a fun reminder that we can often tell the same story differently, depending on our audience. GUEST POST: What Having A "Weird" Mom Herself Taught This Mama About Children's Health  Happy reading! ~Tsara


Now, not everyone was blessed with a weird and wonderful mom. I know this. 

But I was, and it is my honor to share a little bit about her with you. She is someone who insisted on exploring her own organic oddities - despite being alone in this endeavor and consistently fighting the adults in her world who were working hard to stomp out those oddities - to create something wonderful from scratch. My mom can help those of you who weren't given the gift of someone like her in your lives. She can help you discover the value of organic oddities in yourself and your loved ones. You can do what I do, let her be your weird and wonderful teacher! 

My suggestion: Don't miss any opportunity to learn a few things from the people who stand out. 

You can do that here if you'd like. Join me. Have a seat while I pour the coffee. Hmmmmm... there's no pie but I found a few pieces of dark chocolate. Have a nibble and lean in, get comfy. I'd like to tell you a bit about my mom. 

Oh, my weirdly wonderful mom! She is an endless series of stories I love to tell. I promise, though, to try to keep this telling interesting and on point.

My mom grew up as the “black sheep” in her family. Her strangeness (eventually mom would be diagnosed as ‘Historically Asperger’s’) was uniquely frustrating, and the abuse my grandparents doled out to all of their kids was particularly harsh for mom. From the earliest age, my mom promised herself that she would grow up to have several children, and she would treat them with fairness. My sister and I were lucky recipients of mom’s love and fairness. However, that love's intensity was a little much for our small group and – after having to have a hysterectomy – my mom adopted six more children. Four boys and, later, two homeless teenage girls. So there were eventually eight kids altogether: Four older girls and four younger boys. All four of my brothers had multiple brain disorders, and they all also landed in various places on the autism spectrum. 

My mom was married for the third time when she adopted my brothers. And though that marriage lasted longer than her first two (she was married to my step-dad for nine years) that one also fell apart. So, in truth, my mom was pretty much always a single mother. A single mother with eight unusual kids. 

We moved a lot. My mom was clever that way. We were always interesting to our neighbors and just when we were becoming annoyances, mom found a “great opportunity!” for us, and we’d move. So our most common experience as a family (thanks to mom’s kind deception) was that we were interesting, and living a life of great opportunities. This is just one example of how my mom’s weirdness was wonderful. She rarely considered parenting the way she saw parenting being done by others, and instead parented in the way it would work out for the largest number of her children. 

This bothered most schools and professionals to a surprising degree! My mom insisted on finding people who could follow her lead. People who would look at her children – particularly my brothers – and be creatively willing to teach or understand them from where they were, while believing they could learn. And when they couldn’t be creative she wanted them to at least be open to her suggestions. However, systems and schools are not set up for creativity and outliers. So, mom insisted on looking for ever more “great opportunities!” while creatively teaching us herself. 

This is another way my mom was weird: From the moment she met my brothers she saw them as completely capable; albeit, differently so. 

So, filled with love and leadership for a strange batch of children, my mom educated herself in uncommon ways. Always willing to look where the clues directed her, even though she was almost always sent off alone into areas that were taped off from the public, mom made her own trails. But it was in those places that my mom unearthed the uncommon answers that helped her uncommon children. All eight of us kids have grown beyond statistics and the possibilities offered to us by professionals. Particularly my four brothers. Three are independent men and my most challenged brother lives with mom in California. 

My mom – Lynette Louise (aka “The Brain Broad”) – now travels the world as a mental health expert specializing in autism. She is a speaker and an author. She is a comedian and a singer/songwriter. She is a renowned practitioner and consultant. She continues to make waves and invite controversy. Mom’s most important project is her international autism docu-series FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD (which airs on The Autism Channel). In the show, simply put, she brings cameras with her to work and shows audiences why her weirdly wonderful ways work to help grow healthier families, regardless of culture.

Admittedly, my mom's weird ways often put our family at odds with the world. And for me, a shy type, that was sometimes a problem. But problems are an important part of solutions and my problem of being loved too loud was one that added a filter of everlasting value to my childhood. 

My experience of growing up was thus: We moved, often. We sang, often. We hurt, often. We laughed, often-est. It was necessary. My brothers were challenged and challenging. My mom had little to no help and when she was offered help in the form of social workers or babysitters they generally took on an adversarial role, looking to see what my mom was doing wrong rather than looking to see how they could simply help. (Later, as an adult, I would discover the unfortunate commonness of this. It was a sad realization. But I did feel less like my mom was such a weird mom and more like she was a strong mom, unwilling to bend for the sake of getting along with people who were wrong about her kids.) 

The greatest example of how fun and strange my childhood was is the year my mom took us on a North American Prison Tour. 

My brothers were being bullied in school, learning no academics and only dangerous social skills. Us four teenage girls were in different stages of wild and with so many children to take care of mom needed a way to get us all in one place while teaching us. Well, she had recently recorded her first musical CD (Sing Me A Song…Please!) so a brilliant idea was hatched. We would perform an inspirational comedy musical for prisoners! 

With help from a local mechanic she got her hands on a big cargo van (we kids christened it “The Disco Van” because of its red coat of paint with the fancy silver stripe) and after much writing, rehearsing, and planning, all eight of us kids climbed into The Disco Van and headed out. During this time my brothers learned more (reading, geography, math, navigating, etc) than they had their entire school careers. My sisters and I learned that people in prison were not to be feared or emulated, they were simply people. We also learned we didn’t want to end up there. We simultaneously fell in love with the crowds while decidedly making new choices for our own futures. It was brilliant! 

My childhood was fun, hard, and exactly what I needed.

A Recent Visit With Mom: In February my mom flew to Dallas with one of my nieces so they could see STOMP at the Dallas Theatre. Excitedly I grabbed my youngest brother (he lives in the same small town I do) and my two youngest sons and we met them at their hotel. We had so much fun! As is our habit we sipped coffee, chatted, and laughed. 

Our family is a motley mismatched crew – all sizes, colors, sexual identities, and abilities – but we are so comfortable and happy together! A group of us can almost always be found huddled together around coffee and conversation, although you never know what group. My sister, my nieces, my sons, my mom, my brothers, we move from one place to the next, sometimes these ones living with that one, or that one staying with this one, but always we work well as a team. 

It’s a wonderful thing my mom has built! 

And it was all grown purposely out of the weird and wonderful organic oddities that is my mom's soil. 

Oh, I see you didn't finish up the chocolate. Well, I'll eat that last piece then, thank you. Would you like me to top off your coffee? 

And, while we're here, do you have a story about a weird and wonderful person in your life? Is it you? 

I hope you'll share. It's your turn to talk, I've got chocolate on my teeth. Giggle!

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


If you would like to share more of my stories with me I invite you to read my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning From Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up. So far, folks are enjoying it!  Here are a few customer review excerpts I pulled from Amazon

"Tsara Shelton’s book of essays and stories, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself, is a lovely elaboration on the author’s lifelong pursuit of learning to know and love herself. She seems, even from childhood, to have been uniquely gifted at loving others, seeing past outward appearances and personalities into the inner selves of people. Her honesty and empathy, patience and optimism seem to extend from those around her to her reader." ~Linda Aldridge 

"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. Tsara's descriptive language paints such vivid images of scenes from her life. It's incredible that she is so open and truly lets you into her soul. I would describe this as a book of hope." ~Jess

"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

"Rather awesome to find such an author whose understanding of stories are fundamental to the way we process and experience life events and the feelings that surround them. What a pleasurable read this book is. These stories encapsulate life’s memorable moments and enduring lessons. When such a talented writer harnesses the power of literature and uses it to develop positive lessons and family values our world becomes a more beautiful place to live together in." ~Relena 

"A parent extraordinaire. A coffee sipper, a writer of wisdom, a singer of songs. A free spirit with gypsy in her soul who carries you along with her wonderful stories." ~Sara Luker (Autism Sara)

"............................................................. lovely family..................................... the greatest writing................... stories of her kids are adorable........................... reading felt like having deep conversation with a true friend.......  " ~You (Or, you know, something like that. ;D ) 

BONUS: My book loves to travel!