Monday, December 31, 2018

Autism Answer: A New Year Resolution in Film

I'm making a resolution to watch more movies in the upcoming year. 

I have a love of great filmmaking and have even written a screenplay myself. I actively engage in conversations specifically to share my desire for a more inclusive film industry. Yet, I don't carve out a lot of time to enjoy the films themselves. I catch myself too often worrying that movie watching is lazy. 


I believe the movies we make are important and of great value and yet I also think watching them is lazy? That's not congruent thinking at all! So, I will still have those conversations but I will also walk my walk by seeking and watching and recommending films that are inclusive, diverse, and entertaining. 

Allow me to make an inclusive film suggestion for you while we're chatting about it. Living with Lynette was written, directed, produced, and stars my mom, Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad"). It also stars two of my brothers, me, my dad, and my niece. Oh, and the other actors and crew are friends who either have disabilities, mental health diagnosis, or family members that do. 

The Plot:  A wild and weird family is moving into their new home in the hopes of creating a more permanent life for themselves. Headed by Lynette -a strong single mother - the large family with diverse backgrounds and various mental health challenges is used to the curious stares of strangers. However, when the new neighbors begin to introduce themselves on moving day, Lynette can't help but notice that perhaps they are the strange ones. Soon she finds herself doing therapy on a catatonic neighbor, attempting to understand his exasperated ever-changing wife, and babysitting their young child, all while trying to keep the walls of her new home from being eaten and the carpets from getting stained before they've even finished moving in.

The Concept: My mom's intention is to create a special membership site that invites people to send in clips of their special needs loved one in order to be selected to be on the show. If this evolves as intended it will grow into an improvised web series involving all levels from severely challenged to high functioning individuals. As it grows, my mom will make it available for public viewing (so people no longer have to be members on the site). This is a fictional comedy based on our lives and my mom did an amazing job of keeping it funny, candid, and practically true. 

The Awards:  Living with Lynette was 2018 honorable mention winner in two categories at the International Independent Film Awards: Casting and Original Song. The song is funny and catchy, and I'm glad it was recognized. But it's the casting I'm particularly happiest about, because it is the casting that's different, important, and - well - my family! Actors with autism, bi-polar disorder, and even one man dying of cancer (my dad). It is the point of the show, to share what it is to be crazy and what it is to be normal and the subjective/invented line between the two, while including people with diagnosis and disabilities to play integral roles in the making of the show. And so we are honored for both awards but mostly so for the casting award! Thank you to the International Independent Film Awards judges! 

The show (free) on Vimeo: Living with Lynette
The show (free) on YouTube: 

I have taken the time to find books written by diverse people from various cultures, and boy has it been insightful and fun! And how funny that reading rarely feels lazy to me, when reading is done by sitting on my butt, or laying around in my bed, sipping coffee and dipping myself into a world noone around me can see. How funny that that hardly seem lazy to me while movie watching can. And yet, movie watching can be easily done as an activity, dipping many of us, together, into a world unlike our own; sparking conversations and ideas as a group. 

Well, silly me! 2019 will be filled with films I'll watch alone, with family, and with friends. As with the books I read I'll take the time to find inclusive and diverse stories (last night I watched ROMA, a fantastic movie that chronicles one year [specifically in the early 1970s] in the life of a maid in Mexico City. I HIGHLY reccomend this film which is available on Netflix!) that are guaranteed to enlighten me in surprising ways while reminding me to give attention to the important work of inclusive filmmaking. 

What fun I'm going to have keeping this resolution!!

I hope you'll join me in taking the time to direct your attention to things that matter to you. I also suggest taking a moment to reflect on possible contradictions in your life that will be fun to correct. Like engaging in inclusive storytelling! 

Happy New Year my fantastic friends!! 

Feel free to share film suggestions with me and follow along for my upcoming recommendations.

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

Monday, December 17, 2018

Autism Answer: I Was Right

Lately, I keep thinking this to myself: "I was right."

The recent reason is simply that I have spent a few years imagining and setting up for a year when I could live everywhere and nowhere, traveling easily to family and staying with them while I am helpful, moving onto other family members when they crave my help, all the while satisfying my deep desire to spend all my time with family. In my imagination, that was a life of happiness for me.

And over the past five months, that's what I've been doing. And, turns out, I was right! That is a life of happiness for me!

Today my oldest son turns twenty-five. And I am thinking again: "I was right."

I had spent years and years imagining myself as a mom. Craving and creating situations that might best serve to make that dream come true.

Now, I was younger then. Still not experienced enough to know how true it is that what I imagine and create will happen but that it will also surprise me by feeling and looking different than what I imagined I was creating.

So while my dream was coming true, while my son was being built in my belly and born from my body, and my love for him was surprising me by feeling unfamiliar despite years of preparation, I was not immediately aware that it had happened, that I had made my biggest clearest dream come true. That he had brought that gift to me on his birthday.

But I was immediately aware that I was right. About my desire to be a mom, not so much my idea of what that meant.

Indeed, I couldn't have been more wrong about that! But my son, in his interest in continuing to gift me with truth, made certain to let me know.

He didn't go to sleep just because I was singing, he didn't listen to my instructions just because I said them with love and kindness, he didn't eat his vegetables just because I patiently explained the reasons to do so, he didn't calm down just because I spoke to him as an equal rather than treating him like a lesser citizen. All these things and more I had been so certain of, despite my experience as the oldest of eight with four young brothers I often babysat ("They're different," I thought, "they have disabilities and stuff. When I have my own children they won't be adopted so they'll begin life with my style of parenting and will listen better because of that." Boy, I was a cute little fool! ;D) I had been sure I knew what living life as a mom would look and feel like for me.

Yet together my son and I (and eventually my sons and I) figured out ways to live the life I had imagined while creating more realistic and true experiences of living it. And always it was, and is, clear to me: "I was right."

Happy birthday, Jory Rand. You are a wonderful husband and father. A kind and considerate brother and son. You are perfect and continue to grow in perfect directions as a man. You are more than I imagined and everything I could hope for.

I hope with all of my heart that as you create, imagine, and adjust the life you're living, you have ample opportunities to honestly tell yourself: "I was right."

I love you!!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) /

Jory Rand Shelton (Photo by Tim Hale @ Tim Hale photography)
Check out my son's music mixes on his Soundcloud page. My favorite, this Freestyle with his friend Genta: Freestyle by Jory

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Autism Answer: Freedom

I like to think about freedom. The necessity of it, the danger in it, and the challenges it offers.

But mostly, the necessity of it.

For those of us with small children, and for those of us with friends or family who have a disability or dysfunction that makes freedom even more dangerous or challenging, I feel we are still correct in caring about the necessity of freedom. We are also, however, put in a position to explore it more deeply.

If we're raising ourselves and our children with an eye on independence, and I believe most of us are, then we must allow for freedom. The two are, well, dependent on each other. 

Now, let's take a second if we may to chat about "independence" before I lose some of you and before my mom rolls her eyes at my hypocrisy. (She knows me really well and independence is not a thing I appear to value. giggle!) 

It is true, I do not highlight or seek or even see as an important goal an independence that strictly means to live on your own, pay your own bills, make your own meals, get yourself where you need or want to go, or even to dress your own self. These are all things we can strive for in our personal version of independence, but for a few of us some of these are entirely impossible and for many of us one or more of these would merely get in the way of discovering a different more fulfilling type of independence. 

For example, perhaps I want to write and produce my own movies but am so busy trying to pay all my own bills I don't have the creative energy or time. Or, perhaps I am severely autistic and many of these things are so far from my capabilities that I give up and don't seek to discover the places independence can be mine. And, of course, a gazillion possibilities in-between. 

To raise ourselves and our loved ones with an eye on independence means, to me, to seek forward motion, skill acquisition, and personal passions. It means to overcome the fears that inherently accompany trying to learn to do something we badly want to do in order to practice and believe in our ability to do it. 

And here, we meet up with our friend freedom again. 

It is necessary to have the freedom to try. It is dangerous, we can be hurt. It is challenging, we will be inconvenienced by the freedom we allow others. Yet, it is necessary. 

Let's find those places where we are not giving ourselves, or someone we love, the freedom necessary to move forward in the way they desire. Perhaps we're pushing for an independence that interrupts a possibility - for reasons of fear, an interest in fitting in, or trying to impress folks we rarely see but will be visiting over the holidays - or maybe we're merely not allowing enough freedom because we are afraid of the hurt (physical and/or emotional) that is most likely to happen when we're free to try new things. Things we're not yet good at. Particularly, things we care about being good at. 

Let's find those places and make changes. Allow for freedom. It's okay, I think, if we give ourselves limits but let's not limit ourselves. Let's not say no, or stop, when we're in unfamiliar territory only because it is unfamiliar. Or only because people are staring and pointing and judging our choices.

Freedom is dangerous. It is challenging. It is vulnerable. It is also exciting, invigorating, filled with possibilities and wonder. 

It is also necessary. 

I invite us to navigate it well and with good intentions. 

Feel free to disagree with me. ;D

But for folks who feel similarly, who feel that giving ourselves and our  loved one's freedom - despite the dangers and challenges - is a necessary goal, here's a gift for you.

My mom (Dr. Lynette Louise, aka "The Brain Broad", international brain and behavior expert) and my brother, Dar, tried out the GPS SmartSole a few years ago and were excited about the possibilities! Particularly the possibilities offered in the freedom created by the product. 

They were so excited, they partnered up!

Check out this GPS SmartSole video starring them:


Have a look at their website, GPS SmartSole, see if this (or any of the other products they provide) will work for you and your family.

Part of seeking freedom is seeking tools or environments that allow it. 

I hope you have a safe, fun, and free holiday season my friends!!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Friday, October 26, 2018

Autism Answer: We Are Not Responsible For Creating Kindness For Everyone Though We Can Always Be Kind

Confession: I read a story in the above video of the time there was a ghost at my door, and how our small one-time conversation had meant much, and how small kindnesses can have large effects, and how (and here is the small lie I tell in the true story) I have easily been able to partake in these small kindnesses because I am not afraid of Kevin Reese. 

Well, it is true that I am not and was not afraid of Kevin Reese, but it is also true the reason for that largely has to do with a difference in us that was not too different. 

The truth is I often have been, and sometimes still am, afraid of people drastically and vastly different than me. People who are so different that I am unusually challenged to find common ground for understanding, relating, and exploring my empathy.

With these people I try harder. I take the time to re-think and examine my worry and fear, while I impress upon myself the value of growing by learning from a person or perspective farther from my own. But I also know that kindness can include letting go and not getting in the way of someone else who may be more capable of caring and getting to know that person in an active and maybe even longer lasting way. I remind myself that sometimes my fear or worry is correct, and pretending it isn't speaking to me doesn't keep me or the other person safe. Often, it is wrong to push a connection in the name of trying to be caring. Sometimes that ignites an otherwise avoidable explosion hurting everyone involved.

We are always able to be kind, even when we are afraid, but we are not responsible for creating kindness consistently in the lives of everyone. I truly believe that we are all - every single one of us - uniquely able to care about and connect with people, and we are able to be connected with and cared about. However, we are not all built to connect with everyone. 

So, let's let go of fear and find our tribes. Let's give away our time in small moments of unexpected kindnesses. Let's know we can and believe we will.

But if you're a little too afraid of Kevin Reese, don't despair. Take the time to explore why, forgo the temptation to blame and judge, then move on to a new person meant for you, comfortable in the knowledge that I am not afraid of Kevin Reese. 

Though, please also know, I am relying on you to care about and connect with someone far outside my comfort zone. Someone I decide is not right for me but right for another. You see? We are a good team, you and me!

Together we care for and connect with, are cared for by and connected to, the entire world!

Now, with that confession out of the way, I hope you'll take a moment to listen while I read my true life ghost story just in time for Halloween. 

Happy Friday, friends!

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

*The above video is from my personal YouTube channel, but this following one I was honored to share with Blank Spaces, a Canadian Literature magazine that published my story. I invite you to watch the video here and check out the description. Take advantage of the links to their sites! The magazine (print & digital) is beautiful and each year (they are now in year two) they publish an anthology of stories and poetry from the magazine. They do a wonderful job of bringing Canadian literature to audiences in a variety of ways.  I'm grateful to be part of the Blank Spaces community. I hope you'll join us!*


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Autism Answer: Frustration Dreams and Picture Frames

Writing down my dream.
I had a frustration dream the other night.

Feelings of frustration are rarely waiting for me when I sleep, but I know when they are it's a good idea to acknowledge and explore them. This particular dream, however, needed very little exploration and I had already been acknowledging it. There was little in the way of subtlety.

THE DREAM: My family and friends were all around, coffee flowing, children playing, teenagers dancing, grown-ups gabbing, life was glowing. I was taking a moment to SEE them, to LOOK at them, to paint a portrait of the chaotic spectacle of spectacular togetherness in my mind.

Brilliantly, (or so I thought at the time) I decided to snap a true photo for posterity.

Pulling out my camera I attempted to put all the people in frame.

It. Was. Impossible.

There were too many people hanging out in too many places, one style of fun wasn't coming through the lens with the right mood if set beside the other style of fun, the inclusion of everyone was impossible and so was the inclusion of the absolute joy in the chaos. I moved back to get it all in, but it still wouldn't fit in the frame and now it had no mood other than a mess of people, and closer in I could only isolate small parts of the picture if I wanted to capture any true version of what was happening around me. And now it was happening around me without me because in my attempt to put it all in one frame I had taken myself out of the picture almost entirely. Not entirely, of course, because I was there, trying to put it all in one frame, in one place. Trying to force it to fit.

I woke up as I felt my dream-self fall completely away and give up entirely.

Now, I'm not at a loss or at all unsure of the meaning or timing of this dream. Oh, no. Not at all.

In fact, this dream was almost inevitable.

Physically and emotionally right now I am trying to be and see and feel too many of my people in too many places.

It. Is. Impossible.

Without giving away too much of my family's personal stuff (which they are absolutely entitled to and which I am surprisingly rarely tempted to borrow for my own purposes, considering how addicted I am to sharing my own personal stuff with you!) here is where I am: In California at my sister's house, living temporarily with her family while they work at building a new kind of life due to recent events - including my son, his wife, and their new daughter moving in with them and dealing with their own unexpected and scary life events - while my mom lives a few hours away with two of my brothers, two of my sons, one of my daughters-in-law and two of my granddaughters who are all pretty much navigating newness and change, while my husband is home in Texas, alone for the first time in years because our youngest son started University in August and lives on campus, two hours away from our Texas home, and he (our son) is without a car, while my youngest brother deals with lonliness bigger than usual because I am not at my usual post in my Texas house ready to greet him with coffee and conversation at a moments notice, while my best friend is struggling with a new job and her children are dealing with new adulthood and unexpected health issues while her husband is out of state making money and unable to get home. So *breath* all my people are doing new things and living lives of change and reaching out for me while I reach out for them but I am one person in one body with minimal money for travel.

Clearly, the dream did not surprise me.

It did, however, give me an answer.

My Answer: My situation is frustrating and that's okay. As long as I do my best to be where I am when I'm there, and to find MOMENTS for the things I miss and want to be part of. As long as I remember to have faith that I am not necessary for the success of these many new shifts, but I am wanted and that's nice. My absence, however, leaves room for other people and opportunities. I am not in the way of them if I allow myself to be gone. This is a gift, too. 
I can waste my time struggling to frame it all in one picture, or I can appreciate the bigness of our fragmented fun. I can gather myself together and stay where I am. I can look where I'm looking and trust in where I can't see.

This is what it is to parent. And I have done it for years. Keeping an eye on what is in front of me so we can learn skills and grow together from the place where we're at, not the places I've heard or read we should be. I've always tried to be with my kids when I'm with them and trust in them and their world when I'm not. This is what it is to parent. Turns out, this is also what it is to let go as a parent. Which is still parenting. 

And I'll be doing it for years. Might as well start getting good at it now. 
Phew! Problem solved. Maybe now I'll have room to dream up the answer to life's biggest question: How is it possible that some people are not lying when they say they don't love coffee? How?

Happy Tuesday, friends! May your dreams bring you answers and your friends bring you coffee! (Unless you don't like coffee. In which case, are you sure you aren't lying? Giggle!)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Autism Answer: A Child Arrived Just The Other Day

A child arrived just the other day.

A little over a week ago, actually. 

And though we'd been waiting, watching for signs, jumping at clues, suggesting activities to move the baby along, she was not running late. Born only a day after her due date, she was right on time.

She showed up - after mom and dad rushed to the hospital with me in the back, I parked the car, decisions were made and birth plans were adjusted, sleep was had and then the work of labor was done - exactly on time. 

I was there, but one step removed. Remote. 

After all, I'm not mom, or dad, or baby. I am grandma.

The role is assistive, available, a little bit removed and remote. 

This birth is - for me - granddaughter number three. So it should be old hat by now.

But - ah, you see - it is baby number one for my second oldest son. Also, for his wonderful wife. So it is new, again.

Being with my oldest son during his wife's labor meant being with my oldest son. 

Being with my second oldest son meant being with him. 

They are different men. Our relationships are different. Their wives are different. 

But - oh, my! - it was wonderful again!

I am indeed grateful and humbled by the invitations to attend. 

My second oldest son is protective. Hyper aware of my presence and my habit of saying something cheesy or lovey or unfiltered, he was initially tense. 

But I promised to remain remote. To be there quietly and kindly, available and loving, while he coached his wife and assisted in the delivery. 

I saw him visibly relax. Not entirely, but visibly. He put me away, remote in his mind. He held his wife's hand, he wiped her forehead, he gave her air. 

I watched, so very involved in my heart but carefully and correctly removed. 

I watched. 

He held his wife's leg and urged her with praise. 

A child arrived. His daughter was born. Their daughter was born. 

My granddaughter was born.

She cried, she was perfect, they rushed her away for a quick evaluation.

My son looked deeply at his wife, she caressed his cheek, he looked over to where his daughter cried, his wife gave him permission to leave her side and join their daughter. 

I watched. Remote, but so very much there. 

The doctor and nurses congratulated everyone, while my son beamed. His daughter is perfect, his wife is recovering. He cut what was left of the umbilical cord and they brought the baby to her mom for a feeding. 

But first, 
as I watched, 
his wife held their daughter, 
my son leaned over his family,
tears streamed down his nose onto his loved ones, 
his wife reached one arm to his wet face, leaving the other wrapped around the baby, and wiped him lovingly. 

I watched, remote, a small trickle of my own tears were wiped away by me alone. 

After an hour of my son holding her, his wife feeding and holding her, the family holding and whispering to each other, it was my turn.

I held my newest granddaughter in my arms, a grandma again. Yet also for the first time.

After waiting and wanting and lookng for signs, jumping at clues, suggesting my arms, a child arrived and she was not running late. 

She was right on time. 

Welcome to our world, Clarke Kristen Reese! 

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

Friday, July 27, 2018

Autism Answer: Inspire Yourself To Greatness - A Review of Book and Self

"A wish is a whisper that guides you." ~Me #quote #InspireYourself
(Prompt was on pg. 21 of Inspire Yourself To Greatness by Dr. Lynette Louise) 
A Few Quick Disclaimers: The author of the book is Dr. Lynette Louise, aka The Brain Broad, aka My mom. So I'm inclined to love the book. Also, I'm inclined to be nervous about the book the way family members are when reading the candid stuff we write. But mainly, I'm inclined to love the book.

In addition, I have already read the book through its many phases as a beta-reader. So although this is my first time reading the book in paperback form, I have experienced it along the way.

Okay, now, let me tell you what I'm learning about me and this book (I am only on page 37 in my paperback copy).


 The newly released book Inspire Yourself To Greatness: Change Your Brain, Change The World by Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad") is a brain-based book, it is an inspirational book, it is a beliefs and ideas book, it is a guide and friend, and it is a reflection of its reader. 

As I was graced with the gift of being along for the book's growing-up and creation, I immediately felt the book engage and inspire me. However, I also intuitively knew (though at the time I wasn't sure what it was I knew) that in order for the book to give all its power to me, I would need to participate. I was impatient for my own copy, one I could write in, like I have been impatient for no other. 

And I was right! 

The author begins by asking (nearly demanding!) that we examine our definitions, and that we write down our definition of "GREATNESS" in order to decide for ourselves who and what we are intending to grow into as we interact with the book. I almost didn't do it. Despite my desire to write in the book I had no idea what my definition of "GREATNESS" was and thought I'd wait till maybe something in the book inspired me to have an idea. But, wait! The title is "Inspire Yourself" and so, I did! I scratched out a thought. 

It wasn't something I felt strongly, or something entirely important to me, but it was something. And, indeed, as I read on, it grew to have more meaning. 

Only a few pages later, with new information and understanding of how our beliefs and definitions affect our DNA, our environment, our world - we are asked to define GREATNESS again. And, friends! I did! And this time it was similar, but different. I felt more aware of the ME I was hoping to enhance and become. 

I can say with absolute certainty that the author of the book would not have suggested or written the definitions that I chose. Heck, I'm not even sure the author (or you, my dear clever friend) would have a clue what I meant with the definitions I chose! But I can say for certain, that is the point. That is what this book does. It gives information, it offers intelligent, thoughtful, non-judgemental perspectives that reveal potentially unseen paths, and it tells us useful biological information that makes us better at this job of becoming "GREAT". But we are the ones to inspire and choose for ourselves. How we want this book to work, who we want this book to help us become, what successes we will create from its lessons, and how it will change our world. 

Dude!!! This feels so much like more than a book!! 

Now, as I mentioned, I'm only on page 37 in my paperback copy. But I have already learned a few important things about myself. The most surprising is this: I want to grow great! I had no idea! That may seem strange but I have always had an uncomfortable relationship with wanting. Even as a little girl I feared wanting because I was ultimately afraid that (as is portrayed in so many movies, shows, and books) wanting would lead to loosing what I had. And I have, for most of my life, truly loved what I had.

Now that I am in my 40s, I am even happier with what I have! The older I get the happier I am with myself, my life, my circumstances. And so it surprised me to find myself, well, wanting. Wanting to inspire myself to greatness. 

And this brings us back around to the brilliant format and writing of the book. Because the reason I was able to learn about my wanting to grow great, was the way in which I was invited (strongly invited, tee hee!) to define what that means to me, and for me, and as me. 

This is a snippet from the back of the book: "A belief in humanity's ability to discover their own gifts drives this book while a desire to share knowledge fuels it. Lynette Louise presents strategies and perspectives that enable a view of the possible, beyond what readers may have imagined alone. Presented as a team project this engaging book is an opportunity to participate with Lynette in a unique journey of self-discovery that ends in the achievement of greatness." 

Yes. That's what this book is. But now that I am participating the way it was intended I can also say, that's what this book does. 

One of the things I love about my mom's books and articles: They are inherently inclusive. Because our family is overflowing with diversity and her work takes her around the world into people's homes, she thinks, writes, learns, and teaches with an inclusive nature. Everyone is considered and represented. So if you are thinking, "Yes, yes, another self-help book for everyone else. Another book that speaks to common folks struggling with common issues, but not people on the outskirts, not me, an outlier," well, you'd be wrong. This book not only includes you, and is for you while it is also for the common folks, it also invites us all to know and understand each other. 

Also, it's not really a "self-help" book, I don't think. Although, admittedly, I've never read one. If it is and this is what they are, well then I've been missing out! :D 

At the top of this post I quoted myself and linked to the tweet where I publicly shared my quote, along with the hashtag #InspireYourself. (BTW: If you share thoughts on social media with the #InspireYourself they will likely get shared by the author!) On page 21 of the book we are asked to define "wish" for ourselves. And though that is what it is, a definition for ourselves, we are also encouraged to share some of our quotes and ideas. The truth is, we will change the world whether we share or not, but sharing is one of many ways we can interact with intention and confidence. So I chose to share that. My defintions of greatness I am keeping to myself. They are mine and they are me. But I am also sharing them, because, as I said, they are me, and I am in this world. 

From page 29: "It is important to note as you change your brain, you also change the world we live in because you interact with us. 

You are more relevant than you realize." 

If you are interested in growing great with me, however you define it, I invite you to let this book be your guide. 

Now, I'm headed off to bed with my book and a pen!

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

The book is available in paperback on and

Friday, July 20, 2018

Autism Answer: The Men Who Found Me

*Author's note: I wrote this piece about five years ago. I don't remember why I wrote it. I do remember hoping it would be published somewhere by someone other than me. I do remember hoping it would be understood as valuable by someone other than me. I do remember hoping it would be published by a journal that compensates their contributors. I have submitted it several times to paying publications and have received several rejections. However, I don't believe that means it wasn't understood as valuable (though that is perfectly possible and alright with me). I believe it most likely means it was understood as not for them. That's one of the great gifts submitting work can offer. Understanding the various reasons for, and possibilities of, rejection.

This piece has been rejected several times by paying publications, but it has been accepted and adored often by me. My sons and husband have also felt the value of its message, though they have not read it. And perhaps it will be understood as valuable by you, dear reader. I would be honored if that were the case. I would be grateful if that were the case. Goodness knows that cannot be the case if I keep it tucked away hidden in a file on my computer. 

Whether or not you find this piece valuable or interesting, I hope you understand it as true and meaningful. Because though it carries with it several rejections, it absolutely is

Happy reading!

The Men Who Found Me

I was always there but deeply lost.

When the much older than me dark skinned mechanic, different from me in so many ways, looked adoringly at my colorful sons, helped my autistic brothers fix their cars, and held my milky white hand in his strong callused one, I knew I’d been finally found.

Admittedly, he wasn’t the first man to bring me closer to the surface. He stood in line behind a short list of important others. And they themselves had been in the position to search out the pieces of me, hidden and strewn haphazardly deep inside my container of a body, because of a long-ago man who broke me and left me hidden. 

When I was twelve my step-dad molested and disoriented me. 

He who we loved so much; he who’d stepped up and taken beautiful care of my beautiful mother, given us a home and the gift of adopted siblings, given us stability and a feeling of being powerfully protected—he had done what we knew he would never do. 

I was left lost. A jungle of lies and confusion and guilt and fear buried me deep. 

My mom was a hero, picking up the family and keeping us safe. Safer than safe; we learned to know things. My mom took impossible care of six kids on her own, strong and certain that she could discover answers that would keep us healthy. Against impossible odds—a past filled with abuse and a basket full of challenged children—she carried us to women’s shelters and safe homes, forever remaining the insistent and actively thinking student. Always aware of us children and our needs while climbing and building mountains of knowledge for our sake.  

But men were held at a distance, unpredictable and unlikely to lead to safety. We learned about men, we knew we wanted them around, but we were unable to completely trust them. Unable to learn from them or live as equals.

Leaving me lost. 

Until my first son was born. 

His dad told me he would take care of me because he thought I was appropriately pretty and young. He was looking at the container I was lost inside, and promising to buy it things. He was lying, but I wasn’t expecting much from him anyway. I had been hoping, but never expecting. 

Then I gave birth to my son. My son, who would one day become a man. And when his tiny brown wrinkly hand wrapped around my finger, and his hungry mouth hunted my breast, our love and needs locked and I knew I was in there somewhere. 

I felt him see me when I saw him. 

I began to feel found but was so deeply lost the signal was faint. 

I had another son with the same man, the one who took me to enough restaurants to keep my container impressed, and this boy was more insistent. He was almost downright rude with his demands from me.

He really encouraged me to pick up my pieces and put myself together. He would accept nothing less!

So I walked away from the man who lied and grew a little less lost while I played with my sons. 

I met a kind man, and for a time I struggled to be completely found with him too. But when I was pregnant again I pushed him away. He called me beautiful, smart, and sexy. I didn’t think I could keep that up. 

But for my third son I became more myself. More creative, silly, and snuggly.  

I could feel myself grow less lost, almost entirely aware of my path and my surroundings. The consistent sounds and sticky sweat from my jungle of guilt and fear quieted, chirping less obnoxiously in my head and heart. The path I was walking with my sons felt like my choice. I could intuitively sense something exciting and new calling me in a direction, and I began to trust myself to know it when it appeared. 

Then my mom’s car broke down. This kind, older, ridiculously different than me mechanic came to the rescue. 

At first, he didn’t see me. I tried to be noticed by flaunting my body and lips. I used the only tricks I knew, glossy and flirty. Hips swinging and bodies brushing and lips inviting, but he was avoiding and uninterested. From my place inside where I was almost found I began to consider retreating deeper into the jungle of lost, where I felt familiar. 

But instead I spoke about my sons who were visiting my sister. I put away my flirty tricks and let me talk about my boys. Something about this quiet hard working mechanic seemed to allow it. 

He was not kinder, smarter, or richer than other men. He was there, and he was good, and I was ready to be found.

Talking about my boys drew me out of hiding. My boys had me dancing and showing off
right at the surface of myself.

And that’s when the mechanic found me. He found the beautiful mom, the creative soul, the loving sister, the delighted daughter, the tentative friend, the dancing queen, the flirty girl and more.

He didn’t look at the container I was hiding in, my body and face and hair, not at first anyway. He looked at me.

And I was found. 

Had my sons not needed me I may have stayed too deeply lost for him to see. Had I not needed to find me for my sons, I may have wanted to stay lost. 

But my sons found me. 

And because of them, the mechanic found me. 

Together, the mechanic and me, we had one more son. 

A young man who will grow up having always known me. 

The mechanic and I have been happily married now for eighteen years. We’ve lived in separate homes close together, separate homes far apart, crowded in one home together, and always we’ve worked as a team. 

Over the years I’ve easily trusted him, learned from him, and we’ve lived together as equals. 

When he found me, I found him. A man to help me guide our sons out of their own jungle.

A man who will example and help them to know themselves.

The men who found me were my reason to be found. My reason to find me. And now that I know who I am, now that I’ve grown confident and comfortable with all of the pieces of me as they fit together, I know I will never be lost again.

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Short Bio: Tsara Shelton is a writer of musings, a sipper of coffee, and an addict of anything story. Having learned life exploring the edges of society she finds her footing in the world through storytelling—as a mom, wife, daughter and citizen. She blogs regularly at Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton and is the author of Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up.

Twitter: @TsaraShelton