Thursday, May 31, 2018

Autism Answer: Eighteen Years Ago

I felt another tightening, more pain, closer together. I knew the boys would argue a bit when I told them it was time to go, even though Lion King 2 was only almost over, but I also knew we had to go. This was my fourth birth and I was feeling pretty certain about timing. Now was the time.

Surprisingly the three boys already born to me didn't argue for a moment, merely asked if they could borrow a game from the activity center before we left and headed back to our cabin unit. I was okay with that. They'd need a distraction while I - with the help of my mom - had a baby.

We walked from the activity center to our cabin, my oldest son holding the Battleship game, my second oldest holding my hand, and the baby (two years at the time) being my something to hold as we headed in the Missouri sun to the place where another one of us would soon add his voice to our resort vacation.

I briefly wished I could down a bunch of painkillers so this next part wouldn't hurt so bad.

We stumbled into the front room of our cabin (the tv was on, my mom and brothers were there, I gave mom the knowing look, she rushed to organize things as I allowed the pain to engulf me in its productive work) and I again wondered, what about one or two painkillers?

This was my fourth baby and my third home birth. But this was the first time I knew the gender of the baby before holding him in my arms. And again, it would be a him. My fourth son.

It was also the first time I would have a baby while also being married. Interestingly, my husband was not with us in Missouri. He was home in Texas, working and making money so when we got back to him our family could eat. He was - as he so often did and still does - missing out in order to give things to us. This baby was being born into a wonderful family.

As I began to push, my mom called the ambulance. This was our thing, you see. I had the baby at home but emergency help was on its way, just in case. Plus, they were sure to give me a safe ride to the hospital with my new little one.

Declyn came into my mom's world first, then mine, then our family's, and then - because we are good at sharing - the rest of the universe's.

He was perfect, of course, Babies are. He was also red, just as his brother guessed he would be. ("Tyran, what color do you think Declyn will be? Black or white?" family members would ask playfully. "Red." Tyran would respond confidently. We'd giggle, he'd look at as straight-faced and certain. He was right.)

He was a champion breastfeeder. Of course, since he was son number four I was pretty good myself. But, boy! Could he eat!

I don't remember much about our ride in the ambulance, thought the comedy of trying to get me and the stretcher up a bunch of uneven stone steps is pretty clear. My mom and my sons were following behind, my brothers were left to clean up the mess in the cabin (they sure do love to bring that up when asking me for a favor!).

I do remember the feeling of having all four of my sons with me in the hospital, my mom smiling at our side, my husband waiting to hear news at every new location.

It felt complete. It felt right. It felt like family and strength and love and happiness and exhaustion and possiblities and fears and hopes. It felt like life.

That was eighteen years ago today.

My baby, Declyn, is now a man. He doesn't remember that day eighteen years ago, but that day remembers him. That day will always be part of him.

And I hope to keep that in mind as he goes off on his next adventure: University without me. I hope to give him his space and trust that though the memories he makes without me will not be my memories, they will remember me.

Declyn is a brilliant, talented, thoughtful, couragous, kind young man. This is a fact. And for eighteen years I've had the privilege of being near him while he has grown and explored and questioned all of these parts of himself. He's planning to leave soon. And, darn, I'm going to miss him!

But I am also deeply grateful and excited for the opporunities he's found for himself. This kid, errrrr... man, knows how to live and be.

Much like the day he was born, he naturally seeks and discovers healthy nourishment in the world. 
And over the years he has brilliantly found ways to offer the same in return.

I'm going to miss him, but I'm (anxiously) excited for him, too!

Happy birthday, Declyn!!!! 

I love you, I love you, I love you!

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


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Autism Answer: Sunshine Blogger Award (My Acceptance Speech and Nominations)

"I would like to thank my fellow nominees and award winners...." In my imagination I stand on a stage wearing jeans with no holes in them (or, if there are holes they are purposefully placed and not a result of poverty and the friction of oversized thighs) while my sons, my husband, my mom, my sister, my nieces, my grandchildren, my brothers, and Idris Elba watch on in appreciation and love. 

Of course, in true life I sit surrounded by mess in my office/bedroom/living room wearing jeans with holes in them (a result of poverty and oversized thighs), not wearing deodorant (the sustainable healthy stuff I have is kind of expensive so I tend to deodorize every other, other day - today is between other days) and my family is scattered across the country, working on dreams and life goals of their own.

But, one thing remains real in both imagination and true life - we are happy and we watch each other in appreciation and love. (I'm not sure about Idris. Oh, he's with us happily in my imagination, but we're still working on that true life bit. Giggle!)

And so it is with great gratitude, and the support of my loved ones, that I accept the Sunshine Blogger Award

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given BY bloggers TO bloggers who inspire positivity and creativity in the blogging community. Thank you Cindy Kolbe, for nominating me! Cindy's beautiful, creative, positive blog is Struggling with Serendipity and I encourage you to visit.  

INTERESTING ADDITION: This is the second time I've been offered the Sunshine  Blogger Award. The timing was perfect for me then and the timing is perfect for me now! Words I Wheel By gave me the award in 2013, giving me reason to call myself a blogger, and Struggling with Serendipity has shared it with me now, boosting my reason to continue blogging. Thank you both!  

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog
2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you
3. Nominate 11 bloggers to receive this award, and write 11 new questions
4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your blog

Cindy's Questions:

1)  What corner of the world are you from?

I was born in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. I lived in Manitoba, Alberta, and spent summers in Saskatchewan, but most of my younger growing up was done in Ontario, in and around Toronto. I love that city!!  I moved to Texas, USA (Houston first, then Teague - a tiny town between Dallas and Houston) when I was a single mom with two small sons. I was following my family and thinking maybe they would come back to Canada with me. But when we got to Texas it was just so darn hot that we lost all motivation to do anything, so we stayed. (Seriously, I think that's one of the reasons people stay here. tee hee!) I had a few more sons, got happily married, and grew up even more in small-town Texas. I live mostly here now, but also spend a lot of time in Southern California where most of my family is living. 

2) How long have you been blogging?

This is always an interesting question for me because I don't think of myself as a blogger. I'm comfortable saying, "Like I wrote on my blog the other day..." but in my mind that just means the place where I keep musings and thoughts and stories I hope to share. Of course, that means I've been blogging, but I think my idea of blogging and bloggers is more about doing it consistently and with a more business style mentality. Not that I imagine all bloggers are selling or making money, just that I suspect most of them have at least a plan for what they will get from their blog. I'm more selfish. I just want a place to put the stuff I write where other people can read it but I don't have to be responsible to anyone but myself and my idea of how my ideas will affect the world. So, with that in mind, I've been blogging selfishly for about five years. :D

3) Why are you blogging?

I love figuring out what I think by writing. I love re-experiencing my moments through writing. I love exploring personalities unlike my own through writing (and reading). I love sharing the unique abilities, ideas, talents, and adorableness of my family through writing (often accompanied with images). And when I was a little girl I dreamed of becoming a mom and a writer when I grew up. I love giving myself exactly what I've always dreamed. So, I'm a mom and I'm writing. 

 4) What do you like best about blogging?

What I like best about blogging is undoubtedly the freedom to tell the stories I want to tell in the way I want to tell them whenever I feel compelled to do so. But another thing I like best, and a thing that surprised me, is all the people blogging has introduced me to. Of course, I know stories connect us. But in this world where the internet exists our stories can literally connect us to new people, often in far away places. Dare I even say new friends? Yes, I dare! After all, it's my blog so I get to write what I want in the way I want. Giggle! When I first heard about people "meeting" each other on the internet I kinda rolled my eyes. But I have learned that the friendships here are truer than I imagined at the time and I love it!

5) Where would you like to travel?

There are many places I would like to visit but if I was offered one dream travel opportunity it would be taking my sons to Toronto for a week with unlimited funds to visit all my old stomping grounds, eat in all my old favorite restaurants, and discover new stomping grounds and favorites together. 

6) What would you do if there was no chance of failing?

Hmmmm.... that's a great question! I really don't know. All the things I want to do that I haven't done yet are not things where failure deters me. I am slowed down by timing and finances, sure, but I don't mind the idea of failing in those endeavors. Let me think about this one and come back to it.

*Maybe what I'd do if there was no chance of failing is cook for people. I often avoid cooking because I'm not confident in a kitchen. No, that's not really an idea that means much to me. Let me keep thinking about it.  

**Okay, now I know! If there was no chance of failing I would volunteer my time far more often to events in our community. I love being helpful, I love pitching in, but far too often in the past I have heard later that things I did or said were causing a few folks to feel uncomfortable. Now, a few of those things I would still do (breastfeeding in public, for example) even while knowing they were causing a stir, but I would maybe do them with a different attitude. I honestly couldn't imagine back then that some of these sorts of things (not smacking my kids when they were misbehaving, for example) had folks squirming with discomfort. However, even more often I didn't ever figure out what I did or said, or didn't do or say, that had people snorting out phrases like, "We just don't like your kind around here." So, I don't pitch in as often around town. But now that I've been given this opportunity to put it down in words (thanks for asking the question, Cindy!) I may go ahead and put myself out there again. With the understanding that it's okay for me to care about other people and their feelings, but it's not my job to babysit them. "I'm not doing it that way to be different; I'm different, so I'm doing it that way." ~Dr. Lynette Louise (The Brain Broad)
7) Favorite season?

Autumn!!!! Especially in Toronto!! Especially with coffee!!

8) Favorite food?

Cheese and crackers. *Hey, that gives me an idea for number six!

9) Favorite music?

My son wrote and performed the song "Brothers" as a surprise for me and his brothers. That is my favorite song:

And my mom, Dr. Lynette Louise (The Brain Broad), has two albums out that I LOVE. Sing Me A Song.... Please! and Crazy to Sane.

Brainiac is my favorite song from the Crazy to Sane album: 

But I don't have "favorite music" because it truly depends on my mood. However, I will admit, I LOVE music! In fact, I've written a couple of songs myself. Here I am singing Sexy Daydreams (Or My Life is Awesome):  

10) Favorite book?

Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley. 

11) Favorite quote?

Quotes are interesting. They're so powerful when you hear or read the right one at the right moment, and then later you can't quite remember why it shook your core to such a strong degree. The quote didn't change, but you did. 

However, these few always give me something important. 

"I'm not doing it that way to be different; I'm different, so I'm doing it that way." ~Dr. Lynette Louise (The Brain Broad) **This one just gave me a reason to know what my answer is for number six! I'll go add it now.

"I feel it coming in, my voice is getting an opinion." ~Jory Rand Shelton (my oldest son) 

"Talk way more about the things you like than the things you don't. Watch how the world responds, creating itself for your attention." ~Me 

"Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own." ~Bruce Lee

My Nominations: 
(Please forgive the small number. I don't really read blogs! I don't enjoy reading on a screen. See? My selfish blogger side is showing.)

Unlimited Pieces of Me



Quirks and Chaos 

My 11 Questions (should they choose to participate)

Do you live in a house, apartment, RV, car, dorm, etc?

What do you like best about where you live?

Are you living with many people, alone, or something in-between? 

What are some of the perks of your living situation?

What is a challenge of your living situation?

Do you prefer coffee or tea? HINT: Coffee. Giggle!

At what age (so far) have you been the happiest?

What is a hobby you have?

What is a hobby you wish you had?

Has anything about writing or blogging surprised you?

Have you met your blogging goals, if you had any? 

BONUS: Do you think I'm selfish because I don't really read very many blogs? ;D

Thank you again for this honor, Cindy! I hope my acceptance speech didn't take up too much of everyone's time, but it was my great pleasure to write it. And look at how my sons are staring lovingly at me while I accept this award! (Go ahead, imagine it with me. I hope you'll include yourself, too. Oh, and coffee!! Let's add coffee!) 

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

Autism Answer: Candid Book (written by ME!) Offers a Unique and Intimate Narrative on Parenting, Autism, and Growing Up

Recently I was honored with a request. 

I have been a fan of Disabled World (both the website and the twitter page) for a few years now. I love the global nature of the information and am deeply grateful for the helpful, thoughtful, readable, and carefully curated content. Encouraging us to have empathy without pity while bringing us news about programs, studies, and entertainment that moves society as a whole forward, together.

In fact, it was one of the first places I sent the Press Release to when my mom began offering her one woman musical comedy show, Crazy to Sane, free to venues and events every year in the month of April (Autism Awareness Month) and I felt a surge of pride when the release was published on their site. I decided it meant I must have also managed a healthy mix of usefulness and thoughtfulness! Yea, me! :D Check that out here: Autism Awareness: Music, Comedy, and Brain Science

So you can imagine my thrill at being asked by the admin of Disabled World for information on my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up, for their website. 
(Go ahead, imagine it. I'll wait ... ... ... Fun, right?!!) 

The offer was a good opportunity to update the press release I had written when my book was first published. And, of course, to retweet, share, post, and otherwise show off that there is now a picture of me and my book on a website I'm a fan of. That's always a treat that goes well with coffee!! 

Here's an excerpt of the story. I encourage you to visit Disabled World to read it in it's entirety. Be sure to click around and check out all the valuable content while you're there! Oh, and follow the site on Twitter:  @DisabledWorld

From Disabled World: 

"Tsara Shelton is the oldest of eight children - six were adopted, and four came into the home with several diagnosis such as autism and fetal alcohol syndrome. She is also the daughter of renowned international brain change expert Dr. Lynette Louise, aka The Brain Broad, a single mom who brought up her brood with creativity (they traveled North America learning geography and performing inspirational comedy in prisons for almost a year) and a powerful belief in their abilities.

Having grown up in a home overflowing with out of the box characters and a ferocious love for family, the author was in a unique position to observe culture and society. Tsara was born with a typical brain and typical tendencies that were consistently and beautifully challenged by a not so typical family and lifestyle."

Read the article here: Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself by Tsara Shelton 

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Have a peek at me nervously talking a bit more about my book in this short video: 


Oh, and if you have news to share with the disability community, I encourage you to submit to Disabled World! (Submission info is easily found on the website.)

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Autism Answer: This Is America - Considered (Guest Post by Declyn Shelton)

My youngest son, Declyn, is a staff writer for his school paper. Recently he wrote an opinion piece on the popular and disturbing and brilliant and artistic music video for This is America by Childish Gambino (Donald Glover). However, one of his colleague's wrote an article about the video, and the significant online discussions regarding the many meanings represented, before he submitted his. (I higly recommend reading her piece, it's fantastic: "This Really Is... America" by Jazmin Morales) So, since the school paper isn't planning to publish Declyn's article, I asked if I could publish it as a guest post. 

Lucky us, he said yes!

So, here it is friends. 
You're welcome. :D  

This is America - Considered

Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino) does it again! He has displayed a culturally impactful message with his latest release of the "This is America" music video.  In the video, he depicts the costumed horrors of society from church shootings to the notorious Jim Crow. Through his strange facial expressions and movements, he does an accurate – and chilling - impersonation of the Jim Crow caricature. 

This video is a narration of how the world has all these terrible things that have
happened and are happening that we aren't, and shouldn't be, blind to.  He shows so many injustices that have occurred or are occurring while dancing to keep the audience interested and distracted from the horrors.

This music video should hopefully cause an upsurge in awareness of terrible events that may happen in our future. Not just "we know about that" but an actual awareness of the danger our distractions and inaction, and even our coping strategies, allow. With this video, Glover offers a story of America that is hard to express in words but is powerfully shown.

I asked a close friend of mine, as someone who hadn't listened to Gambino before, what she thought of the video and she said, "I loved the video, I kept watching it over and over! It is the kind of video that you watch repeatedly to find something new each time you see it."

I have no idea what Glover will do next, but I am very impressed by the message he has portrayed with his latest work.
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Watch the music video here: Childish Gambino - This is America