Percolating

I am a processor. Not like a computer, more like a coffee pot. Water goes in, washes over the grinds, and a new beverage comes out. The actions and iterations of life around me go into my brain and at some point a conclusion or resolution comes out. The time the water spends in the pot I like to call it percolating—see what I did there with the coffee reference—I don’t know if I’ve always thought this way, as I do remember being much quieter as a child. Maybe I was percolating even then.

June 2, 2016 an event occurred that I realized I haven’t finished filtering yet. I have definitely told the tale again and again. But I don’t feel I have completely processed until it’s written down and the percolation process can be finished, hence giving me resolution.

I’ve talked about this before, how endings and/or changes are hard for Ryan, as for most people with autism. So when we found out earlier this year, his middle school was going to close, I was devastated for him and for me. He had just made a seamless transition to this school, due in large part to the teachers and staff (and of course our team of therapists). The amount of unexpected support the school gave us is almost indescribable. They encircled him with so much acceptance and excitement I was taken back. I kept thinking: When is the other shoe going to drop? When are they going to decide we don’t belong? Why are they so good to him? This is too good to be true. And finally it was…only because it was going away.

I didn’t tell Ryan about the school simply because I couldn’t face his loss. He was doing so well and loved going to school, but it only took a few days for him to hear it from his friends. And yes, he asked me about it.   I know I should have just told him, but the future was uncertain, and I didn’t want to make him anxious. I fumbled my way through and luckily he took whatever explanation I told him.

It took a few months for information about the outcome of the school to arrive and with it, another wave of devastation.  The teacher’s and staff would no longer be at the school. The staff that had gone out of their way to include Ryan, eagerly worked one-on-one with him, and reached out to him everyday even when he wasn’t so reachable were going to lose their jobs–almost every single one of them. The school would stay open, but with new owners, staff and teachers. The only shred of good we had to cling to was the location was staying the same.

At the beginning of the school year, it would have been sufficient to us to be mildly accepted into this tight-knit family/school. But we were lovingly ushered in with open arms and open minds. The red carpet was rolled out and the support never ended. Whatever we needed, or asked for, was never denied. It felt borderline Stepford—but not in a creepy way. How many people get daily hugs from the principal? I think that alone set the tone of this school.

In my recent memory, there have been few things I have agonized over like our impending last day of school. If I remember correctly all the recent painful hurdles had to do with death or dying.   That’s what this felt like. A funeral. We knew the day was coming, we were in countdown mode and each day slipped away bringing us painfully closer to the end.

I let myself cry as I made gifts for the teachers and staff; I thought it might get my grieving out before that last day. But that was wishful thinking; fresh tears started the second we pulled in to pick up Ryan. Hug after teary hug we made our way through campus saying goodbyes. Each one seeming to get worse; maybe because it was almost over, maybe because the kind words grew and grew. Kind, amazing, painfully beautiful words about what my son meant to them. It was almost too much to bear all at once. But I quickly put a band-aid on the wound in my heart and we drove away, spent and sad.

It seems this should have ended there, but, two weeks ago when the old school sign finally came down with the new schools colors and logo in it’s place, I realized I wasn’t over it. I wasn’t over the loss.  When we pulled in the driveway for camp, I heard Ryan’s sharp breath of surprise echoing mine.

“Oh no. No more Crestridge* Tigers.” Ryan said softly from the backseat.

A lump immediately formed in my throat and I simply said, “I know, Bud.”

As we continued onto campus, a maintenance man was half-way through wiping the old school letters off the glass door. Adding a visual punch in the stomach that the old school was slowly being erased. The chemical smell stuck in my nose and made my eyes tear up even more. Passing through the door, Ryan and I both stopped quickly. The office that we had walked by hundreds of times-was empty.  Eerily empty. For the second time that day we both inhaled in surprise. It looked like a ghost ship bobbing in the water.

“They are taking it all away.” My insightful boy said softly. “Why?”

I had to clear my throat and think of an answer. This wasn’t a bad thing. Was it? They were only sprucing it up-giving it a facelift. But what stood in front of us was a gutted-out symbol of former happy times. A place I was given a hugs and smiles. The bench where Ryan would wait for me-where I knew he was safe and watched; the nurses office who made sure he had his meds everyday; the counter that was decorated for every holiday and gave Ryan so much joy. All gone.

The band-aid was now ripped clean off; exposing all the put-away emotions of that last day.

We turned simultaneously away from the empty room and walked to the camp area. I looked at Ry as he stared straight ahead.

“They are just putting new things in there to make it look nice.” I say slowly trying not to cry. Thankful my sunglasses masked my eyes.

“Why are they taking it all away?” He asked again, looking at me briefly. His little voice sounded so sad. I put my arm around his shoulders.

Deciding I wanted him to make his own opinion, not echo my own, I asked him, “Is that good or bad?”

“Bad.” He said and pulled away from my embrace.

As I drove out and stared at the new sign, the loss of all those wonderful people was as fresh as that tearful last day.

I’ve been letting the sadness roll around in my brain and each day I look at the sign and sigh. Today, I decided I finally needed to get this out. I figured writing this would bring back fresh tears. It only did a little. Maybe you only have so many tears to shed for a loss. Well, that’s not entirely true; but maybe it’s a sign my percolation is almost done.

There are few things we can change in this life, but one is our attitude. It’s time to let go of the pain and look to the future with enough optimism to make Ryan’s new school the best it can be for him.

All this talk of percolation, makes me want coffee.

 

 

 

  

*Crestridge is the name I use for the school in my book, using it here for consistency.

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Home

Home. It’s not always a place you live. Sometimes it’s a place you feel like you belong.

Home can even be a place you go to watch a movie. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t apprehensive or thinking of contingent plans for attending an event I wasn’t sure Ryan would be interested in. I knew the theater would be filled with people who would understand if he was being rowdy. I knew he would be surrounded by people who had walked some part of his journey or ours.

No matter the location, home is a place you feel like you fit in.

Last night we attended a screening for a magnificent film “Normal People Scare Me Too”.  It’s not just magnificent because Ryan was honored to be in it, it’s superb because of the content and the people who created it. Made almost entirely by autistic people it’s a film that has a life force all its own. Asking people on the spectrum directly what it’s like to be autistic, what would you change, and what is your future? You will be surprised by some of the answers and cry for others.

I, too, am blessed to make an appearance in the movie, to answer some of the questions Ryan couldn’t. I hope some day he will tell me I got it right. But sitting there surrounded by this community, I felt completely sure about how I responded. I saw nods of agreement in some of my statements. I was heard and understood. I was home and I was comfortable.

The first time our faces hit the screen, Ryan gasped, “Mom, it’s you!” Then when he realized it was also him, “Oh, it’s me! That’s me!” My heart grew three times its size. What a thrill it must have been for him to see himself in a format (the big screen) he loves so much. I hope that memory stays with him and propels him into following whatever path is his.

At the end of the film, the filmmakers, Keri Bowers and Taylor Cross asked the “cast” in attendance to stay for a question and answer session. Ryan was getting a little worked up at that point and fidgety, and he must have asked 15 times if it was time to go. In any other place, I might have had a twinge of guilt that he was disrupting the people around him. Not there. Not surrounded by those who have walked my path. No one stared at him or shook their head in annoyance. Even the wonderful young man next to us, would look over and nod his head with a sweet look on his face, and I got the feeling he was thinking “I know man, this is taking forever.”

Being the parent of a child on the spectrum, you spend a lot of time worrying about how your child will be perceived. Over the years, I have tried to rise above worrying about other people; but it’s still there-more often than I like to admit. To have an evening out with our whole family, with no worries or stress about how Ryan would react, was in a word: priceless. To share our story and hear the other stories of these amazing young people, buoyed my spirits and left me with hope for our future.

I must tip my hat to Keri Bowers for a quick second.  I have to acknowledge that a big part of my comfort zone was created by her and her complete empathy for me and the others there.  Her son, Taylor (who made the movie) is on the spectrum and she has blazed a path for so many of us.  She could also see Ryan losing interest and didn’t care one bit.  She took her time engaging all of us on the panel, all with ease and grace.  Her warmth surrounded me completely.  Thank you, Keri for making me feel at home.

There are some truly awe-inspiring people in the world, some of them happen to have autism. I met a few of them last night. I hope you watch the movie and revel in them too.

(For more about this film check out the website http://www.normalfilms.com. Buy a copy of the movie, you will truly enjoy the interviewees and walk away enlightened; weather or not you know someone on the spectrum.)

ry and lee in NPSM2

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The Message

As April is Autism Awareness month, my publicist  scheduled many events to coincide with the topic of my book.  Last weekend was a book signing at big chain bookstore in Calabasas, California. If you aren’t familiar, it’s the town north of Los Angeles where the Kardashians live. So paint me surprised when I arrived and the whole front window is my book, a poster complete with a head shot of me announcing my signing. For about five seconds I had a Kardashian moment. Meaning, I felt like a celebrity. Especially later, when Howie Mandell walked in and said hi to me. (No, he didn’t buy a book; believe me that would have been plastered all over social media if I had that photo op.) This is going to be great! I thought.

Honestly, standing at the front door of a bookstore is not what I expected. Even with the beautiful poster of my face propped up next to me.  I was really nervous to be front and center.  But tried to reassure myself: “This is prime real estate–really, it’s going to be great!”

However, if people don’t notice you or look away, it makes it tough to sell them a book. Then, there are the many people who ask “Where is the fiction section?” or my favorite, “Where’s the bathroom?” The first few times, I said “Sorry, I don’t work here”, and pointed to the table stacked with my books. After that didn’t get them jazzed to snatch it up, I familiarized myself with the layout of the store and started pointing people on their way. What can I say? My mother taught me to be polite.

So, after a short time of standing by my table of books, like a stiff Vanna White, smiling so brightly (it was borderline menacing) at every person who opened the door,  a young gentleman walked up to me.

“Are you famous, or in the movies?” He asked awkwardly.

“No.” I chuckled. “I wrote a book, that’s why I’m standing here.” Pointing at the table, trying to sound sarcastically amusing. But he looked at the book and then at me and then quickly away. And I knew. He was autistic. He didn’t say right away that he was, but being a mom and around autistic people for awhile, I have a sense for it.

“My name is Alan and I’m very happy to meet you.” He held out his hand stiffly. Even though he said it without much expression in his voice, and his handshake was awkward, I knew he meant it. I smiled so broadly at him, I probably made him uncomfortable. He looked down for a second and then with a steady gaze, began to tell me about himself. Unprompted. And I loved it. Every minute of it. He told me that he had autism and it was okay. He was fine being autistic and his life was good. (Okay, wipe away your tears now.)

There would be a pause and I could tell he had run out of things to say. So sweet Alan, would say it was “nice to meet you” and walk away.  He would come back a few minutes later, tell me some more about himself and then leave again.   I know how hard it must have been for him to approach me again and again.  But, each time he would ignite a powerful feeling of pride in my heart. It sounds odd that I would be proud of a stranger, but he gave me assurance for the future of my son.

In those few visits, I learned that Alan lives with his parents; is 33 and drives. I could tell this part made him very happy. It should-driving is the ultimate form of freedom; especially in L.A. where public transportation is sorely lacking.

I asked him what he did with his day, and he told me he worked with his father, whom he has “a very good relationship with”. This made me pause and smile. I hope Alan’s father knows this, because for him to tell me-made me hope my son would someday feel this way.

I asked him what he did at his father’s office and he explained his father was as doctor and he helped on the computer and filing. I asked if he liked doing this—and he emphatically said ‘yes’.  Again, Alan’s Dad, you are very lucky he speaks so highly of you (and your wife, he told me he loves being at home because of his “good relationship with both his parents”). You must be great parents if he is able to brag about you.

Later I had a lull in visitors, and ran to fill up my tea. On my way back he intercepted me. He had a serious look on his face and began to tell me a part of his story I did not like.

“I want to tell you about something that happened to me yesterday. I was at the park trying to explain to people that I was autistic. And they made fun of me and told me to go away.” He looked straight into my eyes and I felt I could see sadness to his depths. “They were assholes.” He looked down at his hands.

“Yes, Alan, they are.” I said in complete agreement yet shaking my head in disgust. (And a little more proud Alan knew how to cuss properly.)

We talked some more about these “barbaric animals” as he called them, found another lull and he said he was going to leave. We said goodbye again, I told him to stay happy about his life. He looked at me strangely and I can only imagine him thinking “what else would I do?” A little while later I saw him again, across the bookstore. He walked by my table glancing over a few times, waved and said, “Okay, I’m going home now. Bye.”

“Bye, Alan. Take care.” I said to his back, not sure he heard me.

And that was the last I saw of him.

I know what you are thinking: How kismet that someone with autism would approach me as I was there with my book about autism? But actually as soon as we started talking, I knew he was the reason I was there. Not to sell a certain amount of books, or convince people how good the book was, but to be reminded the messages I tried to portray in my book. Alan wanted me to understand what he was trying to say to those assholes in the park.  As he walked away, I realized they were the same things everyone wants: Acceptance, love and happiness.

Thank you Alan, for being you. And being happy about who you are. That’s a lesson we all could use.

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Ryan’s greatest hits

March 30 2003: my second child, Ryan Nicholas came into the world, peeing and pooping all over my insides. He has not stopped surprising me from that moment on. I have been reflecting on his pronounced antics and came up a few highlights. Thirteen years would not seem enough time to procure a ‘greatest hits’, but this kid has such a range of tricks, there are enough to share for now.

The Cake Burglar

This moment stands out so clearly because it was one of the first time there would be no doubting the wheels were turning in his head. (This is straight from my book, but it took a long time to craft those words, so why reinvent?) Upon giving him chocolate cake for the first time…

“Ryan’s expression was one of pure astonishment. I could almost read his mind: What the hell have you kept this from me? I laughed, knowing he was amazed at how delicious cake was….and he absolutely inhaled his piece…I set him on the chair….he hovered on his knees, looking intently at his grandma’s plate. Grandma is a dainty, polite eater—completely opposite of my children and me….Ryan tapped Grandma on the shoulder and said, “Gama—wook,” as he pointed over her shoulder toward the television. She turned around to see what he was pointing at, and in one fast motion, he swiped her cake and shoved it into his mouth…He just grinned sideways and began to look to other plates.”

Observant Manners

When he was almost five, he was intrigued with watching us in the kitchen, and pouring all types of liquid. His language had slowly returned and one morning he was right by my side as I walked around the kitchen. He sat himself up on the counter looked me in the eye (which was a rarity at that time) and asked: “Mom, wine or coffee?” I had him repeat the question, because I wanted to be sure what he was asking, and was relishing in interaction and didn’t want it to end. I looked at my watch and in a reluctant stoic voice I said, “well…it’s morning, so probably coffee.” He shrugged and helped me make the coffee-well at least pour the water in. The remarkable part of this (aside from me turning down wine) is he was perceptive enough to know those were/are my two favorite beverages; and he had learned to be considerate and ask which I wanted to partake in.

Crowd control

When he was in first grade (the first time) his dear teacher tried so hard to make him successful with good behaviors. After many days of receiving a red card (which those not familiar with the ‘behavior card system’ red indicates a bad day) he had finally earned a green card. I unknowingly arrived at the moment she announced this to the class, perhaps hoping the support of his peers would encourage further good behavior. The entire class cheered loudly; I would have thought this ruckus would have been upsetting to him. But he stood there soaking in the cheers, grinning widely. Slowly he put his hands up to quiet the crowd and said, “Childrens, childrens, that’s enut (enough).” Of course this way to address a crowd came from a movie, but how surprisingly appropriate for the moment.

Charlie Brown

As he grew, he began to like dressing up for Halloween. After three years in a row of being Sponge Bob, we asked what he wanted to be for Halloween. Not really expecting a different answer, Ryan replied he wanted to be Charlie Brown. Thrilled for a change, we searched for the trademark yellow striped shirt and brown shorts. But as he was watching “The Great Pumpkin” one evening, I pointed to Charlie Browns sad, too many-holed, ghost costume; and said “Do you want to wear this for Halloween?” He replied with an emphatic ‘yes’. Jenna was kind enough to volunteer to paint black circles all over a white bed sheet—in mimic of Charlie’s costume (which said black circles are still present on my garage floor today). We measured his real eyeholes and his costume was ready. Halloween evening we placed the sheet over his head, and he ran outside to the flower planter, grabbed something we couldn’t see and then strode over to our then-teenage neighbor and said: “I got a rock.” For Ryan to remember the line that Charlie Brown uses after each disappointing house in “The Great Pumpkin”, and then act it out so suavely, was quite simply, hysterical.

Not the Donald

When I was laid up after surgery two years ago, my younger sister came to help me with the kids. Upon my instruction, she took Ryan to his favorite place to eat: In and Out Burger. After spending the morning with her in my car, he apparently had enough. He refused to eat his cheeseburger and then loudly told her in the middle of the restaurant she wasn’t his mom, stop driving his mom’s car and added for effect (in a very Trump-esque way) “you are fired!” I’m not entirely sure where he got that reference, and as horribly humiliating it was to my sister, it is lasting comedy to us. He then decided when my older sister came for her shift a few days later that whatever she would say to him he would reply sternly “Not you!” and look away from her.  At least she didn’t’ get fired.

I have a Ryan-montage in my head, acting out his favorite scenes that I wish I could put on a screen: from Bruce Almighty (“Excuse me, do you have a spoon?”); or from Antz (“Who the hell is that?”); or Dumb and Dumber (“It’s okay, I’m a limo driver!); or Austin Powers (“Yeah Baby!”).  The show could go on and on…and if you could see it, you too would hold your sides in hilarity.

There will undoubtedly be many more moments Ryan surprises us and the rest of the world with his wit and humor. I can only marvel at  where he’s come from and continue wishing for the wonder of where he is going.

Happy 13th, little man.

 

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Change…

Change is hard. It usually involves having to do something differently than you have been accustomed to; like trying to eat healthy after a long holiday season filled with gluttony.

For most people on the spectrum, change can be quite difficult.  I used to think it was my son’s kryptonite. But, as he’s matured, and with proper prompting he has done better with new situations. Even last minute surprises are not as problematic as when he was a toddler and we were first figuring out how to deal with his outbursts.

Now, instead of lashing out at unexpected variations in his day, I see him turning internally and spending more time alone. I think this is a typical pre-teen reaction to transformations. And I think it’s good he is trying to process. Yet, I recall Jenna dealing with “teenage things” and asking me questions or turning to her social circle to figure out the world. Ryan doesn’t do this. He doesn’t ask me the types of questions Jenna did, like: “Why won’t she talk to me, I don’t know what I did wrong?” Or: “Why did she move away, she was my best friend?”

Ryan is more a big picture guy. The things that affect how he moves through his day matter most. Like, losing his therapist that had been with him since he was four. Nothing bad happened to her (thankfully), she just moved on to a new job. But this change is big. I would consider it big for anyone who had worked side by side with someone for eight years, but for Ryan is could potentially be catastrophic. His whole apple cart could turn over. Luckily she coordinated her departure to coincide with the holiday break from school; so he had a good transition period. And we prompted him like crazy that she wouldn’t be there when he went back.

Not to say he didn’t grieve for the loss of her, but he didn’t ever ask me why she left or inquire when she would come back, like Jenna may have asked. Maybe I didn’t give him the chance because I was so afraid of what the change would do to him that I kept talking about it. Maybe he didn’t have the time to worry because I continually reassured him it would be okay. Either way, I did notice him spending a lot more time in his room.

During that same school break, also came his orthodontic braces. For any kid having a metal bracket attached on each tooth is no picnic. There are many sensations in your mouth at once: the thickness of the brackets and how they tear at your cheeks and the tightness the metal causes on all of your teeth just to name a few. Coincidentally, Jenna was getting hers off the exact same day Ryan’s came on—the irony of that was not lost on any of us. But, I anticipated she would be a good visual to show the final result. Plus I thought I needed to tell him something tangible that the braces would do, so I told him we needed to make his teeth strong so he could continue to eat his favorite snack. He did great while getting the braces on: sat nicely and stayed calm–I was so proud. It wasn’t until later that evening when I realized how long he had been in his room alone when he came to me and said. “Okay mom, I’m ready for my new teeth.” As if the braces could work that fast.

Every time he tried to eat he practically cried from the pain. Ryan is a tough kid, so for him to say something hurts, it must be really bad. Needless to say, he didn’t want to eat much. And I heard the phrase “You have to take these braces off” a lot. He spent more time alone in his room those first few days. Processing: I assumed. Then, it was time to go back to school and he pepped up. I hoped he had found his way to deal with the braces. Ryan is one of the very few kids who wants to go back to school. He loves the routine, the schedules and the predictability. Even minus his life-long friend, he went back willingly. Even with the new braces inserted in his face, he was ready to roll.

Well, that’s enough change for now—I thought. Of course it wasn’t. We received notice that his school is closing. Let those words sink in for a minute. His school is closing at the end of the year.

For those of you who read my book, there is a considerable amount of time I discuss finding a school for Ryan when the public school was no longer an option for us. There are only so many schools in our immediate area and the continual ‘no’s’ I received were just one painful slap in the face after another. So the thought of finding another place that could fit all our needs, is to say the least, daunting.

More change… Will he handle it? Can he handle it?

He has heard us say the school is closing, but I don’t think he gets the finality of it. I don’t think I get it yet either. And I’m not ready to prime him for this change. Again.

So, what we do now is: pray; keep our fingers crossed; throw coins in a fountain; blow on dandelions; and send all the positive “vibes” we can to people in charge of Ryan’s school to keep it going…somehow.

I can keep the faith, and make wishes—that is what got me this far. But, sometimes I just really hate change.

 

 

 

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Catching up

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I posted. Let me catch you up on what has happened:

“Make A Wish For Me” had its official publication day and there was no turning back. We then hosted a raucously fun book-launch party, where I learned I don’t use my hand enough in writing and (after fifty or so signatures) those hand muscles forgot how to coordinate with my brain.  Then it was on to interviews, book signings, and book clubs.

The holidays came around; and all productivity came to a halt. I turned another year older (yay me) and then I jumped back in the New Year with more signings, interviews and meetings. Sadly, this blog has taken a back seat. My apologies-that is my resolution this year to post more often.

So that about gets you up to speed.

Now that the book is out there I am overwhelmed by the notes, cards, emails and social media posts. It is hard to put into words how fulfilling it is to be appreciated for not only your story, but also your style of telling it.

Yet, today, I find myself slightly licking some new wounds as not everyone has such nice things to say.

When you put your writing out to the general public, you expect some criticism or even just plain disregard. My book in particular is such a niche topic and I am aware how much that narrows the interest as well. What I wasn’t prepared for is the anonymous person who has had a journey with autism, yet completely missed the point. It’s not that they didn’t like my writing style, or the story line was too slow, or the narrative boring. They didn’t like the “high faultin life” that I apparently lead. I won’t try to argue said person’s opinion of my daily life, but what bothers me is they failed to see what, I felt, I painstakingly tried to convey to families afflicted with autism: there is always hope; don’t give up; and believe in yourself and your child.

Like I said, I’m only “slightly” licking my wounds. I merely think about the review every 30 minutes or so; and I’ve only re-read it a half–dozen times. I will have you know, I am not huddled up under the covers binging on Netflix and Nutella- though that does sound tempting just because both are awesome. My feisty reviewer has brought two items to my attention: I need more reviews, (so hers will get buried) and I did not offer as much help as I thought I had, in merely telling our story.

Fear not: I will not let this ‘one-star reviewer’ drag me down and I will make lemonade. So, going forward, in order to help in a way I apparently didn’t in the book, I will have a new page on my website for the multitudes of resources available. (And by going forward, I mean in a week or so, I need time to construct it—so check in later.)

Next item involves my need for reviews. First, a quick lesson on reviews: Amazon is the source most people use for buying books and people do look at those reviews when choosing books. Also, if you get a high number of reviews (Amazon’s algorithms are super-secret so I can’t tell you how it works), your book becomes more “visible”.  Who wouldn’t want their book more visible? Having said all that, if you have read the book (or plan to finish in the near future) please go to Amazon (even if you didn’t purchase it there) and leave a review.

It’s really easy: you can click here: MAWFM or log on to Amazon.com and search for my book “Make A Wish For Me”. Scroll down to the button that says: “write a customer review”. Click on the number of stars you give it and then a dialog box opens to allow you to write something.  (There are other places to leave reviews like GoodReads: MAWFM-but you need to be a member feel free to sign up: it’s like Facebook for readers.  And Barnes and Noble: MAWFM–has a similar review process to Amazon. (I have no (as in: zero) reviews there, so please feel free to christen that site!)

I want to be clear about what I’m asking of you. I’m not looking for five stars and fluff. I’m looking for your honest feelings and what you would say to someone in an elevator about it. It doesn’t have to be perfect prose or look like a pep rally for me, just a few words will suffice.

Last thoughts, and forgive me if I’m beating you death with ‘review-talk’. But, I did not know the importance of reviews prior to having a book published. And personally, never reviewed books I read. But now, knowing how much it could increase the visibility for the author, I review everything I read. It doesn’t take that long and really can make a difference especially to the newbies like me.

Mucho thanks for assisting in resolving one of these items.  I hope to see more reviews soon.

 

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Subject of a Zoom Lens

Below is a link to a guest blog I wrote on Portland Book Review.  And if I am hitting you about the head with promoting my book…I do apologize. Just skip on by if you are over it…

http://portlandbookreview.com/2015/11/the-subject-of-a-zoom-lens-by-leeandra-chergey/

 

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What I didn’t tell you…

So tonight I was interviewed on a radio program Everything Special Needs out of New Jersey.  I did not give anyone any advance notice as I was too nervous.  Too nervous to think people I knew would be listening.  This is something I have to work on, so bear with me. In case you haven’t looked at the “media” tab,  I haven’t given any advance notice on my interviews for the same reason.  My publicist is so cringing that I don’t promote the hell out of these things, alas, I’m a silly human.

But back to the interview,  I think it went well. I just forced my family to listen to it and they liked it, well, aside from being strong armed  into listen to me talk for an hour.

What I didn’t tell you (aside from it happening tonight) was I actually rehearsed some of the questions in my office for hours this afternoon.  If anyone wanted to punk me, they could have watched me talking to no one and laughed their little butts off.

Anyway, it is a good interview, so if you have an hour to kill and no podcasts to listen to…check it out. Thanks.

http://everythingspecialneeds.info/10-26-15/

I hope the link works. If not, just repost in your browser. Or go tot their site and look for radio “ESN radio archives” tab and it’s there.

By the way, it’s only 15 days to pub date…in case you lost count.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve vamped up this blog to act as a true website.  Check out all the tabs, write a comment. Enjoy. Then pass it on.

15 days…

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Paint can’t take it away

Reflection can sneak up on you at the most unexpected moments. One would presume nostalgic contemplation at graduations, weddings and funerals. But, I had a moment of surprising melancholy yesterday in Ryan’s bedroom.

Now that he is in sixth grade and almost a teenager, I thought it was time to upgrade him to a big boy room. We asked Ryan, if he indeed wanted a new room and he unexpectedly said yes—as ‘no’ is his favorite way to respond for most queries. We happily showed him pictures of bunk bed/desk combinations and he picked one we all could agree upon.

Next, I spread out the paint color-wheel like a dealer in Vegas and asked him which color would he like his walls to be. He stopped me mid-spread and said with a firm tone, “I still want the tree.” I knew immediately what he meant. When we moved into our house the former owner had hand-painted Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Tree from floor to ceiling in the corner of the room. It is a definite focal point and apparently meaningful to him and I was almost relieved he still wanted it. Like it would preserve some of his childhood.  I also found it remarkable he could convey that he wanted to keep his tree and it most certainly signified an emotion I wasn’t sure he had: sentimentality. This big boy upgrade was proving to be quite eye-opening.

Once the tree was settled, he looked at the paint samples and I learned that he picks paint as quickly as I do. Hey if you see what you like, you just know. He pointed to a brilliant blue called “pool party”.  Seemed a perfect color to me, and the name just evoked lazy summer days by the pool. (Someday I will fulfill a life dream where my job will be to envision names for paint colors. I have so many ideas…)

A few days later, I decided to be safe and ask him once more about his color choice. I opened the color wheel to the “family” of blues he chose and again his finger flew to pool party. I was relived he picked he same one and wasn’t randomly choosing color. So, for good measure, I asked one more time before the painters came. I even tried to mix him up, but he diligently scoured the wheel looking for his pool party and again chose it. Done. Plus, I knew if I asked again I would probably get yelled at.

Bed ordered; paint picked: it was now time to clean out the little boy room. I began to find things I hadn’t seen in years: sentence strips for his picture schedules (‘Play with Michelle’, ‘Eat breakfast’, ‘Go to school’), pieces to games he played while in therapy, piles of keys and coins he no longer collected. But it wasn’t until I began to peel off Velcro strips that the memories over took me.

I sat down where his ‘therapy’ table had stood years before and saw the blue line it had left on the wall. Right above it, a large hole that was probably the outcome of one of his angry tantrums. I rubbed the spot and felt a surge of sadness knowing this dented drywall would be patched up and painted over.  It worried me those memories could someday be washed away too.   The many days he spent there with his therapists working hour after hour; learning his colors, letters, signs, numbers, facial expressions, and eventually his words.   All the time he worked in that spot so he could figure out how to ‘fit’ into our world, truly humbled me.  I don’t know if I would have worked that hard.

Even though new furniture will sit where he once did; I will remember that little folding blue table where it all started. With people who painstakingly patiently taught him again and again; people who have left this earth and people who still work with him today. I vow to not let a new color cover my memories of the uncertain times early in his life. Because those are the times that made him and us, who we are today.

I hope I never forget how far he has come; and in a few years when he moves out on his own, reflect on this stage and all he has accomplished.  I can safely bet I will be just as touched then as I am now.

 

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Pre-Pub Purgatory

Something about the changing of summer to fall causes me to reflect on the year and often my life as a whole. Maybe it’s the quiet of the house with the ankle biters at school, the temperature changes, or just a realization of time passing. But this is the season I find myself getting the most nostalgic. I get almost antsy for the next season and phase of my life.

For the past ten years or so, this time period usually reflects on what grade my kids are in and what developmental milestones they are making. Prior to that, my thoughts would have wandered back to my own time in school. I am one of those weird people who actually liked school, studying and reading; moving forward in some scholarly pursuit. I loved the fall because it meant school.

Since September creeped onto my calendar, I have been feeling restless, and more anxious than usual this time of year.   After again looking at the calendar today, I realized it’s the doldrums I’m in right now: the in-between-ness of waiting. Waiting for the day my book finally comes out.

There is a lot the publisher and our community of writers has prepared me for in this writing journey, but I don’t recall much mention of this time. The pre-publication purgatory I am trapped in. I am not one to want to rush time; it already goes too fast and I am usually wishing to slow it down.   However, November 10, 2015 seems like it is a century away.

Sure, I’m busy with everyday life, raising two kids, work, and of course all the final marketing details that go into publicizing a book. But waiting for the actual day when my story is available (for anyone interested to read) is about to drive me mad.

Maybe it’s the no longer writing it that’s making the waiting seem longer. When you spend years, many years, writing and editing your own words, it becomes like a child you have created. Just like the last weeks of pregnancy, I was delirious waiting to see my baby. Right now, my “baby” is sitting in a computer in a warehouse on east coast about to be printed and bound. It’s in its final gestation trimester, and it feels like I can see each second on the clock.

There is nothing more I’m allowed to add to the book, the publisher has given me my final proof—and it’s done. Yet I cant’ help feeling like there was more I could have written about my family’s journey with autism. Certainly there were more anecdotes to be told and more victories to share. But if I wanted my story published I had to stop writing and start…waiting.

Like I washed up on a deserted island, I feel I wasn’t properly prepared for this time. I knew how hard the writing and editing was. I lived it long enough that no explanation was necessary. I was slightly surprised in all the steps required to properly market a book, yet felt I had prepared accordingly (and still am walking that part of the journey). I won’t lie, the review process still proves to be shocking and humbling, but again, I felt I have skidded by with that one too. It’s this time. Now. Eight weeks, and six days. One thousand four hundred eighty eight hours left until 11/10/15.

My husband, Dan, and I did not found out the sex of either of our children. After the first child, I came up with three reasons why we didn’t find out: actually three jobs for the man during the pregnancy/birth.

1) Plant the seed (the most important job)

2) Announce the sex when the baby is finally born (a very exciting moment for my husband)

3) Cut the chord (that took some coercing, but he did it.)

The way I saw it, if you take one of those jobs you would eliminate 33.33% of their work. It was kind of my obligation to keep Dan properly employed in future ventures. And I also found out after baby #1, how the ‘not knowing’ kept me going in the long days of the last trimester. Not knowing just their sex, but what they would look like, or what they would be like. Actually that was the real torture.

If I could get through that waiting, especially on bed rest with Ryan, I can keep my chin up and get through this waiting. After all, I already know what my book/baby looks like and what it is like…

I think what I just realized writing this: is it’s time to make another baby, I mean book. Relax, Dan. I meant book.

Maybe the pre-pub waiting period won’t be as bad the second time around.

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