For Robert.

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Here sits a lump of clay, ready for me to shape. / Photo by Kidzond.

 

I’ve been reading a book this week. Sort of a horror/dystopia story about vampires. I have about another 90 pages to go before the end of the story.

I didn’t like how the author started off the story. The setting was cool, but he seemed to lack focus on what the issue was. Hints to, but never explains what the real issue at hand is.

Despite the grammatical errors, hiccups with elements of the plot, the two main characters are good. I am truly curious as to what their fate will be. And that has to be the best part of the story. I actually care as a reader what will happen next.

Yes, this is my story, my first draft of my ‘first’ novel. Why quote marks? Because it truly isn’t my first. I wrote a novel a few years back and sat down to read it, like I am doing now. My father’s ghost tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear.

“That truly sucks you know. What are you trying to even say? What is your point?” I could only look over my shoulder and nod, placing the pages into a manila envelope and dooming the novel to sit upon a dusty shelf for all of eternity.

This book I am reading? It may actually see the light of day. I hope it does. It is still a lump of clay, but has a shape. A structure that I can look at and say, “I see where you are going here.” and take out my tools and start to shape it into a book that will keep some up past their bedtime, turning the page to see what happens next. That is my hope, the hope of every wannabe author.

Stories rarely just pop into my head. Usually a scene does, one that I think on, expand upon, and if good enough, commit to paper. I normally hand write out my stories, then sit at my laptop and tap them out.

This story, came from an oxymoron. We went swimming at a local pool years back. I was sick, so I did not want to get into the water. My youngest children were kiddy pool age, so I sat and watched them. It was on July 14th, Bastille Day for the French, that will become germane in a moment.

So, sitting down, watching my wife and kids splash around in this public pool that is only opened during the day, I notice they had lights. A really good lighting system. New. But why?

“Well maybe it’s for the vampires.” I mused. Swimming on Bastille Day, a short story, was born. I wrote it down, then I tapped it out on my laptop. It sat. I tweaked it, it still sat. I had in my cloud, and thus on my phone. By now, almost 3 years had passed. And every once in a while I would look at it. I had the good luck to look at on the flight back from our family vacation. It caught the eye of my sister-in-law’s fiancé.

“What’s that your reading?” He asked.

“Oh, short story I wrote.” I said.

“Really?” He said as I handed him my phone. A half hour later he handed it back. He liked it, but had so many questions. In the end, the story didn’t make sense to him. I needed to explain it more.

I think I rewrote that short story a dozen times, cursing at each draft. It was not going to happen as a short story. Maybe a Novella? Wasn’t sure.

The novel was delayed by a conversation with my brother Jay. Who stated that everyone wrote about vampires. Which, is absolutely true. Stick a fork in the genre, it is as crispy as a vampire in the sunlight.

As I turned away from the novel, and life interrupted me more than I wish, drawing me farther away from my writing, I considered something. Is my story about vampires? Is any story just about its genre? No, it’s about the characters. How they react to the situation they are in.

It took me 45 days to write the first draft. Countless interruptions, coffee breaks, smoke breaks, potty breaks, and life’s general interruptions.

Then I started to read my book. I frowned a lot at the first 70 pages, had to do my best not to pick up a red pen and attack it. I reminded myself this is the critical part of writing. Do you like your work? Are you, as the author, curious as to the ending. Even though you know the ending? Like re-reading your favorite novel again? Does it still peak your interest? So far, yes. I want to know what happens to my characters.

While writing a story is the fun part, the nuts and bolts of creating a novel really intrigue me. I am doing the first read of the first draft. I will edit my novel. Then, hoping it won’t cost me a small fortune, get with an editor I know. Have her go over it with a nit comb. Then after that, have it proofread again. Finally have a few people read it.

One person that I hope will have the time to read my story is the person who looked at me on that airplane flight and asked so many damn good questions. Yet still said, they liked it. My brother-in-law Rob. He’s a bit of an asshole, which is fine, because so am I. We argue, discuss, and love each other fiercely. We truly are family.

Yet I would be remiss to say I don’t dread his reading of my tale. For while others will tell me they like it, yet secretly harbor dislikes, I will not get that from him. He will simply hand me back the printed pages and shake his head. “Nah, didn’t like it.” And that will be the truth. It is rare to find an individual with his bluntness. It is also alarming and scary.

However, if you want to succeed at anything in life, you need a Rob. You need someone to tell you if your work is good, and to give you constructive criticism. To ask the hard questions and have you explain yourself. And, like he did on that flight, when I explained a point to my ill-fated short story.

“Why didn’t you say that in the first place then?”

So, with so many people I will have to thank for this novel when it sees the light of day, I could think of only one person to dedicate it to. My harshest critic.

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…Not Judgement.

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A sign posted on an elementary school wall.

 

Last week when I picked up my 5-year-old niece from her Pre-K class I passed a wall plastered with pictures and stories. In the center was this sign.

Autism is one word trying to describe millions of stories. and underneath, offer support, not judgement.

This may seem sappy, but the sign, the wall, what had been going on in my life at that moment, hit me hard. I did my best to hold it together and walked on to pick up my niece. Walking through a crowded hallway of parents and overly excited 4 to 5 year olds, who jostling each other for a turn at the drinking fountain. I signed my niece out, lead her out of the school, stopping to snap a picture of the sign. Then I thought about writing this blog. But I didn’t write. I thought about it for nearly a week.

I fully feel the support. From friends, family, school teachers and professionals who help us with Alexis’ Autism. It is a wonderful feeling, and I am truly grateful.

Yet at times, I feel the judgement. For many, Autism is just an unknown. They look at it from the outside and see…well they see a new car. See, I thought about the sign for nearly a week, and found an analogy that made sense.

 

Analogy Time!

 

Lets say, for the sake of analogies, Alexis is a new car. Snazzy, looks great on the outside. Sunroof, all the new fangled bells and whistles. I drive this car everyday. So I know this car well.

On occasion I give people rides. They like my new car, say it works like every other new car they know, looks like a normal car to them too. But they don’t drive it everyday like I do.

See, every once in a while, my navigation system won’t talk to me. It is very frustrating. I really need it to work sometime, but it doesn’t some days. Selective Mutism.

Then the fuel system doesn’t work, and my car vapor locks on me. Just stops.  Getting it to work again can take days. Sometimes, I have to take it into the shop. Gastrointestinal issues.

The sun roof is stubborn too. It will open, but refuses to close. Hangs up and the navigation system complains it hurts too much to close. Tactile Issues, Hair.

But everyone sees this awesome car on the outside, and they don’t understand the issues I have with it. I can tell them, and they will listen, but then they look at my new car, and shake their heads at me.

“It’s fine, what are you talking about. Can I have a ride?” They ask.

“Sorry, not today, the fuel system is backed up and the navigation system quit talking to me about it. Sunroof needs an adjustment too.” I tell them.

“You know? You complain about that car too much. It’s fine, you just need to drive it like everyone else who owns a car like that. You probably don’t know how to operate it properly, it looks just fine to me!” I hear. And all I can do is sigh.

Silly as this analogy is, unfortunately it is accurate.

Alexis has issues that come with Autism. Even as high functioning as she is, there are still issues that seem to baffle people.

In her case, Autism is expressed by extreme anxiety. Yet this anxiety is quirky. Things that freak other people out? Like roller coasters? She’s fine with them.

She loves roller coasters.

Yet a word, a phrase, a look can push her anxiety levels to nearly catastrophic levels. She will go mute, she will lash out, she make odd sounds and nervous tics. Then she will become constipated due to her anxiety. Which, a little TMI, becomes a nightmare to deal with. From as little as going through ten pairs of undergarments a day, to doctors visits when it gets severe.

There is also the impression that she needs to learn to behave like other children. Or that this is just a phase she will just grow out of. As if this is a cold she will shake, and I am overreacting.

She will never behave like other children, she will not grow out of it.

She will learn to adjust to our world. Find ways to cope with stresses that plague her now. She will grow, learn, become a productive adult. In her own way. I am so very thankful she will. Other who have autism, are not so lucky.

I don’t doubt her future successes, yet right now she is (and we are) in the adjustment part. Working on routines to keep life on an even keel for her. Because at this point, routines are important for her, and difficult to keep in the busy, fast paced, modern life.

I call Autism The Wicked Little Tailor, because it is. Autism truly is one word to describe Millions of stories. Each person whom it touches, it does so in its own unique way. No two autistics are alike. Each person wears their own little suit of autism, and has to cope with it.

Those of us who are the caregivers, we have to not only help them, but be an advocate for them. Do our best to teach others.

And honestly? It sucks sometimes. Teaching others. They would rather judge than listen.

Because to them, the car is new and shiny, it should work like every other car its age. They are only the occasional rider, they don’t drive it everyday like I do.

 

Vampires Suck!

 

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Although Vampires exist in many forms, a Child Vampire is always creepy. / Photo by KidZond.

 

“A story about vampires? Oh Jon, come on! Everyone’s writing about vampires! Vampires suck!” my brother said to me.

“Actually they are writing about Zombies.” I said in a rather meek come back.

However, with my brother’s assessment of my future novel, he raised the specter of my Father’s Ghost. It’s a dumb idea, Jay is right, everything there is to say about vampires has been written. What could you possibly add to the genre?

Suddenly it was pointless to move forward with my novel. So, being this conversation happened in June of 2017, the opening pages of my novel, all 22,000 words, sat on my laptop, collecting electric dust, and I moved on to other projects, other ideas. Original Ideas. Because, well, you need to be Original right? Right?

Nothing is Original. Not really.

So, my Father’s Ghost won again. I shelved the story and went on to other projects. Yet I kept thinking about my vampire story. In my mind I was adding little details, dropping plotlines, adding others. Thinking on it the whole time I was working on ignoring it and being ‘original’. Yet, nothing is original. Not really. Most stories are based off of other stories. Even Dracula was based on a Balkan Legend and a popular story from Stoker’s time, The Vamprye. 

Most of us believe a great story is original, but when asked, the Author often cites one or more sources as their inspiration. Either a story they had read, heard about, or one, recounted to them. Usually the story is a mishmash of previously known stories, with their own spin on it. Grimm’s Fairytales comes to mind. Shakespeare was well-known for taking popular legends and turning them into plays.

The concept of having to be original is, honestly, a little over the top. Yet, some storylines, genres, can beat the proverbial horse to death. Vampires have been mostly played out.

I accepted the fate of my novel, it would sit on the electronic shelf forever, never to be printed out and have me cuss over the editing process. The story was doomed.

Inspiration comes to you in the strangest ways.

My life has taken a few twists and turns since I had that conversation with my brother. I had written a few short stories, polished a couple of others, was in the market for Writing Competitions to get my name out. Yet I had to deal with a busy social year in 2017 and the discovery of my youngest daughters Autism.

During all this I changed jobs. Going from moving semi-tractor trailers in and out of docks for a Gum Factory, to doing the same at a Potato Chip factory.

I seem to be attracted to snacks companies.

And it was at my new job, that I saw something that gave me inspiration. Next to the Potato Chip factory is a Metal Work Shop. The shop causes some consternation with me and my colleagues. Huge metal plates, and small bits of metal litter the drive next to ours. Both plants share a common driveway. We have to be careful not to run over a metal scrap or drive into a huge steel beam. Yet the Metal Work Shop made me think…

“You know, if the zombie apocalypse happens, I would come here to outfit myself. You could make any sort of weapon out of this scrap metal.”

And of course there were potatoes to eat. And a nice National Guard Armory nearby. What a great place to hide out when the poop hits the rotating oscillator…

…or a great place for two child vampires to hang out.

You see, my story isn’t original. But it’s mine. It is my take on vampires. It may follow certain guidelines, certain rules of a storyline, but it’s mine. And that is where I vanquished my brother’s advice and my Father’s Ghost this time. Because while vampire stories have been played out. Glitter & Sparkles, Day-walkers, Assassins of Werewolves and even Diaries. No one has read mine. No one has seen what I have to offer. So, with a new angle, a fresh view, a great idea for a location, I wrote 4500 words of my tale last night. More to write tonight. And the next day, and the days to follow till I have the tale told.

Now, it may end up on the electronic bookshelf. It may die during the editing process, or suffer a worse fate. Sitting on the Cyber-Bookshelf without any takers.

But it will be done. I will have told my tale.

Because I have my story to tell, my version of vampires. Characters for you to explore, to laugh with, cry with, hate and love. It may revolve around vampires, but it will be the characters that drive the story.

While vampire tales are not original, my take will be ‘original’.

See, I let self-doubt and the fear of being lost in the crowd stop me from writing my novel. I was held back because I feared my brother was right, that my Father’s Ghost was right. But they weren’t.

Each of us, whether you are a published author, or a wannabe like myself, brings our own unique perspective to our tales. So, don’t be afraid to write what has already been written. Some of the best novels, best movies, even best t.v. shows are new versions of the same tired genre.

It’s not the lipstick on the pig that matters, it’s the shade of lipstick that matters.

 

I should just be an Author.

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Part of my HUGE pile of stories and plotlines. / Photo by KidZond.

 

“You should just become an Author.” My 7-year-old son said to me today. I was taking him to school, and we were discussing my new job and my new hours.

I told him that I took my new job because it’s days, and it also gives me more home time. The ‘price’ I pay for this is working Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Long hours, yet the free time, and being home with the kids to see them off to school and pick them up is worth it.

Then I added, “And I can write more, you know, become a famous author and we can travel the world. You know, so I could see new places and meet new people for my stories.” That’s when Nick had the simplest of solution. Just become an author.

If it was that easy.

I have been writing seriously for the last 10 years. Working on plots, styles, narrative methods, dialog, you name it. It’s been a fun journey. Yet the serious part always seems to elude me. I’ve submitted, been rejected, didn’t take it personally. I’ve read hundreds of articles on how to be a better writer, thousands of inspirations memes and quotes, listened to famous authors opine upon their craft and still…yeah.

Over time I have come to the conclusion I write like a sculpture. How so? Easy. If you have ever sculpted in clay (which I have) or know of the process, it’s a little weird. You start with a hunk of clay and pull parts away. Molding those parts to become the basis of your work. You will add this, take that, look at that small piece off to the side and maybe put it on, like it and keep it on, or hate it and remove it. In the end, you will have a round pile of ‘useless’ clay that will become another project. And hopefully you will have a finished piece. Or cover it in plastic to get back to later.

But it is that round pile of useless clay that may spark a better sculpture. One that you will really love. Sometimes, the small pieces become larger works.

Either way, you become attached to your sculpture. Even if after it is done, and you put it on a shelf, you will one day go back to it and smile. Thinking to yourself  “Wow, that sucked, but was fun” or “I should rework that piece, maybe paint it, or add this or that.” You rarely toss it in the trash. Because, well, you made it. It’s got a whole bunch of you in it.

When it comes to writing, advice is always nice. Honest opinions better. Yet I have found that the best advice is my own.

I can’t write for money. It would be nice, just to sit back, watch my works sell at an insane rate and have to hire a financial advisor to help me with my oodles of royalties. But I’m not that kind of writer. I tried that on a few stories, geared them for commercial success, but they didn’t have any heart.

It took a while for me to realise that I have to write for myself, and hope what I, like others, will too. That is a gamble, a big one. Yet if the story is going to go anywhere, I have to love it first before anyone else will.

Not good enough.

Like all writers, I suffer from self-doubt. That of course is what is holding me back. Well that and a little ‘Dad Issues’.

My father was a voracious reader, as was my mother. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t see a book in one of their hands. My mother was such an avid reader that she would get a quarter way into a book and put it down. When I asked her why, she told she had read it before. Dad was mostly into histories and biography’s. Thick tomes that he would stay up to the wee hours of the night reading and smoking his Mores cigarettes, a pall of smoke above his side of the couch, as he quietly turned the pages.

Yet my father was one of those people who belittled the achievements of others. If you had a great idea, my father had either thought of it, or told you why it wouldn’t work. It was this odd ‘Not good enough’ attitude that I believe has seeped into my brain and stops me from completing my books.

Even those novels and short stories I have finish, sit. Put into file cabinets or xerox boxes waiting for me to take them back up again and breathe life into them.

Yet my father’s ghost haunts me. Wandering through my mind to give me an excuse not to finish any of my works. I’ve cheated his ghost several times, yet those submissions fall under the umbrella of commercial works, going for that mythical Financial Advisor, just to have them tell me, that I may want to keep my day job.

“You know, Dad was pretty hard on you.” My brother Jay has told me often. He was right, dad was hard on me. I’m not certain why.

I find myself wanting to feed my father’s ghost. Find reasons to despise my own works. Even when I have finally convinced myself that I need to write for Me first, Readers second, his “No one would read that.” pops into my head. And I put my project aside.

Over the years I have conquered many of my fears, psychoanalyzed myself to the point I know where my arachnophobia, relationship problems, brussel sprouts hatred and fear of white rabbits with black eyes all come from. Oh, and Japanese Silky Chickens, the Hens, they give me the creeps.

I get myself, for the most part. Always something new to learn about yourself, yet for the most part? Yeah, I get me.

Except for my father’s ghost. That is still with me, and I still struggle to conquer that fear. That I will never be Good Enough, no matter how hard I try.

It is a totally irrational fear, one that should not have a hold on me. And maybe, from the proverbial mouth of babes, I should just be an Author.

 

Even if my works aren’t good enough.

A little on the quirky side.

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Alexis behind a Unicorn Mask. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Like any parent, I have a lot of hopes for my children. You bring these little persons into the world and try to teach and guide them so they can stand on their own. You wish nothing but the best for them, and wish with all your heart, that they will succeed in their life better than you. You’re fearful of the world, and what the world may do to them, but you know if you give them the right tools, they will be just fine.

Yet when you have a child with High Functioning Autism, the fear is magnified a hundred fold. The deck is stacked against her from the start.

We’ve only been on this rollercoaster of learning about our Autistic daughter for a little less than a year now. Dozens of meetings with doctors, counselors, school staff and reading. A lot of reading and research. At times for me, the challenges of giving my daughter the tools to have a happy healthy life are daunting. It can make you feel very small, very ignorant, and very angry.

Anger is my biggest problem. Most people don’t see my anger. I’m usually considered a jovial guy, even when subjects come up in the course of conversations that normally piss everyone off, I’m the guy who takes it all in stride.

Except when it comes to my kids. I’m very defensive.

Yes of course you should be defensive of your children. I’m not a helicopter parent, more of a military drone style. I’ll let it go on for a bit, then come in low with missiles ready to fire and blow you up verbally. It’s not a good trait, I don’t like being like this. But, it’s my kids. Still, until my wife pointed out that this drone style of attack wasn’t helping the situation, I had been lashing out.

She was right of course, I was wrong. I ran afoul of my own passion to defend my daughter, just to exacerbate the situation. I need to find a way to redirect, to work on getting those who can understand Alexis, to understand. Those who are incapable…well to just let it go.

Fairy Brides are Quirky.

For years I have been an avid Folklore buff. Mostly British folklore. In those stories that I have read and re-read, I have run across the Fairy Bride. A quirky set of tales that have not made it to Disney yet. Yet these tales help put things in perspective, and makes me wonder if Autism was a foundation for the tale.

Fairy Brides are a big part of British Folklore. A man meets a beautiful woman and marries her on the spot, so to speak. Yet his bride is quirky, she has trouble adjusting to the mortal worlds social norms. Fairy Brides tend to cry at Weddings, and laugh at Funerals. Much to the consternation of the mortal husband. They do socially inept things that often cause the husband to have to admonish his wife, to try to change her, mold her into being a ‘Good Wife’. Often the story ends with the Fairy Bride leaving the husband, his life now in ruins.

While the moral of the story is one about the fallacy of Love of Beauty alone, (for Fairy Brides are the loveliest of creatures) it also makes me think of Autism. A woman, from another plane of existence, has to adjust to a world that just doesn’t make sense to her. A world that demands she conform, behave as they expect her to, not as she is. Yet she never does, and in the end, goes back to a world that makes sense to her.

This is a problem I face with Alexis. Not so much her, and her autism, but to how others react to it.

Some people just believe that we are bad parents. That we need to correct her more. Others feel she is conning us, twisting things around so she can get her way. They get confused by her actions and react badly because they just don’t understand that she does not think like they do. That social norms they take for granted, are not to be found with her.

Now while some will learn, other will refuse to. No matter how I explain it. Even if I say those infamous words “Don’t take my word for it, read this…” , they still are locked into their opinion that this is some sort of great game to Alexis. That she is a puppet master and we are merely puppets.

Of course the part that really gets my proverbial goat is the “Fix it” or “Grow out of it” mentality I run across. Those who believe they can fix Alexis’ autism by doing this or that. Or that she’ll one day just grow out of it. She won’t. This is her, it is how she will be for the rest of her life.

And that is when I call for a drone strike, lashing out verbally against those who think this is all some sort of game.

And, I have to stop that.

Because my wife was right, lashing out isn’t helping me, her, or our daughter. You can educate people, help them understand that Alexis isn’t being a brat, it’s just that she thinks in a way that you can not fathom. I need to just learn that not everyone will get it, not everyone will accept her, and that my job as a father, and our job as parents, are to work with her to help her understand that not everyone will understand.

Our hopes are to give our HFA daughter the tools she needs to lead a good life. To enjoy family and friends. To have the career she wants. To teach her that although like a Fairy Bride in the mortal world, she can learn to adjust to our theoretical “Neural Typical” world, and still be herself.

Because like a Fairy Bride, with all her quirkiness, she is the Most Beautiful of Creatures to us.

Putting on the Mad Hatter’s Hat.

And helping others get their Alice on.

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Alexis. Self Portrait.

 

 

A little fact about myself. I only have 9 toenails. I lost one due to a childhood accident. Now when I tell the story of how I lost it, I’ve never been asked the question will it grow back. Little children do sometimes, but never from adults.

This is typical. Most adults don’t go around saying to a one-legged person, “So when do you expect your leg to grow back?” or “It will get better, just keep working harder, relying on that prosthetic leg is not helping you”. I could never imagine saying that to someone, could you? No, you wouldn’t.

Yet I get this a lot with my daughter who is a HFA, High Functioning Autistic. There seems to be this perception that if we just teach her this, or that, her autism will go away. As if it is just a cold, and given time, it will go away.

It won’t.

People seem to get lost that because she looks like a typical 10-year-old girl, which she is…just one with HFA…they expect her to interact and behave like any ‘A neurotypical’ 10-year-old girl. Which she doesn’t.

Alexis has quirks. Little things that people don’t notice at first, and when they do? Well they become Alice in Alexis’ Wonderland. Just like the story Alice in Wonderland, where a little girl goes into a world, that doesn’t make a bit of sense to her, most people try to correct Alexis, believing it is all just bad behaviour. Not understanding that the behaviour they expect? Is just as alien to Alexis as Alice was to the Mad Hatter. Remember, the Hatter thought Alice was Mad.

I find people perplex by her quirks. Even after I explain her quirks to them, explain that she is HFA, they still just don’t accept it, and suggest she ‘grow her leg back’ so to speak. I am given parenting advice, tips, links to articles. All sorts of stories of how they were raised, and what their parents did to correct their bad behaviour. Because that is how they see her, behaving badly. A product of bad parenting. An extremely ironic stance if you know the history of autism.

Alexis doesn’t say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. She finds those social niceties absurd. Often I run across the Adult who withholds giving her a toy, piece of candy, or some other object till she says ‘Please’. Which to her is traumatic, and frustrating beyond the comprehension of the adult, who is perplexed by her reaction. See, Alexis isn’t a child who needs to ‘learn their manners’, this is akin to me giving you a $1,000,000 check after I won the lottery and telling you I wrote Void on it. Your first response would be “Why would you do that?” and all I can say is Exactly! Welcome to Wonderland Alice, you have just stepped inside my daughters world.

This is the Mad Hatter’s Hat I have to wear sometimes. Stepping into Alexis’ world so I can tell all the Alice’s  of the world, why she acts the way she does. I have to play interventionist just so people can understand her, and not get frustrated by her reactions. Which they do often, but mostly, I have to intervene so she doesn’t get frustrated and slip into a traumatic state that will take hours, if not a whole day, for her to calm down.

Alexis does has quirks. She likes wearing certain clothing, namely, pajamas. She even wears them to school. Now you may find this cute, or inappropriate, or weird. Yet trying telling your daughter who is standing in her bedroom, wearing only her underwear, refusing to dress, because you forgot to put her jammies in the dryer last night. And do your best to keep calm as she melts down, crying, with only 10 minutes to get to school before the first bell rings. You see, it’s a tactile thing for her, certain fabrics bother her as fingernails on a chalkboard bother most of us.

Alexis isn’t a picky eater. Provided that the food she eats, say pork chops, tastes the same each time she has it. If I get a different cut, or use a different spice, she notices, and will refuse to eat it.

Then there are the constant routines, things that have to be a specific way or else it sets her off. Her pillow has to be just so, her blanket too. Stuffed animals arranged in a specific order. People coming over unexpectedly, or not coming over. Us staying a friends longer than what we told her originally, or someone staying at our place longer than she expected. Or say a substitute teacher at school, even simpler things like not having the cup for her drink. Those disruptions which seem so mundane to us, that I can say to my 7-year-old son, “It’s fine, Nick”, and it is fine for him, become an obstacle for Alexis, that she struggles to overcome.

To the Alice’s of the world, she seems nothing more than a spoiled brat who isn’t getting her way. Because they only pop into our Wonderland for a short time, they don’t live there like we do. Many want to correct her, or berate her. And by doing so, upset her. They don’t know she doesn’t understand why they are ‘mad’ at her. Nor why doing something their way is ‘proper’ and her way is ‘rude’.

There is more of course, the personal hygiene, physiological issues that come along with autism. Well, at least my daughter. Even being HFA, there are issues. Because Autism is truly a Wicked Little Tailor that makes a suit for each person it affects. You learn to deal with those issues, while working hard to avoid public embarrassment for your child.

Alexis is very high functioning on the Autistic spectrum. By guiding her, help her deal with all the Alice’s of the world, she can find an inner translator for her Wonderland. A Hatter’s Hat, so to speak, that she can give out, to all those who just don’t quite get her quirks. Till that day comes, I don the Hatter’s Hat, get out my translation book, and tell the Alice’s of the world that No, she will not act the way you think she will. And No, this is not bad behavior, or being a brat. And NO, this will not ‘go away’.

 

 

 

 

 

A little Fake News is good for the soul.

If of course, you believe in that stuff.

 

GustaveDore_She_was_astonished_to_see_how_her_grandmother_looked

Grandma certainly does have big eyes, and dog breath. / Gustave Dore – Wikicommons

 

I saw a post on Facebook fishing for followers. Can’t say I blame them, if you are in the blogging/media world you want followers. So you drop a snazzy headline, jazz up the article/video and wait for the fish to bite.

Of course, I bit. The headline was “How to spot Fake News”, with an emphasis on fake articles from the 2016 United States Presidential election. The Russian influence.

This article actually disappointed me. Not because it was about politics, and how the Russians used Facebook post to Fake News, but because that was all they talked about. As if the political aspects of Fake News are the most important aspects.

Yeah, well, of course it is important. You can argue the case that political Fake News is damning and hurts a nation. But what about all the other fake news? You know, the stuff people rarely even bat an eye at that it might be fake?

There is a name for that type of fake news, dozens of books, movies, t.v. shows, all that very popular stuff.

Folklore.

Or urban myths, tall tales, or jocular tales to entertain, and sometimes scare the bejesus out of you.

Some stories are meant to anger you, work on your emotions, and get you mad enough to do action.

Like this one below, meant to have you boycott Pizza Hut. A quick google search and you’ll find the story is a hoax meant to illicit anger and resentment. Nothing in the post is true, not even the owner of the post.

 

Screenshot_20180129-203943.png

This tale is meant to incite anger. / KidZond.

 

Years ago you would hear these stories by word of mouth, then came along email, and finally, social media.

The surprise of these stories is not their absurdity, nor how well they take a truth and twist it, but how eagerly people are ready to believe it. Many of us do, I have bought into some. It happens folks.

See this one below? Seems like a wonderful idea. And guess what? It actually works! But…yes, there is always a ‘but’ with these, this is not the 10-14 hour version. This is light it, and probably burn up really quick version. As the fire will go up the feeder logs before they can roll into the pit. In other words, you’re creating a bonfire in the form of a ‘V’.

Screenshot_20180129-123909.png

 

Now a real version of a self feeding fire pit does exist, but it takes a lot of hard work and skill to build. Knowledge and a bit of elbow grease to get it to work.

This? Is not it.

It is however, a self feeding fire pit. So while the picture doesn’t lie, it neglects to tell you the outcome. You are supposed to be able to ‘set it, and forget it’. Instead you will probably need the garden hose to put it out before you ever get a chance to truly enjoy it.

If of course, you believe in that stuff…

 

Screenshot_20180201-115949.png

 

 

Of course the worst Fake News out there are the medical claims. This fruit will cause (or cure!) cancer, diabetes, scurvy, kuru and possibly, if you are lucky, improve your sex life.

90% of us just make a sour face and scroll on. Then there are those posts, like the one above, that put you at risk if you follow their advice. Snazzy graphics and sketchy statistics lure you in.

Consider the current situation in the United States. There is a flu outbreak, it is all over the news. Two strains are being talked about, some 37 deaths reported so far. People are concerned and rightly so. The Flu is a dangerous thing.

Most of those who have not already gotten a shot, would be thinking, about now is a good time to get one. Then, while scrolling down on their Facebook feed, they run across something like the screen capture above.

That’s when it falls upon the individual to figure out what is what. Is this serious? Are those facts true? Wow, what in the heck have we been doing to ourselves all these years! Why would anyone EVER get a Flu shot?!

50 Million.  

That is the number of people who died from the Spanish Flu. That happened a 100 years ago, the outbreak started in 1918.

Some 500 million people, or about a third of the world’s population at that time, became infected with the Spanish Flu. It was devastating.

Consider this. The CDC estimates some 291,000 to 646,000 die of seasonal Flu outbreaks world-wide in modern times, some 100 years after the Spanish Flu outbreak. Also consider that the vaccine for the flu is readily available in most developed nations.

Kind of shoots the hell out of the idea that vaccination is a bad thing doesn’t it? Yeah, sure, we’re talking a 100 years time, a particular nasty outbreak in 1918, no guarantee that another nasty outbreak will not occur in the future. Yet…

Do you really think not getting a vaccine is the best route? That vaccines do not matter? What about Polio? Small Pox? Measles?

This type of fake news preys upon those with a predisposed bias. Those who are wary of shots, doctors, medicines and well, the government.

Now, before you write off this Fake News, take a look at the bottom of the above photo. This is my screen capture. At the time I did this 1.1 million had viewed it. 32,000 had shared it. How many believed it?

Little Red Riding Hood was tricked by the Wolf, she was saved by the handy axe-wielding Woodsman. Snopes will help, but having a skeptical mind and good research skills will help you in this social media age.

Folklores of old usually had a ‘Moral of the Story’ part. As in, don’t walk in the woods alone. Never talk to strangers, be mindful of your surroundings. These were stories that taught children that the world is full of deceit. Best to be mindful.

I told my eldest two folktales throughout their childhood. I tell my youngest two these tales also. I feel these tales have lessons we have seemed to have forgotten in this day and age. As we plod along on social media, absorbing story after story, and our children are right behind us. Now is a good time to harken back to those old tales, to read them, and to listen to the moral of the story.

Good lessons in this day and age of Fake News.

 

Further reading and sources used in this blog.

[All opinions expressed in this blog are the authors alone. Unless the Reptilian Overlords have taken over my mind.]
https://www.snopes.com/search/
https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/outdoor-projects/how-to/a19409/this-self-feeding-campfire-will-burn-all-night/
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm
http://www.history.com/topics/1918-flu-pandemic