The Trash Talking Twins.

And my Son’s quick lesson on the Sticks and Stones rule of life.

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Nick with his new hair cut, same as the old cut. / Photo by KidZond.

 

I know my kids. So when my son Nick sat down next to me at the table, I could tell something was wrong. His facial expression was pained, his eyes red rimmed, but no tears. He looked at me and I stopped my conversation with my friend to turn my attention to him.

“What’s up buddy? You okay?” I asked. Of course he wasn’t okay. He was on the verge of tears. Did he get hurt? We were at a local trampoline park. A twisted ankle is fairly common here. But that wasn’t the case.

“Some little kids are being mean, in the dodgeball court.” He said blinking rapidly. I nodded.

“What are they doing?” I asked him.

“Saying mean things, calling us names, calling me names.” He said.

The trampoline park we were at has two dodgeball courts. My son and daughter take lessons at the park, along with a family friends oldest daughter (Their youngest daughter hangs out while the older three are in their lesson). We hang out after the lessons to let the kids play while we adults talk about what is going on in our lives. It’s a nice time for all of us, kids get to play together, we get to catch up.

Rarely is there ever an incident at the trampoline park. Everyone behaves, and the staff are excellent in monitoring kids. They do a great job at keeping teenagers and little kids from mixing so as to avoid possible injuries from kids getting too wild.

But this wasn’t the case, the kids trash talking my son were younger, a set of boys, twins.

Nick was upset, wasn’t sure what to do. He likes playing dodgeball, and has even joined tween games. To the credit of the tweens who usual play with younger kids, they pull their throws, so as not to hurt the younger players. Now he was the older kid, and the younger kids were calling him names. Making fun of his throws, calling him ugly and stupid.

I told him he could do one of two things. Either go play somewhere else, the trampoline park had many activities for him to do, or he could let the boys know he wouldn’t play if they continued to be rude to him. He went with the later.

It didn’t end well.

Ten minutes later my son came back angry, so were our friends two girls. The Trash Talking Twins at first accepted Nick’s peace offer to play, but then went right back to their talk. They became more aggressive and even started to use foul language. This shocked all four of our kids. My friend asked his daughters what happened, I talked to Nick. The story unfolded that the twins cared little about playing nice.

Because of the time, all of us were leaving for the night. Nick kept a look out for the twins, but couldn’t see them. He saw them in their car, but by then it was too late for me to talk to their parents.

Thoughts of Sticks and Stones. 

At home Nick was still talking about the twins. He was still upset at how they talked to him, and as he said “for no reason”, which bothered him most. He was upset, he was angry. I let him know those are normal emotions. I also asked him who else was there playing, he told me no one. And when the four of our kids left, the twins were left alone, no one wanted to play with the rude boys. I told him that is what happens when you are rude to others.

Then he shocked me.

Nick told me he thought about hitting them, about yelling at them, and calling them names. He wanted to hurt them like they had hurt him. But, he felt that was wrong, and it would just get himself into trouble.

I was surprised by this, it was very mature for an 8-year-old to have that restraint. That when twins insulted him, called him an F’er that he kept his cool. He did not lash out in anger, but simply walked away.

The Trash Talking Twins just used words. They didn’t assault him, didn’t hit or push him. Just used words that cut deep. Yet those words stirred an anger in Nick he hadn’t felt before. One that he wanted to solve with violence. Yet he didn’t.

It was a moment for me. My son acted like a Man that night. Not the little boy he is. He could have taken the low road, lashed out, but instead rose above it to walk away. He also confided in me his thoughts and feelings about the incident.

I told him I was proud of him, and that his actions were the correct ones. In this case, walking away was best. If he needed, he could defend himself from a physical assault, yet this wasn’t the case. Talking trash back to the twins would have also gotten him nowhere. It is doubtful they would have cared.

I don’t know the Trash Talking Twins story. I don’t know their upbringing or home life. They were younger, maybe a year younger, maybe a little more. To say that I wasn’t totally shocked by their behavior would be a lie. I’ve known kids like that, even in my day and age.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is walk away from a hostile situation. To turn the other cheek and leave. It is easier to get down in the gutter and slug it out.

Before School today, my son told me he was still upset about the Trash Talking Twins. That he even dreamt about them. This situation, and it’s repercussions, will be with him for a while I think. A life lesson that is a bitter pill to swallow. Like the comeback we all wish we said but didn’t, Nick will be haunted by what he could have done but didn’t. He may not know it now, but in reality he will be a better person for it. A wiser person.

And now the Moral of the Story. 

If you haven’t noticed, the world is full of Trash Talking Twins. Just go on Facebook, or Twitter to find them. Our political leaders do it all the time, as does those in the Media and even in our entertainment world. These days, we revel in Trash Talk.

Yet we ignore the repercussions of such talk. Although Names will never hurt me may seem true, it isn’t. Like my son, that name calling can lead to thoughts of anger, desires to commit violence. They leave just as much of a lasting impression as being hit.

Most of us will never cross that line, never lash out at someone physically just for something that is said to them. However, as we become more like the Trash Talking Twins, we risk escalating the violent reactions of those we offend. Even from those gentle souls like my son. The other day my son took the high road, but in a world that puts Trash Talking Twins on a pedestal will he always stay on that road? I don’t know. I can only hope so.

 

Life without Glasses.

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Photo by KidZond.

 

If you wear glasses, like myself, you have to be a little happy about living in the 21st century. For one, there are so many styles to choose from. You don’t have to have glass lenses either, you can opt for lighter plastic lenses. Heck, you don’t even need to wear glasses, just use contact lenses. Or better yet, surgery to correct your vision. It’s rather nice actually living in these times.

If you have never worn glasses, never had need of them, well…you don’t know do you? Okay so you have tried them on, a friend or relatives pair. Looked around and wondered how in the blue blazes do people see out of them? Wear them long enough, you’ll get a headache. Then, you’ll probably laugh, hand them back, and think to yourself,  “Boy, glad I don’t need glasses!”

You are lucky if you don’t have to wear glasses. I am lucky because I can easily correct my flawed vision by putting my glasses on. When I don’t put them on, the world is weird to me. Blurry, distances are a little skewed. I have to hold things up close to read since I also wear bifocals. Very frustrating when I misplace my glasses.

If, for some odd reason, I lost my glasses and the ability to replace them, I would be in a pickle. I would have to go through the rest of my life struggling to adapt to my world. Having to make judgements about distances, objects, all sorts of things. I would do my best to find a substitute for my glasses, have to learn tricks to help me with my predicament. It would be frustrating, annoying beyond belief, my own personal hell.

Of course people would understand. They would know that I had lost my glasses, and that I could never attain another pair. They would have compassion and empathy to my plight.

What if they didn’t? What if they thought that glasses were a myth? Something some egghead doctor had made up? What if they had never seen or heard of glasses before? That when I explain I can’t see as far as they can, they laugh it off, or call me silly? Tell me I will grow out of it, or just to knock off being silly.

What if they don’t know, or understand, that I fear objects coming toward me because I can’t tell what exactly is approaching me. Is it a dog? or a wolf? maybe it is a bear.

People with chronic conditions know this feeling of disbelief all too well. They know people who are dismissive of conditions that are not physically apparent. As a parent of a High Functioning Autistic child, I know this feeling too.

People believe I baby my daughter too much, or make excuses for her eccentric behavior. They think it is bad parenting, or lack of discipline. They make comments that I coddle my daughter too much, or let her get away with her antics.

As always, I have a flash of anger that I struggle to control. My parental defenses fire up, and I have to watch my tongue, or else I will make the problem worse. All this, while not backing down and accepting their beratement, and doing my best to educate.

Yet, some still believe that glasses are a myth, they always will. For they are lucky, and will never have to deal with a life without glasses.

The Knot.

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Bag of hair supplies that has been my friend for the last week. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Honestly? I have not had a good summer. A perfect storm of events derailed all of my plans. It hasn’t been the end of the world. Just minor incidents that alone, mean nothing, but together added up to a summer of stagnation.

This was going to be the summer of getting things done. I was going to write and edit a book I had been working on for four years, get some needed repairs in the house, spend the summer doing things with the kids and just, well, just enjoying the summer.

I had started a new job in February that gave me four days off a week. Just so you know, I pay for it on those three days I do work. So much so, that my first day off my shift, I am basically useless. I should also stay off Facebook after my work cycle, but that is another story.

Nothing I had planned happened this summer. I wrote my book, only to find out because of the subject matter, it might not be well received. So, I shelved it and wrote another. Editing was definitely out. To edit a book, you need time, space, and above all…peace and quiet. I didn’t have peace and quiet this summer.

Instead, I had children. Ah! Wait for it! 

I have two children at home, and we watch our 5-year-old niece. This is all well and good. No real issues there. But, we have a really cool playhouse in our back yard. A beacon for all of the neighborhood kids. I would spend many days this summer watching out back as groups of kids played in my backyard. It was fun, entertaining, and gave my two, and my niece, friends to play with. So, while not a bad thing in itself, you really can’t do much when you have a backyard full of kids. Usually around 7 kids in total. All little psycho’s.

But, it killed projects. Hard to redo things in the house that requires my undivided attention and just let monsters roam your backyard. Plus, I was on band-aid duty all summer.

Books, work, and depression.

Writing is very cathartic for me. I love to write, and will get lost in it. The entertainment for me is the creative part. I wrote one book, some 120K words, only to find out that the subject matter may run afoul of the MeToo movement. It shouldn’t, but it could. Not something you want to put out for the world to take wrong. So, I shelved it and wrote another story I had floating around. But, I can’t edit right now, so both books sit collecting dust waiting for me to edit them.

Work has been a paradigm shift for me. For the last 11 years I had worked with only one partner. Now, I work with a group. The dynamics are different, and so are the multiply personalities. I am not exactly fitting in, and have questioned if this job is worth it.

Which unfortunately, has led to feeling depressed. Now luckily? I have dealt with depression before. Years ago when I was going through a horrible divorce. So, I know the signs, they symptoms, and when to seek help. Not there yet. How do I know this? Because of a knot.

The Knot.

The knot first appeared shortly after school got out. It was an annoyance that turned into a festering little animal that would not come out.

My daughter Alexis, who is 10 years old, is a High Functioning Autistic. With autism comes little complications. One of them is tactic issues. Essentially, Alexis doesn’t like her hair brushed, nor brushing it herself. It hurts. Not like it would hurt you or me (you know, if I still had my hair). But it hurts in a dramatic fashion. True physical pain.

For the knot, we sought out professional help, and the knot was gone. Only to come back with a vengeance. What was a little knot, now was a big as my fist. It was a snarled mess of tangled hair that had a life of its own. Attempts to remove it were disastrous. Seeking professional help was out, since although the hairstylist who help us before was wonderful, the pain and trauma meant utter refusal. So, we tried at various times to remove the knot, to no avail.

Unfortunately, we had to wait the knot out. Even though I came to the unfortunate conclusion, we would have to treat it like the famed Gordian Knot, and just have it cut out. Needless to say, that option was a nuclear option. Not well received at all.

Then, everything changed in the last three weeks. The knot, which Alexis had ignored, did not want touched, was suddenly asked to vacate its home. She wanted it out. We began the task of removing the knot.

With help from a good friend, and oils from a good hairstylist, we begun the task. Using a hair pick, patience, and oil. The knot that was the size of my fist is now down to about three fingers. It’s coming out, slowly, but it will be gone before school starts this Monday.

And you know what? The knot has taught me a great deal about this summer. I work on the knot for a good hour at a time, days in a row. Trust me, getting a 10-year-old to sit still for an hour is a task in its own right. The knot is not coming out in one felled swoop, but little picks, little pulls that unravel the complicated entanglement of hair. It requires breaks, different approaches, and above all, the knot requires determination.

I realized I have a tendency to micromanage my life. I like order, I want things to go my way. Most of us do, but I know I tend to go overboard. This was not this summer. Nothing went my way.

Yet, if I work at it, pick at it slowly to untangle the issues that are stymie my current situation in life, then much like the knot, it will slowly become manageable. The problems may even go away. As long as I keep picking away at them.

 

 

The Misandry of Fatherhood.

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Nick with sparklers. / Photo by KidZond.

This is a little odd for me, but I want to talk about a father that many people I know say is a wonderful Dad.

Me.

For the last 26 years I have been told this by family and friends. That I am a wonderful, caring, dedicated father. That through adversity, a horrible divorce, I stepped up and raised my two eldest daughters. I have been told, by my own mother nonetheless, very Motherly. Wasn’t exactly sure how to take it, but I was pretty sure it was a compliment.

Being a parent was something I had always wanted to be. I can remember being a teenager and fantasizing about being a father one day. Yet, it really wasn’t my initial plans.

I was going to be a paleoanthropologist. Teach at a great university, go on digs during the summer months, write tomes of works dedicated to the field of primitive man. Yet it never happened. Life got in the way. I never went to college for anthropology, I only took silly courses that amounted to nothing.

At 28 years of age, I became a father, and for the last 26 years, I added to my brood and now have four children. At first? I had no clue what I was getting into. I had never hung around babies, nor small children. My cousins, and nieces and nephews, were all around my age. Being the youngest child of a family of four, with nearly 17 years difference between the eldest and me, I never experienced children that weren’t close to my age.

So, I was an idiot. Had to learn on the fly. Yet I had good teachers in my parents.

When I split with my wife in 2000, I suddenly became something I had always dreaded. A weekend father. It was rough, very painful, and the thought of giving up was very real.

When the weekend father part ended, and I became a full-time single parent. I was so overwhelmed that first three weeks that I want to run off and hide under a rock. But I didn’t. I stuck it out, got the girls in school, and made all the arrangements from changing my shift at work, to having a neighbor watch them after school till I got home from work.

What I didn’t expect, was the misandry. In case you are wondering, misandry is the hatred of men. Or contempt, which I got all the time, being a father (Male) with two daughters (Female).

I had experienced this before, since I took my daughters to many of their doctors appointments by myself before the divorce. This was done by design, since my wife at the time worked days, and I worked nights. Made it easy.

Yet the question of when my daughter’s birthdate always came up, and my quick answer was ALWAYS met with the surprised response from the nurse that I actually knew it. This little misandry grated against me, yet it was nothing compared to when I was a single dad.

Because dad’s can’t raise daughters by themselves you see, we are incapable. We just don’t have it in us. Then of course there were the side-eyed looks, of why I would be in a house with two little girls in the first place. By myself, without a female there to guide me.

Teachers would say disparaging remarks about me, either to my daughters, or within earshot of them. They would talk down to me, be contemptuous, and overall ignored any concerns or cares I had.

“Have you talked to their mother? Could she come in and see me?”  Was a line I was given over and over. As if talking to dad was beneath them.

I did my best not to let it get to me, but honestly? When my youngest two came along, and went to the same school district? I was jaded at that point. Untrusting of teachers and faculty. But, to their credit, the school personnel that I deal with now, are very nice. Then again, there is a woman at the house, my wife, and mother of my youngest two.

Don’t think I don’t wonder. Don’t think I don’t have that little fear in the back of my mind that without my wife, once again, I am nothing.

Both of my eldest daughters are grown, they are mother’s themselves. They had a rough upbringing, stories I will not repeat here. Yet…

They are respectful of me.

They say Please and Thank You.

They are not hooligans and in and out of the correctional system.

They both have jobs.

They both contacted me for Father’s Day. To tell me they loved me, and were thinking of me.

I worked a 12 hour shift today at my work. It was a hot, miserable, humid day. I work outside. Yet on my breaks, I saw the messages from my oldest two. When I got home, I was greeted by ‘Happy Father’s Day Daddy’ and cards. Hugs and Kisses all around.

I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, think I am the best dad in the world. I would give that honor to My Father, gone these 22 years. Yet I know so many good fathers, those with partners, those without. I see the single father’s struggle, know their plight.

Being a good dad, a great dad, is simple. You just have to care, and let your children know you care.

And to hell with the naysayers.

The Gift.

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A Fancy Fidget Spinner. / Photo by Kidzond.

 

The gift was given a ‘hmpf’ and put on the armrest of my parents couch. It was a book, nothing grand, just a book. A diary of Christopher Columbus and it included historical notations. It was fancy, had maps, very cool design. Yet, my father ‘hmpf’ at the Christmas gift and put it down.

I seriously hated buying gifts for my father. He was, well, the worst. Except for a set of knives I bought him once, that he absolutely loved, he never seemed to care for anything I bought him.

Well, there was that small remote-controlled car I bought him that he liked. But he used that to chase my mother’s cats. 

It wasn’t till some years later, after his death actually, when my mother handed me the book and asked me if I wanted to have it back. I commented that he probably never read it. She corrected me to let me know he read it all the time. Loved it.

I never knew it.

I had to be told after his death that the gift I thought he hated, he loved. Read it, and re-read it, over and over. It was, as my mother told me, one of his favorite possessions.

People are quirky. Things that people keep as keepsakes tell more about someone than anything it seems. Usually, something is not what it seems. The object may be special, even prized, yet the meaning behind it, that is what counts.

The fidget spinner in the above picture is one of those objects. It was given as a Christmas gift from my eldest daughter, to my youngest. Big sister wanted to give little sister something really cool. Jenelle was proud of herself to find this unique spinner. Alexis acted like it was nothing when she opened the gift. Kept it in the box it came in for months. To Jenelle, it seemed like a gift rejected. But to Alexis? It was the best gift ever. So special, she kept it out of sight of other children, on her desk, in an honored spot. She brought it out today only because we saw some fidget spinners in the store today. Yet only she could touch it, her little cousin, brother and friends were not allowed. This gift, one thought to be a failed gift, is like my father’s book. It holds a special place in Alexis’ heart.

Another special object, that would bring me to tears one very lonely day in my life, is a stuffed rabbit.

Herr Rabbit isn’t much to look at. A simple beanie baby stuffed animal. White, with colorful polka dots. Herr, the German word for Mister, was also a pun, Hare became Herr.

Playing stuffed animals with my children has always been a fun thing to do. A little window into their imaginations. It is usually silly, full of excitement from lava flows, wild animal attacks, and stuffed animals that go bad. Like the jaguar of Alexis’ that keeps wanting to eat the other stuffed animals. You know, it’s a jaguar. It’s in their nature. Don’t judge.

Herr Rabbit was ‘my toy’, the stuffed animal I played when my eldest two children and I, played stuffed animals. We would, in the days of me being a weekend father, play stuffed animals on cold winter days, or rainy days, or just because. Playing stuffed animals with them became a pastime, a father-daughter bond, one that has continued on with my youngest two, and even with my grandson. I’m sure I’ll be playing stuffed animals in the nursing home with the staff.

Herr Rabbit was German, he spoke with an accent, bad accent, but an accent. He would be the foil to my eldest two daughters plans. Usually spoiling their plotlines in a silly manner. Eliciting protests and laughter, usually both, at the same time.

Yet his silly antics earned him a special place in their hearts. He was mine to play, yet his owner was my daughter Kayla. It was her toy.

When I went from a weekend dad to a fulltime single parent, Herr Rabbit and the stuff toy playtime, helped easy the emotional burden. Kayla would sleep with Herr Rabbit, or put him in an honored spot in the girls bedroom.

Growing up, can do a number on playtime. While it is all the rage when you are pre-tween, those few years between a child and a teenager seem to have an effect on you. One minute you are imagining that you are the Queen of the World, the next you stop with Barbie in hand and go “This is childish” and stop.

Jenelle stopped. And of course, since she wouldn’t play, it just wasn’t the same anymore. So, Kayla stopped, and we found other things to bond over. Herr Rabbit, however, was still around. Waiting patiently for someone to pick him up and give him his voice. Even if it was in a bad accent.

As things go, and as parental custody does sometimes in divorces, my eldest two went to go live with their mother, out-of-state. Although I kept a good face, and did my best to alleviate their fears, inside I was dying at the prospect of being so far away from them. The pain and anguish was horrible.

When the time came, I drove them some 30 miles from our home, to their Aunts, for them to continue their journey. All the time telling them that everything would be okay. On my drive back home, alone, seeing the road was difficult. I had to keep wiping my eyes.

My duplex, where just us three had spent a few years together, was now a lonely tomb. I wandered around for a good five minutes just looking at an empty place. Then, I went into my daughter’s room. Two empty beds, made, and all their belongs gone.

Except one.

On my daughter Kayla’s bed sat a small stuffed white rabbit with colorful polka dots. Sitting their as if he too was wondering when the girls were coming back. Herr Rabbit sat there, his black eyes staring at the bed, waiting to play again.

Although on loan mind you, this Gift, was one of my prized possessions. Even if it is just a memory. That moment in my life stands out like no other. Because at that moment, I knew I would still be in their lives, even if I wasn’t there physically.

Like a Book, and a fidget spinner, this small little rabbit with a funny accent, became my prized possession.

 

 

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.

When I first saw an Autistic Cycle and took a couple of steps back.

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Ponies in a row. / Photo by KidZond.

 

The conversation went like this:

Me: She’s doing really good about getting off to school. We’ve been making it to school on time for the past week and a half. I think we’ve turned a corner.

My Daughter’s Consular: Don’t be shocked if she cycles, have you heard of that? They sometimes regress.

Me: No, never heard of it. As of now, she seems fine with going to school.

My Daughter’s Consular: Hopefully that continues, yet autistics do cycle, they seem fine, but then a trigger happens and they regress back. Sometimes it feels like one step forward, two steps back.

 

Wow. Was she ever right. I had never heard of “Cycles”. I wasn’t prepared for what that entailed. One reason I had never heard of cycles is that many call it by another name. Meltdown. Some autistics have bad ones, sensory overloads that tax their brains so hard that the only recourse is to ‘throw a fit’ and shut down for a ‘reboot’. It can be terrifying for all involved. The parents, friends, other family member, and especially for the autistic person themselves.

Yet, autism, being that wicked little tailor it is, never does the same thing to each person it afflicts. Some may meltdown, others may shutdown. Still others, like Alexis, require a restart. She has to go to a start point, then work her way out of it. She rarely cries, or screams, never have I seen her throw herself on the floor or hurt herself. We’re lucky in that respect. Yet when she restarts, we are usually confused. What caused this behavior? She was doing just fine, but why now?

Give me a moment to talk about myself.

I got a new phone. A Samsung Galaxy Note8. Pretty sweet huh? Yeah, it’s not an S9, but hey, new phone.

It sucks. Damn thing has been nothing but problems since I got it 12 days ago. Tried to take it back today to be told it was just me. It’s not me. I may not be the most savvy person when it comes to ‘Smart Phones’ but still. The thing is annoying as hell. Totally froze on me today. So I went back to the store to trade it.

But…

I waited a bit. I was pissed, angry, using words that with ‘uck’ a lot. So angry I entertained the thought of using my 3 lbs sledge to solve the problem. However, that wouldn’t solve the problem. I went outside, smoked a cigarette (yes I know) and did my best to calm down. Worked the problem out in my head. Knew what I was going to say, and then, once composed, I went to the phone store.

Came back with my phone. Told politely it was me, not the phone. It’s the phone, but hey, I can calmly work it out. I have been considering the beer in the fridge. But instead, have a diet soda, and my laptop to ‘ignore’ the problem. Because if I do ignore it? A solution will come. Usually does. It’s how I restart.

Back to the kid.

So okay, stressful day. I got upset, very upset, but I resolved the problem. Took me a good hour. The darn phone has been bugging me for a week and a half. Yet it took today to get my goat. And that lasted about an hour. Phone is still in one piece. Alexis, however, has taken all day to get over yesterday.

She had a school conference.

Now, in modern American Schools, they have come up with this fantastic idea called “Student Lead Conferences”. Which means, you can do four conferences at once. Which means, Alexis had to speak to her parents about her school work…which she is struggling with… as three other kids talked to their parents. A noisy, distracting, environment.

The conference went okay, she mimed what she did. Didn’t speak to us. Her very sweet and helpful teacher was shocked by all this. In class, Alexis’ practiced this, she did well. But now? Nope, silence, the Cycle had geared up.

Now by geared up, I mean geared up. Not begun, because the cycle had started before this. A good five days before when the reality of the conference was looming in the future. I should have caught on, but I didn’t. Hindsight of course, helps. It was that flipping idiom that should have been the key.

Idioms! Ahhhh!

Idioms can be tricky with many autistics. So can sarcasm. I use both constantly, which is hit and miss with Alexis. She actually likes idioms. Yet the other day, when she wanted to change clothes to eat breakfast, then change again for school. I suggested she change into her school clothes and eat. That way she’ll be ready, and just be careful eating. I put it like this. “That way, you can kill two birds with one stone”.

Why? For heaven’s sake, would she want to kill a bird? Birds are nice.

She was serious. She couldn’t understand why I wanted her to go pick up a rock and throw it at the birds outside our house. I was puzzled, because I had used other idioms, similar to this one, that she had no problem with, yet that day? Well it was taken literally.

It was the beginning of the cycle. She was nervous about the conference and the idiom was lost to her. She can get idioms, metaphors, jocular tales and most jokes. Yet when she starts to cycle up, things get fuzzy quick. Taking things literally is her fall back, her safe mode.

It was today, the day after the conference, that Alexis didn’t go to school. It was just too much for her to process. We tried to work on Math, a subject she has a bizarre relationship with. She is either very good at it, or very bad. I can’t tell, neither can anyone else. Math has become part of her ‘Fuse Box’. Or maybe it’s better to call it her ‘Tool Kit’. She will purposely get answers wrong, will whine about doing problems as we sit and do homework. Yet in play, she will answer questions without hesitation. Solve problems like they are a hot knife through butter.

Today? Adding 6+6 was too difficult. She couldn’t do it. Let alone multiply two digit numbers by another set of two digit numbers. Even with the aid of a calculator, she couldn’t do it.

This is the damnation of an Autistic Cycle. Things you know become lost to you. Simple task become beyond complex. The world comes crashing down and even 1+3 is impossible to answer. It’s not a game, not a joke, it’s real. Then her brain just shut down today. Trying its best to do a restart, after a day of high anxiety, and make sense of it all.

While my emotions ran high over my phone problems, I was able to find a way to calm down. To solve the problem in my mind and move forward. What an utter hell it would have been if I had been unable to do so. I can’t even fathom how that would be.

Try being a prisoner to your emotions, locked inside you, all there, all working but unable to translate them. It would be like waking up tomorrow and suddenly speaking a foreign tongue, without knowing it. How would you tell anyone the simplest of things? How would you even begin to ask for help?

The autistic cycles are a living hell for the sufferers, and just as frustrating to those who are around them. Peace and quiet, a relaxing hobby, no pressure and the cycle completes itself. Yet honestly? I’m not sure it is over. I have no idea if I will be able to get her off to school tomorrow. If she will go, or if she will refuse.

I have come to the point where I don’t take it personally, that I am not a bad parent, that I  don’t just let her ‘get away with it’ As some seem to think. Yet I have to be careful she doesn’t use this as a manipulate tool to skip out on her education. Deciphering the difference isn’t easy. Her need to avoid over stimulation does sometimes manifest itself in manipulative behavior. But, can you blame her? I don’t. I wouldn’t want to do something that would cause me anxiety at the level she feels.

So I ride a fine line, every in search of the Rabbit Hole she is hiding in. Doing my best to be on guard for the next cycle, the next trigger, and react properly so I can lessen the impact. It’s not easy, and I am not alone in this. And I am certain no expert. I hadn’t even heard of cycles till last week.

My hope is one day she will realize the trigger, learn to minimize them, control them instead of having them control her. Find solutions, a bag of tricks, to make her life easier. One day, I hope she can deal with a stressful situation that won’t push her into a cycle. That she find an out. Till then, I have a lot to learn, and teach to her, when she is ready.

The future for Authors…

…or where my first book is destined to end up.

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Books for Sale at the local Goodwill Store. / Photo by KidZond.

If you haven’t noticed, I like to write. Not just blogs about my family, but fiction. I tend to stick with the whole Fantasy / Science Fiction genre. I just find this realm my cup of tea. Sort of suits my creative personality.

Now even though I write, I rarely submit my writings. Because, well, it sucks. Maybe…not sure…but I am pretty sure it does.

But I want to write. It makes me happy and I have a passion for it. Writing for me is fun, entertainment, and well maybe, just maybe, I can make a few bucks off it all.

Maybe.

Then on a shopping expedition to Goodwill I found the used book section, and was humbled a bit. For several reason, let me explain.

There were a fair number of books on the shelves. Some of the books made sense that they found their way to the resale shelves. Children’s books, kids grow up, other Parents may want them. Cook books, because cooking is always a fad. Cajun cook books may have been all the rage 5 years ago, but now? Not so much.

Romance novels, well come on. Even their authors expect them to hit the resale shelves. Hope so I would think. People buy one for a buck, then buy their latest novel for $14.95. Great for marketing.

Other authors, many who have passed on to that great typewriter in the sky, well their books find their way to the resale shelf.

Others? They make you think. A story may be behind it. Books about becoming a new parent, what to expect when you are pregnant….

…Breast Cancer for Dummies.

I looked long and hard at that book. Did they survive? or did some love one sadly pack the book with other belongs to give to Goodwill? I wonder.

Books can tell a story about a person.

Unlike others who have that nosey habit of looking into your medicine cabinet, I will look at your bookshelf. What you read tells me a lot about you.

Romance lover? Then you probably are a hopeless romantic. Horror lover? Well, you like to be surprised and scared. You probably love rollercoasters and haunted houses. Science Fiction lover? Then you like to think of What If? and love NASA with a passion. Spy Novel lover? You always think someone is keeping secrets, you love cat and mouse games. Crime novels lover? You are always looking for the reason why behind everything, noting clues when something is amiss. Fantasy lover? You like to look at the magic in the world, see the connections that others miss.

Of course these are generalizations. You read to escape. To find a little bit of entertainment in-between the pages of that book in your hands. You want to forget about your problems and worry about the Main Characters problems.

And of course, when you are done exploring those other worlds, and those characters become fond memories just collecting dust on your bookshelf, or taking up room in a box in the basement. You end up giving up on them, shipping them out for others to find and enjoy. For a new generation of reader to find that escape you so loved.

For some, this bequeathing to new readers, may happen soon after you read the book, or years down the line. Then again, if you are like me, it will happen when you can no longer read the books, because, of course, the dead can’t read.

Yet eventually, one day, those books you read will end up on a shelf (if the book is lucky to survive that long) and will be sold for a pittance of what it original value was. Many may pass it by, others may pick it up and look to see if it peaks their interest. Some will smile at the book because they have already read it. Still, it will sit.

As a would-be author, this is my future. My books…you know, when I get around to writing them…will end up on a shelf one day.

I can take a little satisfaction that the library of congress may keep a copy. You know, if I publish.

 

Then of course, there is this…

 

Although I desire to be a writer, and have written many short stories and a few novels, they all sit in old xerox boxes and filing cabinets in my basement. Dozens upon dozens of storylines and plots waiting for me to get off my butt and get serious about it all.

Yet while I desire to be a writer, my youngest daughter will be. For in an odd twist, my autistic daughter loves to create stories. She loves the English language, and would give a ‘Grammar Nazi’ a run for their money. She has the potential to be a novelist, to do this thing that I desire, far better than I will.

And unlike me, who looked upon with a little sadness at the realization that my future books will end up on a Goodwill shelf, I think Alexis will relish the idea. Than even though her books may fall off the Best Sellers list, she will be delighted to know that they are still there, out there waiting for others to discover.

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’.