Friday, April 14, 2017


Autism Fact: Autism greatly varies from person to person (no two people with autism are alike).

Autism and Pets:  Children on the spectrum displayed a sharp drop in anxiety and social stress when playing with animals as compared to engaging in other activities whether independently or with their peers, the study found. (source

We have a cat.  A small, gray tabby named Hope.  What she doesn't have in size, she makes up for in attitude.  She's 10, which means we got her when our daughter, who as Asperger's, was 6.  It was a particularly stressful time for us.  We'd just lost our house in a fire and were living in limbo in a rental while we rebuilt, and it wasn't until we were settled in our 'new' home that Bailey and Hope started to become friends, and it was a few years after that when they became best friends.

Bailey now is a bit cat obsessed, making friends with just about any feline she comes across.

I asked her a few questions:

What is it you like about cats?
Can you be more specific?

What is is that you like about Hope specifically?
She's nice and friendly.  She's very soft, and she likes to snuggle.

What do you think, as someone on the autism spectrum, are the benefits of having a cat?
She can give me what no one else can.  Humans can't be a cat.

We talked a little more about it.  Hope seems to be able to sense when Bailey is upset, and will force herself into Bailey's space, effectively forcing comfort on her.  Bailey also said that it's a bit of a texture thing.  Hope is very soft, and petting her can help Bailey calm down.
We actually put a cat door on Bailey's bedroom door so that Hope can come and go as she pleases.  It's one of the best home improvements we've ever done.

There are several small businesses in our area who have store cats.  I don't dare go to any of them if Bailey isn't with me.  If there's a cat around, she's much more likely to talk to the people in the store while she pets the cat.  It allows her to split her focus, and takes some of the stress out of interacting with strangers.

We do have a dog, but Bailey just tolerates her.  She says she's 'too annoying.'  So, cats it is!


I haven't written anything original in a long time, though it remains on my list of things to do.  Instead, I've opened an Etsy store and have been doing local craft shows, selling handmade jewelry, comic book art, and paper art.  You can visit my store here.  You can sign up for my newsletter here (published 1-2 times per month, your email address is never shared).

Want to win a $10 Etsy gift card?  Comment below with your favorite animal!

4/18/17  Thanks to all who commented!  I had my daughter chose a number between 1-9 (the number of comments), and she chose 4, which makes the 4th comment the winner.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Autism Awareness Day 2015

The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network is a group of programs funded by CDC to estimate the number of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities living in different areas of the United States.  

You can find out more about ADDM here.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to write about for this year’s Autism Awareness Day (and a HUGE thank you to RJ Scott for once again organizing this!).  There is just so much that is involved in an ASD diagnosis.  Then I thought, why not go to the expert, my daughter, who is 14, in 8th grade, and who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome 10 years ago.*

First, I asked her what the worst part of having an ASD diagnosis was.  She had two immediate answers.  The first, and the one that is a constant struggle, is that people just don’t understand.  To look at my beautiful, talented, intelligent girl you’d never realize that she’s not a neuro-typical  teenager.  Spend a little time with her and you’d probably realize that something was ‘off,’ but you wouldn’t be able to pinpoint exactly what.  Spend a lot of time (or catch us on a bad day), and it would be obvious that there was something going on, but it could still be difficult to know exactly what it was.
On a typical good day, unless you were working closely with her, you’d probably just think that she was a little odd, a little awkward, a little clumsy.  On a bad day, you might see her refusing to talk, to listen.  She might throw something.  You would definitely hear her litany of negative self-talk.  She would be snappish and rude, and then remorseful and full of regret.  On a really, really bad day, you might even see her hit someone.

Middle school has to be the worst, most turbulent time in a child’s life (I know it was for me), and it’s been a struggle for us.  When things are going well, they go really well, but when things are going poorly…  

Included with her ASD diagnosis she has a diagnosis of Tourette’s  and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).  She’s also dealing with the hormonal mood swings that all kids her age deal with.  All of this combined can lead to some long and frustrating days for all of us.

She has a very difficult time identifying her anxiety (both that she’s feeling and the source of it), so by the time she realizes that she’s feeling anxious, it’s too late to get it under control before she’s out of control.  We’re working with her counselor and her pediatrician right now to once again adjust her meds (we had a great balance, and then she grew and threw off her dosage).  At least three days a week she calls me from the guidance office at school because she’s upset.  The vast majority of the time she has no idea what she’s upset about.  I then have to try to talk her through it, and hopefully, get her back to class (thank goodness she’s so smart – she misses a lot of school, and she still pulls all As), or decide if I need to go pick her up for an hour and let her calm down at home (thankfully we have the option build into her IEP).

Obviously, this takes its toll on me, as I’m constantly on edge, waiting for my phone to ring, and hoping that when it does I’ll know how to handle the situation.  I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for about six years now, and I can’t imagine how I would be able to handle the stressful, demanding, full time job I had on top of taking care of her.

We are very blessed in that her school does a lot to work with us.  I know many parents who are not as fortunate.  A little understanding from education professionals, medical professionals, and the general public goes a long way toward making my daughter’s life easier.  

Her second answer she gave me was that ‘there isn’t much I don’t like about having Autism.’  Probably not the answer you were expecting to get, right?  Despite all that she has to deal with, she is learning to like herself.  She likes that she’s a little different, that she looks at things from a unique perspective, and that can offer things that other kids can’t.    It’s a funny thing, because she has some serious self-esteem issues that we are constantly working on.  However, when she’s in a good place, and is calm and able to be objective, she’s learning to recognize that she is an amazing young woman who has a lot to contribute.
I then asked her what was one thing that she’d like everyone to know about Autism.  Her response was not a surprise: she’d like people to be more educated and understanding, and since you’re reading this, a heartfelt thank you to you, because that’s exactly what you’re doing.

She doesn’t have tantrums and fits in public like she used to, but I well remember the days of the stares and looks of disgust that people would give us.  Yes, the fact that the pepperoni is under the cheese on the pizza is a big deal, and she’s not just being a ‘brat’ are the types of things that I don’t miss dealing with.  Now, she’s more likely to blurt something awkward or off topic to a stranger, and that at least, is easier to deal with.   

Educating yourself, your family, your kids (especially your kids) can make a huge difference in the world for other kids on the spectrum.  Being willing to look beyond some eccentric behavior could allow you to meet some amazing people, like my daughter.  Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for making the lives of families dealing with ASD a little bit better.

*Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer an actual diagnosis – it now simply falls under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  You can read more about the change here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Autism Blog Hop

People with autism may experience sensory sensitivity in one or more of the five senses. A person’s senses are either intensified (hypersensitive) or lack sensitivity (hyposensitive).

My daughter was four when she was diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum, specifically with Asperger's. What followed was a deep sense of fear, uncertainty, and even grief.  I had to let go of all of the expectations I had for my 'normal' little girl.  She's thirteen now and I've learned so much (and still have so very much to learn), and have embraced a new set of expectations and dreams for her that are no less than what I originally had; they're just a little different.

One of the very first things I had to learn and adapt to was that Autism really is a spectrum disorder.  While children who are severely autistic share many common traits, and children who are considered 'high functioning' like Asperger's kids share many common traits, there is no one-size-fits-all description or treatment.  As a parent I've had to take what information I've been given and make it fit through trial and error.  For example, some kids don't like to be touched at all; they're simply too sensitive.  My daughter loves to be 'squished' and sleeps each night under a fifteen pound, weighted blanket.  Some kids flap their arms/hands as a way of self-regulation.  My daughter has never done that; instead she 'chirps' or clears her throat excessively.  These are the types of things that make it difficult for people to understand and react appropriately to situations with Autistic kids.

My daughter has always been very sensitive to sound.  When she was a baby the sound of the hand dryers in public restrooms would send her into hysterics (one of the first big clues we had that we didn't realize at the time was a clue).  The vacuum cleaner, car horns in a big city, passing emergency sirens all cause an immediate flinch and covering of her ears.  We've learned to never go anywhere with out ear protection, and as she's gotten older she's started to be able to tolerate more and more.

She has a very limited diet because she has a problem with the texture of a lot of foods.  I also have learned that she doesn't taste things the same way I do.  Something I think is sweet, she could very well identify as sour.  

Learning her tells and adjusting to her sensory needs has made life much simpler for our family.

Early intervention is very important with these kids, and is becoming more and more common.  This hasn't always been easy for us, and I know it's the same for many, many other families.  Our area didn't offer much in the way of services for Autistic children, though that is improving.  Another serious problem we've faced is that our insurance doesn't cover anything.  She sees a counselor on an as-needed basis (not covered); she's in a weekly social group with an Autism behavioral specialist (not covered); she could benefit from more occupational therapy (she's been in it off and on over the years), but that's not covered either, and it's simply not affordable.  There are other things that we'd like to do for her but that we just can't fit into our budget.  Ironically, we were able to afford more of these things when I was working full time.  However, my job was very demanding, with long hours, and my husband works over thirty minutes out of town.  Getting her to and from appointments, and being available to drop everything immediately when the school would call got to be too much, and I had to quit.  Now that I'm a full time, stay-at-home mom I can get her to all the appointments she has, but we can't afford many extras.  I never pictured myself as a stay-at-home mom, but it's been the best thing I've ever done for my family.

My daughter is creative, intelligent, kind, and funny.  She has so much to offer, and I know that she's going to make the world a better place.  I just hope that people will be willing to look beyond her 'quirks' and accept what she has to offer.  

Thank you for reading!  Leave me a comment by April 10, 2014 to be entered for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.  Also, be sure to check out the other entries in RJ Scott's Autism Blog Hop here.

4/16/14 ETA:
Congratulations to humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com for winning the $10 Amazon gift card.  :D

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

I'm not really a resolution maker, but I do have some goals for 2014.  They're not original by any means, but they are at least realistic.

1. Write.  Write, write, write, and then write some more.  I'm planning to schedule actual writing time into my days, which I think will help me increase my productivity.

2. Get healthier.  I started working with a personal trainer a few weeks ago, and I'm going to try to create a meal plan for each week.  That should also help with #3, which is:

3. Budget.  I'd really like to take a family vacation later this year, and that means cutting back on unnecessary expenses, like eating out/ordering in.

Here's hoping that you will all have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas in Chicago

If you read my page on the Christmas Anthology site, you'll know that one of my favorite parts of the holiday season is my annual trip to Chicago with my best friend.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to go this year as she's gone back to school and had work, family, and finals to deal with.

I was disappointed that we couldn't go this year, but since I'm so proud of her for going back to school I really can't complain.  Still, Christmas without a trip to Chicago seems incomplete, so instead my sister and I are heading there tonight and spending the weekend.

The weather here is a mess, so we'll be taking the train there and back, and won't have to deal with driving or parking.  I am beyond excited, and am looking forward to a weekend away with my sister, and the inspiration that only Chicago dressed for the holidays can bring.

In writing news, my original story is coming along well.  I'm at almost 30,000 words and am about two thirds of the way through.  Then comes the terrifying and thrilling prospect of seeing if anyone is interested in publishing it.  Once I get a bit more done, I'll post a small section of it here so you can see what I've been working on.

I've also been working on an outline for a follow-up to my Christmas Delights, Christmas Reunion story.  Eric and Dillon are clamoring for me to share more of their story. ;)

I hope you'll all have a wonderful and safe holiday season.  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My Turn for a Give-Away!

My story, Christmas Reunion, is included in RJ Scott's Christmas anthology, Christmas DelightsYou can get your free copy here.  There are some amazing stories included, from both established authors and new authors (like me!).

My story is about two childhood friends who are reunited in adulthood:

Eric hadn’t looked forward to Christmas so much in a long time. After living away from his family for several years, he was excited to be moving back home in time to spend the holidays with them. A surprise from his past turns an already amazing Christmas into one that he’ll never forget.

I love young romance that stands the test of time, and that was my inspiration for the story.  I already have an idea to expand on their story that I'm looking forward to sharing with you.  If you've already read Christmas Reunion I'd love to hear what you thought of it, and as my Christmas gift to you, if you comment on this post you'll be entered in a drawing to win a $10 Amazon gift card! NOW CLOSED

Don't forget that RJ Scott is hosting a whole month of prizes at her blog.  She's giving away some amazing gifts, so be sure to visit her site each to to be entered to win!  And if you haven't, be sure to check out her incredible catalog of work.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

All About Writing

My ideas for writing come from all over: a song, a performance, a picture, something someone says in passing.  The idea usually starts with a situation, but occasionally a character shows up first.

When I'm first developing a story, I usually prefer it to be quiet, but once I'm into it (have a basic outline and list of characters), I often work better with some background noise.  That could be either music or t.v.  If it's t.v. it has to be something that I've seen before, so that I don't get too caught up in it.  If it's music, it's typically folk/rock like Matt Nathanson or Frank Turner.

When I start a story I usually brainstorm on paper, coming up with locations, characters, themes, and other details that could be key to the story.  After I have all of that narrowed down I come up with character profiles.  I try to have an actual, physical piece of paper for each character that I can easily refer back to as needed.  I've also started using Trello and Pinterest.  Both can be accessed on my laptop, iPad, and phone, which makes it easy to add ideas if something hits me when I'm in the middle of grocery shopping (Trello especially).

I don't plan the entire story out before I start writing.  In fact, many times I have no idea how things will end (though I can't imagine writing anything other than a happily ever after).  I get the basics down and just start to write.  I supposed that might change if I ever decide to do a series, but even then I'm not sure I could work that way.  I find that too much planning limits my creativity, and I find myself trying to fit things in that I thought might be necessary, but in actuality are not.

 I like the process of writing, of bringing something to life from nothing.  Hopefully, other people will enjoy the result.