Writing does a body good

I have a sign on my computer that reads: “Getting published: it’s just like milk, except without the milk part.”

(Anyone who recognizes that reference, leave a comment. I mean it.)

If that reference means that getting published is heady, frothy, nutritious, wonderful, refreshing, and ultimately, just what your mother wants for you– well then I’m in!

In additional to a number of small sales I’ve made in recent months, I’m very excited to share this book:

my latest book

my latest book

My story is one of the 50 collected in here, entitled “Under the Big Top,” and it tells the story of how I hosted a graduation party for my daughter and stepdaughter, with two ex-husbands, two ex-wives, several ex-in-laws, a current wife, a current girlfriend, Halloween spiders, a young man with condoms and a watermelon fight. But no blood or death.

The Cup of Comfort series book that came out in November was for Military Families , and I had shared the subject matter with a woman named Julie Whan from our Erie Writing Group. Her son Matthew was doing a tour in Iraq, and she sent in a heart-warming tale that was accepted, too!


So the two of us are setting up joint booksignings around the area, the first on Saturday, Dec. 6 at Tattered Corners, our local store. If you can’t get there, feel free to stop at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com and check it out!

So that’s exciting, because somehow all the hours spent writing alone in your little garret can be justified with something concrete like this.

That being said, let me also congratulate my friend Nacie Carson on her ebook entitled The Life Uncommon: How to Leave the Rat Race, Pursue Your Passions, and Succeed Financially, and available here.


Carson discusses lifestyle design, and the ability to shape your life based on what is important to you, using time management, business building and visualization techniques to help you get from where others’ expectations have pushed you to where you really want to be.

My sister, Shawna Coronado, whose blog has been in my list for some time, also had a book self-published this fall, entitled Gardening Nude; a Common Sense Guide to Improving Your Health and Lifestyle by Increasing Exposure to Nature, Cultivating a Green Mindset and Building a Strong Community.

shawna's book

Despite the picture on the cover, it is NOT about naked women in the shrubbery, but about how to get yourself healthy by digging down underneath your barriers and really taking care of yourself by getting outside and getting Green.  (Apparently she’s had some interesting inquiries from men in India looking for porn. THIS IS NOT IT.)

So for all of us who are writing–best wishes and break a pencil! For all of us who are reading–you’re the reason writers are here! It’s a happy cycle, and you’re invited onto the carousel!

Take care of yourself, too

Parents, for the most part, put their children first, and then relegate themselves to second place. Or maybe third. Or maybe tenth. Or maybe 100th.

This is especially true of parents of children with autism and other developmental disorders. By the time you get the child’s school work together and arrange for the occupational therapy, and the TSS comes by and you make all the other doctor appointments, and teacher meetings, and team meetings, and IEP consults—heaven forbid you take time for the other children who might have a need or two! Significant others tend to slip down the list as well (mine included, poor thing!)

So often you’re last on your list.

But you know what? As Yeats said, things fall apart, if the center doesn’t hold. You need to take time for yourself, both for physical and mental health. Now a new online community called Wellsphere makes it easy–and healthy– for you to improve your life.

I’m pleased because Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge,one of the site’s founders, asked me to join their community as someone who blogs on autism issues. There, I was pleased to find other familiar names from our online autism community as well, and we’ve all been tapped to answer questions and provide insight on issues that people may encounter.

The site includes so much more, including interactive goal-setting and rewards for achieving those goals, forums on many, many health issues (I’ve really learned a lot about my fibromyalgia since I’ve been checking in!) and also just simply providing great ways to help you stay on track with your forward progress!

Wellsphere will launch a new service called Health Maven, where you can ask a specialist a question about whatever issue you’re having. Some of those on the list are doctors, some nurses, others have personal knowledge through their own conditions, or perhaps their children’s. I know that most of the good advice I’ve received about my children’s autism I’ve gotten from other parents–so I’m very excited about this!

Dr. Rutledge says: “Health mavens are carefully selected, knowledgeable, health experts who are committed to helping others live healthier, happier lives.  Hundreds of Health Mavens have volunteered to join the program and answer questions, with new Mavens signing up every day.”

“We’re witnessing an incredible growth in the number of people using the Internet to find health information” said Wellsphere’s CEO Ron Gutman.  According to an iCrossing research report, for the first time in history people with health questions are more likely to turn to the Web for answers than to their doctor.  “Recognizing this trend…we assembled the world’s leading network of over 1,800 medical and patient experts to share … with Wellsphere.com’s almost 3 million monthly visitors. We are humbled by the experience, expertise and genuine care these wonderful individuals share every day with people who come to Wellsphere looking for answers,” said Gutman.

So come by–click on the button on the sidebar and ask your questions!

All ****** are created equal

So there’s a buncha white guys who get together back in the day and talk a lot over home brewed ale and decide that they should declare their independence from Jolly Olde England.

The apparently fundamental rule that they came up with, “self-evident,” in 1776, was that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

Of course, what they meant was that all white guys could pursue these rights. Women could not. Blacks could not. Pretty much everyone else was disenfranchised. Which might have been fine if they they established a country in which there were only white men. But they didn’t.

It took 100 years before black men could vote. Women couldn’t vote for 50 years after that. Equal rights in the form of being able to eat in the same restaurant, ride the same bus, even drink from the same water fountain, didn’t occur for blacks until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, almost two hundred years after those guys said that all men were equal. Clearly, George Orwell was right: some animals are more equal than others.

In this year, 232 years after they made this claim, a black man was elected President of the United States, in an election where women were also taken seriously as candidates for the first time in our history. You’d think this means that finally the words those white men said actually have some meaning.

You’d think.

When it comes to the issue of marriage, those words still mean squat. The sound defeat of civil rights this past election in the form of Proposition 8 in California, as well as measures banning gay marriage in Arizona and Florida show that even all these years later, equal rights do not exist.

Wikipedia defines marriage as “an institution in which interpersonal relationships (usually intimate and sexual) are acknowledged by the state, by religious authority, or both. It is often viewed as a contract.”

Anything in that indicate two women can’t get married? Two men? A man and a woman? A black and a white? A purple and an alien? Not that I can see. What our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters are asking for, is the right to love each other openly, and have that love and commitment acknowledged by the state to protect their civil rights to hospital visits, to benefits, to work, buy a house, have children, even divorce and separate, just like the white men do. Without the interference of others, well-meaning as they might think they are.

What astonishes me is who is coming out against the guarantee of equal rights to gays and lesbians–blacks and Mormons. Both these groups have existed outside the mainstream of white, Christian America for many many years–you’d think they’d be most sympathetic, the most committed to make sure no one was denied the equal rights they wanted as well.

But not so much.

My daughter and my friends and my co-workers and my clients shouldn’t have to leave this country– which prides itself on protecting the civil rights of citizens of other nations to the point we spend billions of dollars on war machines overseas — just to be able to exercise rights they were promised way back then by those white men. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For ALL.

To get involved, contact The Human Rights Campaign or any of the many organizations listed under the United States here. Let’s not stop until the dream comes true.

Help! I need somebody!

Sounds simple enough: everyone has come to the conclusion Little Miss would be better off with a mild dose of ADD meds. So let’s get some.

Not so easy, as it turns out.

Parents in Pennsylvania can apply for a state medical card for their children with autism, no matter what their income, thanks to a special “loophole” provision that simply acknowledges that some conditions just require a lot of money thrown at them. This card is a lifesaver–it covers wraparound services, which are normally not covered by private insurance. (Although the state did pass a provision for autism to be covered by insurance here.)

Neither the Cabana Boy or I have insurance at the moment through employment, so we depend on this card to cover both children who are diagnosed with autism issues.Not all doctors take the state’s card, of course, because the state pays less than traditional insurance companies. We’ve just paid out of pocket for those doctors, like the pediatric neurologist who has seen them for the past five years, because there are no other autism specialists for 100 miles.

This doctor has seen Ditto Boy for several years to prescribe his ADD meds (since the pediatricians won’t do that any more either). Seemed simple enough to set up an appointment for Little Miss and get her checked out for meds as well.

Didn’t it?

The doctor’s office called to reschedule twice and then the day before the appointment, called to cancel. She gets the state medical card, they said. We can’t see her. “But you saw her for three years; we paid you money,” I remind them. We’re not allowed to do that. We could lose our license, she says and she hangs up. Before I can say, “well then I want my $1700 back!”

A little angry by then, as we want to get started on this right away (and now we wasted two weeks waiting for them), I set in to start calling around for alternatives. The managed-care office gives me half a dozen phone numbers, most of which go to satellite offices of doctors in Pittsburgh who are in my county one day a month and think maybe I could see them some time by February. Or March. (Say what?)

I finally find someone who will see her within this month, but it’s only the intake worker.  The doctor can’t be seen till some time in December. Maybe. Or January. It was the best deal I got out of two hours of telephoning. I took it. At least December is before the year’s half done.

It’s a sad situation. Many children need services and there are very few child psychiatrists who can provide them. A complicating factor that I’ve found in working with families, of course, is that there are some parents who just can’t discipline their children or teachers who can’t control their classrooms, and they all rush to get the children medicated. And, of course, there are parents with mental health issues or other limitations or others who just can’t figure out how the system works, who probably can’t make as many connections as I have in order to get the services in the first place.  Bottom line is, kids on state cards get the back of the line, most of the time.

I’m grateful to have the card, don’t get me wrong. We’ve been fortunate to have many hours of services at no cost, and they have done our little ones a world of good–probably saved the state the necessity for caring for them lifelong. But when it’s so hard to get services, is it any surprise when parents who have reached the end of their rope take advantage of an opportunity to get help like they have in Nebraska?

In that Time article, the Rev. Steven Boes of Boystown says one root of the abandonment problem is that there is simply not enough help for parents in crisis. In Nebraska, for instance, there are only six child psychiatrists in the entire state, he says. “It’s a national problem … insurance often won’t pay after six visits — so if the kid’s not ‘fixed,’ you’re out of luck. States have a jumble of services. It’s a puzzle with missing pieces.” ‘

As a provider of services myself, I know you can’t treat everyone like an emergency. And, in all truth, this isn’t an emergency–I’m just anxious to have my children be the best they can be. But when some of my parents complain, “There oughta be a law…” I guess I can’t argue with them.

For Goodness’ Sake

As the holidays creep not so stealthily upon us, we hear parents remind their children to be good “because Santa is coming.”

For years that worked for me, with my older girls. There was a three to four week respite when they tried really hard to be well-behaved so they could receive the gift of their choice. I was grateful.

But is that really a lesson we want to teach our children?  That the only reason for being good is to receive some sort of specific reward?

I started thinking about this when I read news stories about the American Humanists’ ad campaign starting this week, with ads that read “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.” The ads are expected to appear on Washington, D.C. buses through December.

Christian groups have protested the ads, claiming that God must be included in the discussion of good and evil. CNN reports this comment from American Family Association president Tim Wildmon:

“It’s a stupid ad,” he said. “How do we define ‘good’ if we don’t believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what’s good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what’s good, it’s going to be a crazy world.”

So does this mean that Christians only do what’s right because God says it is? And of course the corollary, if you don’t do good, as defined by God, then you’ll be punished? So…to carry that out to it’s logical conclusion, the only reason you’re good is…to get a specific reward. The same thing as Santa Claus.

Fred Edwords, of the AHA, says that the message of the Humanists is that anyone can have moral values, “as a natural result of who we are as a species and who we have become as a civilization. Each one of us knows what it means, generally, to be ethical. We may disagree on specific details…but we all get the basic idea.”

In dealing with my children, their autism often comes between them and their decision-making process. They also take what we say very literally, and cling to it with the fiber of their being.  So what message do we give them when we say there is a Santa Claus and then a few years later, point out that there isn’t and we lied to them? It really throws them to the point of meltdowns, bad behavior and loss of trust.

Wouldn’t it be better to teach them that we all, Christian, Humanist, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist–take your pick!–that we all should be good because it’s the right thing to do? Not to gain some reward or get a pat on the head or to impress some other person–but because we can make choices that are part of the greater good? Take that literally. We’d all be better off.

Another day, another what?

How many family members does it take to get water out of a faucet?

None! When the pump for the well bites the big one, you actually have to wait two days for the plumber to come!!

Okay, not so much a riddle, but sadly an accurate depiction of our week so far. We are, however, blessed with other family members in town who generously shared their shower and gallons of water from their taps. Thank you! Water flows again–hurrah! (can’t wait for THAT bill to come.)

But the rest of the news isn’t so dire. We’re settled into the office, and clients are finding it with relative ease. I still need a sign. But my secretary loves it–she’s talking about bringing fuzzy slippers for days when no one’s scheduled.

We met with the Captain’s team, along with our mobile therapists. While we heard things we did not yet know (like how he didn’t like what the teachers said one day and threw his books across the room), we also heard that in science his classmates often latch on to his grasp of things and want to be on his team. Exactly what the principal predicted last year, if he got in the honors class! Love it when a plan comes together.

They also informed us an aide is with him nearly all day, when he’s not in the itinerant support teacher’s class.  We’ve been against having an aide every year, because we want him to be able to do things on his own. But, you know, if it keeps him at the A level, and it’s successful–who are we to argue?  It’s only seventh grade. If he still needs an aide when he’s a junior and senior? Then we can worry.

Little Miss had her appointment put off till next week, as she hasn’t seen the neurologist for over three years. Somehow when he dismissed her with “permanent brain damage”, it didn’t inspire us to see him real often. Sadly he’s the closest doctor (35 vs. 90 miles) who’ll consider prescribing her any ADD meds. So we bite the bullet. We meet with the school folks Friday; the psychologist, however, has been there every step of her five years at school and knows us fairly well, so I doubt there’s any surprises, and we’ll get a good proposal.

Ditto Boy is on his meds again and the teacher is pleased. Yay. Now if he’d just stop eating all the non-food items within reach of his desk, we’d be in good shape.

And I’m behind on my NaNo manuscript! But catching up. (See new word counter in the sidebar below!) Getting ready for two separate family invasions for the holidays and looking forward to the chaos! To infinity and beyond!

The song that never ends

It just goes on and on, my friends…

No, this one isn’t about the election, but the offspring. All three have a major date with destiny in the form of school officials/teachers/doctors this week; it’s going to be a tough one.

We’ve received the results of Little Miss’s evaluation by the school psychologist, and even though we knew she had the deficits, it really is harder to see it in black and white. Most of her age equivalent scores are between age five and six; seeing as she’s nine, this could be a problem.

Although, there is an accidental bright side. One day last week, I’d set out Ditto Boy’s ADD meds, awaiting his appearance at the table, and Little Miss helped herself, because “she had a cough and needed medicine.” After the initial panic, I thought about how the psychologist was always saying she thought part of Little Miss’s problem was that she had attention issues (although sometimes the other issues make it hard to know which direction the problem’s coming from, you know?). So I called the school and explained what happened, just so they could see if it mattered.

Well. They were overwhelmed. She did great all day. Of course that wasn’t one of the days they did her testing, darn it. So she’s got an appointment to see the meds doctor this week, to see if he thinks it will help on a regular basis.

Ditto Boy has a re-up on his meds, which his teacher says make a big difference for him. (He’d been off the first month for assorted reasons.) But we got a call to have a teacher conference anyway.  Uh-Oh.

But the major news, as usual, is the Captain. Yes, Captain Oblivious has ticked off a number of boys at school, I guess, to the point where he has to be walked to class by his teacher for his safety. His grades are falling, he’s back to not turning in his papers, and this week–a detention!!

We’d been so delighted he actually made a friend, one who invited him over after school to play–one in our neighborhood!! I think I noted earlier that we had some concerns because this boy and the Captain met on the special bus, but the teacher assured us he’d be all right as a friend. Well, apparently this friend has taught the boy how to flip someone off and also a number of interesting curse words, which the Captain then dropped on some young men who were supporting the other political candidate for president and caused a fight. Fabulous.

Doesn’t seem fair somehow, to make such a social triumph a social disaster at the same time.  We’re working through it with his mobile therapist, but she’s starting to run up against the same wall we have all these years–nothing motivates him.

She said to me last week that she’d worked with an older boy, a 15-year-old, and he was just the same. “That’s just the way they are,” she said. And while I keep hoping and praying that things will come around, I see the chorus coming at us again. We’ll continue singing it forever just because…


I’m glad to know I’m not out of touch with our community.

Despite the doom-forecasters in the national political scene, we saw justice done this morning in the polls in our county. I arrived to keep an eagle eye on the proceedings just before 6:30 and met three delightful retired ladies, who accommodated myself and the other poll watcher by letting us sit behind the counter with them so we could easily keep track of the incoming voters.

We had lines several times during the day, but no more than a 15 minute wait for any individual. The ladies were courteous and I never saw a trace of any potential racism that I had been warned about. No voter intimidation, no racism in the least. Many students, black, white and Asian all voted peacefully, and those who had never voted before were particularly pleased to put the “I voted” sticker on their jackets!

I’m curious where the information came from that stimulated the need for legally-trained poll watchers; perhaps from the students themselves, as I noticed even when I left there was an 800-number posted outside for those who felt they’d been discriminated against to call. I don’t know if anyone called. There were very few questions about whether someone could vote, and most were handled with a call to the courthouse to verify someone wasn’t just in the wrong polling place, and then a provisional ballot. So everyone got to vote.

All this goes to reassure me that I am not reading my community wrong at all. This is still small-town America (not necessarily the “real” America, but certainly the kind of community that we all think people should live in–fair, caring and good-natured), and we have good people here. We have our disagreements, but when it comes to loving this country and the right to express opinions through the vote, at least, we do the right thing.

Thank you to all those who provided information about the University of Pitt campus and student body. I’m pleased to see they in fact live up to their promises, and I hope those who have the wrong idea about our folk get educated, like I did.

Now I’m just hoping that, since I got up at 4:45 a.m. to get to the polls on time, that I can stay up late enough to see the results.  If you haven’t voted yet, GO VOTE!!!