Whatever works; or the nature of possessions

What difference does it make how much you have? What you do not have amounts to much more. — Seneca

The battle of the wills continues with some improvements.

The Captain has duly been given the prescription flavor of the week for ADD. The doctor didn’t even bother to look at all the other possible diagnoses; no pills will fix those. So be it.

The  last time he took ADD meds he developed a series of tics that still surface from time to time today. The doctor said that this new medicine might cause tics as well. Sure enough. Every 15-30 seconds, little vocal tics that sound like he’s gasping for air. This after two days of taking the pills. Is it because the doctor told him he would have tics?  The Cabana Boy and I disagree. I just hope the teachers and students find this distraction an improvement over the previous distraction. This was their call.

After multiple meetings with the school officials about the Captain’s antics, his behavior has improved about 85%. The school absolutely took credit, saying it was because they devised a cool check off chart for his teachers and gave him an aide. Contrarily we took credit for this, since we had come down hard on him by taking away his privileges (i.e., no books, no movies, no tv, no dessert, etc.) and had lectured him at length about proper behavior.

On a whim last week, I congratulated the Captain for his better effort and asked him what he thought had helped him see the light.  His reply? “You took all my stuff away.”

So all these high-priced resources (figure in the hourly rates of one psychiatrist, half a dozen teachers, a psychologist, a principal and a lawyer) were a waste of time, according to his elaboration on the above statement. All he cares about are things.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. We’ve always known he doesn’t relate socially, and his visit out of town this summer proved his lack of connection to anyone, even family he’s lived with his whole life. (I’ve even wondered if he’s got some bit of reactive attachment disorder, based on his  interaction with people and his history prior to my involvement.) So things it is, as long as that works.

As for myself, however, I find I’m less attached to things as I’ve moved past the half-century mark. I know it alarms my children when I pass on family heirlooms or offer them other household items. No, I’m not dying. I’m just building good feng shui and clearing clutter.

Living with a chronic pain situation, too, creates necessity for new focus, shorter attention spans to fit day by day living. I find that I am much more appreciative of a tasty and creative meal or reviewing a memory book of a favorite family trip than I am of redecorating or moving furniture around (something I used to do constantly).  I’d rather work on writing than waste time on clients with no motivation to change. I’d rather travel and see new places than buy new cars or appliances.

I realize how fortunate I am to have what I need, and to be able to recognize that definition. Sure, there are many opportunities I still dream of, like overseas vacations and maybe even real health care someday. But for now, I’m glad that I can mark my most important possessions as those of intangible proportions like family and love. I hope someday the Captain can get there, too.

Back off track..as usual

I spent some time reviewing this blog the other day, and it reminded me that we started out talking about autism. A couple of years ago, the topic was a huge part of our daily lives, with all the therapies and educational issues and…so much. So many questions. So many answers, not many of which were applicable.

We’d discontinued our last services back in April, and even that had only been for a couple of hours of behavioral consultant a week, just someone keeping us abreast of new exercises to spur Little Miss on in her language development. Her ADD meds have both helped her conversation, her involvement in class, and we’re even starting to see flashes of intuitive and logical deduction. Hurrah.

Ditto Boy has grown away from his brother, so the name may no longer be appropriate; more likely would be Dr. Doo-Be-Do, because his ADD drives him to be constantly singing half under his breath “doo-doo-doo-doo0-doo-doo…” and so on for 20 minutes at a time. Drives me nuts. Keeps him calm. So be it. He’s pursuing some auditory processing therapy at the hospital, but that’s about it. The girls still fight over him. It’s all good.

The first two weeks of school seemed to go swimmingly. Everyone had what they needed to start, new shoes, new teachers, and smiles all around. We should have known doom was about to descend.

A week ago Friday we finally get a call from the new eighth-grade autistic itinerant support teacher. The Captain is totally acting out. Meltdowns. Disgusting body odor. Disgusting body noises and hygiene. Eating boogers, for heaven’s sake. Not doing his class work. Not doing his homework. Disturbing the conduct of every single class. Not only are they posting him the aide we specifically denied in his IEP, now they want us to get him a TSS full time AND take him for a psych eval. They’re throwing around dozens of acronyms–ADD, HD, ODD, you name it.


Every day he’s come home telling us he had a great day.


Of course, the first thing we did was address it with him and go back to the same routine that we’ve done since third grade: the natural consequences of your behavior are since you are distracted from what’s required of you by tv, movies, books, Wii, etc., then you will not have these things. You can earn them back into your life by controlling your behavior. Because we’ve seen you do it. We know you can. You are a big boy and you do not need a babysitter within smacking distance all day during your school day. (And you sure won’t have one, when you graduate and have to get a job in 4 years). All the time, it feels like we’re the ones being punished.

So back to the autism/Asperger’s grind.  Managed to get him the psych eval and they’re starting him on ADD meds too (hopefully without the head-jerking tics this time) hoping to get him back on task. So I’m the only one not on speed. At my age, I’m slowing down enough that hopefully we’ll all meet in the middle.

Let’s hope that quick action has derailed the misbehavior train and we can move ahead. But there were several months where, besides a few usual adjustments for sensory issues, etc., we didn’t even have to think about the word autism. Not a cure, mind you, but an adjustment to accept the children as they are, which on the whole, isn’t thoroughly different from the variations of the neurotypical child population. There are many shades in a rainbow, and aquamarine and cranberry aren’t any less valuable than blue and red–and might just be more interesting in the long run.

Ten things I don’t care if I ever hear about again

As I’ve said before, I’m kind of a news hound. I update my world on CNN.com and other quickie sources several times a day, just to stay on top of things. When you do that, you get a lot of “popular” news, i.e., what people are searching for–mostly gossip.

One result of my scanning is that I often run across the same subjects time and again, subjects I never wanted to know about in the first place and certainly wouldn’t miss off my radar. Here, in my opinion, are the worst offenders, in no particular order:

10. Fox News — Major network news is expected to be neutral. If you’re going to slant things this far, be honest. Call yourself the conservative mouthpiece of America.

9. The Olsen twins– like all kids, they grew up.  Just with more money than the rest of us. Let them spend it in peace.

8. Ditto Paris Hilton. No one cares about your movies or your lady parts. Really.

7. The Octo-mom. If they give her a reality show they are absolutely going to justify her bad choices. Leave her to Children’s Services, because in the long run that’s where she’s going to end up.

6. Any person named Kardashian.

5. Big Brother and all those other reality shows where people get thrown together and rewarded for backstabbing, manipulating and sleeping around. One of our local attorney’s daughters was on one of those shows, and her slutty infidelity to her boyfriend was revealed for all to see. All he could do was talk about how proud he was of her to get such a great break. Ugh.

4. People who steadfastly believe that we have done nothing to permanently damage this planet’s air, water, soil and living conditions. Whether we’re talking about today, tomorrow or The Day After Tomorrow, clearly what we’ve consumed and ruined will catch up with us.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be dealing with it now instead of later?

3. Government by whoever can scream louder. (Except those British Parliament sessions. Because they’re adorable.)

2. Kanye West. For so many reasons.

1. Jon or Kate or any of the Eight. Seriously. Raising a family is hard. Going through a divorce is hard. No one needs to do either in front of a television camera. Ever.

I’d have a tea party, but I can’t afford the pot

So it’s been a week since my last post. One might hypothesize that I’ve been relaxing in the glow of my writer’s indulgences, and I sure wish that had been it.

Instead, I’ve been working. For nothing.

But I’m not alone in that.  All across the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania people are working every day, and not getting paid. Into the third month of the Pennsylvania budget crisis, it’s starting to hit the fan, my friends.

I remember budget holdups in recent years, and how you’d hear about this program or that getting a ding, but this time around, with the federal economic issues on top of the state folk running around yelling “SHOW ME THE MONEY!”  things just aren’t happening.

The crunch is hitting everyone. I have clients who have pulled out because they aren’t getting paid. My daughter just got her day care license, got it all up and running two weeks before the funding got put on hold for the program that paid her 2/3 of her income. I get county checks each month for the appointed cases I have–no pay. But I have to appear at scheduled court dates anyway. We’re required. Foster parents–no pay. Student grants for kids starting in September– no pay. Service providers–no pay.  Anyone who has a contract with a county agency–no pay. No pay. For three months so far and no end in sight.

Lenders and creditors are, of course, aware of the situation, but they’re all hurting from people hit by the first economic wave. It sure makes them a little nervous when you can’t send in a mortgage payment. Explaining that you may be able to send in three when your check finally does come through– not so priceless.

Of course, the legislators made sure to vote their OWN pay in, first thing. So they can sit down in Harrisburg and take their time because they’re not losing their homes and their incomes. Ridiculous! I vote that they have to share their pay among the constituents in their districts.  Make them have something at stake! I’m not alone on this one, apparently.

So meanwhile we juggle and pray a lot. I know there are a lot of folk worse off than I am, and I hope they get help soon.  But sadly, this is a case of who’s going to help the helpers?

Writers aren’t old dogs

Learning is about more than simply acquiring new knowledge and insights; it is also crucial to unlearn old knowledge that has outlived its relevance. Thus, forgetting is probably at least as important as learning.

–Gary Ryan Blair ( Mind Munchies: A Delicious Assortment of Brain Snacks!)

I spent the weekend at Context 22, a science fiction/horror/fantasy conference in Columbus, Ohio this weekend, but not to watch the old animated cartoons of Star Trek, discuss the future of filk, or to dress up like my favorite serial killer. I went to forget–and then learn again– how to write.

Since I’ve learned about the Master’s Program in Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University, I’ve been dying to go. At my level of ability, after publishing for 35 years, I really get the most from a professional level course. The faculty in the program are highly respected, and you can even commute for mini-sessions on campus and work independently the rest of the time. Heaven.

But in the meantime, a Pennwriters member of the Seton Hill faculty, Timon Esaias, sent a memo to the group, pointing out that many of the faculty would be giving significant two- and three-hour writing workshops at this Context conference, similar educational information without the university price tag.

Believe me, I’m there.

So this weekend I learned about maintaining narrative tension from Lawrence Connolly, who one reviewer has compared to Tarantino;  joined a discussion about the new Young Adult market, what’s in (sex and violence), what’s out (Pollyanna stories) and what’s controversial (everything!) from Ellen Klages, who talked about writing historical fiction and read from her book The Green Glass Sea (which I can’t wait to read); got about the best 15 minutes of hard advice about writing and rewriting fiction I’ve ever heard from Tim Waggoner; and soaked in three hours on point of view from “Norbert and the System” author Tim Esaias.

We left with sheets of references, recommendations and notebooks full of hope. For less than $200. Wow.

Of course, the icing for me was a one-on-one session with Juno Books editor Paula Guran, who critiqued a manuscript I started in NaNoWriMo–her suggestions were fabulous and resonated in my heart of hearts. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to hear what she had to say, but then for her to take the time to inquire about what else I had written that might be appropriate for her line, as well as what I was currently writing (which isn’t a Juno-type book, but she had great insight there too!)–I was floored. In a good way.

She has yet to look at my paranormal manuscript which I’ve submitted to Juno under their regular guidelines; she said she wanted to get through the conference first, and she vets her full manuscripts a little differently.  So, I’ll firmly believe that no news on this may be good news. Stand by for updates.

So I forgot some, and I learned some, and I’m considering some. And Little Miss got an hour in the hot tub, so she’s happy. What else can you ask?