Your very own Cinderella moment!

Does this shoe fit?  Come find out February 10, 2011 at I Love Your Shoes, 900 Water Street, Meadville, PA.  Everyone whose foot fits will be entered into a drawing for an autographed copy of The Elf Queen, an urban fantasy novel  and a Clan Elves of the Bitterroot coffee mug filled with beverage delights!

From 12 to 1, meet Meadville attorney and author Barbara Mountjoy , who will be signing copies of her 2010 book THE ELF QUEEN, an urban fantasy that uses the Cinderella motif—get it before the sequel, THE ELF CHILD, debuts this spring!

ILYS will feature specials that day from 10 to 6 for you and your Valentine, with samples and prizes  from Magenta’s Tanning, 3 Gals Gourmet Shoppe, and more! Don’t miss your chance to win!  (Handsome Prince not included—sorry!)

 

I Love Your Shoes specializes in fabulous, affordable name-brand women’s shoes and purses, like Keds, Clarks, Easy Street, Rocket Dog, and Bella Vita. Stylish and practical purses, wallets and belts are also available. Don’t go out of town—come see what we have! For more information, contact Pam Micosky at 814-807-1407.

 

See ILYS and the Clan Elves of the Bitterroot book series on Facebook!

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Just another day

Some readers have asked lately why I don’t write as much about autism any more. “How are the children?” they want to know.  It’s kind of funny that this blog started out to connect to other autism families, to learn, to share, to get through the days, and yet three years later what we find as we hit the bottom line is, we’re all alone in this. And it’s not necessarily progress.

Nine years now, we’ve had the diagnoses to work with. And work we have. Hours of meetings, consultations, hospital time, psychological time, special teachers, special classes. The dedication of our lives to this process of helping these three children overcome the cards they’ve been dealt.

Doctor Doo-Be-Do, for the most part, has succeeded in his quest–as much as a boy just this side of adolescence can, I suppose. He’s still disorganized, still emotional, and has a hard time mastering the art of anger. Some of his flightiness is likely ADD, some is hormones, and– he’s a boy. Inexplicable to a mother who’s raised five girls.

He’s going back into therapy this week, mostly to learn to deal with his reactions to other people–how anger and misplaced sarcasm isn’t always the best choice, for example. And how to deal with his brother.

 Little Miss has spent all but the first year of her life in some sort of therapy, whether it was occupational, physical, speech, cognitive, hippo-, water, and now a round of medication. Incredible.

This week, she’s beginning work with a play therapist with the intent to strengthen her language skills. This therapist has been part of her life since she was about four, when all Little Miss could do at their intake appointment was sing the “Chicka-boom” song. She couldn’t answer questions, she couldn’t tell one day from the next, she had no idea of her place in the scheme of life. Now Little Miss has successfully overcome the hurdle into young womanhood, and she’s preparing for the entry into junior high school next year, with half of her day mainstreamed in regular classes, where she does projects extremely well, but tests less so.  In fact, Little Miss has been commended this year for her extreme empathy in assisting the little ones in the beginning autism support classes, helping them come to the right class and entertaining them till the bell rings.

I’m kicking around the possibility of home schooling her during her eighth grade year to really work on her receptive and expressive language skills as well as her life skills.

I’d add the depth of travel, which she loves, to give her tactile, hands-on experiences to flesh out her capacity to file words away and acquire the processing ability to keep her language available for use. With a firm plan of objectives from this long-time therapist, we could work toward goals, both mental and educational. Taking a truck and small camper, we can expand our world. Maps will trace geography. Museums, state and national park resources really bring science language home. Planning trips solidifies executive functioning skills; tracking our budgets enhances practical math skills. We will also read whatever we can get our hands on to make her language the same easy, effortless exchange it is for so many of us.

          If I can pull this off, the process will be documented in a book about that year, a story told in personal moments, therapeutic breakthroughs and pictures. B has suggested a companion volume to be written and documented by Little Miss herself–how interesting is that?? I hope her language expands to the point that’s possible. Maybe her volume can be primarily pictures. That’s the point, after all, to show how creative work can help give a person opportunities to become themselves in a world that doesn’t always see things their way.  Other autistic children might relate better to a book they can see without having to process words, too. She’s come so far already. What a gift for all of us if she could enter high school on the same page as her peers.

And then there’s the Captain.

After his ‘stellar’ behavioral record last year, several suspensions for outbursts and attacks on other students, falling grades, disgusting personal habits, the school sent him to a partial hospitalization program at the beginning of last summer. It was supposed to last till school began in September. Then they said they hoped he’d be done by maybe November. Then January. Now they’re hoping to effect some change by the time school begins in September this year. Maybe.

So far they’ve been able to make him stop hitting people, when it’s a ratio of two staff to ten students. He’s still disrespectful, angry, has tantrums–all the ODD stuff–and he doesn’t care to please others, and believes that he always does everything right and everyone else hates/sabotages/screws him over–all the RAD stuff. He’ll use the Asperger’s as an excuse, when anyone asks him to do something– “You can’t expect me to do that, because I have Asperger’s!” –but he won’t take time to learn about the condition, and the fact that Asperger’s people are just as successful, if not more so, than any other human being. They just have to make an effort first. An effort of any kind.

His hatefulness crosses over to home, too, and we are all treated to his outbursts and refusals to carry his share of responsibility. On a recent trip, he stayed home because of a variety of circumstances, and his little brother was a different person. Free. Happy.  One of those moments that really brings home how oppressive it is to have a child who sucks the life out of the family.

The doctors at the school seem to have the attitude that the Captain is just going to be like this, so we’d best adapt. But after nine years of therapy, including two years of 30-hour a week TSS and now 30-hour a week intensive partial hospitalization for the better part of a year, what else are we going to do? If the professionals can’t handle it, can’t make him see himself, can’t show him why responsible behavior and ambition and caring for others is a good thing, how can two human parents ever hope to?

So, true. I don’t have as much to share about our ongoing experience with autism on a regular basis, because it’s sort of settled into our lives. We still deal with it every day, sometimes on high notes, sometimes on low notes, but it’s now part of the routine, not something we can do something about. But the end of the story hasn’t yet arrived–don’t worry. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

Why writers need other ears and voices

Today I’m visiting Warm Days, Cool Nights and Hot Guys—  the blog of historical romance writer Jennifer Jakes, talking about critique groups and how to choose the one that fits you. You can just click by the adult content warning–my post is pretty vanilla!! Come by and say hello!

Check out my fancy new email signature–I think my head may swell a bit!

Babs Mountjoy

Also writing as Lyndi Alexander:
The Elf Queen, 2010
The Elf Child, 2011 and The Elf Mage, 2012, all from Dragonfly Publishing
http://clanelvesofthebitterroot.com

Also writing as Alana Lorens:
Deliverance, a romance from The Wild Rose Press, coming in 2011

Second Chances, due out from Zumaya Publications in 2012

Zumaya Day at Coffee Time!

Today the authors of Zumaya Publications are featured at Coffee Time Romance–including yours truly!  Zumaya will publish my novel SECOND CHANCES next year, about Inessa Regan, a 10-year associate at a Pittsburgh law firm who gets a pink slip when the economy tanks. Her first client in solo practice is Kurtis Lowdon, a man 20 years younger than she, an Iraq War veteran with cancer. As she loses everything that defines her, the story tells  how she battles back from the pit of despair, thanks to the love affair with this plucky young man fighting his own war against death. His battle teaches her how to live; and she risks everything she holds dear to save him.

Coffee Time is giving away a color e-reader –come by and check it out!

A “crafty” book giveaway!

I’m not sure how it happens, but daughter B seems to parlay interests and hobbies into incredible job opportunities. They’ve taken her from the beaches of Maine to the waters of Puget Sound, from the forest to the desert. Her current find is a position at the Jimmy Beans Wool shop in Reno, where she’s working herself up from sales to social media mogul.

The shop’s website sells all manner of fancy yarns, needles, everything one might need for a knitting addiction–they even have free patterns! The JBW blog, while about to announce a SPECTACULAR coup for the shop later this week, today features an interview with Lorna Miser, designer, teacher, and author.

Lorna, of Lorna’s Laces fame, is the author of the new book The Knitter’s Guide to Hand-Dyed and Variegated Yarn, which includes “10 simple, accessible techniques, 65 stitch patterns, and 20 projects that make the most of the dazzling color combinations and creative possibilities that variegated yarns have to offer.”

And YOU could have your very own signed copy of this book for FREE as a winner of the contest, by leaving a comment on the blog telling everyone your favorite Lorna’s Laces colorway. (Folks local to Reno, NV can stop in and register in person.) One comment per person–and the deadline is this Friday, January 14 at 3 p.m. PST. 

 Baby, it’s cold outside — stay warm with your favorite knitting project and some very special yarns from Jimmy Beans!
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Holiday dining at its finest

Our original plan with this most recent southern trip was to take it in December, when we would use the free day at Disney tickets we received after volunteering to make blankets for Project Linus last year.

Unfortunately, the economy dictated that we wouldn’t have quite the vacation fund necessary to accomplish this goal, even with a free day apiece included, so we traveled to my daughter’s house near Pensacola, where her husband serves our country in the Navy. Seeing all the fam was certainly the highlight of the trip, but we splurged in small ways in the area of dining, to make sure it felt like a real vacation.

The NOLA sidetrip was of course, a chance to indulge in beignets and creole delights, and we took full advantage of that. I mean, how often do you have a chance to eat alligator? Really?

M made a full ham dinner with all the trimmings on Christmas night when we arrived, and we were able to eat those tasty goodies pretty much the rest of the week, too. We made cinnamon rolls one morning, thanks to Miss Chloe (no, not Grandma Rosie’s kind), and made our own garlic bread pizzas another night.

But the highlight of the trip has to be the place where people are encouraged to throw food. No, not Animal House!

Lambert’s, the home of throwed rolls, in Foley, Alabama. Yes, “throwed rolls.” J was sure we’d think this was a real kick, and it was. Not only does the menu include all sorts of delicious southern foods, once you get your plate they come around with more, huge bowls of fried okra, black eyed peas, fried potatoes and onions, macaroni and tomatoes, and slop more on your plate, as much as you want. On top of greens, and a host of other incredible food.

The highlight was the manner in which patrons obtain their meal’s bread portions. Every ten or fifteen minutes, someone brings out a tray of oven-hot rolls. If you want one, you raise your hand, and then they throw one to you. From the front of the restaurant. Hard. As in we were fortunate to have a little softball player at our table to make sure we could eat. 🙂  And what rolls. Hot, yeasty, delicious. Even Little Miss caught a couple–she was thrilled.  So. Throwed Rolls. Yes indeedee.

An impromptu spaghetti dinner with the Cabana Boy’s long-lost cousins was nice, again with homemade bread, and a new bread machine for us!!

But the meal closest to my heart has to be the one where, like Mary, Joseph and their newborn son, we wandered from place to place on Christmas Eve, searching for a place to have a meal with K, who’d come to meet us from Asheville at our hotel on the road. Everywhere was closed, no room at the table, until we came to the Knoxville Waffle House.

So we shared a repast, our first all together in months, around the counter as the jukebox played in the background, without a Christmas tree, without carols, without snow,without all those commercial trappings, just us and some cheesy grits and burgers. And somehow, it was one of the best holiday meals of my life.

A tattered, but great, lady

New Orleans, the French Quarter, the morning after. A little weary, a little tawdry,  a little worse for wear before that first cup of chicory-laced coffee.

Walking through the streets, now oddly quiet after the tumultuous competition of music styles and garish outfits the night before, one finds small corners of beauty: a sparkling glass globe in a shop window, a flower blooming in a basket overhead on a wrought iron-enclosed balcony.

People on the street this morning seem to have more purpose. Our purpose, after the afore-mentioned coffee, is to explore the dark arts of VooDoo.

At the Historic Voodoo Museum, we enter the dim hallway and read the story of Marie Laveau, one of the most famous queens of the mysterious rituals. We were invited to take photos, and I’ll share some of them here, with great respect for the religious significance of the objects and depictions. This shows a typical altar collection for a voodoo ritual. So many interesting bits and pieces!

One of the central symbols for the ritual is often a snake, representing Damballah, the serpent god. Voodoo priestesses dance with the snake to invoke its powers. The voodoo museum housed a large snake for many years, well-cherished, but she has now passed on. Here is a picture of a statue and also a representation in wood of a serpent.

In the museum, as well as some of the other voodoo shops,, a hollow tree trunk awaits gifts of money or candy from visitors, who are encouraged to leave a written wish for intercession by the gods. I’m not sure how much voodoo gods know about our alphabet collection of mental health back home, but we entered a few requests for improvement–just in case.

Moving on to less magical territory, we walked down to the Mississippi, intending to take a ferry out on the water, but that never quite came together. We did take a stroll on the Moonwalk, and people-watched at St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square.

Even though the natives thought it was chilly, the streets filled up as midday approached, and the warm sunshine cheered those of us from the frozen northlands!

We did finally get some powdered-sugar drenched beignets at Cafe du Monde, and sipped cafe au lait as we  walked along the mighty river, not as muddy as I recalled it. All too soon  our brief respite was done, and we headed back to rescue M from the children. Maybe someday a book tour will take us there again, when we can spend more time and soak up more of the Creole flavor of one of the great cities of the American South. Laissez les bon temps roulez!