Snakes on a train

trainI’d counted on our cross-country AMTRAK trip to be an adventure, one like I’d never experienced. Certainly the delays and other foul-ups on the behalf of the train company added extra layers to the “adventure” I’d never expected, but not all of them were bad. Exactly.

Because of a ticket snafu, we ended up for one overnight in the coach section. I had as seatmate an exchange student who buried herself under a plush white winter coat and slept for nine hours. Little Miss had a Christian woman with two bags of newly-purchased religious books and an addiction to straight solitaire on her tablet. Across the way was a tall, middle-aged gentleman with a black knit cap he kept pulled down tightly, who dug out a shiny new tan gabardine vest half way through the trip and put it on, looking like he felt like a million bucks.

Then there was the mother and teenage son from Nebraska who alternately cuddled and said I love you and then split, with the boy disappearing for twenty minutes at a time claiming he hated her.
But the ones that interested me most came to my attention later in the evening, after the lights were dimmed and people started falling asleep. I never thought to look at the first one, especially after I heard what he was saying.

I know, I know. I’ll have to go to the Greyhound station in Texas to get them. I couldn’t help it…I didn’t want to fight him…Yeah. Yeah. Punk got in my face…No, I’m on the train. I just bailed as soon as I could. Figure maybe they’ll chase the bags. Yeah. Yeah I’m all right. Fixed myself up in the john…Dunno what’ll happen now. Tell Richie… yeah, you know what to tell him. I’ll call…

Made me wonder if I should even close my eyes.

Then the middle-aged black man behind me started talking in succession on his phone to a couple of different people. One was a buddy, I think the second was the woman he’d just run out on.

No, baby, I couldn’t just sit there and listen to you dump on me all day about how I can’t do this, and I can’t do that…No, I didn’t tell you I was going. You’d just discourage me. You always discourage me—I know what I need to do. Don’t tell me what I need to do!

 I could hear her voice, though not her words, screeching back at him. Then he went off on a tirade very similar to Samuel L. Jackson’s in the movie of the similar name. With kids all around. At 3 a.m.

She hung up on him. I think. He switched to his buddy.

You know I’m going to California. I’m gonna fight. I can get matches there. She all about ‘what woman you run off with?’ and ‘how can I leave her?’ like I gonna be nothing without her….ha! That’s what I’m saying…I just can’t stay there. Can’t stay there. Nuh-uh. Sure I didn’t tell her. What I tell her first for? Then she just drag me down…

He went on to more “colorful” language, and I wondered why he thought the destruction of his three-year relationship wasn’t private business.  Or maybe if it’s only strangers around you, they don’t count as real people and you don’t have to show them some respect.

That was apparently the thought of some unknown miscreant who raided the suitcases stored in the common area below in the middle of the night. Even our AMTRAK car attendant lost her suitcase to this creep. She’s a nice lady. It made me feel bad for her. What the $^$%%# is wrong with people? Don’t get me started—Samuel L. might just have to move over and take a seat.

Too many snakes on this train.

Tag–you’re it!

Every once in awhile, when I’m examining this blog, to see what I have to offer, to determine what else I could add to make the site more useful, I read over my tag cloud.

I know that WordPress assigns the size of the words depending on how often you use the tags. So clearly autism reigns pretty supreme in its spectral variants. But if the reader were to take the combinations line by line, there are some “truths” to be found.

Take for example, “therapy TSS” or “autistic blog.” Given. “Prize publish publishing”? For a writer, not a big leap. “NaNoWriMo” is a real “mother.”

“Obama” has “novel” ideas, certainly. “Lawyer” between “internet” and “marriage” is an interesting juxtaposition.

“Asperger’s” NEEDS a line of its own. (and probably prefers one, if truth be told). “ADD agent”?  So that’s what’s skulking around the secret corners of my life!

“Carnival children”?

SO many things I could say, but I’ll bite my tongue. Oh yes, dear friends, you know what I mean.  Grab the cotton candy and the kettle corn and watch them go…

Running out of time

How does it happen, every year? Summer starts when the kids get out of school and you have this huge vista before you, all the things you’re going to accomplish, both educational and just-for-fun, and the next day comes, and the next–and suddenly it’s August already and almost back to school! How does that happen?!

Not that we haven’t done anything. All three kids have dutifully gone off to camp daily since the second week in June (with its three-hour round trip driving), until the annual visit to Memaw’s house. We’ve had picnics, and put up the inflatable pool (okay, so it’s a little green at the moment from disuse, but it’ll get better next week after camp. And some algae stuff.). We’ve visited family and friends within a reasonable radius (Hey, Jen and Seb!), had a blast at motel pools on the way, hit the Erie zoo, we’ve seen movies and plays.

So now we hit the stretch and all those things we were going to do this summer to get everyone ready for school are sitting at the top of the downhill slide. Little Miss has a stack of papers her teacher sent home, as well as learning a typing program so she doesn’t have to face so much handwriting as she enters fourth grade. Ditto Boy is going to spend days with his dad learning how to do household things–hanging drywall, repairing broken items, changing the car’s oil–all designed to help with his self-esteem and self-confidence.

The Captain — well. Seventh grade. The Cabana Boy has a program of computer learning ready for him, and we’ve finally decided to put a computer in his room with Internet access (appropriately limited) so his thirst for trivia can be fed and maybe he’ll just learn something. Plus, he’ll have access to online communities of peers who may be easier to communicate with, less ready to judge. Over the last ten years, my closest friends have been those I’ve met online, not in real life; maybe that’s not such a bad way to go.

There are still movies we want to see, places to visit. Our museum membership in Pittsburgh gets us into half a dozen places free, and we want to take the kids downtown to gaze up in awe at the crystal palaces of the business world. Two major Irish festivals remain, featuring Gaelic Storm, who delights us all. We’re not quite ready for Cedar Point or King’s Island, but we might try Waldameer. Still haven’t made it to the beach. Or the park. Or the library. But we’re gonna! Sometime! Maybe about midnight on a Wednesday in a couple of weeks! Hurry up! Time’s a-wastin!


If you have any time left this summer, come visit the Parents Helping Parents Carnival, where there’s a lot of good advice and funny stories about the parenting life, and gain some perspective at the Carnival of Work-Life Balance.


So far this week, it’s been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. The county people told the newspaper they “have no clue” why poisonous gas appears and disappears on the street in front of our house. That’s reassuring. (please insert sarcasm here)

On a high note, a fiction piece I’ve been trying to publish for four years finally came out–and I got paid!! Makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. You’re welcome to take a peek– My Sad Cuisine . I’ve definitely been in this field too long.

While we have not yet resolved our camp issue, it is becoming painfully apparent that Captain Oblivious has reached a plateau in his functioning level that may be permanent. He’s nearly 13 and has a crying fit whenever something happens he doesn’t like. For example, yesterday at camp, surrounded by therapeutic people, when it was announced there wouldn’t be computer time because some repairs were needed, there followed a 15 minute rant that caused him to have to be be removed from class and counselled in the hall. A similar breakdown occurred last week when the eye doctor recommended bifocals for his terrible sight. He didn’t want bifocals, they were awful, he couldn’t get used to them! Scream, cry, rant.

We all, therapists included, have been working on the meltdown situation for six YEARS without improvement. I think I’m becoming resigned to the fact that he will always deal with things this way. It makes me sad (No really it pisses me off. I am convinced he could control it if he tried. Maybe not. Maybe we’ll never know.) Employers won’t deal with that. Places of higher learning won’t deal with that. How will he be able to function on his own?

Then one of my girls came to me for some important advice. That always makes me feel good.

And finally, the “Welcome, Summer!” edition of the Carnival of Family Life picked up one of my pieces, but there is a whole beach basket full of lovely reading there for folk from families. Stop in and take your shoes off!

Dessert May Come First–Or Not, Vol. 2

Welcome to the May 9, 2008 edition of dessert may come first —or not, A place to share experiences of the Autism Spectrum, whether a personal journey, or from the perspective of a family member or friend. We share stories and offer encouragement and advice to others on the path.


Good Fountain presents Reading – it?s what works posted at Good Fountain, where we learn how all those on our child’s team help design their learning process in a way that best suits the child’s learning style.


Julie James presents Grace, Please Find Me posted at a most imperfect paradise, a heartfelt story on the tough choices we have to make sometimes when we have children with issues.

For those of you who might not have seen this, here’s my story on ABA for $40 a month. And another on a new web browser for autistic kids.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of dessert may come first –or not using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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CHECK OUT these other great carnivals as well!! The Carnival of Family Life at Write From Karen, the Carnival of Creative Growth at Energies of Creation, the Mom’s Blogging Carnival at Mrs. Nespy’s World, and Writers From Across the Blogosphere at the Writer’s Block. Enjoy!

Getting around

While some may use a blog as a place to just spew all that awful emotional crap that you don’t feel your loved ones deserve to enjoy, most of us hope that our blog will be read by others, and the more “others” the better. This is one of the reasons to engage in the blog carnival. As you might remember, I hosted the Blog Carnival called Dessert May Come First–Or Not: The Many Flavors of the Autism Spectrum at the beginning of April. I had a lot of great responses, and I’ve decided to make it a monthly event.

Submissions are always open, as the carnival is ongoing. If you have a post in your blog that you feel might help others along their road, or give them a light moment, or connect with someone– or just open your blog to other folk who may not have had a chance to read it before– then enter your blog post here. If you’ve read a post elsewhere you really liked by a great writer on the subject of the autism spectrum, feel free to bring the carnival to their attention. Posts don’t have to be about children or for parents, or about adult Aspies, or classic autism, or coping, or NOT coping– but any of those are fine. Deadline for submission is May 7, for publication May 9.

This week, I’m welcoming readers from a number of carnivals, including today, the Rhythm of Write with more than 20 entries on the subject of writing. I’m also featured in two of the courses of the “Soup to Nuts” Blog Carnival which is a progressive dinner of goodness spread over five different blogs with enough topics to keep you well informed on every level: come by Health Plans Plus and Kilroy’s The Gonzo Papers and the other three to get all your good nutrients!

Inching toward normalcy

We’ve had a remarkably non-autistic week.

The children have squabbled with each other and bossed each other just like everyone else’s kids. They’ve told endless jokes at the dinner table. It’s been maddening. But again, this must be progress.

Captain Oblivious is recovering well and has discovered that he can, in fact, walk on his cast just like they promised. (Much safer for everyone in the room than the crutches deal, believe me. I know it takes practice to use them well, but his coordination is just not geared toward using tools. If he felt wobbly, instead of holding onto the crutches for support, he’d just wail and let go. BAM. Hit whatever was on the way down. *Sigh*.)

Little Miss has had the joy of rediscovering the outdoors. She’ll stay outside nearly all day, communing with nature. I watched her from the window as she simply sat in the grass, rubbing her hands through the leaves, examining things. Her dad helped her build a tent between two trees, and she carried out these foldable cubes made of parachute material to complete her little haven. So she just sits alone and listens to the birds and the wind and observes.

I suppose that may be considered autistic behavior. But when I think of “autism” the way the media portrays it, I think of the negative behaviors. What she’s doing is just being comfortable with herself and causing no one trouble. Is that autism? Maybe it is. Could we all use a little more of that perfectly calm, self-fulfilling behavior? I sure could.

It’s true when she comes back in she’s got that “other-worldly” flavor to her that she used to have much more as a small child, that feeling that she’s somehow in a parallel place, not quite synched with the rest of us.

And she’s decided she hates meat. *sigh*

But this too, will pass. Thank heaven for spring.


Today I’ve been selected for a blog carnival at Blog Village, as part of a carnival on family memories. I was also part of sixty great entries in the Blog Carnival of Observations on Life last week. Come by and catch up on some great reading!!

I also created a real electronic song from scratch this weekend to go with my story, Concert of Collaboration: Making Music Together, published at Firefox News One more thing off my list of things I’ve never done before! (Special thanks to the Cabana Boy who helped me through the geek directions…)

Dessert may come first–or not!

Welcome to the April 9, 2008 edition of Dessert May Come First– Or Not, the Many Flavors of the Autism Spectrum. This is the first edition of the only Blog Carnival entry to date to deal with autism, Asperger’s and issues of the spectrum. I’m pleased that we received entries from a number of different perspectives, and I’m proud to share them with you.

lastcrazyhorn presents Different Vs. Indifferent; posted at Odd One Out, where she takes a look at a situation where something is definitely broken, but whose job is it to fix things?

One thing we know about our kids with autism is that they are very literal. For example, this is how my daughter plays the game of “catch”: Papa throws her the ball; she catches it. Mission accomplished, game over. In this piece, lastcrazyhorn presents Falsehoods As Seen From An Aspie’s Perspective; posted at Odd One Out, where falsehoods are not just lies, they are much more.


I printed this post out to take to my soon-to-be-middle-school son’s IEP meeting, to see what we could do to bully-proof him as much as possible, or at least not have him punished for the backlash of a bully’s attack. Very thoughtful words for all of us with children from someone who’s been that kid. lastcrazyhorn presents Imagine This (A Narrative on Bullying); posted at Odd One Out.


Carol presents Race for a cure or journey towards acceptance? posted at A Different Nest: Embracing the midlife journey while mothering special needs children, saying, “This is my first carnival submission. I think it may be useful to parents of more recently diagnosed kids; and more veteran parents may (or may not) say “I’ve been there, too.” Thanks, Carol,”

Casdok presents Mother of Shrek: Our children teach us posted at Mother of Shrek, where she shares “Lessons for parents on the path.”


Even when our path seems darkest, there is always an upside we need to cling to. Darcy presents Something to think about « posted at What We Need, saying, “Food for thought.”

While we’re on the subject of food, this may not be right on topic, but our kids will really like the videos, and we could use the story as a metaphor. TherapyDoc presents Eating Just Enough posted at Everyone Needs Therapy, saying, “I personally like dessert first. But take a look at this, have the kids look at the video. We can learn a lot from nature. And despite what I say, it’s best to try not to overfeed.”

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article by the first Monday of May to the next edition of Dessert May Come First–Or Not using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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And in other news…. I’m featured in other folks’ blog carnivals this week at Carnival of Moms in Law , the Scribes Blog Carnival , and a special repeat performance at the Best of Me Symphony. I’ve also got a two-segment appearance in the upcoming Soup to Nuts carnival, a multi-course meal spread over five different blogs coming on April 30, 2008, so stay tuned!

Thanks to all of you who participated in the Tourney for the Journey, NCAA fundraiser for Sierra Nevada Journeys. I’m proud to say we finished LAST out of 63 entries! Go Team Weird Stuff!!! *crowd goes wild* We may not know Jack about college basketball, but I think we are now the proud owners of a Reno Envy T-shirt!! (Get it? Reno, N.V.?? hahahaha…Westerners are hi-larious, right, Jayne?)