The Autistic Blogger

010

So, this is what it means to be on the spectrum and have a blog: You have a lot of stuff you want to discuss, but getting it onto the webpage/forum in a coherent and timely manner may be the death of you. Partly it’s because, depending on where you are on said spectrum, your mind goes a million miles an hour anyway, or maybe you get easily distracted — or, maybe both.

And then there’s the chance of external stimuli coming in and ruining your whole blogging thing — maybe someone will burn something in the kitchen and the smoke alarm goes off while you’re composing a post; or there’s a news broadcast they claim you have to see this instant, or the cat jumps up on the keyboard, and for you that means you cannot continue until you have cleared said cat and cat hair from your sacred blogging space.

Sometimes blogging is just plain a hassle. There’s the need for finding gifs, pics, uploading links, downloading links, changing design or format now and then, researching the exact publication date of that book or who that actor was in that movie from whenever. It takes time. And when you’re ASD, time is not your friend.

It can so easily slip through your fingers because you may be very bad at managing it. (Oh, to have a Time Lord gene…) It may get away from you because you simply become so overwhelmed by something in your environment that you just can’t remember what you wanted to post about. Or you physically have to take a break.

Or your brain is doing this: “The topic today — why wombats are so cute. Nope, that’s rubbish. But what about all those wombat pics I saved? Could I use them another… Hey, what’s that image of a girl playing soccer doing in… Oh, that’s an idea for a post, girls’ education in third world countries! Hey, what about girls playing soccer with wombats? Trained soccer-match wombats… Hang on a minute, let’s get back on topic — did I make tea yet?”

Trust me, the struggle is real.

047

Most people worry that they spend too much time on sites like Pinterest or Instagram, but they’re aware of it. They very consciously check the clock on their laptop or tablet and go, “It’s been 50 minutes since I decided to look up spaghetti marinara recipes, I really need to get my butt in gear.” Here’s what the autistic brain does: “Look at that gorgeous Scottish castle. I’ll just check out its Wikipedia article…”

5 hours later… “I now know everything about the Jacobite Rebellion, the first printing of the King James Bible, how castles were built post-the Norman conquest, and approximately how many bricks sacrificed themselves to become that fabulous ruin where Connor and Heather live in Highlander. And while I was learning all of this, I also memorized the lyrics to every song on Coldplay’s latest album and Tweeted 17 times. But, I may have forgotten to get my laundry out of the dryer, empty the dishwasher, or check the status of the cat’s food and water. Or, eat anything since this morning.”

The struggle is real.

Any blogger (NT or otherwise) knows that this is a pursuit that simply takes time, anyway. We don’t always know what we want to write about this week, the right visuals aren’t coming to us, and what if we honestly can’t remember the author of that book we just returned to the library? Visiting websites and uploading and downloading and all the other kerfuffles are necessary to ensure an accurate, thought-provoking, and eye-catching post. After all, what’s the point of posting if no one reads it? If no one reads it, that means we are probably not producing decent content, which leads to our stats going on, and then we have to question our self-worth — but who would place all their self-worth on how many people subscribe to their blog, that’s just ridiculous…

Sometimes while you’re blogging (the ASD you), you have to stop and rein your mind in. This is not always what it says on the tin. It is harder than it sounds. Getting us to focus on one thing for longer than it takes to, well, inhale and exhale may be such a challenge that the post just doesn’t get put up that day.

IMG_0388

Perfect example: Recently I had a great idea for a blog post, and I was going to work on it the next day, and as I sat there typing away, a song came up on the playlist that I don’t like, so I had to switch it to something that I do like, and by the time that process was done: “Wait, where was I going with this?”

I finished the post later (some point the next week, I think?). And it was not time-sensitive material, so it could have been published in 2018, even. But there are days when this situation really, really irks me.

There are mornings when I get my post completed in record time, and it gets 23 views in the first hour it’s live. Then there are days (or weeks) when I just sit and stare at Google Images until my eyes are pleading for mercy, and the “edit post” page remains blank. And while that’s happening, here’s what going on inside my mind: “What was the title of that Suzanne Vega song that Fall Out Boy sampled for Centuries? What’s the 5th book in the Dawn of the Clans series? Did I ever make my tea? Is the dryer done? Was I supposed to look something up for White Fang today? I think I hear the UPS truck — did we order anything?”

And then while you’re rescuing aforementioned laundry from impending wrinkles, Muffin gets to your computer and tries to code his own program on how to combine dinosaurs with flying chocolate cloaks and…well, it isn’t pretty.

So, the next time you read a blog post of mine, please take a moment to appreciate just what went into getting it out there for your enjoyment.

046

What Are You Reading/Watching/Listening To Wednesday

29388-siam_cat_eye_12763

Another weekly theme? What is happening to me, you may ask? Hey, it won’t last long, trust me… (Mostly because I will run out of things to say on the theme, or will even forget what the theme is…)

I like this version for Wednesdays, where you give your community a little peek into all of your entertainment at the time, instead of just your reading material. You get a bit more information on a variety of topics, and you get to know your favorite bloggers a little better, too!

This week I am reading…

Image result for mort terry pratchett

Mort by Terry Pratchett. I’m re-reading it, more accurately, and truthfully, for about the 4th time. I hardly mind. Not only is it, in my view, one of the best Discworld novels, I think it should be considered one of the best fantasy novels of the 20th century. Mort gives us the real insider’s look at the beloved character of Death (think the Angel of, or the Grim Reaper, but really not so grim in Pratchett’s imagining). It’s full of humor and wit and plenty of poignant moments; the ending never fails to bring me to tears (and remember this is me, approximately 40% Vulcan).

I am watching…

Related image

Riverdale. Now, this is the oddest thing — my cable network carries the CW channel (where all new broadcasts of this show originate), but for some reason, it is not offered in our particular subscription package. Huh? It’s among the basic channels, as well, listed right along with NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS. So, why, just, why, Time Warner/Spectrum? (This is part of a whole separate issue, so I digress.) Anyway, I can still access CW On Demand (again, huh?), but I am grateful for this, because it means I get to watch Riverdale. Have I ever read an Archie comic in my life? Nope. Do I have any idea of what the long-term/hardcore fans are talking about with references to the classic characters? Not a stitch. But I am really enjoying this TV series. It’s much darker than I expected, but it has surprising heart, and the writing isn’t half bad most of the time.

I am listening to…

Related image

Dragonhearted by Captain Sparklez and Try Hard Ninja. White Fang first introduced me to these YouTube icons. They started with The Fallen Kingdom trilogy of videos (based on Minecraft, but with an original plot), then late in 2016 released a 4th to make it a quadrilogy (aaaargh to that word). The newest video is Dragonhearted. You really have to watch the Fallen Kingdom, then Take Back the Night, and Find the Pieces first, for Dragonhearted to make any sense, though. (As it is, Captain Sparklez has released an updated quad video on his YouTube channel. Thanks, Jordan!) These songs are catchy, clever, and the videos are like little movies, full of action and plenty of heartstring-tugging moments. (Hello there, I am The Invisible Moth, and I swear I am part-Vulcan…)

Top 10 Tuesday: Classics That Deserve Another Chance

92e01-ba-tea-and-books-wallpaper-800x600

Good morning, moths! It is Tuesday, and I’ve never attempted to do the top 10 Tuesdays! However, seeing as I do not keep up with such things as “the categories are listed ahead of time here and here,” and have absolutely no idea what the theme for this week is, I’m going with my own! (Wouldn’t it be great if I was accidentally doing what everybody else was?! …)

Okay, so here we begin — 10 classics that I feel aren’t being given enough attention in the 21st century, and that I’d like to see readers give another shot.

Image result for a tale of two cities new cover    Image result for the scarlet pimpernel    Image result for to kill a mockingbird

  • A Tale of Two Cities: When it comes to Charles Dickens, all the schools are teaching Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. I am forever grateful that one of my high school English teachers chose A Tale of Two Cities. It’s a unique historical drama, that puts aside most of the political issues of the day, to concentrate on the humanity within, the families ripped apart, the suffering of very mortal souls. Because of that, it remains one of my favorites, and will make my top 10 list any year.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel: Whereas a lot of students will at least have heard of A Tale of Two Cities, many are not familiar with The Scarlet Pimpernel. Another personal tale of obstacle and heartache during the French Revolution, it was not only written by an aristocrat herself, by, well, a woman, in a period when being an author was not considered a “good” thing for women at all, especially women of a certain class status. Such things are important to remember…
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: Wait, you say, how can I be putting one of the most beloved novels of the 20th century on a list of books that need to get a second chance? Well, for those of you who were aware of the whole Go Set a Watchman debacle (and if you’re not aware, I can explain in the comments), you’re probably painfully informed of how much love of To Kill a Mockingbird has waned lately. I think it’s important to recognize publishers’ mistakes and not hold them against an author, and also to give the author some grace for creating a story that does still resonate with us and gave us so many cherished moments for a previous 60 years. Let’s make it 60 more.

Image result for narnia chronicles     Image result for lord of the rings book

  • The Chronicles of Narnia: I can see you staring at your screen in confusion at this one. But the fact is, a lot of kids aren’t reading the novels these days because the movies have been released. Now, I love these movies, and I highly recommend them to families. However, there is a lot to be said for reading the book, too, whenever you’re talking about a novel-to-film adaptation (of anything). And note that there are 7 Chronicles of Narnia and only 3 films.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Stop looking at me like that! Seriously, again, since the release of the movies (as well as the movies of The Hobbit), how many of you have thought, “Hmm, I never read those — oh, never mind, I’ll just watch it.” Having read and watched both (of all), I can honestly say that, while the films (especially the LOTR trilogy) did a great job of transferring Middle Earth and its major tales to the big screen, there is still much to be gained by reading Prof. Tolkien’s original text. His style — following closely in the style of the Old English/Anglo-Saxon folklore he was so fond of — is a bit unusual to our modern perceptions, so it takes a little getting used to, but I still stand by my first and foremost guideline — if it’s based on a book, at least give the book a try.

Image result for the last unicorn book   Image result for the wind in the willows   Image result for anne of green gables book

  • The Last Unicorn: How many of us have seen (and worship with sacrifices of chocolate and precious jewels) this movie? How many of us have actually read the original novel? (Are those crickets I hear?) It may be because the film was made in the early 1980s, a time when a lot of kids were watching TV more than reading (unfortunately), but even honestly didn’t know until about 15 years ago that there is a novel. And it is extremely moving and beautiful. (Trust me, as this comes from the half-Vulcan.)
  • Wind in the Willows: The next generation definitely knows Charlotte’s Web, but what about this other talking-animal kids’ classic? How about picking this one up for your children/nieces and nephews/students instead? Or spending some time with it as an adult?
  • Anne of Green Gables: For the last time, quit trying to reach through your screen and throw something at me! I swear, Anne of Green Gables is among the once-thriving classics that are now losing ground among new readers. I mean the kids. Again, maybe it’s because there are several movie versions to choose from, but there are a lot of current students who have not read this novel. Honest confession: I never have, either. But I want to. I fully intend to — just, please, allow me until Muffin goes to daycare, and I actually have the time/energy to finish it.

Image result for little women book   Image result for tuck everlasting

  • Little Women: Remember what I just said? Get away from those snowballs! Yes, Little Women belongs on this list as well, since its popularity is quickly falling, since some silly kumquats have decided that it’s “sexist.” It is not sexist, it is an accurate portrayal of how women were expected to behave in that time period in middle-class America. You have to understand the context of everything, you daft plums. And when you consider that, you can just enjoy the story for what it is — how a group of 4 sisters develop their relationships and their own selves over the years. I imagine many of us can relate to that.
  • Tuck Everlasting: With dystopia being a major thing right now, I think, in favor of such tales as Ender’s Game and The GiverTuck Everlasting has been sort of slid to the back. That needs to be corrected. Tuck Everlasting was among the first “modern” novel (published in the 1970s), and addressing child readers (with dignity and not lecturing, by the way) to tackle the intense and essential question of what’s really worth living, and dying, for. I’ve read this one several times, and seen different film versions, and it is a story certainly worth holding onto.

How to Really Understand Autism

70b78-geminids

Here are some of the worst things you can say to a person on the autism spectrum:

  • “Just hurry up already.”
  • “Why can’t you just…?”
  • “What are you doing that for?”
  • Ask them 4 or 5 questions in rapid succession.
  • Not let them finish their sentence.
  • Don’t accept their explanation as valid.
  • Try to say something again that didn’t make sense to them the first time.
  • And do it too loudly. We are not deaf; we in fact have very sensitive hearing.

This is for parents of spectrum kids, anyone living or working with ASD-ers, and for you, too, the autistic.

Learning how to understand the spectrum is a process. Learning how to explain what comes naturally to you when you are on the spectrum, to those who aren’t, is also a process. After many years of trial and error, I believe that it is definitely a two-way street. And unfortunately, there seems to be a lot less listening going on in the NT (neurotypical) camp.

chrysanthemum

If you are ASD, here’s my advice in building communication with “the other side”:

  • Try to stay calm. Even if you’re in a situation of heightened stimulation, and you’re feeling a little wiggy.
  • Try not to let it get to you if people call you names. (I know this will be hard. And I’m not patronizing; I’ve faced this problem every year of my life.)
  • Develop and practice coherent and simple sentences or short discussions that accurately reflect what you’re feeling or experiencing. For example: “When you raise your voice, my heart beats too fast.” Or, “I don’t know what you mean by ‘use the screwdriver to secure the loose bolt.’ I need you to show me how to use the tool and tell me what you’re doing at every step.”
  • Deep breathing or meditation techniques to hopefully keep your head (when your body’s about to lose it) can be helpful.

If you’re the NT in the situation, here’s my advice:

  • Listen to what your family member/friend/colleague is saying, and don’t judge them — accept it and take it seriously. We have major fears about opening up to others, because most “average” humans don’t relate to what we’re going through, and if you’re condescending or telling us to “get over it” or that it “can’t be that big an issue,” then you are not building the bridge, you are widening the chasm.
  • Don’t try to offer a long-term solution in the heat of the moment. If your ASD child is having a meltdown, this is not the time to come up with a plan to stop tantrums from ever happening again. Wait until an hour, a day, or even a week later, to discuss what triggered that reaction and how to possibly reduce such reactions in the future.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Atticus Finch famously said, “You never really know another person until you get inside their skin and walk around a bit.” This is especially true for those of us with autism. Don’t look at your loved one like they’re just a set of medical textbook symptoms. Think of it like this: You’re from the planet Neptune, but your spaceship crash lands on Pluto, and the way the people do things are just so different than what you’re familiar with. It’s not that either the Neptunians or the Plutons are wrong — it’s just different, and a lot for you to figure out and get used to.
  • Remember that we want to build the bridge just as much as you do. We’re already lonely and struggling, because we seem to be on an alien planet; having others label and taunt and ridicule us won’t make us feel any better, nor change our “habits” or “quirks.”

desert

And for everyone — don’t give up after a few weeks or months. It’s a process. That means ongoing, and possibly long. Have patience (or grow it, if you don’t already possess it). Have tolerance (that means for the other person’s perspective, not what you assume they think or feel).

And have heart.

Please.

9dfc2-july2b20152bmonthly2bhoroscope2bchart

I Need A Launch Team!

011

Good morning, everyone! My editing for Volume 1: Masters and Beginners is very nearly complete, and I am now (finally!) getting ready to prepare for printing and release!

So, as part of this whole self-publishing thing, I could really use a few additional voices (rather than just my own) shouting into the blogisphere and hopefully landing on some interested readers!

I’m thinking I’ll provide volunteers with a finished cover image (available soon!), a summary, and a few quotes if that strikes your fancy. The anticipated release date is April 21st.

Anyone who might be interested in participating, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll provide contact information! Cheers, moths!

017

Mini-Reviews: The YA Edition

img_0098

Hello all! Welcome to the YA edition of a bunch of mini-reviews of selections that are more family-friendly and less-tropey. (That went better this time…) I bring you more historical fiction selections this round, and I actually have one contemporary in here! (What is happening to me…)

Image result for the mermaid's sister   Image result for where the woods grow wild   Image result for journey to the river sea

  • The Mermaid’s Sister: This is a sweet and almost poetically-written tale that isn’t a traditional fairytale re-telling, nor is it set in ancient times, nor in an alternate world. It’s set in the mid-Atlantic USA in the late 19th century, and the narration is first person present tense. There are some religious undertones, but it doesn’t detract from the overall story, and it’s certainly appropriate for teens, as there are lines that the author doesn’t cross when describing violent scenes or referring to “delicate” matters.
  • Where the Woods Grow Wild: This is self-published by the very social-media-friendly Nate Philbrick. (You can find him on Twitter and Goodreads and WordPress, and he’ll be very nice.) His debut novel (with more planned in the series) is a sort of mashup of Narnia, Middle-Earth, and Wonderland, with fleshed-out characters and nothing over the top in terms of the violence (and again, it’s necessary because we’re talking wild woods with nasty creatures).
  • Journey to the River Sea: A historical fiction about an English orphan who lives in the Amazon for a while, this is extremely interesting. The viewpoint of colonialism presented is much more broad and objective than we might get from a 21st century publication, and I think that’s important for the next generation to be aware of as well — that in history, there are always several sides to each event.

 

Image result for catherine called birdy   Image result for wild wings book   Image result for a corner of white

  • Catherine, Called Birdy: Set in (I believe) the 13th century in Great Britain, this novel is a wealth of historical information without being boring. It has its humorous and poignant moments, and it does feel like snippets from the narrator’s daily life, rather than a history lecture full of dates and records of wars and who was king when.
  • Wild Wings: Here’s the contemporary. It’s set in the late 20th century in Scotland, and it focuses on surviving loss, and overcoming prejudice. There is a very sensitive death scene (no spoilers, but I feel that’s important to know before starting out). White Fang and I read this a couple of years ago when we belonged to a book club at our local library.
  • The Colors of Madeleine: (A Corner of White is the first. You may have to just forgive my sieve of a memory and look up the others on Barnes & Noble.com or something.) Each book in this series is pretty long (at least 300 pages), but the teenagers aren’t running off to party all the time. They’re kind of nerds, and the author clearly thinks this is okay, and I like that. There are pretty serious topics addressed here, too, such as political intrigue and how young is too young to have certain responsibilities. But these themes aren’t presented in too-heavy-handed a way.

 

Image result for discworld younger readers   Image result for discworld younger readers   Image result for discworld younger readers   Image result for discworld younger readers

  • The Discworld selections for younger readers, and non-Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. Believe it or not, there are works in here by the great Sir Terry that I have not yet read. (I know, what is wrong with me?!) The Johnny Maxwell series is a combination of 20th century contemporary/history/science fiction. There’s also the noteworthy Nation (not pictured here because WordPress is being difficult).

Since Mr. Pratchett’s passing (sob!!!) in 2015, so many of his books have been released in pretty new editions. And I’ve finally seen a greater offering of his genius available in American libraries than ever before. (And for those of you not in this country, I know for a fact this author is all over the internet.)

Mini-Reviews: The Middle-Grade Edition

014

Hello all! So, I’ve had a few requests to share some of the less-tropey titles in juvenile fiction that I’ve come across in my quest for, er, less-tropey titles. (Somebody remind me not to try that type of metaphor again?) Anyway, due to time constraints regarding other parts of life, I’ve decided to shove everything into a mini-reviews edition. But this does not mean sacrificing quality for quantity! So expect a longer than usual post, but still with the same amount of information I’m told you guys really appreciate from me. (*blushes and feverently hopes this to still be true*)

Note: These are all fantasy or historical fiction, because we just don’t do contemporaries around here. (It’s the autism.) But there are selections in here to appeal to a variety of readers (hmmm, well, if you’re animal lovers, a fantasy buff, or like history).

 

Image result for guardian cats and the lost books of alexandria   Image result for apprentice cat   Image result for the familiars

  • Guardian Cats and the Lost Books of Alexandria: This is an indie author (there are some typos, but they don’t detract from the overall reading of the story). The style is unique, the plot borrows from ancient and modern influences, and there is an incredible wealth of cultural references — from Eastern classics to Western literature to Greek/Roman mythology, and lots of cats. It was interesting, and fun, and just a nice, slightly rambling, easy-to-take-your-time-with read. Very appropriate for younger readers (tweens), because there’s no really bad language, no sexuality, and the violence isn’t gory and is used to portray why the bad guys are the bad guys.
  • Apprentice Cat: I haven’t read this one yet, but White Fang (my now-14-year-old) enjoyed it. He also found out that it’s the first in a series. I looked on amazon.com, and sure enough, there are at least two more following the adventures of this lovely ginger bloke.
  • The Familiars: This is definitely book 1 of more (I think there are a total of 4? again, check online). It’s sort of high fantasy, but aimed at middle-grade readers, and along with, again, clean language and the violence more resembling the action scenes in a PG movie, the world it’s set in is easy to understand. It reminded me of 18th century Europe, but the dialect and descriptive passages were quite simplified.

 

Image result for serafina and the black cloak   Image result for from the mixed up files of mrs basil e frankweiler   Image result for mrs frisby and the rats of nimh

  • Serafina and the Black Cloak: This series (book 3 comes out later this year) is on the bestsellers list, but I feel it deserves it. The writing style is appropriate for 5th grade and up; the plot reveals itself slowly, so that the audience can follow along at its own pace; and there’s a ton of history included about the Biltmore estate (of the Vanderbilt family) in North Carolina. Set around the turn of the 20th century, this story required a lot of research, and careful blending of fictional characters with real life places and people. (I’m currently offering a copy of book 1 in a giveaway that’s open until the end of March.)
  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: This was originally published in the 1970s, I believe, which means it’s considered a bit “dated” nowadays, and I haven’t seen it around much lately. That’s simply not fair. This is a novel that packs history and art and the meaning of finding yourself, with a touching and humorous coming-of-age tale with spunky protagonists and a unique narrator.
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH: Everyone knows Charlotte’s Web, but Mrs. Frisby is truly my favorite animal heroine of my childhood. This is one of those instances where the book is very different from the movie, too.

 

Image result for fortunately the milk book   Image result for the elementia chronicles  Image result for the copernicus legacy book 1

  • Fortunately, the Milk: Neil Gaiman does it again. He’s an excellent example of an author who perfectly separates his adult and his juvenile work. This novella is full of his trademark humor and wit and moments of laugh-out-loud craziness.
  • The Elementia Chronicles: For the Minecraft fan in your life. There is a LOT of action, and the style won’t be for everybody. (I slogged through — ahem, read this trilogy last year at the urging of White Fang, the all-Minecraft-all-the-time person in my home.) Written by a MC fan, a young guy (seriously, early 20s, I think), each book is quite long (hey, it’ll keep them busy for a while), but explores some very important themes, such as friendship, loyalty, and what’s worth fighting for.
  • The Copernicus Legacy: The last in this series is being released I believe later this year. Check the author’s official information for how many total (I did look it up, but sometimes my memory resembles a sieve). White Fang read books 1 and 2, and found them very enjoyable. The Copernicus Legacy combines history and fantasy, magic and adventure.

 

Image result for warriors the prophecies begin     Image result for warriors the prophecies begin new box set

  • Warriors: I couldn’t let go a chance to plug one of our absolute favorites. This series is a lifetime commitment, though, so do be aware of that. At present, there are more than 70 individual books published in this world, and many of them do have to be read in order. (Some of the fans have put together a fantastic Wiki page with all the information on the chronology of the series and character backgrounds and everything Warriors. If you search “warrior cats wiki” it should come up.)

If you go to the search bar in my side menu and look for posts on Warriors, there will be several. Last year, I pledged myself to at least finishing the “canon” series, and I made a post every now and then about my progress. White Fang has read a full 90% of the whole thing (including some of the manga and novellas), and by the end of 2015 he was officially obsessed. (By the way, his screen name even comes from a Warriors character.)

This is not just a fun little romp through a world of fictional feral cats. Some very real and serious issues are dealt with between these pages of harrowing adventure — not just the expected danger of oncoming cars or predators, but metaphors for racism and prejudice, class structure, how to know what’s worth fighting for, even killing for, and how to tell the difference between what’s acceptable and what’s right. Remarkably deep on a number of levels. My only warning is this — you can’t be a squeamish reader, death will slap you in the face easily every 100 pages. But seriously, this is so worth taking the plunge.