Adulting: The Game Show

Does anyone else ever feel like adulting is like the weirdest game show ever?

I am currently searching for a teaching job. When you’ve been interviewing and discussing possible classrooms and assignments, some conversations start making you giggle (hopefully to yourself). One such comment that has come across a couple of times is “you are a finalist for the position.” While that feels amazing to hear…it has also made me start feeling like I made it to the last step in a game.

Any minute now the deep announcer voice will come over hidden speakers and say something like: CONGRATULATIONS ELIZABETH! If you win, your prize is to be placed in a room with 15 mid-elementary students that you must teach mathematics, social skills, how to not pick their noses in public, and what a comma is used for. Good Luck!

And you know what, I really want to win this particular game!

How Do You Motivate?

Motivation:

Do you have it?

Do you want it?

Do you know where to find it?

 

I answered no to them all. Not that I don’t want to be motivated. Really, i would love the motivation to get up and go and do and finish etc. etc. etc. However, do I want to get motivated and then go crazy trying to do everything at once…like I usually do? NOPE. No thanks.

SO what next? If I don’t have motivation and I don’t want to get motivated and go crazy, what do I do?

I asked a few friends about motivation and how they handle it.

The top responses were:

  1. I just kind of do it when I have to. Having to motivates me.
  2. I want to get things done so I can do fun things. Rewards motivate me.
  3. I’m trying to get my life together and every small finished task motivates me.
  4. I have no motivation. I don’t care. Let me sit here.

Clearly I have a cross section of friends. So I pose the question to you:

How do you get yourself motivated (in general)? Do you have certain goals or activities that push you along? Do you have certain goals or activities that you need more motivation for?

Buzzing: Autism

In a recent discussion on personal buzz words for books I admitted to fellow BookTuber Acacia Ives that fairy tale re-tellings, specifically appealing to or talking about nerds, and autism are three of the big buzzes for me. When she asked why I realized that maybe my answer would require more than a few lines in the comment section (Mostly because I deleted three paragraphs worth of response before settling on a somewhat lengthy shortened reply).

So why is autism a buzzword for me? I haven’t ever been diagnosed as being on the spectrum, I didn’t grow up with a close friend or family member on the spectrum…so what’s going on?

I honestly cannot tell you when the first hook grabbed me. I can’t remember the first person I met with Autism, though I’m sure there were autistic students in school with me when I was younger. However, I can tell you that I can always remember being interested in the idea of autism. If you aren’t familiar with ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorder) you can find some helpful facts on the webpage for the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and on the Autism Speaks webpage.

For me the idea of autism resonates in a way that most perceived ‘special needs’ do not. I say perceived because I have begun to see autism as merely a different way to see the world. Having spoken to many students and peers with varying levels of ASD, as well as reading articles written by and about those who have been diagnosed, what I’ve found is that a great majority of autistic people find more issue with how people perceive them and with struggling in the ‘normal’ sector of the world than they do with their ‘special need’. To them, the only thing ‘special’ is how hard they have to work when placed beside those of us who don’t think in their type of brain. Yes they might need help discerning things like emotional intent, expressions, and even imagination. However, ‘special needs’ and extreme levels of help are often not what people with ASD really need.

As an author autism both intrigues and frightens me. I love the way autism works, the way the brain works with autism. Each person with ASD has a different tick. It changes, it evolves, it moves with them in ways others disorders and/or illnesses cannot. I am enthralled by the way people with autism work, the way the different levels of autism force people to change and create in order to make their way through the world. The intricacies of beautiful minds that become somewhat of a fear factor for those of us who aren’t forced to live with it. I often write characters who, in my mind, have a touch or more of autism. I never specifically state that, however, because I am afraid writing yet another autistic character who is just a stylized, simplified, watered down version of their true self. A candy coated pill for the ‘normals’ to swallow down and say proudly to each other that they read a story about autism. Or, conversely, an over dramatized, emphatic, in your face autistic character who makes everyone uncomfortable because those are so rare in real life that I would be completely untrue to those I love and who I feel have entrusted me with their significance. You see, that must be it. Autism is a buzzword for me because people I care about, a cousin, some students, a nephew..those people deserve me to care. They deserve for us all to care and to want to understand. That is why I think it Should be a buzzword.

Here, though, is what I do know about why Autism is a buzzword:

  1. It has been used as a scapegoat. 

When I say that it is used as a scapegoat, I’m not just talking about classroom inclusion discussion or lively debates about inoculations. While both of those have been batted around like a tired yarn ball given to a kitten, those aren’t the only things that like to use autism as a main battle point. In fact, when people discuss things like ‘mental retardation’ they like to also bring autism into that mix. While the rise in autistic diagnosis for the past 15 years or so has actually led to a decrease in the diagnosis of ‘intellectually disabled’ the likelihood is that the actual issues haven’t changed, but our abilities for detection have. As our understandings and tests have evolved, our ability to recognize those who learn, comprehend, and develop differently has become slightly more sophisticated. normal-wiring-compared-autistic-wiring

Now take all of that last paragraph and set it aside for a moment because I have also seen a few cases of ‘autistic scapegoating’ while in a teaching capacity that had nothing to do with whether or not a repetitive motion or strict schedule should be allowed in with the ‘normal’ kids (remind me to post about normal sometime…).

For Example: I have seen a student who was placed on academic plans, had ‘special’ classes, etc etc etc due to their ‘severe level of Aspergers Syndrome’ but who only exhibited signs of ASD when they thought about it. That’s right, the only time that student actually showed any discernible signs were basically when they didn’t want to do the classwork or wanted to get out of a project. It turns out that the family had been so insistent that a love for farm animals and interest in horses was a ‘fixation’ that must be a mental issue, the therapist finally gave in and diagnosed it. A new doctor did an examination and declared that said student just needed to be made to follow rules and stop being coddled..and that they had mild Attention Deficit Disorder and should be allowed to work on the family farm more.

  1. It is an unknown

The term ‘Autism’ has been around for roughly 105 years. On the WedMD’s A History of Autism page the discussion ranges from early diagnosis, to the combination of schizophrenia and autism, to the use of LSD as a treatment for autism in the 70s, and on to the 1980s and 90s as we slowly began to use behavioral therapy as a way to ‘treat’ autism. All very interesting and enlightening things. All facts that you should check out. However, none of the facts are definitive. Unlike many of the other mental or physical illnesses we deal with, autism has not been completely defined. We cannot pinpoint one or two specific activities that cause or worsen autism. In fact, each case is different.

autism-diagram

What that means for those not dealing with autism is that we have no idea what to do. We don’t know what it is to have that difference in our heads. This means that most of us will be made uncomfortable by the difference. No matter how progressive most people might claim to be, change makes us uncomfortable. Funnily enough, the change that makes us uncomfortable makes them uncomfortable from the other side of it. Think about that next time you encounter someone a little different from yourself.

 

  1. It is on the rise

 

As I mentioned before, the occurrence of an ASD diagnosis is up and rising, mostly because our understanding of the disorder has helped to create more appropriate understandings for people with what would have previous been lumped under the title of  ‘mental retardations’. However, the statement that 1 of 45 children is being diagnosed with some sort of ASD could throw people off. That does seem like an awful lot of newly minted autism sufferers.

 

All of this comes together, in my mind, to show that we are still bumbling through the world of the brain. That we still don’t truly know anything about autism, and that ASD is a term deserving of our buzz.

I didn’t realize that this term held so much importance for me until Acacia asked me that innocent ‘why’ and I hope that I have fired you up a little along the way as well.

Are you an Autism buzz worder? Do you have other buzz words that attract you to things, or repel you from them? Are you a writer that deliberately writes, or doesn’t write, a certain type of character because of things like Autism or tropes on special needs? Leave a comment and lets get a good conversation going!

156201-425x339-autism-brain

Villainy is Afoot

Writer’s Quote Wednesday is a fabulously fun and (sometimes) frantic bit that Colleen over at Silver Threadings has been fronting for a long time now. To see the post put up in her honor today (Ronovan, no one was fooled dear. Sorry.) check out this Mark Twain quote post, which is a fabulous little bit about character.

supervillains

That, ladies and gentlemen, is also what I want to talk about today. However, instead of discussing the type of character one shows through ones words, or the type of character a character seems to be through their language, I want to talk about the flip side of any good character…the villain. (bum, bum, BAAA).

hook

Hook, in Once Upon a Time anyway, works through his story and slowly becomes a hero.

I know I may have mentioned this once, or twice, before but I am often more drawn to the villain of a story. I can identify more with them, I can understand their convoluted reasoning, wants, and deepest (if not darkest) desires. There is a part buried deep within us that has those moments, those gut wrenching, knee-jerking, heart twisting villainous thoughts…and most of us choose not to go with those thoughts. However, those of us who are writers can use them to infuse our antagonists with real zeal and lifelike qualities…like an action figure of Darth Vader or Thanos.

Remember that the villain does not usually start out evil and bent on revenge...there is something that pushes them to it. Whether it be slight, imagined, or a huge cosmic twist, something happened and villains cry for help too.

Remember that the villain does not usually start out evil and bent on revenge…there is something that pushes them to it. Whether it be slight, imagined, or a huge cosmic twist, something happened and villains cry for help too.

The idea of hero and villain is very fluid and that is something I adore. Hook did save Peter a few times, after all, and the Beast becomes a prince with Belle’s love. Because they are seen. Because people try…seeing them as evil alone leaves them that way.

Loki may have a villainous agenda, but he honestly sees himself as working toward the good of his people, of his family, and of himself.

Loki may have a villainous agenda, but he honestly sees himself as working toward the good of his people, of his family, and of himself.

Villains are even more difficult to make believable than heroes. Heroes can have that ‘too good to be true’ quality about them and still be beloved (*ahem* Captain America *ahem*). Villains won’t be believable like that.

While I never believed that Draco was completely ruthless, the point here is that villains with no soft spots are unbelievable. They fall flat, no matter how horrid they are .

While I never believed that Draco was completely ruthless, the point here is that villains with no soft spots are unbelievable. They fall flat, no matter how horrid they are .

Oh, but we do!

Oh, but we do!

Alan Rickman, the amazing man who brought total life to Severus Snape, is a grand example. As he says, you are not supposed to like Snape. However, the baggage he slowly unpacks has us all feeling for someone we thought was the bad guy. And maybe he is in some places, but really he is just trying to do what he can to save the world his love tried to protect. The romance in the villainy has people the world over seeing the word “Always” in a new and different light.

If you want to see how your villain(s) stack up, check out the Better Novel Project’s post about it here and the One Year Adventure Novel’s post on writing good villains here.

Villainess1-400x600

Every villain has motive, these 39 give us a great place to leap from when discovering the catalyst for our characters.

So what do amazingly well done, interesting, sometimes even beloved villains look like? Well, let me show you a few:

The Joker is a multi-dimensional, insane, murderous villain...who loves and who, in some twisted way, sees Batman as his best friend as well as biggest foe.

The Joker is a multi-dimensional, insane, murderous villain…who loves and who, in some twisted way, sees Batman as his best friend as well as biggest foe.

Dr. Harleen Frances Quinze, Harley Quinn, a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who helped the Joker escape and had her license revoked when it was discovered. She escaped her cell during an earthquake  and became the fun loving Harley Quinn. Joker's sidekick and love. Their love caused a lot of horrific things...like Harley being sent off in a rocket! Complex emotions are difficult for us all...

Dr. Harleen Frances Quinze, Harley Quinn, a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who helped the Joker escape and had her license revoked when it was discovered. She escaped her cell during an earthquake and became the fun loving Harley Quinn. Joker’s sidekick and love. Their love caused a lot of horrific things…like Harley being sent off in a rocket! Complex emotions are difficult for us all…

stopme

Not only is this a great question for anyone pushing to obtain their dreams…it is the basic principle for villains. Pick out the nemesis and find a way to get around them.

Do you have a favorite quote about villains? Who is YOUR favorite villain? Do you adore a villain or two that other people can’t understand? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

Have perfectly multi-faceted day everyone! Happy quoting.

The Shelf

Deep in a secret room, high on the back wall, there is a shelf.

Far from mocking eyes and sticky hands,

this shelf is home to my memories.

Not pictures,

for they are displayed proudly throughout the house.

Not priceless Heirlooms…

no one trusts me with those.

No, these memories are mostly small

and made of plastic.

A Jem and the Holograms barbie,

A Lumiere smiling his cocky smile,

A flaming red haired Chucky.

his happy grin and terrible green shorts making me smile.

A Doug pen, A Spritelet,

Ninja Turtle Action Figures,

3 copies of the Labyrinth,

The list goes on and on.

Wonderful, Amazing, so bad they’re good, so good they’re perfect,

80s and 90s shows, the soundtrack of my childhood,

on a dark and dusty back shelf,

hidden from all,

Waiting for me to turn on the light

and Come Play.

Stressing

I have been stressing lately…ok, not just lately. For the past two months or so I’ve been stressed out about work, about the fact that I’m looking for work closer to home and might have to go back to working outside of education to accomplish that, and about how in the world I’m going to take care of my daughter while doing all of that and stressing too! It’s been horrid…and I have allergies cropping up that are really not helping matters any. I have worried, stressed, chewed over, etc every possibility I can think of, every second I can think!

Today I realized something…I don’t care. I don’t need to stress or worry or any of those other things. I need to work and work it out. Whatever it is that I have to do, I’m going acetaminophento do it. The two things I HAVE to do in my life are take care of my daughter and write. I just want to write. Whatever I HAVE to do in order to make it possible to handle those two things, well that’s just what I am going to do. I don’t know if I am talented at either thing, I don’t know if other people see me as a good mother or a good author…or even a good teacher if it comes down to that. But the truly amazing and liberating thing is that I don’t have to know.

Knowing what they think is not a requirement for me to live or to be happy. I have to trust GOD, trust that my belief in HIM and my love of the things that matter to me will get me through whatever happens. I will survive, or I won’t. But my daughter will be taken care of and my words will propagate and the world will spin and none of that changes if I stress or if I don’t stress. The only thing that changes will, hopefully, be the amount of acetaminophen that I take in every day. And really, I think those companies can survive without me.

Thank you for reading what I write and for encouraging me, even if it has only been through your ‘follow’. I hope that you are blessed and that your coming week is amazing. May your inspiration be limitless and your heart full.

Awkward

I just love being horridly, incredibly awkward. Add to the klutziness an unrelenting, insatiable need to replay every poor pitiful attempt at a social interaction over & over & over again and I’ve perfected the recipe for the low-sleep anxiety cookie.

Because honestly, if there’s one thing I know to be absolute certainty, it’s that the first time might not actually be so bad. But by the 53rd replay you’e got mimes crying for you in a box (Or worse, doing the slow clap!) while you fall all over your big mouth. (Oh and that hairless cats are really creepy, but that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax!)

And, of course, my most horrendous cases of this awkwardness are generally around either my boss/co-workers to the most highly attractive members of the opposite sex that are in the vicinity. At least these episodes are probably much worse in my own mind! Yeah, that’s it…totally not at all why I’m single and spend all my time at home alone with my toddler watching Curious George and Strawberry Shortcake. Good thing I’m fine dating Netflix! At least I rarely forget to stock up on popcorn, chips, salsa, and pickles…the ‘late night, date night’ foods of choice for my big chair marathons!

Writing Affirmation in the Classroom

I AM an author I KNOW how to WRITE The WORDS LIVE in ME And My Story WILL BE AWESOME

I AM an author
I KNOW how to WRITE
The WORDS LIVE in ME
And My Story WILL BE AWESOME

I just wanted to pop today and share a little piece of joy with you. I currently have 83 students in my 5th grade writing program. Our state test is this coming Tuesday. We (meaning me) are starting to really feel the pressure. So today, before beginning our practice test, I am leading my students in two ‘echo’ exercises. #1 is our (almost) daily tradition of S.W.B.A.T. (Students WILL Be Able To…) followed by the lesson’s standard. For example, my board today states “S.W.B.A.T. – Follow a Prompt and Write a Narrative.”

After that rousing chorus, as the students are turning to begin their work, I am calling their attention back to the other side of the board and leading them in the echo of “I AM an AUTHOR! I KNOW how to WRITE! The WORDS LIVE IN ME! MY STORY WILL BE AWESOME!”

Each class is given the opportunity to repeat this after me 3 times. The first time they are hesitant, not really sure what I’m doing. The second time they are slightly more confident but still not so sure of themselves and their abilities. The third time though…OH THE THIRD TIME! Their voices ring proud, strong, and true and you can just tell that they know what is what now. They are enthusiastic, they are pumped, and THEY ARE AUTHORS!

It is an amazing thing to see and hear and I am so very proud of each and every one of my kids. So proud, in fact, that I took a few moments out of an unexpected ‘free’ period to announce it to you!

Please keep in mind all of the kids across the states, and the world, who are about to start taking these tests. Encourage those you can and think of those you can’t. Sometimes a little affirmation goes a long way.

The Next Generation

Displaying CAM03656.jpg

My Monkey setting up for another day of arduous creating. Apparently this story was about Tinkerbell and the dog who sniffed flowers with butter.

My almost 2 year old daughter loves to draw and scribble in her Tinkerbell notebook. If you ask her about it she will go on and on about her work, usually yelling Bell Bell or talking about George and Minions in the few words you can understand. And at some point she will say ‘Like Momma’.

Like Momma, she carries a notebook just about everywhere she goes.(In fact, since her Happy Meals started handing out notebooks she may have MORE than I do). Like Momma, she sometimes only needs to scribble for a moment and sometimes she’s bent over the book for hours. Like Momma, she babbles somewhat incoherently at people if they interrupt her flow or she seems ‘stuck’ in her story.

A BIG part of me is proud that my daughter looks up to me, even though I’m sure that its mostly because she sees me all day everyday. I am proud of her creativity and interest in reading and writing. She isn’t quite 2 (we’re 3 months out from her birthday) but she is already fairly advanced (the hazards of her parent and grandparents all being teachers I suppose). I hope and pray that she keeps this curiosity and zeal as she grows up. That she retains the ‘weird’ and ‘quirk’ that makes up her joy right now and doesn’t let anyone tell her otherwise.

But do I want her to be a writer?

That is a tough question. I love writing. I adore putting my colored inks on blank paper and making the designs that pull a story from the air and my brain (same thing, right) and coalescing it in a form many will read. Most of the time I even enjoy the late night inability to sleep because I’m writing, or the jerking from a dead sleep at 3am because my subconscious finally figured out a piece of the story. I also make no money, have a tendency to block out people for days or weeks at a time while I write, get super mean if I can’t just sit and write when the mood hits me (not as much any more…toddlers tend to line out your schedule for you), and am usually tired from working on pieces when I should be asleep.

It has been said that writing is a lonely profession, except for the characters you make for yourself. Do I want my daughter to be lonely and listening to voices in her own head? Do I want her to wake up from a writing stupor and realize that she may have gotten fifteen thousand words written in a day and half, but she hasn’t eaten and hasn’t seen her friends in days? In the mind of a mother, do the pros outweigh the cons? I honestly don’t know at the moment.

The pros are worth more than any amount of cons in my life. If I don’t write I become irrational, erratic, and difficult to live with. Depression, anxiety, dark moods…they set in pretty quickly if I don’t have projects to think on and scribble out. My books and notebooks are some of my greatest joys, right up there with my kid and my flute. The lack of feedback and reviews on both my blog and my Amazon pages frustrates me to no end, but I wouldn’t stop writing for anything; I couldn’t. Do I want that kind of drive for my daughter….YES, YES I DO.

Do I want her to wind up a writer…probably not. But I suppose that’s going to be up to her to decide. Isn’t it?