Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's Goals vs. Resolutions

A New Year is coming. Do you get caught up in making New Year's resolutions? I have in the past and then am disappointed when I don't keep them. As I reflect this year on my goals - not so much resolutions - I realize the best way to reach them is to make sure they are attainable.

Life throws curve balls all the time at us and therefore I have decide instead of making New Year's resolutions, I am setting short term and long term goals for the year.

Short term -- by the end of February I will have my manuscript fully edited and ready for submission (it has partially been requested at this point). Within six months, by June, I would like to have a rough draft completed of my already started sequel. By year's end - goal is to have the first manuscript sold, and the sequel polished and ready for submission. Are these goals doable? Definitely.

I truly feel that setting smaller goals makes them easier to reach. What goals are you making for the New Year? Will you be making short term and long term goals?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas - It's not in the gifts

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I love going and cutting our own tree, decorating it with the family with Christmas music playing, the family get-togethers and best of all the buying of presents for others.

This year has been a struggle for me to get in the Christmas spirit. After losing my job earlier in the year, finances have been tight. It was a toss up whether there would even be a Christmas this year in our household. Last week, yes, just a week before the big day, I was able to go do a little shopping for my children. Although happy that I could do as much as I did, I was still sad that I couldn't do more.

Last night sitting in the living room with the Christmas lights on, I was chatting with my 14 year old daughter. I mentioned that I hoped they weren't disappointed on Christmas. When she asked what do you mean? I explained that they were only getting one gift each and I just hoped they weren't disappointed. My heart swelled with pride as I listened to her reply -- "Mom, Christmas isn't in the gifts."

She's absolutely right. It's not in the gifts. It's in the birth of Jesus that we celebrate, in the time that we actually take to be with friends and family. In reflecting in this, I looked back over the past year with the financial difficulties, my oldest daughter being in a car accident and my husband away so much on travel. Our family was always taken care of despite the financial difficulties. There was always food on the table, heat in the house and a roof over our heads. Yes, my daughter was in a terrible car accident and from looking at the car I had wondered how she even walked away. But again, my daughter is here and looking forward to college and her adult life. My husband has been gone seven out of the last ten days for business trips and a lot more than that over the past year, but my husband has a great job that he absolutely loves and he is my biggest supporter in my writing.

So as I had to be told by my 14 year old daughter, Christmas isn't in the gifts. My life is filled with my gifts that cannot be found in a store. What do you have for gifts that aren't under your tree?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Connect The Dots

As I was sitting in my office the other night contemplating my next blog, my friend Denise Robbins asked me to join in some blogging fun in her countdown to the release of Connect The Dots. Of course, I said yes! If you haven't come to this blog in search of an answer, start at Denise's blog for the beginning of the Connect The Dots journey for questions that will lead you in search of the answers.

If you have been brought here by another link in search of an answer -- read on and in my Christmas memories you will find the answer.

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year. It's not in the gifts I usually receive, although I will admit I love getting presents -- but it's in picking out that perfect gift for whomever you're buying for. One of my favorite Christmas' was when I was younger, much younger. My dad worked for the electric company and as happened from time to time, he got called out to service lines due to a power outage on Christmas morning. My two sisters and I decided we wanted to wait for dad to come home before proceeding with opening more gifts. As time passed, and boredom set in, there was one gift under the tree from a family friend to the three girls. It was the perfect size for a board game. We decided to open that one present so we could play a game while we waited for dad to come home. Tearing off the wrapping paper, lo and behold we struck gold -- a five pound box of chocolates. No, no board game -- but chocolates. Well, of course mom wasn't game in letting us eat them all so my sister decided to pull out one more present to be opened. The one she had bought me that year. As I tore open the present, I found the game I had been waiting for -- CONNECT FOUR.

For the young people reading this, yes, we had games that weren't on the computer. We played board games for hours. Now I can still play that old favorite game on the computer when I am supposed to be writing -- much like the heroine that we are learning about in Connect The Dots. ;)

Be sure to visit Denise's blog to post your answer. And to continue the fun, the next question is:

What is the name of the heroine in Connect The Dots? Where did Denise get her last name? On Thursday visit http://www.crystalposey.blogspot.com for the next answer.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Contemplations

As I sit here this morning on Thanksgiving, I think back to the past year. This past year has been full of loss of employment, financial difficulties, car accidents and stress to the max. In it all, I am very thankful to have my family around me. My kids for being themselves. For all the hugs in the mornings and nights from them. I'm thankful my oldest daughter was not more injured in her car accident this year and has a full life ahead of her to enjoy. And I am extremely thankful to have the support of a husband who stood by me through the loss of my business, the financial difficulties following that and most of all for his support in all my writing endeavors. What more can a person ask for?

Has it been a tough year? Most definitely. Has it been a year that I can actually be the most thankful for? Absolutely. Life has a way of bringing you ups and downs, or speed bumps as my husband says, but in return you have the joy of realizing you're not alone in any of it. If you have family that stands by you, your life is more rich than money can bring.

Happy Thanksgiving to all -- and count your blessings.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Don't Take Life For Granted

A mother's worse nightmare is to have her child being late coming home and then receive a phone call from the police stating the child was in a car accident. That phone call in an instant changes everything--your outlook on life, what's important and how things are prioritized.

I'm a writer and I look for every opportunity to write. A quiet spot here, steal a few minutes there. After that phone call, my look changed for at least a little while. My daughter was home, bruised, but in one piece. The feeling of almost losing her was too much to take for granted that she was alive. One look at the car reiterated to me that I had almost lost her. She should have been more hurt by the look of it.

My own writing took a backseat last week as I spent every moment I could with her. The bruising and soreness lingers along with the feeling of protectiveness that has once again overtaken me. Yes, she is just about 18--within days now--but she will forever be that little girl that I adored and have grown to admire as she came into adulthood. She has a kind heart and a gentle soul. To lose something that precious is unthinkable.

So writing didn't happen last week and this week I'm starting slowly again to get into it, but suddenly it's okay to stop if the kids just need to talk or just need a hug. Writing I will always have, my kids I'm blessed to have and hope that blessing continues for many, many years.

I will never take another moment for granted. Always say I love you and give that hug. It might just be the last you give.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Okay, I didn't do as much reading as I had hoped to. I did finish Murder Came Calling by Nora Leduc. Excellent book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good mystery.

Why would a woman who is scared to death of water commit suicide by throwing herself into a lake?

After her mother's body is discovered at the cover, Annie Townsend confronts the fact that her father may be a murderer. Desperate to discover the truth, she launches her own investigation. With a growing list of suspects and no leads, she teams up with prison toughened, Sam O'Brien, a man her family despises.

Soon, Annie finds herself caught in a web of her own suspicious. Far worse, she's attracted to Sam and must protect her heart from a man branded by his criminal past and imprisoned by his hardened heart.

Cleared of his crime, Sam wants to live his life in solitary peace away from the prying press. When the tenacious Annie catapults into his left, he finds the opportunity to prove himself worthy to love again by catching a killer. ISBN-13: 978-1-60313-438-5

I hope everyone that was reading enjoyed the read-a-thon and made good progress.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The read-a-thon started this morning. I got a late start due to waking up with a migraine. After waiting for the migraine medication to kick in, I have finally started reading my friend, Nora Leduc's book Murder Came Calling.

I will be meeting up with author Denise Robbins in Nashua at Borders at 12:30 to read before her book signing. Come support her and Nora Leduc at this book signing along with other authors.

After the book signing at Borders, we will be headed over to Panera in Nashua to continue reading. Grab a book and come join us!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fear in Writers

I am a writer. The process of getting words onto a page, knowing that someday that book will be read and enjoyed, is an exciting prospect. However as you journey through the writing process there is more to it. Finishing a manuscript and polishing it, and polishing it and polishing it, on some days take sheer determination to sit down and go through the process. As the time gets closer to submissions for that manuscript, it can be down right terrifying.

As I prepare my list of submissions for my completed manuscript, 99% of me is ready to jump in and start the process--the waiting process. Yes, it is a waiting game after the submissions are made. However, that 1% says STOP. That 1% is fear. Fear of rejection, fear of failure.

While I push on through my journey as a writer, that 1% part of me needs to be shoved aside. I am writer. In being a writer, I know I must set aside my fear and continue the journey.

Part of pushing aside fear is knowing you are not the only writer with these fears. You are not the only writer with frustrations of scenes not working, rejections coming in. The best thing you can do is reach out to other writers who know those same emotions. The support you receive from other writers pushes aside that 1% for me. Gives me the confidence of yes, I am a writer and fear will not stop me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Let's Read

Reading -- a childhood favorite past time. In part I have my mom to thank for that. Every summer as children, we had to read every afternoon for some quiet time. Not only did it build our love for reading, but it allowed us to escape into the world of what was on those pages. Over the years I have expanded my reading into just about anything.

As my own children started to read, I created the same "quiet time" in the afternoons that I had grown up with. When the kids were really young, we would spend time with me reading to them in the afternoon. Now my two daughters read constantly. We share our books and I love to read whatever they are reading -- even if it really isn't an interest of mine, it keeps the lines of communication open between me and my teenage daughters as we talk about what we read.

Imagine my excitement when I saw this post on one of my writer friend's blog, Denise Robbins. What a great idea!!! I will take any excuse I can to pick up a book and read. Follow this link for more information http://24hourreadathon.com/.

Let's Read. Let me hear from you if you decide to read along with us!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Success Story - Autism Part 5

Our journey continued as my son got ready to make the transition to the school system at age three from Early Intervention. I must say after hearing a number of horror stories, I was extremely nervous about having the IEP meeting for the first time. The school’s special education coordinator requested that my son’s speech pathologist be present at the meeting. What a surprise to have the school ask her what exactly she felt my son needed and then everything was implemented. It was a very smooth transition.

The next hurdle was that my son was still using sign language as his way of communicating and the school speech pathology was “rusty” in her usage of it. The school’s speech pathologist was very good about coming to the house near the end of my son’s Early Intervention time and sitting in on the sessions to “learn about him”.

The hardest part of the transition was moving on away from “Jude”, the Early Intervention speech pathologist. She had become my son’s life line. She had brought him out of his shell. He was out of the closet where had sat rocking. He was communicating, and we even had eye contact more times than not. My son was devastated to know that Jude wouldn’t be coming any more.

Starting with the school was a tough schedule for my son. Not only did they put him in a small preschool three days away, but he also has speech therapy twice a week and occupational therapy twice a week, overlapping so he was out of the house four days a week. It was a very regimented schedule. In the time frame, the family was in turmoil, which my son spent a lot of time shut down due the family dynamics. His father and I were going through a divorce, the house was for sale and we were getting ready to move in with my parents.

The summer before kindergarten started we finally settled in to a new house and settled into a routine that my son responded to. In June at kindergarten orientation, the occupational therapist had to take my son out of the room in order to do sensory therapy so he could function. He missed the whole orientation. By the time, school started in September, he was settled and functioning very well.

At the end of his kindergarten year, my son was placed on a “consult only” list for speech pathology. Occupational therapy was still seeing him at school once a week for sensory therapy. He was flourishing in school and loved it.

We were meeting yearly at that point to introduce his new teacher to his IEP. However, at the end of first grade I was told he no longer qualified for an IEP due to the fact that he was not academically delayed. After testing in the prior spring, he had tested with math at a fourth grade level as the highest level in academics and never tested less than at least six months older than he was. That meeting was the hardest one for me to sit in. The tears flowed as fear gripped me. What would happen to him? They decided to put him on a 504 plan, which still kept him with a list of cues for his teachers as to his diagnosis.

Years flew by it seemed as my son grew more and more skilled in coping with his autism. He would come to me and ask for sensory therapy, but as time went by it was fewer and fewer between times that he needed it. Usually more around holidays or vacations.

The hardest meeting I had to sit in was the year my son was in sixth grade. The tears flowed uncontrollably as I was told he no longer qualified for the 504 plan. He had progressed to the point that he handled things very well in stride. There are times he still shuts down a bit at home, but he can hold it together at school. This was what we had dreamed and strived for. The hard work paid off, but what a let down. After all the years of being an advocate for my son – and seeing my son work so hard to learn sign language and then speaking – the feeling of relief was overwhelming.

This child at age two couldn’t stand to be in a gymnasium without headphones, a vibrating teether and a weighed vest. At age 12, he know wants to be a NBA player and loves basketball to the point that he will shoot hoops all winter outside. It’s amazing to me that this child, who used to sit in a closet and rock, not make eye contact at all and have violent tendencies when he was frustrated, is now an honor student, an amazing athlete and is the most loving child I have ever seen. Every day when he hugs me and tells me he loves me, my heart swells. For a child that never would hug, every hug is meaningful and never taken for granted.

If I have learned anything from this journey it is you can’t take anything for granted. Every small step is a major victory.

Autism is an unknown disorder. Every child is different, which makes diagnosing the children harder. One child may have more difficulty in speech while another speaks, but has more trouble with sensory and social issues. The children on this spectrum range with IQs from 10 to genius level.

It’s a spectrum that people need more education on. But in all that you hear in movies and talk shows where they show the worse case scenario – there are huge success stories out there like my son who had Early Intervention early in his left (13 months) and now you would never know unless you knew him when he was younger. Yes, he still has moments where he is overwhelmed and overloaded and needs help to come back to our world, but they are becoming fewer and farther between.

What a journey it is has been – one that is not finished, but I am fortunate to have been part of this journey.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Finishing Early Intervention - Emotions - Autism Part 4

As my son progressed through Early Intervention, symptoms of Autism became more and more clear to the speech pathologist. She brought in a behavioral specialist to help us learn how to get him out of the corner or the closet and entice him to interact more with us.

As he continued to sign more and more, his frustration level dropped and became more willing to be social. Although, he seemed to think by closing his eyes, he wouldn’t “hear” me speak to him.

Moving through this journey with him, stirred many emotions. At first there was denial that something could be wrong. Then anger. As I went to more and more classes on Autism offered through Early Intervention I learned about the grieving process for the child you had hoped for. As I look back now, I see how blessed I was through each step of this process with my eyes being opened to new possibilities and new obstacles. I saw my daughters react in similar, yet very different ways. My oldest daughter being five years older than my son was very soft hearted towards him. Being more gentle and giving in to him. My middle daughter, however, being only 18 months older then my son decided, “just come on” was her attitude. It didn’t matter that he was autistic, she instructed him on how to play with her. Both ways he responded to, though I must admit from me he responded best to a more militant style.

Sensory therapy before going anywhere, bring along the sensory bag filled with vibrating toys, sensory diet snacks became just a way of life. Was it exhausting? Absolutely. Where there rewards? Absolutely. I saw my son starting to respond more and more. Yes, there were definite times of shut down. Around holidays or any major changes in routine. However, being an advocate for my son and doing the sensory therapy for him allowed not only him to interact with the family, but made it less stressful for the family. It was a win-win situation.

At long last when my son was just turning three, he was given an official diagnosis of PDD-NOS. Pervasive Developmental Disorder, nonspecific. A diagnosis at the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. Once again we had validation.

Join me on the continuing journey and success story as my son starts with the school system.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Journey through Early Intervention - Autism Part 3

The journey continues with Early Intervention services. The speech pathologist that arrived was a bubbly, energetic person. Looking back, she became my son’s lifeline. Her first goal was to teach him sign language as a means to communicate. This isn’t an easy task when a child won’t make eye contact with you.

I learned what is known as pigeon signing. Basically instead of signing a sentence, you are signing just the key words in a sentence. Of course, to encourage eye contact, we were signing near our face so he would have to look at us. We were talking as we signed also so he could still hear the words associated with the signs.

Seeing my son pick up the signs and start to use them was a major victory step for us. He started signing at thirteen months and by the age of twenty-one months, he could sign well over 200 words. The violent tendencies stopped. The nonstop crying stopped.

The obstacles weren’t over yet though. At age two, the speech pathologist broached the subject of autism with me. She had worked with numerous autistic children, and the sensory issues were beginning to become more apparent in my son. I started to absorb everything I could read on the subject. It all seemed to fit.

We talked about how he wasn’t sleeping at night still. The very next visit, she showed up with a weighted blanket. It was a hand made blanket with ten slots in it. In each slot was a pound of washers fit together by a nylon. They could be removed to make the blanket lighter. The very first night I put it on my son at bedtime, he slept through the night. Sweet relief to have a full night’s sleep!

Suddenly right after his second birthday, my son stopped signing. Refused to do it, refused to look at anyone once again. If we signed to him, he would get angry. At a loss, I turned to the speech pathologist. She decided to experiment and started signing full sentences to him. Wow – what a change. It was exactly what he wanted and needed to progress. Within days he was back to signing and again, the violent tendencies stopped. He could communicate on a full level with us.

As he was progressing through Early Intervention, it became necessary to make my son his “signing book”. It was a book full of pictures and words of all the signs he could do. This is a book he carried with him if he went somewhere I wasn’t such as the Church’s Sunday School class. This helped his other “teachers” or baby-sitters to understand exactly what he was trying to say to them.

Continue with me next time for the tail end of my son’s Early Intervention years. Thanks for following this journey.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Journey begins - Autism Part 2

I sit here preparing to write this blog, allowing myself to go back in time to when my son was an infant and this journey began, and it is difficult. It was a lonely time for me, even though I had two other children. A time where hurt, anger and yes, even resentment at times filled me.

This journey started as an unknown trek through uncharted territories. I knew there was something wrong with my son by the time he was three months old. I would lay him down on a blanket to play and he would just stare into space. No reaction to his sisters on the floor with him with baby toys trying to get his attention. When he wasn’t staring into space, he was crying. The crying really got to me. A crying baby I can handle, but one that cries harder when he is held? It started wearing on my confidence as a mom. The feelings of “what am I doing wrong?” and “what kind of a mother am I if I can’t console my child” filled me.

My sister would call from out of state and would hear the baby crying, and her first reaction was always, oh, he’s crying, I will talk with you later. I would beg her not to hang up and to talk to me as I locked myself in the bathroom to try and find some peace.

As my son started crawling, his favorite place to head to was the family room closet. It was a closet that was pretty much empty. He would crawl to the side corner and sit in there and rock for hours. My feeling was that he’s a strange child, but he’s not crying.

At thirteen months, after violent hitting and biting whenever someone touched him, I called Early Intervention. As I said before, when they arrived and did the evaluation, he was evaluated to have verbal skills of a three month old. Validation broke me. I sat there with tears streaming down my face thinking it’s not me. There is something wrong.

By this point, as far as I could see, my son wouldn’t interact with his sisters very much – on occasion, but a lot of staring into space was still going on and he never made noises with the exception of crying. Speech delay, okay I could handle that.

Join me tomorrow for our continuing journey.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Autism - Part 1

Taking life for granted – how often do we do this? Over the past twelve and half years, I have learned a lot about small victories and taking things for granted.

Twelve and half years ago my son was born. By the time he was three months old, I knew there was a problem. There were no smiles, no coos, and no eye contact. My son was in a very different world than I was and it tore me apart. As time went by, it occurred to me that there was something wrong with him and I didn’t know how to go about finding out what.

A friend of mine who has a Down’s syndrome son encouraged me to call Early Invention myself and get him evaluated. By the time he was thirteen months old, my son had his evaluation and was found to have the verbal skills of a three-month old. Validation. Validation that yes, my instincts were right. Validation that someone heard me and really listened.

Over the first year of Early Invention, we taught my son sign language. I spent every spare moment I had learning about nonverbal children and sensory issues. As the speech pathologist worked more and more with my son, the word autism came out. I researched and researched. A name for the problem – was it possible?

Autism is such a hard spectrum to diagnosis as every case is different. A neurological disorder from birth affecting speech, sensory, and social skills in these children, yet affecting each one differently. For my son, he was completely nonverbal to over the age of three and his sensory issues were plentiful. Social skills that come naturally to more children had to be grilled into him before he grasped conceptions of acknowledging someone speaking to him, sharing and interacting with his siblings and friends.

The road was set to be a long and hard one. Join me in walking through my son’s journey in coping with Autism over the next few days.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Let’s talk stress. We all have it in our lives, but how do we handle it?

Stress can wear you down. How does it affect your writing? I can be bombarded with stress, and yes, I have lots of it lately. Between being at a job that is extremely stressful, having a husband leave on a business trip for weeks and then throwing kids’ schedules in the mix – there’s stress. There are days it gets me down and I just can’t write at all. The muse shuts down on me. However, learning to cope with stress and writing is a whole other story.

I love the ocean. To me there is nothing more relaxing than sitting on the beach and listening to the waves. I can feel the tension leave my body with each wave that pounds the sand. A few years ago, my kids gave me one of those pictures that lights up and has sound. The picture, of course, is of the ocean. When I am extremely stressed and want to write, I put the picture on, close my eyes and listen to the sound of the waves. Before long the words are flying from the keyboard.

How do you handle your stress?