March 18, 2011

Darren Fitzgerald: Book Review

Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:18 am by autismmommytherapist

In the past year I’ve become a volunteer for POAC, Parents of Autistic Children in Brick, NJ, primarily in the area of fundraising (strangely, I find I deeply enjoy asking people to part with money for a good cause).  Recently, a prominent member of the organization emailed me and requested I promote a close local friend of his, Darren Fitzgerald, on my blog.  It seems that Mr. Fitzgerald, although having no connection to autism other than his relationship to this POAC member, has decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from his published book to our organization.  Since I’ll promote anyone who wants to add to POAC’s coffers other than possibly Mel Gibson or Charlie Sheen (and even they’re negotiable), I was happy to comply.  So, I googled him (yes, I know how to do that all by myself), found his website, (here),and began to delve into both his personal and professional story.

I quickly learned his book is about the supernatural.  Bonus.

For those of you not aware I won second prize in the seventh grade science fair for my innovative interpretations of the inner workings of ESP, I will have you know I am a bona fide fan of all things unworldly.  My love for the genre embraced both “straight” sci-fi and horror, with my predilection for the former being mostly satisfied by Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, and my penchant for the latter being fulfilled by the master himself, Stephen King.  I spent more than a few nights during my childhood immersed in my covers with my tiny flashlight reading these works way past my bedtime (I suspect now my mother was aware of my transgressions), scaring myself silly, and rendering myself exhausted for the next school day.  Suffice it to say, I am well-versed in the literary aspect of the supernatural.

I know.  I was such a cool kid.

After perusing Darren’s website, I was happy to discover a link that took me to an excerpt of his story (I got to click the pages of a fake book to read the first chapter, is there nothing this new-fangled technology can’t do?).  I admit I was immediately drawn in, his writing style engrossing me enough to even make me forget my favorite show on the Food Network was about to broadcast.  His work chronicles the story of a “truly menacing and malevolent force that could cause serious harm and wanton destruction at a moment’s notice”, and of course, I was immediately hooked after reading both that gripping description, and the first page of his book.  I whipped through the first chapter provided to me, captivated by compelling characters, a well-developed plot line, and most importantly to me, the story’s inherent credibility, as it took place during his childhood in his own central Jersey home.  Long story short, I’ll be purchasing this author’s literary debut with glee, and not just because he’s contributing part of the proceeds to POAC.

Here’s some more great news.  There’s even an upcoming sequel.

So, if you’re in the mood for what appears to be an edge-of-your-seat  supernatural thriller, please visit Darren Fitzgerald’s website at:   http://hurleypond.com/bios.html and show him some love.

While you’re at it, you’ll be “showing the money” to POAC as well.  To you, readers, a most heartfelt thank you in advance!

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September 21, 2010

Sea of Love

Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , , , , at 7:45 pm by autismmommytherapist

A few years ago Jeff and I were in the middle of our favorite annual trip to the Jersey shore’s famous seaside towns when we happened to walk by a particularly beguiling fortune-teller, one who not only promised to predict the future, but also leave her customers satisfied. At the time my husband and I were high both on Kohr’s custard and that scent of the ocean that simply cannot be replicated by any candle, and together we decided satisfaction sounded great. I approached the booth and plunked down my money (Jeff graciously let me have the reading, because I’d received second prize with my seventh grade ESP science fair project just a few years back, and after all, I’d earned it). I informed my gypsy du jour I wanted a tarot card reading, and after pushing through the tattered velvet curtains and disentangling myself from multiple strands of crystal beads, my truthsayer and I got down to business.

There was, of course, the usual recital of love lost and found (I’m thinking my wedding ring might have helped her a little there), and struggles both vanquished and yet to come (she was a bit vague on specifics, but terrific on delivery). Then suddenly she became very quiet, absolutely mute for what felt like an hour, but since their trade depends on volume, the silence must not have lasted for more than thirty seconds. She actually put the cards down and grabbed my hands (at this point I’m searching frantically for the Death icon, wondering if she tells me about my imminent demise will I still be able to salvage the rest of this vacation), and looked me straight in the eyes.

In a compelling tone she said “In the next year, your reason for being here, your destiny, will be revealed to you”, then dropped my hands, returned to the reading to regale me with promises of one long marriage, kids, and travel, yada, yada, yada, all delivered with the same boisterous manner she’d employed prior to the hand grab that felt like the beginning of a séance. I felt like I’d better pay attention now, but the rest of the reading was inconclusive, no particular achievements pinpointed, yet no catastrophes revealed either.

I remember thinking maybe I had a hidden talent yet to be revealed to me, like knitting or the ability to send photos electronically, but that what I really wished for was something else, something far more tangible than a scarf or mastering a skill many kindergarteners could manage while simultaneously chatting online. I wanted a baby, we’d been trying for two years, and as my battle-scarred ass was protesting more and more indignantly at its grave misuse I knew we were nearing the end of our IVF rope, and time was running out.

The next month I was pregnant with the embryo that eventually became Justin, and boy, my destiny certainly was revealed to me that year. I feel like I should return to Wildwood and give her a finder’s fee.

And in fact, that’s just what me and my husband did this past weekend, embarked upon a seventy-two hour furlough on the southernmost boardwalk in a state which carries memories for us not just of childhood, but of adult sojourns too. As we strolled the uneven planks of one of Jersey’s greatest treasures we recalled trips from the past with our birth families, but more importantly, vacations from our glorious pre-baby days. We recalled the time I won $250 on those high-priced dollar slots (what was I thinking!), which at the time paid half my rent for the coming month. He reminded me of one late afternoon trip to Ocean City where we met our friend “Rick the Priest”, who while hailing from the cloth also remains one of our most fun-loving companions, one with enough gusto to indulge my lifelong desire to sport a unicorn tattoo on my ankle by submitting to a matching one of his own.

Yes, they washed off.

Of course, our most poignant memory entails the vacation a year into the fertility wars, where I had a broken toe from walking into my own sneakers, a debilitating case of bronchitis, and the denouement of contracting a particularly virulent strain of pink eye that literally rendered me blind for the last day of my trip (but not impaired enough to forego one last round of mini-golf). I recalled that I had been ovulating that week, and since we were taking a break from IVF had offered to put a bag over my head for the good of our future family, urging my husband to be a “trooper”.

He politely declined.

I find that reliving the memories is essential, not only because we are given the gift of remembering who we were, but are forced to assess where we are, where we’ve deviated from the path we set out for ourselves almost a decade ago, and where we’ve remained true to the plan. We have our two kids, our glorious, wonderful kids. Jeff, much to our delight, is still employed. I not only wrote that damn book that was scuttling around in my brain for years, but eventually mastered the use of my GPS as well. We are still married, and most days, even like each other. Perhaps that, and our sons’ happiness, is the greatest achievement yet.

As we continue to maneuver our way around the staccato boards of a path that marks both our past and our future, dodging the exuberant firefighters who are here for their annual trip down memory lane (I’ve never felt safer), I take Jeff’s hand, drink in that salty air, and try to decide if my next carb will be custard or fudge. And in case you’re curious, I decided on the seasonal pumpkin/cinnamon swirl with sprinkles (not jimmies!), AND rocky road, respectively.

Thank God my high school reunion is still a month away.

August 27, 2010

Signs

Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , at 6:21 am by autismmommytherapist

I’ve never been one to believe in signs (ESP and ghosts, sure, signs, hell no), but I’m beginning to wonder if someone, anyone up there, is actually trying to tell me something these days. My curiosity has been piqued by two specific ones, placed like bookends on either side of my town, words I am forced to confront almost daily in my travels. The first is a slightly doctored version of a stop sign, with the added bonus of the graffiti-scrawled words “DON’T” and “BELIEVING” scribed in the appropriate places on the familiar octagon. The second sign is one I confront every time I’m headed back from the boardwalk. Since I’m there so often, particularly during the summer, I frequently find my eyes gravitating toward a docked boat placed conspicuously near the road that proclaims to all who pass, “IT IS WHAT IT IS”.

I should mention that this boat has been grounded since at least the former presidential administration.

It occurred to me the other day that these two slogans perfectly sum up how I attempt to deal with the way autism has infiltrated our daily lives, the battle I continue to wage in my head as I try to move from acceptance to peace with it. When I think back along the last seven years I can acknowledge that many of my battles took place in “real time”, as my son and I were often involved in actual flesh and blood conflict. Over the years we have engaged in mortal combat over eating, sleeping, toilet training, leaving the house, not leaving the house, and trying to reduce the amount of pinching behaviors so my body didn’t constantly emulate that of a tye-dye shirt gone horribly awry. These conflicts were real and unavoidable, and I “fought to the death” with my dual commitments both to sticking with a demand, and saying no and meaning it. I knew that each issue that arose had to be conquered, exterminated, that the happiness of my son, the happiness of my entire family, depended on it. As a result of this hard work conducted not only by his family, but by multiple teachers, aides, therapists, and consultants, my eldest is predominantly a peaceful soul now. Every second of our prior conflicts was worth it for us to have reached this point.

I feel compelled to admit however that perhaps an equally odious battle has been fought along the way as well, one not played out before me with my child, but instead conducted in my head. Even when life in my household transpires as smoothly as it possibly can, I find myself constantly anticipating future problems, often trying to imagine what could happen next and taking steps to prevent issues from arising. Sometimes I feel as if this prevents me from fully engaging in the moment at hand, and I know that if I don’t snap myself back into the present I’ll mourn these missed opportunities to observe and connect, regret my inability to let the worries go. I recently said to my husband that I wished someone could have told me six years ago when Justin was diagnosed that we’d eventually be inhabiting the place we are now, that we would one day finally achieve a kind of peaceful détente. He turned to me, smiled, and said “Kim, fourteen years from now,  when hopefully we’ll have a wonderful job for Justin and a safe place for him to live, you’ll be looking back wishing someone had told you that as well.”

Touche.

So, I’m trying, really giving it a go this time now that we’ve attained a certain measure of consistent peace in our household with both of our boys. I am dedicated to attempting to create my own peace treaty, to give myself that gift of palpable release. After all, events in my life will play out as they will, and the reality is I have very little control over how it will all work out anyway (even though I tell myself I do). I’ve been working on shaping my sons’ behavior for almost a decade now, it’s time to conduct some fine-tuning of my own. Wish me luck, and I wish the same for all of you.

It is what it is, but don’t stop believing.