Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Priscilla The Great' author, Sybil Nelson

Today I’d like to welcome Sybil Nelson, recently published author, as my guest. Welcome Sybil. So…let’s jump right in, shall we? Do you remember the first book you ever read?

I’m pretty sure it was Green Eggs and Ham. I’d have to ask my mother though.

Can you tell us what was one of your favorite books as a child? As an adult? Why?

Just one? I don’t know if I could pick just one. I know when I was in middle school my favorite author was V.C. Andrews. I just loved Flowers in the Attic. I recently re-read the entire series. I still love it. In high school, I loved Jane Austen, but I think my favorite book was Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I went through a huge European literature phase. Currently, I think my favorite book is I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe. If you can’t tell, I love books with female main characters. I always find a way to relate to them in one way or another.

What made you want to become a writer?

Honestly, I wanted to become a writer because so many books I read did not feature any black female characters. I used to find that books were either all black or all white. I wanted to write books that were diverse and featured a mix of characters.

How do you handle writer’s block?

I do math homework. I’m studying to get my PhD in biostatistics and I find that I get my best ideas while I’m doing something that’s as far away from writing as possible. Doing math fits that.

As a writer, what types of stories and characters do you gravitate towards? As a reader?

I usually like to read and write books that have a romantic theme. I’m a sucker for a love story. But my debut novel is a superhero kids’ book. It’s actually not my thing, but it’s what came to me so it’s what I wrote. I do have a couple of romantic suspense novels written under my pen name, Leslie DuBois. I’m also a big fan of historical fiction, oddly enough. I love Philippa Gregory. I’m not likely to find any black characters in those books, that’s for sure. But I still love them!

As a writer, what responsibilities do you feel toward your readership, if any?

I feel that I have to let the character tell the story. Sometimes I don’t agree with what the character says or does, but I feel I have to be fair to both the character and the reader and tell the story the way it’s supposed to be told.

What book are you reading now?

I’m reading A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. I loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by him and decided to give one of his other works a try. So far, it’s fantastic.

As a reader, what are some of your pet peeves when reading a published book?

I know I’m bound to have typos in my book. Some always slip through the cracks, but I hate glaring errors, especially with continuity. I once read a series of books that had tons of grammatical errors. I let those errors slide and made it to like book four, but when book four mistakenly reported something that happened in book one, I was done. It was like a different person wrote the book and didn’t know what happened in the previous books.

You’ve recently published 'Priscilla the Great'. Congratulations! Can you give us a quick synopsis?

Priscilla the Great is about a spunky twelve-year-old who learns that she can shoot fire out of her fingers as well as a bunch of other cool powers. With the help of her genius best friend, Tai, they figure out that one of her parents was a genetic experiment and that she inherited certain gifts. When her parents’ identity is discovered, Priscilla has to come to the rescue and save her family.

What was your inspiration for this story?

The original book was called The Adventures of PMS Girl and Priscilla got her powers along with her first period. The book went through three revisions with a major publisher and they convinced me to take out the period angle. Even though that publisher eventually dropped me, I don’t regret the changes. I think it’s an even stronger book.

Oh, I remember that! At the time I remember thinking, “What a fantastic premise!” I think these behind-the-scenes book negotiations are fascinating, but also help writers see things from the perspective of the publisher. So, what was their reasoning for taking out the menstruation angle?

They didn't think a story about the menstrual cycle would appeal to kids. They thought it was too embarrassing for the age group. I agree to a certain extent. I think it would be a great concept for an older audience. I think I might try to turn the idea into a chick lit novel one day.

I think you should. I love the idea. So, on that note, what are the challenges and/or differences in writing for a YA audience?

I think all ten books that I’ve written could be considered YA. I don’t think I know how to write to an adult audience. I love the innocence and the open-mindedness of Middle Grade and Young Adult readers. I remember when I was that age, I would read anything and everything. Older readers tend to have a specific genre they gravitate towards and mainly stick to that area.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on a Young Adult Historical Fiction novel about an interracial couple during the 1917 race riots in St. Louis

That sounds interesting. We'll look forward to hearing more about it and your other work soon. Again, congratulations on the publication of Priscilla the Great!


Sybil Nelson is represented by Uwe Stender of TriadaUS. Her debut Novel Priscilla the Great was published on December 15th, 2010 by WorldMaker Media. She is currently a PhD student at the Medical University of South Carolina and has a master’s degree in mathematics from the College of Charleston and bachelor’s degrees from Washington and Lee University.

Her Websites:

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Amazing Let Down

THE AMAZING RACE: Well, the Season 17 finale was last night. I was happy for the winning team (though I’ve been forbidden to mention their names because Kat taped the show and hasn’t watched yet.)

As a teaser for next season, they announced that it would be called: The Amazing Race: UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Dun, dun, dun!

Basically, season 18 will be returning team mates - you know the ones - previous contestants who argued the whole time or regularly broke the rules, whined their way through the race, couldn’t drive a stick shift, forgot their travel documents, were prone to crying jags. Yes, the entertaining people. So even though Kat and I won’t be accompanying our ‘dream teams’ -

- a pair of nuns, two gay guys who argue like an old married couple, an Italian grandmother/granddaughter team who have to be ‘bleeped’ every fifteen minutes because they have naughty mouths, a magician and his dimwitted apprentice, a sheep farmer and his wife, brothers who own & operate a sex toy manufacturing business in New Jersey, an old nudist couple who have trouble keeping their clothes on, a biker couple, and a pair of karaoke rappers - it should still be the most amusing Amazing Race yet.

The producers must have seen my pleas for more entertaining cast members on their web boards. Yeah, that’s probably what happened.

As you all know, we were preparing our submission package for next season - this newest announcement kind of puts the kibosh on our plans, but it’s just as well because we could both stand to lose a pound or twenty before we’re chosen as contestants.

And we will be chosen as contestants, mark my words. Any producer in their right mind - after reading our applications - wouldn’t be able to resist a menopausal woman and her erratic sidekick with a penchant for discussing her hemorrhoids (which we made much hay of in our video presentation, as well as the combined size of our mammary glands.)

Boobs + running = RATINGS, baby!

Below are some of the questions and my answers from the application. I've decided to share them because by the time a year rolls around and we're ready to submit for Season 19, I could be dead...or have figured out even better answers - in which case, why waste the clever bon mots, right?

You tell me: doesn’t this sound like a contestant you want to see fumble their way through a leg or two of the race before being carted off on a stretcher following a mid-air heart attack after being forced to bungee jump from the Eiffel Tower?

What is your current occupation? Please describe in 2 words.

Homemaker, writer

In two sentences, please describe what you do.

Mine the house for shit-pebbles hidden behind furniture by my toilet-challenged nine year old autistic son while fielding obsessively compulsive questions from my thirteen year old (also autistic) son. Then, I write about it.

How will these skills help you to win the Race?

I am a multi-tasker; I have dealt with enough bodily fluids that I don’t get queasy easily, and I have a good handle on my gag reflex and temper, respectively.

How long have you and your teammate known each other?

Three years

How did you meet?

Oh, we’ve never met in person. We’ve written a book together, though. We belong to the same writer’s workshop on the Internet. Tell me, how cool would our first meeting be if on THE AMAZING RACE? I see HUGE ratings. Huge like my boobs that would bounce up and down if I was required to run.

What do you hope to gain from participating in The Amazing Race with your partner (besides winning)?

Getting out of the house. I have two autistic kids, I don’t get out much.

What communication issues do you have with your partner that you would want to address while on the Race?

Kat (like my kids) has her own toileting issues. Apparently I’d be required to be at least 50 feet from the bathroom door at any time she needed to pee and 50 miles away should the need to evacuate arise. I would address this by regularly tormenting her in this regard, since the idea of going to the bathroom anywhere out of her comfort zone (the bathroom at her house) is most certainly a mental health issue for her.

What is the biggest disappointment you have experienced from your teammate?

She has steadfastly refused to videotape herself belly dancing so I can post it on YouTube. We’re working through it.

How did you resolve it?

I Photoshopped her head onto the body of an overweight Belly Dancer and sent it, via-email, to sixty of our closest friends - and all of her co-workers. Because, that's how we roll, people.

What famous person reminds you of yourself?

Bette Davis

What famous person reminds you of your teammate?

Truman Capote

What is your biggest pet peeve about your partner?

The above mentioned toileting issues and her inability to discuss said issues. I’ve suggested therapy. She’s suggested I mind my fu*%^ng business.

What time(s) together with your teammate are/have been the most memorable? Why?

We’re both fantastic writers, so working on our novel WAITING FOR KARL ROVE was pretty damned cool. (SHAMLESS PLUG: Soon to be e-published on for Kindle.)

What is the worst experience you have had with your teammate? Why?

I will direct your attention to what I refer to as The Snuggie® Incident. I purchased one and Kat said that spoke volumes about who I was, as a person, teasing me about it relentlessly and with the same regularity as an octogenarian whose first meal of every day consists of bran cereal and prune juice.

How are you and your teammate most alike?

We have the same sense of humor as well as a great love of coffee, chocolate and cigarettes.

How are you and your teammate most different?

She is menopausal while all my hormones are all still working effectively.

How could the Race change the current state of your relationship?

We’d actually meet in person for the first time - which could possibly mean the slow disintegration of our relationship…but anything for ratings, right? Because of her malady, you could look forward to tension between us, particularly if we were the first team to be eliminated because of our inability to work together effectively due to her hot flashes, mood swings and regular flatulence issues.

What is your opinion of foreigners?

Foreigners are people too. I’m very foreigner friendly. In fact, I would probably enjoy foreigners more than most of my immediate family.

What was the last vacation that you took?

Does my overnight stay at the hospital giving birth to my second child count as a vacation? If not, it’s been over 12 years and I only have a slight memory of a zoo in Miami and sand chafing my thighs.

Are there any locations in the world to which you absolutely will not travel? If so, identify where and explain why.

I’d rather not spend the night at Karl Rove’s house, though I would if it was one of the stops on THE AMAZING RACE itinerary. I’d do it, but I wouldn’t like it.

Have you ever traveled outside of the U.S.? If so, to where?

Is Mexico considered outside the US? I took a cruise there once in high school, but can only remember half of it due to the Singapore Slings. (which was the last time I drank alcohol, BTW)

Do you speak or read any foreign languages? If so, which one(s)?

My husband is Puerto Rican, so I speak a little Spanish, but only the naughty words. Basically, enough to get me beat up or arrested.

What country and place would you most like to visit and why?

Beggars can’t be choosers, but I’ve always wanted to see Yemen. Because I like the way it sounds when you say it: Yemen….Yemen…

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

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Oh boy. It would have been more funny if it hadn’t left the poor kid traumatized for life. And yet, it was all I could do to stem the tide of giggles threatening to explode from within me and wash over Jake like a tsunami of parental dysfunction.

The topic for today: Sex, via a study sheet from 7th grade Health Class. Let me remind you that Jake is thirteen years old, autistic, and riddled with OCD. He’s smart, overly sensitive and worries over everything to an infinite degree.

I pulled out Jake’s homework file and began quizzing him on his vocabulary words in preparation for his health test. It became immediately clear that he had a handle on the True/False questions as far as sexually transmitted diseases were concerned.

Quite a conundrum, then, that when I asked him to define sexual intercourse, he seemed to draw a blank. So while he knew, for instance that, ‘some STD’s are very dangerous; a few can permanently damage or kill you’, he didn’t actually understand how someone would get the STD in the first place.

“Jake, what does sexual intercourse mean?” I asked nervously.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know what sex is?”

We’d briefly covered the whole ‘how babies are made’ a year or so ago, but apparently Jake hadn’t put together the fact that penis + vagina = baby (or anything else, for that matter). They’d also covered the topic at school last year, via one of those ‘Your Maturing Body’ movies. But Jake doesn’t even like the idea of discussing kissing, so it’s somewhat of a touchy subject. We’d also previously discussed matters of which we Catholics refer to as ‘self-abuse’. He’d been duly informed that ‘tickling his wiener’ was completely normal and wouldn’t cause it to fall off. It was touch and go there for a while, but after what I assume were many private trial runs, and his penis remained firmly attached, he’d stopped obsessing about it.

Now, with his vocabulary list clutched firmly in one hand, I proceeded to give Jake a nuts and bolts description of sexual intercourse using one erect finger and a hand curved into a little circle.

“So…” I concluded, using as many of his vocabulary words in the sentence as possible, “…this is the penis (finger) and this is the vagina (hand in a little ‘o’) and a Mom and Dad have sex like this and the semen comes out of the penis when the Dad ejaculates, and there is sperm in the semen.” I was about to explain that the Mom produces an egg and when the sperm and egg meet, a baby is made, but he’d already put his hands over his ears and started whining.

“Oh my God! Stop. I don’t like Health Class. I want to take Spanish. When does Spanish class start?” Jake’s face was in full-on panic mode, while my inner sadist was hopped up on Red Bull and ready to rumble. I am proud of the fact that I was able to keep it under control, letting only a minor chortle escape.

“Not until the end of the semester, Jake. Calm down. This is a perfectly natural thing.”

“No, it’s gross! And now I don’t know why someone wrote on the bathroom wall, SEX RULES, because it does not rule, it’s GROSS!” Jake turned his back on me and sat in a nearby chair. “Only weird people do that.”

“Jake, I hate to tell you this, but if your Dad and I hadn’t done it, you wouldn’t be here.”

Jake mumbled something I didn’t catch, slumping down further into the chair. I took a deep breath and looked over the rest of the vocabulary words. Next on the list: clitoris.

Are you kidding me?!

Listen, we’d only minutes earlier discussed the definition of foreskin and circumcision - before we got into the whole STD thing - and he wasn’t happy about the fact that I’d let the pediatrician lop off a part of his penis he never knew he had. He found it pretty disturbing, but managed to assimilate that information and move on. If the whole sex thing had him freaked out, I was sure it was unwise to venture further into female pleasure.

Even though the definition on the study sheet seemed rather banal…

Clitoris - The part of the female genitals that’s full of nerves and becomes erect. It has a glans and a shaft like a penis, but only its glans is on the out side of the body, and it’s much smaller.

…I can assure you that this definition - should I have chosen to explain it - would have left Jake thinking I had a tiny penis, and that wasn’t something I was comfortable with. I made an executive decision to skip it. In fact, we skipped a few, which didn’t bode well for his future test score, but at that point I felt the need to pull him back from his horrified, trance-like state, rather than try to explain things that I didn’t think the kid was even remotely able to process.

I nudged him around to look at me and after a few moments of obstinate silence, we went over a few of the easier words like erection. I used the finger again for a visual aid.

Jake cringed.

Unfortunately, when we got to buttocks, the politically correct Mom in me felt it necessary to elaborate on the fact that not only man and women had sex, but also men and men, as well as women and women. Don’t judge me! Anus was one of the vocabulary words so the discussion naturally progressed! Also, we’ve had the homosexual discussion before - when Jake was six, in fact - and asked if a man could marry a man. I’d used age-appropriate language, but he knew the basics. (I will also note that the vocabulary list alluded to oral and anal sex in the definition of sexual intercourse.)

“So, not just men and women, but also men and men can have sex, and when they do, a man can put his penis into the anus of another man.” I held my breath.

“Oh, come on! Be serious, Mom.” Jake groaned.

“I’m serious, buddy. That’s how gay men have sex. It’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Nothing about sex is bad as long as both people want to do it together.”

“I’m never doing it. NEVER!”

“Well, that’s up to you, but I’m pretty sure you’ll change your mind one day.”

The thing is, I don’t really know if Jake will change his mind one day. Any sort of physical intimacy, shy of a hug or a peck on the cheek, makes him uncomfortable. All I can do, for now, is give him the facts and hope that one day he comes to a better understanding of sex, love and emotion. There will certainly need to be more discussions to follow, but all in good time.

I’m just thankful he’s only got about four more weeks of Health, and then he’s on to Spanish class.

Hola Jake. ¿Cómo estás?
(TRANSLATION: Hello Jake. How are you?)

Bien gracias. No vamos a discutir el sexo de aquí, ¿verdad?
(TRANSLATION: Fine thank you. We won't be discussing sex in here, right?)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Amazing Race: Chunky Addict Edition

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…or as Kat calls it, Death March 2011.

You see, I’ve got an idea, spurred on by the fact that I doubt Kat and I will ever be chosen by the producers of The Amazing Race. As one website describes the show:

“The producers of The Amazing Race are looking for a certain charisma and personality from the contestants and want the teams to have an interesting or strong relationship. You have to look good on camera and offer a certain dynamic and confidence if you want to be chosen.”

We’ve got charisma, confidence and personality in spades - but neither of us are ‘camera ready’ in the sense that you won’t find a six pack, eating disorder or head of blonde hair between us. (Unless an anorexic, bleach blonde aerobics instructor happens to come stand between us.)

So we bandy about ideas in a flurry of e-mails discussing our next move:

KAT: Okay, the looking good part disqualifies me right away...they probably wouldn't even bother reading our HILARIOUS applications if they saw the video first. Although I'm not opposed to putting it up on YouTube and making an ass of myself. Now how on earth do we get followers, though? Could it be possible that people would click on this particular video when they seem determined to avoid all our other videos? We’ve done everything short of appearing on camera in a ménage à trois with Dick Cheney, to no avail.

JENI: Hmmm. Yes, people seem to be purposely obstinate regarding our continued need for attention and praise… (

KAT: I'm TOTALLY committed to losing 20 + pounds by the end of January, so at that time a new video can be made where I SHOULD look better...or at least thinner. Jeni, start walking and lifting weights! The Race requires major upper body strength which I KNOW I don't have and SUSPECT you don't have! Hahaha!

JENI: Yeah, all my upper body strength is in my mouth. ;) But, I’ve got an idea. Let’s pitch them a BETTER reality show idea. One that would provide much more humor (as well as audience participatory mocking and even higher ratings!)

Amazing Race: Chunky Edition

All contestants must be at least 20 lbs. overweight and be smokers. They will not be allowed to smoke at all during the race (on and off camera times included). Any contestant found cheating (on first offense*) will be subjected to a loss of 4 hours of race time and public humiliation in the form of mud-wrestling a native of whatever country we’re visiting, while wearing a bikini (applies for women AND men).

(*Second offense - Immediate expulsion from the show with a parting gift of two King Size Nestle Chunky™ bars to comfort them on their humiliating trip home. NOTE TO PRODUCERS: Look at me! I’ve even got your first sponsor.)

Also, contestants will be given a strict diet to adhere to which contains no sugar, saturated fat or carbs. They could weigh contestants before the start and at the end to see how much weight we lost running our fat asses off!!! It's like The Amazing Race and The Biggest Loser rolled into one!

I can already see it:

Death March 2011: Update

Excerpt from a report from the producers to the Studio Execs. after first round eliminations:

As the contestants wheeze their way toward the end of the first day, thighs chaffed, skin mottled and sweaty, the first pair to be eliminated was Jeni Decker & Kat Nove, who mutually decided they’d have more fun spending the rest of their time in Amsterdam in ‘Toke Up’, a popular cigar-slash-marijuana bar. They were last seen entering the establishment, laughing uproariously before an ensuing coughing jag required Ms. Decker to drag Ms. Nove the rest of the way inside the building.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What I'm Willing To Do To Get On The Amazing Race

I have one question. Where are all of the Reality-TV-Worthy oddballs - people we can really sink our teeth into? If I were on The Amazing Race, I’d want to compete against a pair of nuns, two gay guys who argue like an old married couple, an Italian grandmother/granddaughter team who have to be ‘bleeped’ every fifteen minutes because they have naughty mouths, a magician and his dimwitted apprentice, a sheep farmer and his wife, brothers who own & operate a sex toy manufacturing business in New Jersey, an old nudist couple who have trouble keeping their clothes on, a biker couple, two politically incorrect humor writers (my friend Kat and I could cover that base) and a pair of karaoke rappers.

I think the producers need to spice that show up, so my friend Kat and I are going to apply. I’m told that show needs an injection of humor. I don’t watch reality TV much, but since Kat asked me (begged, actually) to apply to be her partner on the show, I started taping episodes in mid-season.

So, I watched last night.

What I’m seeing already concerns me. I don’t look like any of the contestants, and for me to watch an entire season of this show, I’d need more than what they’re offering.

So, Kat and I are willing to help them out in that regard. I think a menopausal woman and her erratic sidekick (the mother of two autistic kids with a penchant for discussing her hemorrhoids ) would be a welcome addition to the show.

When I told Breadwinner (the husband) what I was up to, he was pleasantly supportive, though I’m pretty sure his left eye started twitching, ominously. He asked, “How long would you be gone?”

I said, “A week…or twelve.” I’ve never been away from the kids for more than the time it takes to do my grocery shopping, so it would also be an adventure for him. He’s a good father, but he’s not exactly tuned in to the delicate balance required to deal with two autistic kids on a daily basis. I’m not sure he’d even be able to get them both ready for and safely delivered to school. But for a chance at winning a million dollars, I’d do just about anything and cheerfully make Breadwinner suffer for it.

Let him deal with scat-a-licious undies, bedtime rituals, and Jake’s asking him, “I’m going to heaven, right?” like 759 times a day. Besides, I’m pretty sure it’s his turn. I need a vacation.

What would I do, you ask, to get my hands on that cash? Anything they ask. (Is the whole casting couch thing still a reality?) I will run till my big bazooms give me black eyes - and still keep going like the Energizer Bunny - I will eat anything but a cockroach, I will jump out of an airplane (with a parachute) I will tongue-kiss a sweatshop owner in Yemen (I’m hoping to go to Yemen. I like the way it sounds when you say it.) I will run topless through the middle of town singing Ricky Martin’s “Shake your Bon-Bon”…I will do a great many things and the stuff I won’t do, I’ll force Kat to do.

That’s what partners are for. Stay tuned for blog updates on our Amazing Race effort.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shut up and Let Them Touch Your Junk

Man I’m tired of all of the media coverage about the TSA crap. Seriously, how slow does the news cycle have to be that we’ve got to make such a huge deal of this? Isn’t North Korea making more bombs, or doesn’t that count as terrorism? I guess that isn’t as ‘sexy’ a story as a little public molestation.

Frankly, I don’t get what all the hubbub is about, bub.

For my money, I’d rather know that everyone getting on the huge metal object that I’ll be shooting through the sky in, is being fondled for bombs. I have no problem with submitting to any and all procedures required to make sure my airplane lands safely and I get to live another day. Hell, I’ll take my bra off if you need to check underneath the twins, and I won’t even need to remove my shirt to do it* - THAT’S how serious I am about pat-downs in the interest of my safety. (*All the ladies out there will know what I’m talkin’ about. It’s a party trick we’re taught when we turn fifteen and we spend our lives amazing the males in our lives with it. Apparently it never gets old.)

Look at it this way. The whole premise of the ‘last line of defense’ is frightening in and of itself. I mean, if someone has managed to make it into an airport with a bomb, we’ve kind of dropped the ball, haven’t we? That means the CIA and FBI and all of those other secret government agencies listening in on phone calls - presumably to ferret out possible terrorist intent - haven’t done what they get paid the big bucks to do.

I’m not sure why a terrorist group hasn’t figured out that they could get three or four of their buddies and each strap on a bomb, then position themselves in a few different areas of the airport: Check in, baggage claim, airport bars and the duty-free shop. And don’t forget the guy who could set off a bomb WHILE IN LINE to be screened - you know, when he’s in the middle of a crowd of a few hundred impatient passengers. Talk about irony.

3 - 2 - 1- KABLAM! I don’t know much about explosives, but I’m pretty sure they could at least take a few chunks out of a terminal and maim or kill a few hundred people in the process, without ever getting near the airport screeners.

And what about Disney? They aren’t patting people down to get inside the Magic Kingdom. I always thought, if I were a terrorist, that sending a small militia of terrorists in with bombs inside their Mickey Mouse backpacks would be a fantastic way to get our government’s attention. The children, people!!! They’re taking aim at the CHILDREN!!

Or what about dispatching terrorists to apply to be Santa’s at the local department stores!!!! Macy’s doesn’t require a full body scan on entry, so at noon on the ‘big day’ every jolly-old-terrorist could push the button and blow St. Nick to smithereens right in front of dozens of kids. Multiply that by a couple of stores per state and you’ve got a story that won’t lose steam till Easter, my friends.

Okay, take a breath now and hold your hate mail. What I’m trying to say is this: if the ‘bad guys’ want to get us, there are plenty of ways they can get us. So, if airport security wants to feel us all up prior to boarding so that we are able to take another flight on another day, and not crash in a fiery explosion, I say let them do it. I think it’s pretty damn amazing that we can walk onto a big flying machine and in two hours be in another state. That alone seems kind of risky, and if I’m willing to take that risk, I’d like to mitigate any other risks, whenever possible.

(By the way, I'm not saying the proceedures in place are the most effective - that's another topic altogether. But until such time as they implement different proceedures, how 'bout we just do what we're asked to do?)

So, if I may be so bold…just shut the hell up and let them touch your junk. You never know, you might just like it.

Or, you know, you could just… not fly. It’s not a right, people. It’s a luxury.

Just sayin’.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm Tired of America

I think I watch too much ‘news’. I feel guilty if I don’t try and keep up with what’s going on in the world around me - specifically the United States and what we’re doing, what we’re not doing, what we should be doing but can’t muster up the balls to do - and yet, I feel this gnawing sense of dread when I do.

I know that I’m tired of America, but I don’t want to lose faith in Americans. If we are to believe everything we watch in the national media, you’d think we as a society are a festering pustule bent on infecting those around us; we’re a sociological version of the swine-flu and we’re catching.

I refuse to believe that. I have neighbors, good ole’ beer-swilling boys with tractors who would be the first to stop and pull you out of a ditch if you slid off the road in a snow storm. Lovely men and women who are compassionate and kind to one another in their dealings. People who have hope for the future.

But I’m not seeing so much of that on television news coverage so I’m starting to have my doubts.

I’m seeing political rallies and campaign ads where the signs and sound bytes have crossed from rude to racist; violent and incendiary. I’m seeing talking bobble-heads on every news program who seem to think they know what’s best for me and my family and are bound and determined to make sure we get it, whether we like it or not - via less than meaningful reporting and the hawking of blatant lies.

I’m seeing people who should know better pervert the Constitution in a way that suggests if they don’t like how things are going, it’s perfectly appropriate for them to pull out their guns and bust a cap in the ass of anyone who disagrees with them. (Second amendment remedies for those of you who don’t watch the news channels with morbid fascination like I do.)

I’m seeing senators and representatives who treat their jobs like a political chess game with no thought for how their partisan wrangling and manipulation is going to pull a country that’s already teetering on a precipice into a vast chasm from which we will not be able to escape.

I’m tired of newly elected politicians saying ‘America has spoken’, even though it’s abundantly clear they think we’ve said something we haven’t. Just because people overwhelmingly said ‘no’ to one thing, doesn’t mean that gives policy maker’s carte blanche to tick a little ‘X’ in the YES box next to everything on their own agenda - not to mention propagandize everything the other side says to the point of absurdity.

No, I do not think the rich need tax cuts, because of some sort of misguided assumption that certain people espouse, which presumes jobs will miraculously trickle down like powdered sugar on the doughnut that is America. That’s just not going to happen. How do I know that? Because small and large businesses have tightened their belts and happily learned how to work with less manpower since the rise in unemployment. If consumers aren't consuming, there isn't the demand there once was. So until such time as the demand rises, I don't see businesses taking that kind of risk - and if they do take that gamble, I'd be concerned about the viability of that business. To me, it's common sense.

To politicians, not so much.

We’re in an altogether different economic time than we’ve ever had to endure and it’s hard to cure all that ails us when there are powerful forces bent on heading backwards and hoping it’ll all come out in the wash, simply because they don’t have any practical solutions.

We might as well consult the Magic 8-Ball* at this point because I’m not seeing much in the way of real and lasting solutions that will ever come out of a congress bent on logjam.

*ANSWER: Outlook not so good

I find myself wondering how Obama’s message of HOPE and CHANGE suddenly translated into: I WILL FIX EVERYTHING IN TWO YEARS AND WE'LL ALL BE DANCING IN THE FUCKING STREETS. FREE McRIBS FOR EVERYONE!!!

When did he promise that? And how, pray tell, did we come to the untenable conclusion that it would only take twenty-four months to clean up the steaming pile of guano that was left in the Presidential inbox by the last Oval Office tenants? I’m here to tell you - as someone with a vast knowledge of everything scat related - it takes a butt-load of disinfectant to clean that kind of mess up.

Is it just me, or have we become an impatient and unforgiving lot, incapable of understanding that not everything is drive-thru ready? That we’re going to have to dig our heels in for the long haul - that life is not Twitter, where you can tickle out 140 characters and move on to the next topic. Where our future health, security and well-being aren’t instant gratification kinds of things. There is a lot of heavy-lifting, compromise and fixing to do in America. It’s not going to happen overnight and we should understand that, but it’s not going to happen at all unless we start listening to one another, instead of SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF OUR LUNGS, trying to shut down the debate coming from the other side.

I wish everyone would just simmer down and listen for a minute so that, perhaps, clearer heads can prevail. As a famous song says… you can’t always get what you want…but you get what you need…

What I’m really afraid of, though, is that we’re not only not going to get what we want, but we’re not even going to get what we need. Particularly our children; the beneficiaries of the mess we’ve all created. And make no mistake - we’re all guilty. We’ve all participated in one way or the other.

The state of our Union doesn’t exist in a vacuum. So while the greedy banks, mismanaged car companies, shady, self-involved politicians and partisan media have all done their fair share of fucking up, we’re not exactly blameless. The fabric of our collective society is sewn with many individual threads. Each thread represents one of us and when one thread weakens or breaks, a hole forms. A hole can cause a tear.

From my perspective, Old Glory’s in need of some mending.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as anyone. So let me proffer a supposition, and you can assume the following applies to the ‘royal you’:

If you didn’t get out and vote and instead chose to sit and yell at the TV on election night - if you took out a loan you knew was not within your means or charged those credit cards up to the hilt - if you said things like nig—(insert racial slur here) or fa—(insert homophobic word rhyming with maggot here) in front of your kids, or even subtly disregarded who someone else is, all out of misguided fear and/or ignorance, allowing the hatemongering to spread like an insidious disease - if you’re happy to blog, Twitter or Blackberry your life away, or watch hours of reality television instead of helping your kid with his homework (or reading to him) because his school is severely under-funded and he’s not getting the attention he needs, but you justify not taking that extra hour with him because you’re just too tired and, anyway, that’s his teacher’s job (and she should be happy to have one in this economy) - if you think those people over there on unemployment are just lazy and don’t want to work - if you think your religion is THE religion - if you think because you make a certain amount of money and have health care, but that other guy, over there shouldn’t get quality medical attention because he can’t pay for it—

…if you did or said anything causing that little voice in your head to whisper in your ear, you might be contributing, however little, to the huge mess we’re in now.

If you are one of those few people who doesn’t have that little inner-voice, well then you’re just a sociopath and probably beyond help. But, if you’re the average American who can’t plead insanity in a court of law, and find it easier to blame the person who has a different outlook on things, so be it. But I’m here to tell you we’re ALL to blame. You can take that to the bank. (Just don’t try to get a loan because you’re screwed in that regard.)

We’re all either actively doing it or doing it by default, because every day, in every way, if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem. We’re all to blame. Except our kids. They’re not to blame…yet. But one day, they will be. They’ll be the ones making the choices and decisions based on how we taught them - and the way it’s looking right now, it won’t be long before they’ll be looking for someone to blame.

One guess as to who they’ll be looking at.

When future generations don’t have those things called Medicare and Medicaid because they’re effectively non-existent - and when we’re ninety and find ourselves homeless because the well of Social Security has run dry - who will we look to then?

Who will we blame?

I suppose it will be easy enough to rely on tried-and-true habits; to blame it on the media or politicians or the guy down the block who doesn’t agree with us. But in the end, it won’t matter who we blame because it won’t change reality - we’re giving our kids the shaft and we’re doing it blatantly and knowingly and there is absolutely no excuse.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just tired. Maybe I need a Xanax…or five.

I have to believe America's better than how we appear in High-Definition TV - or I might as well not even bother to get out of bed in the morning. Maybe I’m wrong. God help me if I am. God help us all.

God. Yeah, that’s a topic for another day, so I’ll leave you with a little video. Feel free to address all hate mail to Jeni. There’s even a convenient little clickable e-mail link at the top of the page.

God Bless America…or something like that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mise en abîme

She was a stunner, a poet; Sylvia Plath was one of her many peers…

Anne Sexton was an amazing poet, complete with the obligatory mental health issues that seem mandatory to creative genius.

What is it about the creative process that often attracts persons of ‘challenged’ mental health or substance abuse? I tend to think it is our propensity for self-examination, to the point of self-flagellation. It is not easy to look deep into the crevices of the soul—particularly when what you find there is something less-than Thanksgiving Dinner conversation material.

It is also fascinating to note that writing, in particular, seems to be a narcissistic endeavor. “Look at me! Look at me! Listen: I have something you need to hear!”

It is no wonder, then, that many writers have gone the way of alcoholism, depression and in many cases, suicide. That isn’t an option I could ever ponder, simply because in my case I’d consider it the ultimate in selfishness. I have two autistic kids. They’ve got enough shit on their plates without me bending over and taking a dump on their peas and carrots.

But I can relate to the inclination in theory, anyway. I’m not a poet but I can understand where it all comes from…that need to discover self or other; to shine a light on life’s sores. That taste in your mouth when you stumble upon the perfect word or phrase. The urge to get it all down, lest it disappear forever.

Anne, this one’s for you, lady.

~ Mise en abîme ~

feelin’ very Plath today
trouble keeping ennui at bay
the straw that broke the proverbial cliché
was running out of mayonnaise

earsplitting life rains on my cavalcade

how long
can over-ripe fruit hang
before the inevitable thump
where hope and reality collide
bruising skin and ego

slightly Sexton round half-past three
with no fur coat, vodka or garage
forced to rethink my hapless homage
grudgingly substituted mustard

I have a king, Mr. Dream
smaller than yours, no doubt
equally dear
I wonder will it whimper to a close
last regret siphoned like stolen gas
from a tank already parched

‘I’m going to heaven, right Mom?’ he asks for the seventeenth time today

Yes! with conviction I mutter
though I do not really feel that way
I’m not against God, per se
kids should have imaginary friends

grousing Woolf due to winter’s malcontent
pond behind the house is frozen
gathering stones for my pockets, it seems
time was not well spent

chores and drudgery the tender frenulum
between need, want, must do something
halting frenetic energy
with no deliberate target

“Heaven’s real, right Mom? ” OCD!

standing between two mirrors I see
me within a me
what? is it
where? are we going
when? I’m ready
why? not now

‘I’m going to heaven, right Mom?’ Is death the freedom to begin?

now, now
I foment to a mercurial eruption


standing between two mirrors I see
the containment of the container within the contained
constant self-reflection, endlessly repeating frames
hauntingly familiar

stalled between am and will be
I could shuffle toward Sylvia’s path
but with my oven out of gas
I’d have to use the microwave

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Love My Snuggie®

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for those as seen on TV products. Now that proclivity is leaking over to my kids.

Jake put a Criss Angel Mindfreak Magic Kit on his Christmas list; his resolution for 2011 is to learn to levitate.

Then, on Thursday when I took Jaxson in to school, one of the little girls we see going to class every day had a Pillow Pet®.

As soon as Jax saw it he started to sing: “Isss a piw-wo, isss a pet. Iss a piw-wo PET!”

(TRANSLATION: It’s a pillow! It’s a pet! It’s a pillow pet!)

Perhaps I should consider cutting down their television time, because it’s getting perilously close to Christmas and the advertisements are coming fast and furious. Jaxson screams out his requests during every commercial break and because those appear at intervals of every seven minutes or so, I find myself screaming, “We’ll see!” about eleven hundred times a day.

(Please don’t do the math or you will be able to accurately extrapolate the amount of time I allow the kids to watch television and, frankly, I don’t need your judgment—silent or otherwise.)

Anyway…my favorite ‘as seen on TV product’ is the Snuggie®. I used to be ashamed to admit I actually bought one, but now I am an unabashed card-carrying member of the Snuggie® contingent. My friend Kat Nove teases me about it with the same regularity as an octogenarian whose first meal of every day consists of bran cereal and prune juice.

She asserts my Snuggie ownership says a lot about me. I assert she can take her assertions and shove them into her Texas-sized boca grande. I will no longer apologize for my Snuggie-love. Snuggie keeps me warm on frigid Michigan nights as I watch Dexter or Glee. Snuggie is machine washable—the importance of which can not be underestimated in my household. Snuggie is soft and cuddly when I add a capful of lilac-scented fabric softener to the rinse cycle.

Snuggie is my friend.

My only complaint is that Snuggie is ‘backless’, meaning it’s basically a fancy hospital gown with longer, plusher, sleeves. I know, I know… it’s supposed to be sort of a lap blanket, but the thing that would make it perfect would be to sew two Snuggies together at the seams:

Snuggie II: The Ultimate Schmatte

Sales would go through the roof if they invented Snuggie Ulti-schmatte. Every Jewish, Italian and Puerto Rican septuagenarian (and I) would be lined up to get one.

So, get on it, Snuggie people. My ass is cold.

If you’d like to see what Kat Nove has to say about the Snuggie (and more) , check out her v-log post:

And now your moment of absurd Zen:

Snuggie Parody

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Addicted to....Deadpan Karaoke

As the Remote Control Terrorist says, ‘the crazy broads’ are at it again. Just to refresh your memory, the RTC is Kat Nove’s significant other and that’s the moniker she thought best suited the man she occasionally shares her vagina with. At any rate, because we wrote him into WAITING FOR KARL ROVE (our fantastic book that hasn’t been snapped up by a publisher yet) we had to give him an alias. Family members can sue and the last thing either of us wants is family cashing in on the eventual success we know is imminent. We’ve both worked too long and hard for anyone but us to reap the rewards of our literary genius.

What the RTC was referring to when he called us ‘crazy broads’ was the following video, which we put together to cheer up a sick writer friend. Much Photoshopping was involved, not to mention more deadpan karaoke (sung to the tune of Addicted to Love) and a really cheesy musical rendition of Robert Palmer’s song - one that will cause him to roll over in his grave when he eventually dies. (He’s still alive, right?)

Anyway today’s blog is only for one person - you know who you are mister - but the rest of you are more than welcomed to partake.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Sound of Music

Nine year old Jaxson is a music aficionado. Never mind that he’s just learning to put a complete sentence together. Music, it seems, is the great equalizer - no matter who you are, race, religion, sexual orientation, left brained, right brained, pea-brained, autistic or not, it’s one of the few things in life we all agree on. Content, perhaps not, but I’ve never met a person that wasn’t somehow moved by music.

Shaken, stirred, encouraged, befriended, buoyed, comforted; whatever word you choose to associate with how music affects you, none among us can say music doesn’t do something to that inner part of our souls that only being touched by harmony and melody can.

Jaxson is able to associate the track numbers on the CD’s loaded into the car stereo with his favorite songs. I can load up to six disks at a time, and once he hears the first few notes of any particular disk, he remembers his favorites by number.

With camera in hand (because he films on the way to school most days) he shouts out his requests from the back seat.

“Seven, Mom!” That would be Sunny Side of the Street off Willie Nelson’s Stardust Album.

…just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street.

I had an Erasure disk loaded this week and he simply had to listen to Drama over and over:

…one rule for us, for you another - do unto yourself as you’d see fit for your brother…

If I’m listening to Ringo Starr, he loves Six O’Clock:

…I don’t treat you like I like to treat you. Every planet in the sky’s in your eyes…

That one always chokes me up because it could be the soundtrack of our relationship. (He and Jake are my Venus, my Mars - my little Mallomars!)

Jaxson loves Rufus Wainwright’s Movies of Myself:

…start givin’ me something, a love that is longer than a day, stop makin’ my heart say something that it doesn’t want to say…

And to my utter delight, the child loves The Beatles. Because this is something I share in common with my own parents, I get a little misty every time he yells, “Three, Ma!” ( Maxwell’s Silver Hammer )

“Seven, Ma! Hurry!” he happily requests. ( Here Comes the Sun )

But only once has he ever tried to sing along to a song. I will never forget that day. It was one of the most miraculous experiences of my life, particularly because of the song in question. For some reason, the child - out of nowhere, mind you - started singing The Beatles’ Because, giving voice to the sounds and lyrics he’d heard so many times before:

…because the world is round, it turns me on…because the wind is high, it blows my mind…love is old, love is new; love is old, love is you…because the sky is blue, it makes me cry…

My children blow my mind, their amazing brains turn me on, and their ability to connect to things in a way that I cannot imagine—well, it makes me cry. Whatever your preconceptions are about autism, make no mistake: while my boys might not be making the SAME connections you or I are making, they’re making their OWN connections. To music, to people, to things they taste, touch, smell, feel… and our differences, however significant or insignificant are a daily reminder that there is never one way ( or right way ) to experience anything.

Every journey is unique and we should all remember to be happy for the simple privilege of life and the little miracles we experience along the way.

With that, take a moment to enjoy one of those little miracles - The Beatles, Because.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Can't We All Just Get A Bong?

My cohort, co-author, co-conspirator and friend, Kat Nove went to the Austin, Texas Rally to Restore Sanity this weekend, and all I got were some lousy pictures.

No, that is not bitterness you hear - it’s sarcasm.

I watched from the cheap seats (my couch) switching back and forth to various cable news channels looking for coverage. I started getting irritated due to the universal lack of knowledge vis à vis the demographics of the attendees. The talking bobble-heads were saying things like:

“But will these translate to VOTES on Tuesday?”

“The audience is predominantly young and white.”

“Is this crowd as big as the Beck rally?” (“Yes, and the collective IQ was much higher as well,” I replied in requisite snarky fashion.)

I’d like to challenge these ageist misconceptions with Kat’s photos of the crowd. But, first off, you should know that Kat - her own self - is menopausal.

At any rate, here we have an attendee who’s blatantly not conforming to bobble-headed presumptive demographics. By the way, I’m not posting this to shame my almost-senior friend - Her Moodiness has spoken well and often about her particular affliction and its symptoms. Besides, at 41, I’m not that far behind her; I’ve already got the aches, pains and mood swings to prove it.

Regardless of your political affiliation or age, one thing is certain: Tomorrow you need to get your ass to the local polling station and cast your vote. Otherwise you don’t have any room to complain when we collectively start to circle the drain. Make your voice heard, people.

Get out and vote!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Friends Don’t Let Friends Speed-Dial Drunk

My blog theme this week seems to be stupid is as stupid does. Since we know whatever we post will be here forever - just like a drunken early morning phone call that’s captured on an answering machine - I feel the need to get this all down on the net. I’d like to have a record of exactly what was going on in October of 2010 for when I’m an old codger who wants to take a stroll down memory lane.

So, you remember the Clarence Thomas hearings, right? Where Anita Hill, a co-worker, accused him of sexual harassment? Let me refresh your memory: Pubic hairs on sodas - yeah, that’s the one.

Okay, so Clarence’s wife is either a morning drinker or she’s extremely pissed at her husband and it has taken her a few years to decide which passive-aggressive path to take toward revenge. It seems a morning phone call to Anita Hill is what she decided.

"I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day."

I’d say someone had a nice 7am highball with her Cheerios. The message was left on Saturday morning at 7:30 am, which makes me wonder if Clarence was a little less than….um, generous in bed the night before.

ONE WORD to Supreme Court Justice Thomas: RECIPROCATION.

I’m pretty sure if you’d curled your wife’s toes Friday night, she wouldn’t have felt the need to dial under the influence.

Ginny, if your hope was to ‘put this all behind you’ (Satan, get thee behind me!) I’m not sure you understand what BEHIND means. Your wacky early morning antics did just the opposite. You tossed that bomb AHEAD of you, right in the path of the oncoming politirati.

My advice: A little less happy hour and a little more Sesame Street in the morning. I’m sure Bert, Ernie and Big Bird can teach you a thing or two about opposites.

Plus, that Grover is a pip!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Karl's Angels

Yeah, I’m pretty sure HE’S up to something. This has Karl Rove’s chubby, grubby paw prints all over it. These chicks can’t be for real, so unless this is round one of the newest reality show - America’s Most Idiotic Politicians - I’m going on record now:

This is a classic Republican tactic: obfuscate and redirect.

While all of America is distracted by the whirlwind of lunacy that is the primary election coverage, something is happening behind the scenes.

What I want to know is, what's the great and powerful Oz doing behind the scenes while the rest of us guffaw our way through debates and absurd sound bytes? Be afraid, people. While we pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, I’m certain he’s up to no good. Like starting another war. Take a look at his gals and you tell ME if these wing-nuts can be ANYTHING but subterfuge for some greater rear assault on America:

First, the big guns:

Sara Palin

Momma Grizz is traveling all over the US with her bottled water and bendy straws in tow, working TeaBaggers into a mouth-frothing tizzy. Anyone who doesn’t think she’s running for President in 2012 has probably had a lobotomy. Sara is making waves AND cash, hand over fist. I guess quitting her old job was a money-making proposition, but not exactly a quality I want in a leader: Sara. Palin. Is. A. Quitter.

I’d also like to think all possible political appointees have at least a general grasp on basic geography, science and…reality - real reality, not the TV show version. But Sara and the gals following her lead don’t seem to think that kind of stuff is important.

Take, for instance…

Christine O’Donnell

Oh, Christine. I just want to hold you to my breast, rub your head gently and say, “Oh, honey…no. You don’t need to be in politics. Sweat pea, we know you’re trying to be Sara Palin’s mini-me but don’t you think that’s lowering the bar a tad too low? We’ve been told you’re not a witch, but I’d rather be represented by Broomhilda than someone who doesn't have a firm grasp on the Constitution and Amendments. If you're applying for the job, I'd like to know you can tell when an entire room of people are laughing AT you, not WITH you.”

And, let’s talk a minute about what the Catholics like to call self-abuse

"It is not enough to be abstinent with other people, you also have to be abstinent alone. The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery, so you can't masturbate without lust." --says Christine-who-is-not-a-witch.

So according to you, I can’t touch myself? Oh, and didn’t you say evolution is a myth?

Let’s move on to…

Sharron Angle

This chick looks less like a radical conservative and more like an escaped mental patient. Her bullet points:

--she called the unemployed spoiled welfare queens.
--she said entitlement programs are like worshipping a false God
--she calls flouridization a Communist plot
--under her care, American prisons would implement a Scientology massage program.
--she once opposed a local high school using black athletic jerseys, which she called un-Christian and wicked
--she opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, saying pregnancy under those circumstances is God's plan.

Of course, those in her own party would just love her to knock Harry Reid out of his seat, but once she’s sitting in it, I’m wondering if those forced to sit next to her would be concerned with their sudden proximity to wack-a-doodle. I can hear their inner monologues:

“Can I catch crazy?”

Isn’t anyone else afraid?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

De plague, de plague!!

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Sick kids in ‘da house, so I’m not much for blogging this week. That whole snotty, gooey, hacky-cough while I’m trying to sleep has really harshed my mellow.

I will post a couple of social stories because I’ve had some e-mails from readers wanting to know what they look like. Actually they’re so damn cute! I save them since his teacher usually laminates them for me. Probably because it’s harder for him to rip them that way when he‘s not happy about the content.

First, here’s what his daily schedule board looks like: (each kid has their own)

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I think I’d like to have one made with regard to ‘sickness etiquette’. It would read something like this:

When Jaxson coughs in Mommy’s face or wipes his snot-ridden hands on her mouth, Jaxson will cause Mommy to run to the nearest anti-bacterial dispenser in the house and douse her face as if she’s been given a dose of the plague. That is NOT GREAT. When Jaxson covers his mouth when he coughs and then washes his hands that is GREAT. When Jaxson is home from school sick and Mommy doesn’t have time to write that is NOT GREAT.

Friday, October 15, 2010

“How ‘bout a kiss, buddy?”

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When I picked Jaxson up from school yesterday, I asked how he did that day. I always ask and then I hold my breath and hope for the best.

“Great. He was a little squirrelly for a while. Anytime we change something up he gets tense. Oh, there is something…”

Then his teacher walked over and told me Jax was chasing boys around the playground and when he caught them, he kissed them. “Yeah, we may want to figure out a way to get him to stop doing that.”

I had to laugh. Social story, perhaps? I love social stories. The teacher prints up these one page ‘stories’ that involve pictures and symbols to explain a teaching moment to the child that might not otherwise understand the lesson if given verbally without visual cues.

I know where the behavior comes from. Jax loves Popeye. We have DirecTV and he records episodes and watches them over and over. Popeye says it to Olive Oyl all the time and Jax has taken to saying it. Sometimes he grabs my face and says, “How ‘bout a kiss, buddy?” and then lays one on me. I think it’s cute. If chasing boys and kissing them is the worst faux pas he commits at school, I’m fine with that.

His father wasn’t as charmed as I after I relayed the story to him. Bread Winner said to Jaxson, “Don’t kiss boys, kiss girls.”

“Don’t tell him that!” I chastised. “He’s not supposed to be kissing ANYBODY. Kids pass around germs! Plus it’s not socially appropriate to be kissing his peers in a school setting. He needs to respect personal space.”

Bread Winner leaned in again and whispered to Jax, who was wriggling in his arms because he was being tickled. “Only kiss girls.”

I groaned. “You know, sometimes you’re not very smart. I could care less if he’s kissing boys or girls.” Bread Winner gave me an upward eyebrow and I silently said my standard prayer for at least one homosexual child.

You gasp?

Well the thing is, in his young life, my elder son, Jake, has done, said and asked more than a few questions that leave his not-yet-burgeoning-sexual-preferences up in the air. I want to make sure I’m open to all options so he knows that he, too, can be open to all options.

When he was five Jake asked me, “Mom, can a man and a man get married?”

I’d been cleaning up the back porch while he played on his swing set and I stopped sweeping, resting my chin on the end of the broom handle.

“Well, yes they can.” Because I knew he wasn’t asking if two men could go down to the county courthouse and obtain a marriage license or civil ceremony certificate, or move to Canada and marry without the Jesus freaks stoning them on the way in. He wanted to know if two men could live together, love together, and have a family. So I believe I gave the appropriate response.

“Is that weird?” he asked, sitting in the swing, using a toe to dig in the dirt.

“No, nothing’s weird if you don’t think it is, honey.”

“But is it normal?”

“What’s normal?” I asked, wondering how he defined the word.

“Mom! You know what normal means!” He’d become irritated, because Jake only likes to deal in facts. Black or white, right or wrong, his mind left no room for the possibility of fluidity in any circumstance. Yes or no answers should be given whenever possible, and as far as he was concerned, the world would be a much easier place to navigate if everyone conformed to that notion.

I can’t even remember now how I’d defined normal. With Jake, there were always these discussions that left me feeling anxious and slightly nauseous. Not because of the content, but because I was always afraid I might say something that would come back to bite me or him in the ass later in life. I wanted him to make his own choices; about sexuality, about politics, about religion, about people in general.

But his most recent questioning on the topic, at age twelve, now led me to believe that I couldn’t win for losing.

“Mom, can I read your book when it gets published?”

We were en route to school, and damn if I didn’t already have to deal with a hot topic.

“No, honey. It’s for adults.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s about a young boy who leaves home when he’s seventeen and lives in New York for twenty years before he returns home.” The book in question was Far From Happy, a novel I’d recently signed a contract for publication on. My first published work.

The protagonist was a male hustler.

“Is it like your Macy movie? With the boys kissing?”

Yes, in fact. Macy’s Wait was a short film my mother and I had recently completed, and apparently he’d seen me editing the video, though this was the first time he’d mentioned it.

“Well, sort of. The boy is gay. Remember when I told you what gay means?”

“Yeah, that’s gross Mom.”

I had exactly nine minutes before I dropped him off in front of his middle school and I used every second of it explaining the facets of the word tolerance and how I didn’t actually like the word, because it presumed that there was something that needed to be tolerated about another individual and I preferred to believe that we are all equal and beautiful because of our differences and no matter who someone is, or what they believe, love was never wrong and it was nobody’s place to judge someone else for who they loved.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I finished with this, “Now, you understand that some men love men, and some men love women, and some women love men, and some women love women, right? And any of those combinations is perfectly acceptable. It’s okay that you would rather kiss a girl, but—”

“—eeeew, Mom! That’s even more gross!” he hissed as he opened the car door, grabbed his backpack and looked around to make sure none of his classmates had heard the end of the conversation.

When the car door slammed and I pulled around the circle, I was shaking my head; no closer to an answer about my own child’s sexual preferences. It seemed, at the moment, kissing anyone was gross.

And that was just fine with me.

At any rate, a gal can dream. In my version of future paradise, Jake will be the eccentric, homosexual Dog Groomer to the Stars, and take me with him on his international travels.

Jax—because he’s just recently become verbal—traipses around in my dreams, multi-lingually. He not only speaks perfect English, but goes on to master Spanish, French and whatever they speak in Yemen, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Yes, my dreams include one kid escorting me to Broadway shows when I’m seventy, and the other, my personal translator while I experience a bit of long overdue globetrotting. I’m not saying they have to do these things, just that it would be a nice repayment for my maternal efforts.

But, as someone very smart once told me, hope in one hand and crap in the other—see which one fills up first.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ten Minutes to Wapner

You’ve all probably seen Rain Man. Dustin Hoffman’s character was inspired by real-life autistic Kim Peek who could read eight books a day, taking ten seconds to read each page, devouring two pages simultaneously, his left eye reading the left page and his right eye reading the right one. He had an unbelievable memory and knowledge of rote facts. But, here’s the interesting conundrum: throughout his life he still needed 24-hour care. Despite his amazing mental agility, his motor skills were limited and he needed help with things like dressing himself and combing his hair.

The movie wasn’t necessarily a bad depiction of someone with autism, although neither of my kids can count toothpicks if they’re dropped on the floor, or perform other entertaining party tricks. And I’m here to tell you if they could count cards, I’d be the first one to hop on a plane to Vegas and figure out a way to exploit the situation to my financial advantage. But my kids aren’t savants. Most autistic people aren’t - only about 10% of people on the autism spectrum have savant skills.

So for that reason, the Hollywood portrait painted wasn’t entirely realistic with regard to most people on the autism spectrum. But it told an engaging story and illustrated some things rather well:

The Ten Minutes to Wapner thing was very realistic. I can hear Jake saying that, only it wouldn’t be about The People’s Court, it would probably involve Pokemon or Mario or some cartoon character on one of his shows. “Mom, it’s coming on in five minutes. Mom…only three more minutes, HURRY!”

Oh, Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

The movie also hit the nail on the head about things like having to eat specific foods a certain way, or requiring a certain brand of underwear, lest the wearer might, say, lose their shit (pun intended). Jake is a boxer kind of kid and he’ll go commando before putting on tightie-whities. If it’s a school day and I haven’t gotten to the laundry fast enough, obviously commando wouldn’t be an appropriate option. So, yeah - that would be a bad start to what presumably would be a bad day. Needless to say, I try and stay on top of the laundry situation in my house.

People on the autism spectrum are often restricted, rigid, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests. When this rigidity is challenged, in the form of making changes to their rituals and structure, challenging behaviors (AKA: tantrums) may arise.

The thing to remember with autistic children is that the behavior is not on a vindictive or malicious level. They are not trying to blackmail you emotionally because what’s happening - from their perspective - has to do with them, not you. Autistic children are completely without guile. They have no understanding of concepts such as passive-aggression or manipulation. Autistic persons’ reactions are simply their reactions to whatever stimuli they’re being confronted with. Unlike some neuro-typical children, their actions are not a conscious way of getting something they want. In fact, they’re probably not even aware how their actions are affecting you. That’s something they often need to be taught along the way, rather than simply ‘getting it’ from your behavior, facial expression or body language.

For this reason alone, I wish everyone had a touch of autism.

Jake can’t lie. Seriously, he can’t tell a lie. It’s like a tic for him. He’ll get right in the car after school and give me a laundry list of every bad thing that he might have said, done, or encountered that day. He’s unable to move forward until he’s sure I’m completely aware of anything that might have been considered inappropriate. Then he feels better. If I ask him a direct question, even though he MIGHT try to keep something from me, he’s got absolutely no poker face, and the moment of silence is quickly followed by him coughing up the truth, however uncomfortable it makes him. This might very well be the coolest thing about him, from a parenting perspective. Well, that, and the fact that he can’t abide cursing, which he regularly calls me on, as well as fellow students. Yeah, I imagine that goes over really well with the ‘normal’ kids. (Actually I know it doesn’t because he was recently bullied for it.)

Just interacting socially can be draining for someone who can’t read facial expressions, isn’t verbal and doesn’t understand many things involved in social interaction, like reading body language. It’s like trying to get something from someone who is speaking another language. So pile that on top of any changes in the structure of their life and you should expect the guano to hit the oscillator, my friends.

Although their routines might seem strange to us, they serve a purpose to the autistic person. After all, routine itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I go grocery shopping on the same day of the week each week, simply because it’s convenient. If I wait longer I will run out of something. If I go earlier, I may have too much of certain items and then they go bad before I can use them. Ritual and routine help us feel secure and safe within our environment and makes the world around us more predictable. Too much unpredictability and uncertainty can lead to stress, more so with autistic people.

When these rituals and routines are interrupted or changed, the reaction you might get could well seem to be disproportionate, but you must remember that the autistic person who you are interacting with may have communication problems and doesn’t understand the reason for the disruption of their routine. Even Jake, who is a teenager and very verbal, is extremely literal. Try using things like sarcasm, irony, metaphor or pun on him and what you’ll get in return is a blank stare.

Jaxson and Jake both have issues with change. Jaxson, for instance, is unable to come into school and unpack his backpack and put his items into his locker like the other six children in his class, until his teacher comes out of the classroom and greets him in the hallway. He won’t let me leave until this happens. As soon as his teacher comes out and Jax sees her, I can leave. But if I try to leave him with his fellow students to unpack his backpack, he whines and pulls at me. It is how things went on the first day of kindergarten, so now if I try to change it up, he freaks out. This doesn’t bode well for the day - which is swiftly approaching - when he has a substitute teacher.

The ASD teachers want children to become more independent, thus tending to certain chores at school by themselves, without the aid of a paraprofessional or teacher. They need to be able to do things, like walk down the hall without holding the para-pro’s hand or change from their snow boots into sneakers in the winter, all by themselves.

This is all grand, but when something ‘new’ comes up - something out of their normal routine - this can throw an autistic child off, terribly. The way to try and change this is to regularly change-up their routine, at home and school. To toss them something unexpected and get them used to navigating change. Needless to say this isn’t always fun and so far I haven’t seen it actually work. You’re bucking their internal sense of order and it doesn’t go well. But as a parent, I still need to try, because life is messy and full of changes. The need for a detour often arises.

Shit happens.

But, try relating that concept to an autistic child and see how far you get.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Would the Devil Get a Publishing Deal?

Sigh. There are at least three things wrong with the photo above and their names are Conrad, Palin and Beck, in order of appearance from left to right.

Sigh, again. Really? I had to google the Conrad chick, because although I recognized her face, I didn’t even know from what show she’d been spewed forth, I only knew where she’d ended up. Published. I suppose I should be happy it was her and not that Heidi Montag Living Barbie, because had I seen her face while walking down the aisle at Wal-Mart, I might have had a spontaneous cranial bleed.

For a writer it’s difficult to see faces like the faces above and know that some of them hit the NYT Best Seller List. For the love of God, Katie Couric couldn’t even nail down whether Sara Palin reads newspapers on a regular basis, and now she’s a New York Times Bestselling author?

Then there’s Glen Beck and his book Arguing With Idiots. Reading between the lines, I assume he’s had lots of practice arguing with himself.

Who the hell is reading this shit? Seriously. I get it. Publishers will publish what sells. That’s not what concerns me. Publishing is a business, just like television. If we gobble it up, they're gonna serve it up hand over fist.

So, I’ll ask again: who is reading this shit? The same people, I presume, who are watching all that reality TV, buying Snuggies ™ and eating sugar-free foods laced with aspartame. We can not complain about the offerings on TV, movies and books if we're the same people following Snookie's every move or watching Glenn Beck's show and believing everything (or anything, really) that comes out of his wacky mouth.

We're the problem. And why do we watch/read this stuff? Is it the whole 'train wreck' thing? (READ: Mid-term elections have caused everyone to lose their minds because some REAL TURDS are running for office - homophobic turds, turds who dabbled in witchcraft, etc.) I see too comfortable a correlation here and it disturbs me. The loudest wackadoo in politics - do we support them just to ensure an entertaining news cycle once they're elected?

Is it just fun to watch someone humiliate themselves, watch someone's marriage disintigrate before our eyes (Jon & Kate + 8 - 1), or watch some young person's hopes and dreams become shattered (American Idol try outs). Does anyone else find this whole disturbing trend...yucky? OR is it just me?

So as I’m preparing this blog, I google Heidi, praying, I mean really PRAYING that she didn’t have—

Oh, you’ve got to be f-ing kidding me with this! She and Spencer wrote (I am playing fast and loose with the word ‘wrote’ here, clearly):

How to Be Famous: Our Guide to Looking the Part, Playing the Press, and Becoming a Tabloid Fixture

So, it appears the surefire way to get a publishing deal (or get elected to a Senate or House of Reps. seat) is to say something stupid, do something stupid, or be someone stupid. And yes, I am bitter. A bitter ,bitter girl. But I did find a way to purge the pent-up bitterness threatening to overtake me. I rearranged the bookshelf at Wal-Mart. With a bit of quick work, I was able to move every copy of the above books to the bottom shelf and put other books in front of them.

I considered it a public service. My way of paying it forward to the shoppers who would follow me down the aisle that day. Grocery shopping is a daunting enough task without having to ponder the pervasive absurdity of whether the Devil Himself would get a publishing deal.

Come November, we might have an even more frightening 'reality' show going on in America. I predict a high number of new CSPAN viewers.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sensory Stew

Picture this:

You’re locked in a speeding car at night, racing down the highway at breakneck speed. It’s the middle of summer; you’re hot, uncomfortable and sweaty. There are sirens wailing outside, and there’s a baby with a stinky diaper next to you, screaming. The interior car lights flash on and off, blinding your senses. The radio is turned up full blast to heavy metal music. Nobody is driving; you have no control.

Now you might have an idea of what it’s like to be autistic on any given day.

You are expected to deal with this, and get through your normal daily routine without exploding. You are expected to listen and follow directions; you are expected to thrive. One after the other, sensory arrows are being shot at you, only your mind is unable to process them in any meaningful way. All noises are translated at the same level, none being relegated to background noise.

Every sense is heightened, over-stimulated.

What must it feel like for them, all of these bothersome things festering in the mind of the autistic child, clouding anything brighter from shining through? Jake, my 13 year old, can’t stand the way paper feels and at school this just has to be nerve-racking. Book pages turning, graded papers being passed out, notes shuffling between hands at every desk; the sensory minefield he has to wade through daily is something most people can’t even remotely relate to. Jaxson, my 9 year old, doesn’t like loud noises or clothing. Yeah, I said clothing. As soon as his feet hit the front doormat, he’s pulling off his clothes. He’ll wear them when we go out and all day at school, but at home he’s a little guy runnin’ around in his skivvies. I have no idea what it is about them that bothers him, but he just doesn’t like being dressed. I buy all cotton, everything loose and breathable, cut out all the tags—still, he prefers life sans clothing. Who am I to begrudge him?

His home is his castle just as it is mine and I want him to be comfy there.

Children with sensory issues must do what other children do throughout their day at school and in daily life, but they’ve got the added burden of wading through an often debilitating sensory assault as they do it.

In my opinion, that’s what makes them a little stronger than you and I.

Below is an example of a Sensory Stew and how Jaxson dealt with it. (READ: His 2007 School Christmas Pageant. Damn my kid is cute! )

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Few of My (Least) Favorite Things

1. Reality TV.

Seriously, do we have an ETA on when that stupid trend is going to peter out? Because I think America’s been dumbed-down to the point of reckless abandon at this point. It’s been scientifically proven that for every 30 minutes of reality TV you watch, you lose 5 IQ points, so some of you people should be in a cage with the apes at the Bronx Zoo, tossing excrement and sniffing your fellow inmates’ asses.

The only two network shows I watch are The Office and Glee*. (*Wouldn’t life would be wonderful if we all occasionally broke into song with an accompanying perfectly choreographed dance number and flawless costuming? And Jane Lynch is so yummy I could dip her in couscous and wash her down with a glass of chardonnay. )

2. Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly.

I probably don’t need to elaborate here. This also goes for FOX News. I prefer my propaganda with a big Nazi flag in the corner of the screen, accompanied by grainy black-and-white pictures of soldiers screaming ‘Heil Hitler’.

3. Seeing your underwear in public.

This applies to persons of the male and female persuasions. Guys, if you think it’s so important for me to see your Joe Boxers, just wear them over your jeans. It’ll look less stupid than having the crotch of your pants dangling somewhere around your knees.

And gals, (I’m talking to you if your jeans only cover half your ass and I can see your thong), if you’re under 25 and wear obnoxiously low-riding pants, you might want to re-assess your fashion sense. If you’re over 25 and embracing tween-fashion, you might need to re-assess your common sense.


Ladies, have you ever wanted a bejeweled beaver? Well then, get in on the new fad that’s sweeping the nation. Everyone from Jennifer Love Hewitt to Kathy Griffin have gone the way of the shimmering snatch, so don’t be the last one on your block with a festooned frontage. Start Vajazzling*!

(*va-jazzle - to decorate your ‘down there’ area with shiny, glittery gems.)

My Va-Jay-Jay Bling sung to the tune of A Few of My Favorite Things.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

80 Year Old Chick

I’ve been posting videos of my octogenarian Nanna on YouTube for a few years and the video CHICK ON GAY PEOPLE has over 50 thousand hits and was taken from an interview I did with her a few years ago. I simply sat her down and asked questions, to which she responded in her very Nanna-like way: without guile and completely honest.


I don’t know what is so funny about senior citizens and ‘dicey’ subject matter, but here’s another short film I made called VD IS FOR EVERYBODY. The doctor in the film was my actual doctor at the time, and the actress in the stirrups is a lovely woman named Regina Mancino.

For more of my Nanna, check out the 80 Year Old Chick page of this website. I’ve included interviews with her, as well as some short films she’s acted in.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

'Roid Rage!

Most of my writer friends know of my troubles down under because I’ve regaled them with stories about my little anal hitchhikers. I’m slightly obsessed with my hemorrhoids, I'll be the first one to admit.

But mostly, I figure if you’ve got an issue that once almost caused you to shove the ice blocks in your freezer - normally reserved for your children’s lunchboxes - into your lower orifice, you might as well get some literary mileage out of it.

If you can’t laugh at your own put-upon-pooper, what can you laugh at…I ask you?

As anyone with a similarly disenfranchised ass can attest, when those little buggers are angry, the pain they can cause is beyond the ability to comprehend. I have been awakened from a sound sleep, suddenly feeling like something untoward happened to my rear orifice while I slumbered - like a brutal ménage à many. Vicious waves of angst filtered up through my innards as I crawled to the kitchen for ice because I’d let the literal tube run dry.

That’s a mistake a ’roid sufferer only makes once. What follows is an early morning jaunt to the nearest drug store, whereby you avail yourself of every tube on the shelf and are only moderately embarrassed as the clerk rings up your seventeen boxes of Prep-H. (generic of course, I’m nobody’s fool.) After you’ve experienced that kind of pain, you could care less who sees you spending $94.76 on off-brand ass cream. You just want to make sure you never run out again.

To this day, even though I’ve got a butt-load (pun intended) of overstock under my bathroom cabinet, I still grab another box every time I’m in the Wal-Mart Supercenter. There can never be too much emergency preparedness in this situation, and I promise you FEMA hasn’t got your back.

I’ve been lucky as of late. I’ve had no flare ups, but it hasn’t been long enough that I’ve forgotten the brutality. I remember praying for death in between suppressing dry heaves and mopping the sweat from my clammy brow. It is a memory that haunts me to this day.

Because he gets a kick out of shit like this, my amazing writer friend Mitch Geller wrote a song about my affliction and I’ll share it with you now. Notice the personal elements he added. A reference to flies (a Jake obsession) and a lighter (Oh, have I not told you that Jaxson recently set fire to his bedroom? I guess a Fire Blog is in order, huh? Stay tuned!)

Jeni is a Gal With Hemorrhoids
(sung to the tune of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds by The Beatles)
*song raped and pillaged by Mitch Geller*

Picture yourself on a smoking hot poker
With cottage-like cheese and watery eyes
Somebody tells you your face is all chalky
To you that’s not quite a surprise
Big hangin’ berries the color of spleen
Flowering like tulip beds
Sat on the one that brought tears to her eyes
And it’s wrong

Jeni is a gal with hemorrhoids
Jeni is a gal with hemorrhoids
Jeni is a gal with hemorrhoids

As big around as an Austrian mountain
And rocking on bar stools is very unwise
Everyone smirks as she swells by the hour
To grapes in the blink of an eye
Flatulence sounding much more like a snore
Splashing it with her iced tea
Climb in the sack with her butt in a bowl
And it’s wrong

Jeni is a gal with hemorrhoids
Gonna have to get some Venapro
Jeni is a gal with hemorrhoids

Tinctures herself in the hopes of salvation
With fermented spirits and big blocks of ice
Suddenly someone is there in the bathroom
A kid with a lighter and flies

Jeni is a gal with hemorrhoids
One of them looks just like Dan Akroyd
Jeni is a gal with hemorrhoids

Jeni is a gal with hemorrhoids
Even took a couple-a Polaroids
Jeni is a gal with hemorrhoids

Jeni is a gal with hemorrhoids