Monthly Archives: March 2013

Michael and John: Works in Progress


by Lillian Csernica on March 14, 2013

Some years ago a very smart, very devoted Speech Therapist with neurolinguistic training told me that every time the seasons change, the kids go crazy.  That was back when John was in elementary school.  She was right.  Temperature change, different amount of sunlight, is it still dark out when they have to get up, rainy or cloudy or windy or dead calm.  Add to all that the joy of Daylight Savings Time and you have a recipe for mental, emotional, and physical turbulence.  It’s not just the kids.  The people who by virtue of seniority are called “grown-ups” get rather unstable too.  There’s nothing like the sudden disorientation of trying to get through a day that feels wrong, looks wrong, and is full of other people bumping into each other because they’re all loopy too.

Michael:  His seizures are not under good control right now.  That means we have to watch him closely and make sure nobody with the slightest case of sniffles comes near him.  If Michael gets sick, his seizure threshold goes down, which means he’s more likely to have a seizure.  Some people react to the time change by having their systems get out of whack, which can result in illness.  Michael is in the class with the other medically fragile kids, so any bug that enters the classroom goes plowing through everybody.  Let’s not even talk about the pestilential environment on the school bus.  (God bless the bus drivers.  I don’t know how they do their jobs day in and day out.)  I’m worried about Michael because he’s been having crying fits lately once he comes home from school.  He’s not very energetic, and we’ve been having a hard time getting clear responses out of him regarding any physical or emotional pain he might be feeling.  His wheelchair needs yet another overhaul, he has teeth erupting in unpleasant places due to the narrowness of his jaw, and we’re having a heat wave.  Poor guy.  Life is hard enough on him.  It really upsets me to see him cry.

John:  Due to a dropped ball somewhere between our house, the neurologist’s office, and the company that supplies our prescription medication, John’s refill did not come in on time.  I had to call the doctor, get a new prescription written, then show up there to pick up the prescription which I would then have to mail to the supplier.  The doctor’s office is an hour’s drive from our house.  Important personal data: I don’t drive.  So that meant juggling logistics around here so I could get to the doctor’s office without disrupting a bunch of other events.  It’s like one of those complicated domino designs around here, with one crucial exception.  Hit the first domino and the picture you end up with isn’t pretty.  We have the refill now, but we’re back into a waiting period while the medication builds up in John’s system again.  This is not fun.  John is six feet tall, almost two hundred pounds, and he also has the family stubborn streak.  When he feels like exerting his teenage crankiness on top of whatever his autistic processing disorders are doing to him, life can get pretty intense.  I’m the one person around here who can talk him up or down or out of wherever he’s stuck, and sometimes that’s an exhausting process.

Did I mention the boys don’t have school tomorrow?  Pardon me while I lock myself in my room and barricade the door.  It’s not that the boys will be that demanding.  I am fortunate enough to have R.N.s for Michael and aides for John.  It’s the nurses and the aides who can drive me crazy some days.

I love my sons.  I am very happy both of them are mine.  Yes, it’s a lot of work, and communication can often be very difficult.  Fortunately, working with words is what I do best.

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by Lillian Csernica on March 14, 2013

I have read the books by Gardner, Vandermeer, King, and Bradbury. If I were to write such a list I would add Writing Open the Mind by Andy Couturier, How To Write A Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey and Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress.

The War on Loneliness

artMost writing books are a terrible waste of time, because they give you pretty basic Creative Writing 101 type advice about point of view, tense, plot structure, etc. and then combines it with a few workshop platitudes like “show, don’t tell”; “start strong”; “characters have to change during the story”, and then wrap it up with some canned advice like, “the most important thing is to write every day and read widely.”

If you don’t know that stuff, then maybe one of those books might be worthwhile. As I recall (this is way back in the dusty recesses of my memories from my last year of high school), I found Damon Knight’s Creating Short Fiction to be fairly useful. Oh, wait, Self-Editing For Fiction Writers was also really useful, actually. It’s all about how to cut words and make things cleaner. Well worth a read. And I thought that Donald…

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Pop Quiz


by Lillian Csernica on March 14, 2013

Time for a little audience participation. I’ve got this 600 page manuscript sitting here next to me. My agent does not want it anywhere near her until I cut it down to the marketable length of 400 pages. paperstack4
So here’s The Question: Do I set myself a deadline of, oh, Memorial Day to get this monster whittled down to size?

Sully and Boo

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March 14, 2013 · 3:53 am

Survival Mechanisms


by Lillian Csernica on March 13, 2013

I am not a morning person.  My higher brain functions do not come online until 10 a.m. at best.  It’s a good thing my motor skills are operational before then because I have to get up every morning Monday through Friday at 5:45 a.m.  Why, you ask?  Why make myself suffer like this, especially when it involves no daylight and a staircase with a nasty bend in it?  Simple.  Michael’s bus arrives at 7 a.m. (more or less) and I have to get him ready by 6:30 so my husband can put Michael in his wheelchair, get him all fastened in, and be ready and waiting when the big yellow bus rolls up.

Getting Michael ready for school is a complicated process.  It involves turning off the oxygen machine he uses while he sleeps.  Then I get his food ready, which means a bag of liquid KetoCal hung up on the IV pole and primed in the food pump so Chris can put it all in the portable backpack.  Then I prep Michael’s medications so they melt together by the time he’s dressed.  Now comes the major effort: changing his diaper.  Whenever I happen to hear new mothers complaining about the ordeals of diaper changing, I bite my tongue so I don’t make some acidic remark about how they’re looking at two or three years of it while I or Michael’s caregiver will be coping with this for the rest of Michael’s life.  At sixteen Michael is taller than I am, long and lanky due to not having a third trimester and the build up of fat that occurs during it.  This makes him a bit difficult to roll back and forth, especially now that he has steel Harrington rods flanking his spine to correct his scoliosis.  Still, I must prevail, because Michael has to sit in his wheelchair for the hour ride to school and I want him to be as comfortable as possible.

Over the years I have learned to be able to get the Morning Checklist accomplished while a good percentage of my brain has yet to light up and get with the program.  I suppose this is some kind of advantage, because there have been times when I’ve found myself in an emergency room at three a.m. reciting Michael’s medical history to the pediatrician on call.  More than once I’ve been mistaken for a R.N.  I’m not sure if it’s the way I dress or the fatigue in my voice or the way I can suddenly switch to doctor talk with all its strange abbreviations.

I love Michael.  He’s a lot of work, and we’ve nearly lost him twice.  When he was born, we were offered the option of turning off his life support.  For us, that was not an option.  We kept the faith, and Michael kept on fighting.  Fortunately, he has inherited the iron constitution from my father’s side of the family.  That also means Michael has my father’s stubborn streak, but I’m OK with that.  It’s one of his survival mechanisms.

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My First Quickie


by Lillian Csernica on March 13, 2013

I just discovered Leanne Shirtliffe–Ironic Mom.  Great observations on the daily absurdities that go along with being a parent.  One of her posts called for suggestions to The Flippant Parent’s Guide to Optimism.  Here, then, are my suggestions:

You know you’re an optimist if….
1) You take your kids to an event that involves hot glue guns.
2) You believe that at some point you’ll get through your insurance company’s voicemail and talk to a real human being.
3) You dream of getting your kids to eat the RDA of vegetables in a single day.
4)  You board a school bus wearing anything other than a HazMat suit.
5)  You keep insisting your mother and your kids don’t conspire against you.Image

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Reinventing my personal space


by Lillian Csernica on March 12, 2013

Three months ago my husband and I bought a house and moved in.  What did I unpack first?  The manuscript, notes, notebooks, and other miscellanea involved in my current novel.  Then I went into the garage and began the excavation required to locate the boxes that contained my Japanese reference library (the novel is set in Satsuma, Japan, 1867).  Next came my favorite fiction, one whole shelf devoted to Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld books and another to Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum series and another to Jim Butcher‘s Dresden Files.  I find these series to be inspirational.  Not only is the quality of the writing great for recharging my word batteries, seeing the commitment those authors have made to producing novel after novel after novel gives me concrete motivation to do the same.  I’m still looking for the boxes that hold my collection of ghost story anthologies.  I love a good ghost story, especially from turn of the century authors such as A.M. Burrage and Marjorie Bowen.  I’ll find them.

The point here is simple.  Underwear and a toothbrush and caffeine and those other daily necessities can be acquired easily enough.  The exterior space you live in affects your interior life.  I now own the space I live in, both outside and in.  I must take care to avoid unnecessary clutter.  I must surround myself with all that is positive, nourishing, and uplifting, sights and sounds and smells and textures that will support me as I labor through each day, writing the fireworks and sword fights and love scenes as well as helping John with his homework and listening to Michael struggle to tell me about his day.

Beware unwanted clutter.  Beware even more so unloved clutter that stirs up bad memories.  Feng shui says such clutter gets between you and what you really want, slowing you down and sucking away your energy and sabotaging your dreams.  I still have boxes to unpack and tchotchkes to deal with, but I shall be ruthless in the defense of the spaces where I dream, both in my office and in my heart.

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Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

The Mother of Invention


by Lillian Csernica on March 12. 2013

It’s high time I dragged myself into the 21st Century by joining the blogosphere.  I’m a writer.  Fantasy, dark fantasy, historical romance, horror, nonfiction.  I have one novel out, SHIP OF DREAMS, under my romance pen name of Elaine LeClaire.  You can find my short fiction at Tales of Old, Tales to Terrify, and soon in Midnight Movie Creature Feature Vol. 2.  I’m very fortunate to have a career that lets me work at home because my two sons are both what’s now referred to as “special needs” children.

They’re not so much children anymore.  Michael is sixteen.  He had to be delivered at only twenty-three weeks, making him a micro-preemie.  A pulmonary hemorrhage and a grade four plus brain bleed left him with cerebral palsy and later seizure disorder.  He is medically fragile, an invalid who is either in his wheelchair or his hospital bed.  He doesn’t let any of that stop him.  He’s an award-winning artist, a great bowler, and he loves classic rock.  Michael has a great smile and a wicked sense of humor.

John is fourteen.  He went full term, but he did refuse to breathe.  His brief bout of hypoxia is what we believe caused his speech delay.  Speech therapy led to an evaluation by a neurologist which resulted in a diagnosis of autism.  John is low on the spectrum, with a talent for drawing that began when he started watching “Blue’s Clues” at age two.  He has taught “Drawing with John” classes at his elementary school both in the classroom and over the school’s closed-circuit television broadcasts.  John loves digital animation and studies the Special Features options on DVDs which give him a behind-the-scenes view of how the artists and programmers work their magic.

It’s not easy finding time to write when each day I have phone calls to make, medical supplies to order, school projects to supervise, doctor appointments, prescription refills to keep track of, and the other random demands that crop up all the time.  I tend to stay close to home for the boys’ sakes, so writing lets me run away from home inside my own head.  I look forward to sharing the ups and downs of this life with you.

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