Monthly Archives: June 2013

Graduation Day

by Lillian Csernica on June 14, 2013

Yesterday my fourteen year old son John graduated from middle school.  He walked the walk, going up onstage and receiving his diploma with the rest of his not-quite-two-hundred classmates.

With this act, many things come to an end.  John says goodbye to his one-to-one aide, herself the mother of an autistic boy, who has been at his side for nine whole years.  He says goodbye to the special day class teacher who is one of the finest teachers and most wonderful people I’ve ever met.  John says goodbye to part of his core group of classmates, kids he’s been through elementary school with, and now leaves behind in sixth and seventh grade as he moves on to high school.  John leaves behind another portion of what it is to be a child.

Many things will now begin.  John’s new aide is a man with a strong background in mathematics and family experience with teenagers.  John will enter a new social world where he’ll make new friends, aided by the older brothers and sisters of his classmates.  I’ve already had a promise from the mother of John’s best friend that her older daughter will watch over John.  There will be new opportunities for John to expand his drawing skills and his interest in basketball.  There will be dances and field trips and school projects and the difficult moments and the glorious times.

Yesterday those of us who are mothers of the special needs students ran up to each other laughing and crying, hugging each other until we were breathless.  There they were, our sons and daughters, every one of them a testament to the teachers and aides and speech therapists and occupational therapists and medical teams and our love, patience, and support.  One of John’s friends who is farther along the spectrum than he is has made such amazing strides that he received a special award for achievement in making the most improvements.  We know him well.  I was so delighted to see a good dozen of the boy’s extended family there to cheer him on and take lots of photos.  He and John will be having a camp-out in the back yard of our new house.  This summer will be full of adventures and sleep-overs and all kinds of fun.

As hard as our lives have been, being a family with special needs, it’s still good to be us.  As much as my depression has done bad things to me, yesterday I tasted pure joy.


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by Lillian Csernica on June 14, 2013


Witty banter.  Bonus points for literary allusions and correct historical references.

Fresh flowers.  It seems like the older I get, the rarer the occasion upon which I receive fresh flowers.  I may have to start growing them for myself!

Classic rock and roll.  I must qualify this by saying I’m referring to the music I listened to in high school.  Does that mean I’m a classic?

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Four Things You Should Never Do Around Me

by Lillian Csernica on June 14, 2013




BAD BREATH.  I have this thing where I can’t stand it when I feel someone else’s breath on my skin.  I don’t care if that person just chewed a box full of Altoids Peppermints.  The sensation just creeps me out.  Far worse is when that person’s breath stinks.  In the course of my strange life I have met only one person whose really toxic bad breath could be attributed to a chronic health problem.  I realize there are people without the means to receive proper dental care, for example.  There are a whole lot more people who could learn to brush more often and consider the many varieties of breath mints available on the market.

COMPLACENCY.  From the English Thesaurus, “British English: complacent A complacent person is very pleased with themselves or feels that they do not need to do anything about a situation, even though the situation may be uncertain or dangerous.”  People who adopt this attitude really get on my nerves.   I find complacency to be most offensive when people’s lack of realistic perspective endangers other people, most especially their own children.

NOISE POLLUTION.  A voice that’s too loud or has an aggravating pitch.  A restaurant where the acoustics amplify all the noises of cutlery and conversation.  Children who are allowed to go on screaming their demands over and over again by parents who have clearly trained the little monsters to do so because only by such screaming will the parents actually pay any attention to them.  Noise pollution of any sort gets me all tensed up and cranky.  I have to get away from it or I might just start screaming as a means of drawing attention and shutting down the noise level that’s making me crazy.  Mind you, it’s not like I’ve had screaming fits in public.  If the noise level here at home gets unbearable, I will see to it the appropriate adjustments are made.  If it’s a good day, I can do so without raising my own voice.

THAT NEEDY VIBE:  By this I mean that nasty pulling sensation I get whenever I’m around someone who has some constant aggressive need or want.  It might not be obvious.  The person might not even mention the exact need or want outright.  And yet I still get this feeling that my energy is being sucked away and this person is trying to get something from me, be it an emotional response or a particular answer or something else.  It might not even have anything to do with me personally.  It might just be some fundamental need that exists in that person’s psychological makeup.  Whatever it is, I can’t stand it and I do my best to avoid people who show any sign of having it.

I realize this sounds rather strange, so let me offer a concrete example.  I was at the Ren Faire one day with my husband, just an ordinary work day in costume for us.  While we were taking a break together,  I remarked to my husband that I’d slept badly and my neck ached.  This woman standing nearby turned to me, said something about how she could fix that, and promptly started kneading my trapezius muscles.  A stranger laying hands on me was enough to make me call Security, but that this woman practically leaped at the chance to “help” me made me wonder what kind of headcase I was dealing with.  When I thanked her for her concern and told her to keep her hands to herself,  she acted like I’d just refused they keys to paradise.  Ren Faire is a natural breeding ground for all kinds of crazies, among both the workers and the people who pay to get in.  The more aggressive and sometimes dangerous version of the Needy Vibe appears in people I’ve heard described as “psychic vampires.”  Their behavior may seem reasonable enough, but they leave you feeling tired, worn out, exhausted just by their presence.

So you see, if ever I meet someone who’s noisy, needy, complacent, and has bad breath, one of us had better run for it!

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Saints and Angels

by Lillian Csernica on June 12, 2013

FIVE PEOPLE WHO MATTER (in no particular order):

Our San Andreas Regional Center Caseworker (all four of the individual people who held the position).  This person has done so much for Michael and John, seeing to it Michael has nursing care and John has his helpers, making sure I’m coping with my depression and getting the help I need, and in general being a clearing house of information and connections that have made my family’s life stronger, safer, healthier, and more enjoyable.

My parish priest.  I don’t see him as often as either of us would like, but every time I do show up, he’s always happy to see me and ready to listen.

The Registered Nurse.  I speak not of one particular woman, but of the concept that encompasses them all.  Throughout my entire life, not just during the years since I’ve had sons who need serious medical attention, there have been R.N.s.  I still correspond with a Marine Corps R.N. who took care of me when I was only ten years old.  On the night I lost my first son, there was an R.N. who refused to put the fetal heart monitor on me when my doctor told her to because she thought it was too cruel to make me listen to the end of my baby’s life.  Michael’s primary R.N. came to his christening.  The whole NICU team welcomed John during his brief stay there, rejoicing with us over his good birth weight and satisfactory APGAR scores.  There are a whole lot of reasons why Registered Nurses, LVNs, and CNAs are referred to as “angels of mercy.”  Please, PAY THEM MORE!

My best friend Pat.  I’d be in much worse shape by now if I didn’t have her to run away with to SF conventions and girls’ nights out and online chats.  When we moved into our previous house, Pat came over and stayed for three days to help us settle in.  When I’ve faced some major crises, Pat’s been there, with chocolate and patience and endless stories about her relatives.  Turns out Pat and I are distant cousins through a shared relative.  When we tell people we’re cousins, for some reason that makes them nervous.  Given my Pat’s specialties and my own, we do make a rather formidable combination!

The postal carrier at my previous house, who became my partner in holiday magic.  Linda coordinated my work volunteering to answer the letters to Santa Claus in our town.  I take the job very seriously, using festive letterhead and plenty of fun holiday stickers and glitter and whatever else seems appropriate.  When I moved into this house last December, I asked the postmaster if I could go on being the volunteer for that town.  Thanks to Linda rallying her co-workers, the main post offices of the four small towns in the mountain valley where I live now channel all the Santa letters to me.  I answered over two dozen letters last Christmas.  My love of fantasy makes me a firm believer in preserving the magic of childhood.  As a mother I know children grow up much too quickly these days, due in part to the wonders of social media.

If you’re interested in volunteering, the Post Office provides a starter kit with a letter template.  Most branches would love to have volunteers and are eager to pitch in with letterhead and envelopes and stickers.  The Post Office covers all the relevant postage, of course.

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Dances with Autism

by Lillian Csernica on June 11, 2013

My younger son graduates from middle school on Thursday.

Last Friday night, the school held the Eighth Grade Dance, an elite social occasion for the upperclassmen/women only.  Whenever my son gets his hair cut, for the first week he looks like a Marine from the back.  It’s only when he turns around and you see that sweet boyish face that you realize you are not standing near an adult of legal age.  Thank God my son is not aware of just how grown up he looks, nor is he of a mind to put it to the kinds of uses some boys might.  No, on Friday night after the dance my son gave me a heart attack of quite another kind.

Me: “So, how was the dance?  Did you have a good time?”

Him: “Yeah.”

Me: “Were your friends there?”

Him: “Yeah.” (He named a few.)

Me: “So what happened?  Did you do anything interesting?” (Dancing, Wii games, live texting on big screens, etc.)

Him: “I saw a panther.”

Me: “You saw a panther?  A real panther?”

Him: “Yeah.”

Me: “What, did you watch a video about panthers?  Was there a poster or something?”

Him: “No.”

We went back and forth a few times over this.  My son just kept insisting it was a real panther.  By then my fight or flight was starting to kick in.

Me: “What color was the panther?”

Him: “Black.”

My son is very good with animals.  Horses, cats, goats, cows, dogs, birds, you name it.  So it was not totally outside the realm of possibility that the middle school principal had gone all out for the end of the year festivities and had actually brought a live panther (the sports teams’ totem animal, so to speak) under proper restraint to the dance.  I seriously doubted it, because there had been no official notice and no school board wants to hear the words “Are you insane?” and “lawsuit.”

Me:  “OK, wait a minute.  Did you actually see a real live black panther?  Was it on a leash or something?”

Him (confused look): “No.  It’s our mascot.”

Then it hit me.  Part of my son’s autism is being very concrete in his thinking, very literal-minded.

Me: “Somebody came to the dance dressed up in a big black panther costume like the mascots who go to the big professional sports games on T.V.?”

Him: “Yeah.”

At that point I collapsed on the couch in relief.


Filed under Family, fantasy, Humor, Special needs, Writing

Why Can’t Life Come With A Repair Kit?

by Lillian Csernica on June 11, 2013


Discovered exactly what a coffin for a baby looks like.

Gotten drunk.  The two times it happened, there were consequences.

Found out what it’s like to ride in the back seat of a sheriff’s car on a hot day in bad traffic.  (NOTE: I was not under arrest for anything.)

Failed to take the time to make sure my cat Princess, a female dilute calico, was inside for the night one evening.  I never saw her again.  Female dilute calicoes are very hard to come by, and I really loved her.

Never really got to know any of my grandparents.  My father’s family were in Ohio while I grew up in California.  We lived with my mother’s parents for a short time, but I was in kindergarten then and not of an age to understand or appreciate the important information.

Trusted someone I believed to be my friend with two key roles in the planning and preparation for my wedding.  I don’t know if her failure to deliver on both the bridesmaids’ dresses and the wedding cake was due to personal dysfunction or deliberate sabotage.  I suspect a mixture of both.  I’m a veteran of “The show must go on,” so it did, just not quite as perfect as I’d hoped.

(Well!  This was fun!  I think I need ice cream now.)





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Thoughts I Can’t Stop Thinking

by Lillian Csernica on June 10, 2013

Seven Things That Cross My Mind A Lot:

ONE: What it’s really like to make your living as an actor.  It seems to me the business demands much more of actors than ordinary moviegoers like me really understand.  Actors in America are held to a standard of physical beauty and perfection that has to take up a lot of time in terms of maintenance.  How do those people find that time?  Personal trainers and home gyms must help.  Then there’s the memorization of lines, sometimes newly changed lines every single day.  That would make me crazy.  To be an A list movie actor seems so glamorous, and I’m sure it is at times, but it’s got to be something such people work at 24/7.

TWO: My weight.  My body image.  What I eat.  Why I eat it.  How much I enjoy dining out.  What diseases am I setting myself up for, i.e. hypertension, diabetes, and whatever genetic dispositions I’ve inherited.

THREE: What love really truly is, under all the hype and the philosophy and the hormones.  I know about agape, eros, philia and storge.  Those are descriptions of manifestations of love.  What is love at its absolute core reality?  Does it have one?  Or is it a psychological chimera?

FOUR: The battle between me owning my possessions and my possessions owning me.

FIVE: Whether or not I’ll get to be a grandmother.  I think I’d be good at it, given all my travels and my stories and my costumes and the weird stuff I’ve collected over the years.  This is in the back of my mind as John enters high school with its heightened social interaction between boys and girls.  I will watch John’s progress with interest and no little trepidation.

SIX: How people can be really smart in some ways yet at the same time be really stupid about certain specific matters.  I’m not just talking about love again, for example.  I know somebody who has an astonishing grasp of worldwide military history, yet one day he was incapable of finding chocolate ice cream in a town with two grocery stores, two gas station mini-marts, two drug stores, and half a dozen restaurants.  I’ve heard Southerners use the expression “brilliant but not very bright.”  I think that means some people can absorb a lot of “book-learning,” but in everyday practical matters they haven’t got a clue.  Comments?

SEVEN: All the places in the world I want to visit before I die.  Japan, England, Ireland, Greece, Russia, Spain, Italy, Polynesia, and more of the U.S. too.  It’s sad to live somewhere and know too little about its history and attractions and people and noteworthy local buildings, handicrafts, cuisine, etc.

One life is just not enough, know what I mean?

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Lucky Number 8

by Lillian Csernica on June 9, 2013

Eight Ways To Win My Heart:  I do consider the number eight to be lucky.  The person willing to do some or all of what’s listed below is a winner in my book!

Intelligent conversation.  I value it even more than good chocolate.

Send me something fun via snail mail.  I love to get cards and packages.

Be willing to watch a movie with me, one of the ones I really enjoy due to explosions, strange characters, foreign culture, or a movie star I have a crush on.

Ignore my weirdness on my bad days and accept the apologies I offer later.

Fold the laundry for me.

Convince me that I will finish this book, I will finish the others, I will write and sell good, solid stories, and someday I’ll be nominated for literary awards.

Get me out the door so I’ll take that walk or go for a swim or do something to exercise this aging, high mileage vehicle.

Don’t ever lie to me or jerk me around.  Prove to me that I can’t trust you and you’ll never be on the Authorized Personnel list again.

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Believe It Or Not!

by Lillian Csernica on June 8, 2013

Nine Things About Yourself:

Let’s see if I can cover some new ground here.  What are nine facts about me I have not yet mentioned and am willing to do so right here in front of God and everybody?

I do not eat jam or jelly.  Despite my raging sweet tooth, both are too sweet for me.

I don’t drink coffee.  I know, total heresy for a writer, yes?  I don’t eat anything mocha-flavored either.

I once owned fourteen cats.  So you see, I’ve already won my Crazy Cat Lady spurs.

According to family legend, on my mother’s side I’m descended from Sir Francis Drake and Daniel Boone, and on my father’s side from Neville Chamberlain.

When I was born, I had a full head of black hair.  It later fell out, to be replaced by light brown curls.  In my preschool days I looked like a more Germanic version of Shirley Temple.

I have no tattoos.  I do not anticipate ever getting one.  When I was in elementary school, I had to undergo a series of allergy shots that went on for over a year.  I also have a few scars from badly set IVs and two Heprin locks.  I’ve had all I want to do with needles.

I keep the thank-you notes people send me because it’s nice to have the tangible reminders of times when I’ve made people happy.

For the astrology buffs out there, I am Capricorn Sun, Pisces Moon, and Leo rising.  So who did I marry?  An Air sign, Gemini.  In Chinese Astrology, I’m a Wood Snake.

I no longer have my birthmark.  It was surgically removed when I was ten years old.

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Unspoken Thoughts

by Lillian Csernica on June 7, 2013

Yes, another blog challenge.  What can I say?  They’re fun.

Ten Things I Want To Say To Ten Different People Right Now:

My best friend when I was in high school:  I wonder what you’re really like, behind that know-it-all self-righteous online persona.

My sister: Let go.  Be a smart lifeguard and don’t get drowned by the one you’re trying to save.

My high school junior year English teacher:  You were right.

All the nurses who pulled twelve hour shifts with Michael when he was in the NICU:  He’s seventeen!  He’ll graduate from high school next year!

Killian:  I hope your wife appreciates you.

Cliff:  I’m pretty sure I’ve fallen in love with you on some level.  We both know where that level will stay.

My godfather: I hope you’re at peace, I really do.

My brother:  Wish we lived closer together.

My fairy godmother: You’re the best.

My first grade teacher:  Thank you for teaching me discipline.

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