Category Archives: frustration

Q is for Quandary


by Lillian Csernica on April 20, 2022

Lexico.com defines quandary as “A state of perplexity or uncertainty over what to do in a difficult situation.” This is a perfect description of the difficulties I’ve faced when trying to balance a career as a professional writer with being the mother of two special needs boys.

In 1993 I joined the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association as an Active Member. In 1998 my older boy Michael came into the world at only 23 weeks. That he survived the next three and a half months in the hospital is nothing short of miraculous. The writing I accomplished during that time consisted mainly of the notes I kept in pretty hardback journals, documenting Michael’s growth, his tiny but meaningful milestones, the tests and surgeries and growing list of medications. Once Michael was allowed to come home, life became crowded with doctor appointments and physical therapy sessions. I tried to make the best use of the time available, editing manuscripts while in transit to the various appointments.

In 1998 John came along. Now I had two babies to care for. At that time it was just me while my husband was at work during the day. This is when I developed the habit of writing at night after the boys were asleep. Not the best plan when I wasn’t getting much sleep anyway. John was getting better and better at climbing out of his crib. At age two Michael developed seizure disorder, so I lived with one ear listening for any strange sound that might indicate John had escaped or Michael might be in distress. It’s very difficult to achieve the state of creative trance necessary for writing when one’s attention is constantly divided.

When Michael turned three and was eligible for the Early Start program, one of the benefits was nursing care. Thanks to the RNs who helped out and the support of my family, I wrote Ship Of Dreams. Getting that manuscript research took two solid years, then writing it meant daily labor. I suffered a disk crash that cost me two months’ work. (Words of wisdom: “Finish it!” and “Back it up!”) I found a literary agent who sold the book to a publisher. I’d been having some success with selling short stories and writing nonfiction pieces.

This might sound wonderful, and it was, but it meant struggling against my own fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and what I later learned were the symptoms of PTSD. When your brain already feels like dead coral, it’s almost impossible to summon up the energy needed to string words together. By that I meant just making sense when you’re talking to another person, never mind the effort required for creative writing. How was I going to keep writing? How was I going to complete projects, edit them, and do the marketing work?

There have been many times when I’ve wanted to “do it later.” As many wise people have said, later never comes. Today is tomorrow. I asked myself, “How badly do you want this? How badly do you want to work toward a Hugo, a Nebula, a World Fantasy Award?” The answers to those questions drove me to find ways to do the work even while attending doctor appointments, during hospital stays for Michael, and then facing John’s difficulties.

John had been hitting all the developmental milestones up until age four. We knew he had speech delay. The speech therapist was the first one to suggest we get John evaluated by a neurologist. The neurologist diagnosed John with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. At that time I knew nothing about “autism” other than the really drastic examples most people think of when they heard that word. Mind you, this was twenty years ago when a lot less was known about neurodiversity. I was in shock, frightened, depressed, and overwhelmed. Managing Michael’s care was already a complex challenge. Now John’s doctor and therapist appointments would have to be shoehorned into an already tight schedule. How on earth was I going to maintain a writing career when I couldn’t even manage a regular night’s sleep?

So I learned how to write whenever I had a few minutes. Free writing. Word sprints. Call it what you will. These bursts of writing are manageable, fun, and can be fit into a car ride, sitting in a waiting room, while having a meal in the hospital cafeteria. It’s not always comfortable, and it’s not easy, but practice promotes adaptation. I’ve written a total of seven novels and quite a few short stories. Now that some family issues and the first shock of the pandemic have settled down somewhat, I hope to move forward with editing and polishing these novels.

Living in today’s world makes it even harder to maintain a creative life. So many of us have had to take on the role of caregiver to a family member. Believe me when I tell you it’s essential to carve out some time for yourself, and for your creative work. Somewhere in your waking hours there will be fifteen minutes, thirty minutes, maybe even a whole hour. Use it. Sit down and take a good look at your daily schedule. You may find you have more time than you realize, it’s just a matter of making choices about what you spend that time doing.

Creative success. How badly do you want it?

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Filed under #atozchallenge, autism, Blog challenges, creativity, doctors, editing, Family, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, hospital, memoirs, mother, neurodiversity, parenting, publication, research, science fiction, special education, Special needs, specialists, therapy, worry, Writing

L is for Love


by Lillian Csernica on April 14, 2022

LOOKING FOR LOVE

The older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know. Take love, for example. I don’t know much more about what love really is than I did when I was in elementary school. For me, love started out being this big exalted dream of perfect happiness, perfect harmony, and total devotion to each other. I think I got that from reading fairy tales. (Disney movies also have a lot to answer for.) Then I listened to what older girls said about their boyfriends. I got the impression that having a boyfriend was one of those Rules for Living that showed everybody else you knew what you were doing.

One night when I was nineteen years old, it was so bitterly cold my body heat wasn’t enough to warm up the sheets and blankets. I lay there alone, shivering and miserable, thinking if only I had boyfriend. If only I could find a boyfriend to keep me warm, inside and out. The intense desire to avoid another night like that one prompted me to do some pretty stupid things. As I look back at that cold night from the perspective of fifty-plus years, I can see that I could have saved myself all kinds of trouble if I’d just bought an electric blanket.

Ever since I met my first crush when I was in the grade, I thought the right guy was the solution to all my needs and problems. I don’t know how I got this idea. It must have been all those fairy tales, because I certainly didn’t learn it from my family. My grandparents got divorced twice and married three times. (It’s true. I have photos of two of the weddings.) My parents divorced when I was eleven. My older sister never has married. My brother had to divorce his first wife. Why on earth did I think attaching myself to some boy who probably had even less of a clue than I did would somehow result in that magical state called “true love”?

When I was on the debate team in college, the first rule was “Define your terms.” That way both the Affirmative and the Negative teams knew exactly what the Affirmative team meant by the resolution being debated. When it comes to the search for love, I think the same rule should apply. After all, the statement “I love you” can have several different meanings and those meanings often depend on context. Matchmakers, dating services, and our best friends all ask the same question, “What are you looking for in a partner?” This is where it starts to get really complicated. Does the resulting list of characteristics represent the idealized image of the person whom you want to fall in love with? Or does it represent the person whom you want to fall in love with you? Are you really looking for a healthy relationship based on mutual give and take, or are you looking for a human transitional object that will soothe your insecurities and pay for your evening entertainment?

At this point in my life, I can see that wanting this perfect person to fall in love with me meant more than just having a boyfriend so I could go out on dates. It meant proving to the world that I had achieved the ultimate validation, the concrete emotional evidence that I wasn’t a loser, I wasn’t the last person chosen during schoolyard games. I wasn’t cold, alone, and miserable anymore. That’s what I hoped. Life hasn’t worked out that way.

Right now there’s all that Easter candy out there on the shelves. Most of it is chocolate. As adults, we know which brands are better than others. We know how to compare them and get the most value for our money. This skill comes from time, maturity, and a lot of taste-testing. Kids are different. When it comes to chocolate, kids don’t care. In the Dollar Tree you can find the phrase “chocolate-flavored” on many of the Easter items. There’s no actual cacao, just a lot of artificial colors and flavors. Unfortunately, the same can be said of some people. In the quest for love, some of us who crave True Love, the Real Thing, can become so desperate they will settle for the off-brands that are cheap, flashy, and artificial. It’s so hard to resist the temptation for a quick fix that will silence those nagging cravings and insecurities. It took me a while to learn the importance of patience, of saving up for the quality chocolate and the quality people.

My mother had her opinions about my boyfriends. When I was in middle school and awash in all kinds of hormonal angst over whether or not I’d ever get a boyfriend, Mom said I was “boy crazy.” Accurate, if not all that flattering or sympathetic. Years later, after I’d graduated high school and had spent some adventurous years working the Renaissance Faires, Mom managed to sum up both the quality and the quantity of my efforts to find love: “Well, at least you won’t wonder what you might have missed out on.” Once again, neither flattering nor all that sympathetic. Thanks, Mom.

So now that I’m a woman of a certain age, do I really know any more about love than when I first started dating boys? I’ve been married for thirty-four years come July, but that’s less of a testament to romantic love than to maintaining a stable home life for my sons. In a world of uncertainties, I know three things for sure: I love my sons, I love my cats, and I love really good dark chocolate.

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, cats, chocolate, Depression, dreams, fairy tales, Family, Fiction, frustration, Goals, love, marriage, memoirs, mother, perspective, romance, school, therapy, worry

I is for Insomia


by Lillian Csernica on April 9, 2022

When I was a teenager I loved to sleep. Stay up late, sleep late, linger in bed, the very definition of a layabout. Science now tells us teenagers need a lot of sleep because they’re growing both physically and mentally. Adolescence takes a heavy toll on the body and the mind. I’ll vouch for that. Living through middle school meant two of the worst years of my life. Sleep as a method of escaping reality became a coping mechanism. I had what the psychologists refer to as “peer problems.” I grew up alone due to my brother and sister both leaving home when I was only seven years old. Now I was in middle school, twelve years old, and my parents had just gone through a really messy, bitter divorce. The divorce meant Dad was gone and Mom had to go back to work, so I was a latchkey kid before the term had been invented. I was miserable. I could escape that only when I was sleeping.

For somebody who liked to sleep so much, how did I develop all three forms of insomnia associated with clinical depression? It’s been a long and stressful road from twelve to fifty-six, and life wasn’t exactly all rainbows and unicorns when I was a little kid. Just to be clear, let me explain the three separate forms of insomnia:

1. I have difficulty getting to sleep.

2. I have difficulty staying asleep.

3. If something wakes me up, I can’t get back to sleep.

Do I take medication for insomnia? Oh yes. Does the medication I take work? Yes and no. If I avoid caffeine, don’t eat the wrong foods and don’t eat too late in the evening, take my pills on an empty stomach and then go straight to bed, I might have an even chance of actually dozing off in a reasonable amount of time. All of that is referred to as good “sleep hygiene.” In general, my sleep hygiene is poor. I stay up too late. That’s when the house is quite enough for me to write. I watch exciting mysteries or detective shows or supernatural movies on TV. Many of these self-defeating behaviors are tied into my depression. Some nights I’m just too agitated to sleep and the medication makes no difference at all. Then there’s the problem of my body’s tendency to acclimate to medication within about four months. Am I still depressed? Oh yes. Will I ever be cured? There is no cure for Major Depressive Disorder. There is only support through medication and therapy, along with healthy living habits and a determination to keep on climbing up out of the darkness.

I know these things for sure:

Sleep deprivation makes depression worse and causes weight gain.

Depression will make weight gain worse.

Weight gain will make depression worse.

See how easy it is to get stuck in the labyrinth with no way out? The answer is sleep. When I’m asleep, my body is restoring itself and my mind processes what’s going on at various levels of my consciousness. That processing is essential. Picture your mind as one big file drawer. When you get enough sleep, all the files are in the right order and new material gets filed and cross-referenced appropriately. When you don’t get enough sleep, information gets filed incorrectly, memory doesn’t work right, and if the sleep deprivation goes on long enough, what you end up with is that file drawer yanked out, turned upside down, and everything dumped on the floor in an impossible mess. Sometimes the mess is so bad you have what the psychiatrists refer to as a “psychotic break.”

Bear in mind I’m talking about myself here. Different people need different amounts of sleep. Newborns do very little but eat and sleep. Teenagers need a lot of sleep not because they’re lazy but because of their mental and physical growth rates. Older people might not need as much sleep as people in their thirties or forties. Your mileage may vary. All I know is I need more sleep than I get, and that’s partly due to my own bad habits. It’s important to be aware of that. The more control I have over the causes of my depression, the more I can fight it. The more I keep up the fight, the more often I win. It’s when I forget that I can stand up against the depression that it takes over. Fatigue, chronic pain, the endless stress of two special needs children, and the pandemic make it very difficult to keep moving forward. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is my friend.

Right now I’m sitting here at 1:30 a.m. It’s been another long day in a long week. Before I go to sleep, I will write down at least three good things that happened today. I will light that candle and keep it lit against the darkness of depression.

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Filed under #atozchallenge, bad movies, Blog challenges, Depression, doctors, Family, frustration, Goals, home town, memoirs, mother, parenting, research, Special needs, specialneeds, therapy, worry, Writing

F is for Future


by Lillian Csernica on April 6, 2022

I apologize for the delay in posting. Today I received my first cortisone shot in my right knee. It was a bit of an ordeal. Thank you for your patience.

FINAGLING THE FUTURE

I was raised Roman Catholic. When it came time for my Confirmation, I decided to leave the Roman Catholic Church. Confirmation meant making a commitment to act as an adult according to the Church’s dogma and practices. I told my mother I did not believe what the Roman Catholic Church taught, mainly because I couldn’t reconcile the contradictions between this God of love and mercy I kept hearing about and the really scary people who served him. In my parish, we had several fire and brimstone Irish Catholic priests, the kind with silvery hair and brick red faces who never smiled. We had nuns, too, the old-fashioned kind in the proper habits with veils and their skirts worn below the knee. For some reason I never understood, those nuns were replaced by an order of nuns who wore what looked like ’50s twin sets in beige polyester with skirts to match and no head covering at all. One of these “modern nuns” taught my afterschool class (Sunday school on a weekday afternoon). She was more like a social worker than an actual nun. (She talked like a lawyer, which makes sense given how legalistic the Roman Catholic Church tends to be.) This drove me even farther away from the Church. I needed to find a source of spiritual growth that didn’t send so many mixed signals.

Mom let me off the hook for Confirmation, but she didn’t give me any ideas about filling the sudden void in my spiritual life. Chaucer said an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop. He must must have known a few teenagers. I had an active mind, a strong curiosity, and a love of reading, so I started looking into subjects much better left alone. Back then I liked to watch horror movies, classics featuring Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, and Peter Cushing. I wanted to know where the filmmakers got their ideas for the monsters, sorcery, and strange occult organizations. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Lucky for me, my Holy Guardian Angel kept a lifeline attached to my silly soul and hauled me out of danger more than once.

I mention all this to give you a context for what I was like when I plunged into the world of divination, or fortunetelling. A lot of those scary movies I’d been watching featured curses, omens, and ancient artifacts, even items that could help foretell the future. So I rushed right out and bought myself a Tarot deck. Even in this new hobby I was very much a traditionalist, because I bought the deck created by Arthur Edward Waite along with his book on interpretation. Waite was a member of at least one of the occult organizations very prominent at the turn of the century when spiritualism was all the rage among the intelligentsia. The enormous popularity of séances, table-tapping, and Ouija boards, prompted professional illusionists such as the great Houdini to debunk the frauds. I’ve met a lot of people who have really wanted to believe they were psychic. A lot of them just wanted their dreams to be real. The problem with that kind of thinking is, you can’t just have the good dreams be real. The nightmares are part of the deal too.

When I was in high school I worked in community theater as a stage or lighting technician. That meant I got to hang around backstage, be part of the magic of a live performance, and go to the cast parties. The show onstage was nothing compared to what I’d see at the cast party afterward. At one of these parties I brought along my Tarot deck and set myself up in a corner. This was not a smart idea. Trying to peer into the mysteries of the Infinite for people who are drunk and/or wasted on recreational drugs does not end well. Divination should not be treated like a party game, like one more neat thing to do after you have your face painted. But there I was, sixteen years old and so sure I knew what I was doing.

A few people came to have readings done. The only one I remember clearly is the one I hope I never forget. An older woman wanted to ask the cards a question about a problem involving her daughter. I don’t recall the problem. I worked my way through the cards I’d dealt, watching the woman for her reactions. Fool that I was, I let my eagerness to please color what I saw in the cards and how I expressed it. The woman went away quite pleased, with a smile that seemed a little too broad. I was bright enough to spot that, but totally blind to what caused it.

A man who’d been sitting nearby watching me do readings asked me if I understood what I’d just done. By his tone I could tell he thought I didn’t know. He pointed out to me the way the older woman asked the question indicated she’d already decided what her daughter should do. I worked so hard for her approval that I totally missed the trap. I’d given that woman the answer she wanted. Now she’d go to her daughter and tell her daughter what she should do. If the daughter had other ideas, the older woman could back up her own opinion with the authority of my Tarot reading. I had given the older woman power she perhaps should not have gained. By doing so I might have set in motion events that would lead to a place that the daughter did not want to go, creating friction and hidden resentments and who knows what other emotional and spiritual damage. The man who explained all this to me wanted me to understand that I had no clue how much responsibility went along with presenting myself as any kind of fortuneteller. He was right. Even now, forty years later, I still feel ashamed for being so arrogant and ignorant.

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, dreams, fantasy, frustration, Goals, memoirs, mother, research, school, therapy

D is for Disappointment


by Lillian Csernica on April 4, 2022

These are examples of free writing or word sprints using the prompt #disappointment.

1. Control Group

You never know when the pictures in your head will end up biting you on the ass. There you are, dreaming dreams, conjuring marvelous plans for the future, and before you know it you’ve invested too much energy. Now the dreams are set in mental stone. Now you’ve enshrined them, so you have to worship them daily. Worse, you have to do something about them. Here come the teeth. Expectations. Unspoken needs. Hidden agendas. Other people don’t have access to the art gallery in your head so they can’t paint-by-number according to your design.

2. Sun and Moon

Yow. Sunshine is good for the soul. Kill that disappointment with light. Drown the darkness with illumination. Not easy to keep the light burning. Gotta have fuel to keep it lit. Fuel is hard to come by on the cold dark days when the firebox or coal hod of the mind is empty , full of splinters and soot. Those lingering traces of old sorrows that begrime the pictures in our heads and tarnish our dreams.

It sucks to be stuck in the dark. Power failures are a literal disappointment. They kill the energy that makes all the really entertaining devices in the house work. So we are thrown back on our inner resources. How’s the firebox? Did the coal arrive? If not, we’re screwed. It’s so hard to generate our own light, to be the flame we light instead of cursing the darkness.

Disappointment can put out that flame, stain those pictures, suck up all our fuel and spit it out as nothing but heat that fails to warm us. Disappointment breeds anger, distrust, dislike, discord. Dis dis dis. Not. None. No more. Poverty. Emptiness. Lack of what’s necessary. Disappointment means we didn’t get what we wanted, what we hoped for, what we were expecting. It means the puppet show called daily life didn’t play out according to our chosen script. Cut strings. Empty eyes. Broken joints. No more plays today.

3. Three-legged Race

Connection and attachment lead to disappointment. To remain free of disappointment is to attempt to escape all risk. Why? The minute something or someone becomes important to you, whether for positive or negative reasons, there is the possibility of loss. Physical loss. Emotional loss. Financial loss. Spiritual loss. Loss of self, loss of identity, loss of freedom. On and on and on. Can one exist without connections? No. Not in our modern electronic pseudo-utopia. Can one exist without attachments? That means giving up everything. All of it. Total dispassion. Is that possible? Yes. Likely? How many saints have there been compared to the total population on the planet at their time? Odds aren’t too good, are they?

4. Stomp and yell

Physical exertion combats the toxins of disappointment. Sweat, dammit! Purge those juices that circulate like ink dropped in clear water. Purge those fractals. Sing the blood through your veins. Combat spiritual lethargy with craziness. Let GO. Let go of all those dusty old masterpieces chaining you to a life fixed on canvas and no longer vital. Burn them! Fire cleanses. Fire in the belly, in the blood, in the soul. Make new ashes. Ashes + lye = soap. Soap cleanses. Soap heals. Soap is fun because it makes bubbles. Bubbles are a sure cure for the downer of disappointment. Blow big, blow small, pop ’em, watch ’em float. Let it go. Let those bubbles carry those old ashes away. Cleanse your mind with pretty shiny soap bubbles and start finger-painting in the real world. Goofy little kid art. House. Tree. Dog. Baseball. River. Goldfish.

God is in the details. If we can learn to treasure the details, we will never be disappointed.

5. Blind Walk

Trust is difficult. Trust means loss of control. Loss of control can lead to disappointment because things don’t turn out the way they would have if we’d been in charge. That’s the illusion. Control freaks dwell in this fantasy land where everything will work out just fine as long as people just do things their way. All hail the Control Freaks, Kings and Queens of Disappointments. Control freaks are just asking for it. Control freaks don’t trust anybody, not even themselves. They’ve been disappointed big time in the past and they aren’t about to let that happen again.

I know about this. My wedding was a perfect example of misplaced trust and ruined expectations. All the key people were fine, it was the support people who screwed up. The photographer, dressmaker, and baker, all masters of their particular domains, and every one of them left me furious and disappointed. Yes, I’m a control freak. No, I’m not a Bridezilla.

Broken hearts. Broken dreams. All you can do is gather up the pretty fragments and try to create a stained glass window or a mosaic or some work of art that will remind you not to let whatever it was happen again. Memory is tricky. We want what we want. We need what we need. Attachments can become addictions. We’re so disappointed in ourselves when we realize we have so little control over our impulses and actions. We think we’re masters of our destinies and captains of our souls, but we’re still just apprentices sweeping up those splinters and all that soot.

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, Family, frustration, marriage, memoirs, worry, Writing

B is for Bullying


by Lillian Csernica on April 2, 2022

BULLYING: THEN AND NOW

This is about getting bullied at school. I don’t get into any really drastic details. Still, be advised. This might bring back memories you don’t want to revisit.

When I was in elementary school back in the ’70s, the officials took a much different approach to incidents of bullying. By the time I was ten years old I stood almost five feet seven inches tall. This caused me all sorts of problems. Because I looked older, adults expected me to act the age they perceived me to be. When I didn’t act that way, they accused me of being immature. This complicated matters when my height made me a target for bullies. Given that I was a girl, I came in for a lot of the usual bullying tactics as well.

The main bully saying nasty things while the rest of the mob watched or added their own insults.

The usual name-calling, i.e. “Four Eyes

Putting something in the desk of the person being bullied for a nasty surprise

Chasing girls into the bathrooms

Bra-snapping

What kind of responses did I get when I told my teachers about all this? What kind of support and protection did they provide for me, along with disciplinary action for my tormentors?

“Boys will be boys.”

“Just ignore them and they’ll stop.”

“You must have done something to provoke that.”

“You must have been asking for it.”

Do these statements sound familiar? They’re the responses women often get when we’re trying to report sexual harassment or rape.

When it came time for me to enroll in middle school, my parents got divorced. My mother and I had to move, which meant I left my few friends and all the classmates I’d grown up with to go to a different school. Being the new kid put an even bigger target on my back. Every day of my life at school included some or all of these:

Verbal provocation

People making up rumors about me

Harassment in the girls’ gym about my weight, glasses, hair, etc.

The older students ganging up on me while I was walking home from school.

Nobody would listen. Nobody took me seriously. I guess I’m lucky the boys in middle school were acting one at a time, only intent on breaking my glasses, punching me, spitting on me, pulling my hair and making me cry. Just imagine what might have happened if those thugs combined their strength to ambush me and commit a more serious form of assault.

One day after school two dozen of my classmates surrounded me with their bicycles and demanded that one of my archenemies beat me up right there in front of all of them. I ran up to the door of the nearest house, told them it was an emergency and I needed to use their phone, then called the police and my father. I was twelve years old, and I had to do this for myself. My father arrived in time to see the ring of bullies before they all took off. He knew I wasn’t making anything up.

This incident led to the principal insisting my parents meet with him at his office so they all could to discuss what to do about me because I was such a troublemaker. Unfortunately, due to the terms of the divorce my father pretty much left school decisions to my mother, who got custody of me. Mom was so busy smiling and groveling to the school officials she didn’t stand up for me at all. My test scores were high enough to enable me to skip sixth grade. That didn’t really help matters. It just created even more resentment among my classmates. The one mercy I received was being trapped in that educational hell for only two years instead of three.

High school? Same people, more sophisticated grief.

Let’s contrast my experiences with the anti-bullying policy of today’s educational system. This is taken from the student manual of the high school both of my sons attended:

Students may not coerce others through threats or intimidation. Students shall not haze, sexually harass or commit any act which degrades or discredits students and/or staff. Harassment has nothing to do with intent, and it is determined by the victim. Harassment is defined as intentional threats or intimidation directed against a person or group that is so severe that it disrupts class work, creates substantial disorder and invades the rights of the student by creating an intimidating or hostile environment.

Sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and/or other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Any student who feels he/she is the victim of harassment must notify a teacher, counselor or administrator. The student may be asked to provide a written statement. Any form of sexual harassment toward personnel or students will result in automatic suspension and/or expulsion.

Consequences:

1st Offense: 1-5 day suspension; Parent contact/contract; Referral to Counseling/CRT

 2nd Offense: 5 day suspension; Referral to law enforcement.

 3rd Offense: 5 day suspension; Recommendation for expulsion; Referral to law enforcement.

Wow. What a difference forty years and a technological revolution have made. Thanks to cell phones and social media, everybody is watching everybody else. Any stupid, embarrassing moment can be captured and uploaded to the Internet in a matter of minutes. I’m glad I got through my school days before the Internet became an essential part of everyday life. Still, it would have been great to have photos or video proof of my tormentors.

In the Steubenville rape case, the two boys who were convicted used their cell phones to broadcast all the horrible things they did to that poor girl. Apparently it never occured to them they’d handed the prosecution evidence of their own guilt. Cell phones and other easily concealed recording devices have provided documentation of abuses committed in classrooms by both teachers and aides against mainstream students and even special education children. Discovery of such despicable acts has led some parents to call for surveillance equipment in all classrooms. Controversy now rages over invasion of privacy versus the active prevention of abuses against helpless minors.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’d almost be happy to have Big Brother watching us if it meant protecting innocent children, especially those who are disabled and defenseless, from any form of bullying and/or abuse committed against them by classmates, teachers, one to one aides, and any other on-site personnel. I’m an adult now, but I still remember all too well what it felt like to be victimized by bullies, then ignored and even punished by the very authorities who should have been there to safeguard my physical and emotional health.

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, Family, frustration, memoirs, mother, parenting, school, Self-image, special education

A Thousand Thanks


by Lillian Csernica on April 8, 2020

ASD T shirt2

April is Autism Awareness Month. As you can see, I’ve “gone blue” in support of ASD children and adults everywhere. As the T shirt says:

It takes a special mom to know what a child cannot say.

Both of my sons have difficulties with their verbal skills. John has speech delay. Michael doesn’t not speak at all, aside from some vigorous vocalizing. I am fortunate in that words seem to be what I’m good at in this life. Public speaking, sales, writing fiction and nonfiction. I had no idea my ability with words would stand me in such good stead given how hard it is for both of my boys to communicate.

What really keeps me going right now is the generosity and support of my community. By that I mean all of you folks reading this. All the folks who have donated to the GoFundMe, Safeguarding My Special Needs Sons. As of today, the total amount donated is over $3,000. In these strange, stressful, and scary times, the weight of enduring the divorce process is crushing me. I have to stay strong for my boys, to help them make the most of each day.

Thank you. Thank you so much. If I could do it, I would hug every single one of you.

Please keep sharing the link to the GoFundMe. Being able to pay a good lawyer to protect my interests and my boys’ future will do so much to keep all three of us strong until we get to that brighter future we all are hoping for.

 

J reading to M

 

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Filed under autism, charity, Depression, Family, family tradition, frustration, Goals, Lillian Csernica, marriage, mother, neurodiversity, parenting, special education, Special needs, therapy, worry, Writing

Please Help My Family


by Lillian Csernica on March 25, 2020

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As you may recall, last year my sister moved out of my house and soon after that my mother passed away. The time has come to reveal the third event that made 2019 even more stressful.

I filed for divorce.

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I am one of those women who let the man take care of all the finances. This was a serious mistake. I can’t discuss the legal fine points here. Let me just say my husband has made a number of questionable decisions and went to some lengths to conceal them. As a writer I don’t make a lot of money. The royalties I do have coming in don’t amount to a lot, a fact painfully clear when I put together all my income tax information. Last year was hard on me emotionally and financially.

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Lawyers cost money, especially divorce lawyers. With that in mind, I have organized a GoFundMe. I’ve found a lawyer who will protect my interests and those of my sons. We need someone who will keep us safe against spite, vengeance, and legal maneuvering.

Please. Any donation will help me protect my boys and build a better life.

Links:

GoFundMe

Paypal: lillian@lillian-csernica.com

Venmo: Lillian Csernica

And please, share this post.

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Filed under autism, charity, Depression, Family, family tradition, frustration, Goals, marriage, mother, parenting, Special needs, worry, Writing

#atozchallenge Y is for Yearning


by Lillian Csernica on April 29, 2019
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Writers spend a lot of their time thinking about their characters’ deepest yearnings.

Sure, the protagonist wants to solve the problem that sets the story in motion. What else is going on down in the deeper layers of the protagonist’s psyche? What unmet need drives that character onward?

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There’s a school of thought in psychodynamics that says we marry a person who represents our parent of the opposite gender. Men marry their mothers, women marry their fathers. As we know, the gender spectrum is not binary, so this thinking is clearly behind the times. Still, take a good look at the spouse and children of a close friend, somebody you know well enough to know about their nuclear family and its dynamics.

See any patterns there? Any repetition of childhood scripts?

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At this point in my life I read a lot less romance and a lot more murder mystery. What does that say about the kind of escapism I’m yearning for? I’ve lived too long to get caught up in the romance paradigm. These days I’m a lot more interested in knowing that by the end of the book, the mystery will be solved and the killer will meet some kind of justice.

I yearn for solutions. I yearn for the power to stop arrogant maladjusted people from getting away with murder. I yearn for an orderly, well-mannered, peaceful world.

"Yes, it's sort of a yearning disability."

 

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, Family, Fiction, frustration, historical fiction, love, marriage, romance, therapy, Writing

#atozchallenge K is for Kids


by Lillian Csernica on April 12, 2019
atoz2019k

by Lillian Csernica on April 12, 2019

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People told me that when I had kids, my life would never be the same.

Those people had no idea how right they were.

My son Michael was born at 23 weeks, weighing 770 grams. That’s one pound, eleven ounces. He was the size of a kitten lying across my palms. This was back in 1996. At that time the age of viability was 24 weeks, because only then would the lungs function. During every single day of the following three and a half months Michael spent in the hospital, we watched and waited to see if our baby would live or die.

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Two and a half years later, John arrived. He went full term, a hefty eight pounds, ten ounces. During delivery, John refused to breathe. By then the hospital staff knew our family rather well, so the head of neonatology was on hand to jump start John and make sure he started life in good form. John had to spend the first week of his life in the NICU, which drove me crazy because I wanted my baby. Then, as John missed verbal milestones and showed other unusual behavior, we learned he has Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

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Now people tell me I should write about my experiences with both of my sons. I should write about battles with insurance, battles with the school district, battles with the boys themselves. I should write about all the doctors and nurses and teachers and aides I’ve worked with through two decades. I should write about what I’ve learned and what I wish I’d known.

It’s not easy to write about difficult events when you’re still in the process of living through them. Now that my boys are legal adults, they face a sharp decline in services, lack of day programs, and the ongoing insurance battles. Michael is still in just as much danger from every medical crisis. John is still learning how to handle some of his symptoms. I am their mother, their legal guardian, and their primary advocate.

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The time is coming when I will write more nonfiction. Right now, I write escapist literature because that’s what I need to write. I don’t travel as much as I’d like to because I simply can’t. In order to hang on to my dented sanity, I run away from home inside my head.

 

 

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Filed under #atozchallenge, autism, Blog challenges, Conventions, cosplay, doctors, Family, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, hospital, mother, neurodiversity, parenting, special education, specialneeds, travel, Writing