Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"Vacation From The Kids"? Hmmm...

Best Husband Ever recently arranged for us to fly to London for a week so I could attend an awards ceremony I never would have dreamed I'd be able to attend. It was an incredibly romantic gesture, I love him all the more for it, and I had a fantastic time. Since we've returned home, however, many people have said, "OH - you got some time away from the kids! Nobody is more deserving; GOOD FOR YOU!" I smile when people say that and nod my head, but internally I'm thinking about the trip from my phone's point of view. Vacation from the kids? Hmmm...you be the judge.

Sunday 11:39 PM -
Pictures snapped and posted to Facebook:


Well, our London adventure began a bit earlier than we planned. Of COURSE Seattle would have a big snow event when we're trying to leave town. Rather than get stranded on our hill tomorrow morning, we booked a hotel room right next to the airport & caught a ride with a capable young man who drives for Uber part time when he's not out on his Coast Guard ship catching drug runners. Now I'm off to sleep in our cheap little hotel bed, with visions of zero flight delays dancing through my head.


Monday 12:02 AM 
Text exchange with Babysitter Extraordinaire 

Me: Made it.  :)  

B.E - I'm glad you guys are safe  <3  :)

12:20 AM

B.E. - Princess can't fall asleep.

Me - Tell her to just lay quietly and read so YOU can go to sleep!

6:58 AM
Email From Not-So-Studious Son's Science Teacher:

Here's the link to the page for the test corrections he needs to do. Not sure how he's missed it for two weeks?   :)   Have a great trip!


7:03 AM
Back to texting with Babysitter Extraordinaire

Me - I'm sure it comes as no surprise, but both schools are closed today.  :)

B.E. - Yeah I figured that LOL

7:58 AM
Texts with Trusty Driver (who I pre-paid for all transportation, as Babysitter Extrordinaire doesn't drive)

T.D. - Is school cancelled for today?

Me - Yes. I'll let you know ASAP about the status of gymnastics practice for tonight.


9:13 AM
Back to texting with Babysitter Extraordinaire

Me - Kids all still asleep?

Me - Or did Princess ever GET to sleep?

B.E. - She's up and so is Not-So-Studious Son. She didn't go to sleep until at least 1.

Me - Before Not-So-Studious Son can go to any friend's house, he needs to clean his room, eat breakfast, (or brunch...or lunch) and take his pills.

10:01 AM


B.E. - Princess still has gymnastics, right?

Me - Don't know; I don't think the gym is open yet. I'll call soon; we're going through security.

10:08 AM

Me - Will you plz take a pkg of ground beef out of the freezer to thaw & make tacos with tonight? I was going to do that this AM before we left - didn't think of it last night.

10:36 AM
Pictures snapped and posted to Facebook:

Phrase of the day is "On Time" ...which, SO FAR, we are...fingers crossed as I watch some de-icing.




11:32 AM
Alert from Doorbell Video Camera ("RING") that Not-So-Studious Son's best friend, Partner In Crime, has arrived.

12:01 PM
Call the Gym.

12:10PM
Text to Trusty Driver

Me - So the gym will NOT be opening today, so no gymnastics for Princess. I'll let you know the minute I hear about school for tomorrow.

12:12 PM
Back to texting with Babysitter Extraordinaire

Me - The gym will NOT be opening today, so no practice for Princess. I just let Trusty Driver know.

1:08 PM
Alert from RING that Partner In Crime has left.

2:35 PM
Facebook Message from Babysitter Extraordinaire

B.E. - Off-site Dependent Daughter lost power at her condo so she's coming here.
[Off-site Dependent Daughter lives in a condo 1 mile from our house with Best Husband Ever's father]


Me - Yeah, I just got an email about the outage from the power company. If it doesn't come back on before dark, she can stay in our room.

2:40 PM
Call to Babysitter Extraordinaire to further discuss power outage, preparations for possible power outage at the house, and to give instruction for Not-So-Studious Son to work on the science assignment.

3:13 PM
Alert from RING that Off-Site Dependent Daughter has arrived.

3:39 PM
Call to Off-Site Dependent Daughter to discuss her plan to return to the condo after the power is restored, and ensure she has her medication, etc., should she need to spend the night.

5:26 PM
Field a call from Not-So-Studious Son with complaints about a miscommunication with Babysitter Extraordinaire about the game plan for science assignment.


5:29 PM
Have phone discussion with Babysitter Extraordinaire to try to smooth over any homework-related frustrations and to clarify homework plan.

5:57 PM
Facebook Message from Not-So-Studious Son

N.S.S.S. - Ok so this never happens but I feel bad for Princess. She looks sad. Babysitter Extraordinaire played with her for a couple of minutes but then stopped. She has been asking her to do piano 4 times now.


Me - Give Princess your phone and dial my #. I have time for 1 more call.

6:02 PM
Have firm-worded discussion with Princess about behaving for Babysitter Extraordinaire and remind her it won't kill her to practice piano for 5 minutes if that will allow her to go back to playing with Babysitter Extraordinaire.

6:10 PM
We board the plane and experience 12 blissful hours of no communication. Pictures snapped and posted to Facebook.


*  *  *

That was most of the communication during the first 18 hours of our 6-day trip. Trust me; things did not slow down for the rest of our "vacation". It was a constant stream of notifications, clarifications, base-touching, conflict resolution, reprimands, and cheerleading (for Babysitter Extraordinaire, of course, as the kids systematically wore her down). It was made all the more exciting by the 8-hour time difference, too. Not-So-Studious Son called me via Skype to chat about his day on Thursday. The first thing he said was, "Oh...I didn't realize it would be so dark there!" "Yeah," I said, "It's 1:53 AM here, buddy. What's up?" Not all exchanges were quite so civilized. There were some lovely little exchanges like this, as Best Husband Ever and I were "leisurely" enjoying an afternoon at a museum in Edinburgh:

Wednesday morning [Seattle time]/
Wednesday afternoon [Scotland time],
moments before school started

N.S.S.S. - Mom I left the science assignment at home  :(

Me - I ASKED you if you had it in your backpack!!! I'm so mad right now!

N.S.S.S. - I thought I did!

Me - You kept your phone at night, even though Babysitter Extraordinaire TOLD you to leave it in the living room like you're supposed to.

Me - You argued with her all morning.

N.S.S.S. - What? No. I told her I was sorry.

Me - You made her CRY!!!!!!

N.S.S.S. - Mom

Me - Then you forget the ONE thing I tell you to take to school and you CONVENIENTLY don't realize it until it's too late to go back and get it, even though you INSISTED on going to school over an hour early so you could hang out with your friends. I am PISSED!

N.S.S.S. - No I'm sorry
I'll scan it
When u get back
I don't know

Me - You had better make it up to Babysitter Extraordinaire, Science Teacher, and me somehow before I get home or the Xbox is out the window.

N.S.S.S. - He's not mad
He's happy I'm here

Me - This all has to be fixed BEFORE I get back. He may not be mad, but I am enough for both of us!!!

N.S.S.S. - I'm sorry I didn't look

Me - Babysitter Extraordinaire is ready to QUIT because of you two. WORK IT OUT and get your freakin' homework turned IN!!!!!!!!!!

N.S.S.S. - You're probably never going to go on vacation again because of me
I'm sorry
I should have been nicer
Ok
Please talk
Mom
Hello
I'm sorry
I will get it in
I'll try my hardest

Is this going to affect you ever going on vacation because I want you to have fun
I'm sorry
Please answer
Mom
Mom

Me (about a half hour later, now exploring St. Giles Cathedral) - Wasn't ignoring you. I lost my phone signal. Please, for the love of GOD, focus on getting everything turned in BY FRIDAY, and figure out a way to make Babysitter Extraordinaire happy. Love you and have a good day at school. xoxo

Meanwhile I was getting "messages" from Babysitter Extraordinaire...







I truly did have a wonderful time and - believe it or not - I view the trip as a total success. Yes, Not-So-Studious Son lived up to his name, Princess did anything BUT live up to hers, and Off-Site Dependent Daughter required more assistance than anticipated. None of that surprised me. What DID surprise me was that nary a word was said about Problem Child during the entire week. HER bag of tricks contains plenty of monkey wrenches that could have easily blown our trip off course. There were no out-of-control seizures, no respiratory distress...she didn't so much as yank her G-tube out! The kids are still alive, Babysitter Extraordinaire is still relatively sane (despite incredible and imaginative efforts to make her otherwise), and the house is still standing. Success. I posted a number of beautiful pictures from our trip to Facebook. Looking at them, one would think it was an absolutely magical respite from "real life". Only my phone and I know the REAL behind-the-scenes truth of a "vacation from the kids".

Thursday, February 16, 2017

RWISA Spotlight Author ~ Bette Stevens

I am a proud member of the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC).


I am honored to also be included in an exclusive division of RRBC,


This week we RWISA members are being introduced by way of blog hop. Today I am excited to introduce you to a lovely woman and talented author, Bette Stevens. Please enjoy this brief interview, in which Bette shares a little about herself!


How long have you been writing, Bette?

20+ years

How many books have you authored?

4 (four)

Please name a few of your titles!

AMAZING MATILDA
PURE TRASH
DOG BONE SOUP

Do you have a writing schedule?

Yes, but it changes with my weekly schedule.

You're a member of Rave Writers ~ International Society of Authors (RWISA). Why do you think you were accepted into this exclusive group?

I believe it is because I'm professional and dedicated to both my readers and author friends.

Modesty aside, what separates your writing from the millions of other writers in the world?

I have a passion for sharing what I believe are crucial societal messages and themes often ignored by the general writing/reading community.

If you could spend a day picking the brain of one author, who would that be? Why?

Emily Dickenson
I think I have a lot in common with this icon who wrote about passions similar to my own.

Are you a die-hard INDIE writer who loves having complete control of your work, or, if you were offered a publishing contract today, would you sign on the dotted line?

I would definitely sign on the dotted line if the contract was too good to pass up, but I would still like to have control of my work to some extent and would write as an Indie as well. My first book, THE TANGRAM ZOO... was published by a local press and I had no control until the company went under and copyrights returned to me. That's when I became an Indie.

As an author, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Lord willing, I'll stil lbe writing books and hopefully get a chance to talk about them with local readers. Getting recognized in my own area is an uphill journey. Libraries aren't clamoring to host Indies. A local high school librarian suggested that my Amazon reviews were insignificant and that I should get reviews from Kirkus, etc. Not going to happne - that costs a fortune. So, I continue to write, blog, support my author friends, read in local schools and tell everyone I meet about my books. The joy is in the writing and talking with readers. I've got some ideas in mind for 2017, so we'll see where they go...

What is the ONE tool that has been the most beneficial tool in the marketing of your books?

Rave Reviews Book Club where I’ve met wonderful author and reader friends who support me by reading and reviewing my books, by sharing on their media sites, promoting my books on their sites and by encouraging me with positive comments and helpful suggestions. And, Rave Reviews  Book Club offers so much more!

Name one writer that you know of, member or non-member of RRBC, who you feel should be added to the RWISA Roster of elite members.

Micki Peluso

What is the one piece of advice that you could share that would be most valuable for those aspiring to not only be writers, but those aspiring to be great writers?

Keep writing, reading and reviewing...

Do you believe that writers who churn out several books a year are really putting out quality work?

Couldn't give an opinion without reading their work.  Personally, I would not be able do it, but all things are possible and everyone has unique gifts.

If you had promised your fans a book by a certain date only to find that your book wasn’t the best it could be, would you go ahead and publish your book just to meet that self-imposed deadline and deliver as promised, or, would you disappoint your fans and shelve the book until it was absolutely ready?  No matter your reason, please explain why?

I would definitely not knowingly publish until I felt the book was ready for readers to enjoy. I would blog about the delay, send newsletter and use media to let readers know why publication was delayed. Readers might be disappointed, but I think would be pleased and feel valued to be let in on a writing journey’s detour.

In your opinion, what makes a book “a great book?”

A beautifully written (includes editing) and professionally formatted story that draws me in and makes me want to keep reading even when I close the last page.

If you received a review of your book which stated that there were editing & proofing “issues,” what’s the first thing you would do?  And the second?

FIRST:  Get out the book and start reading…
SECOND: Take explicit notes as I’m reading and make necessary corrections.

Thanks so much, Bette! Please share with us one more bit of advice you feel is important for authors to know!

Writing Advice

by Bette A. Stevens

As writers, we can never get too much writing advice. That may sound strange, but for me it continues to be true and I’m grateful for the abundance of resources available both on and off line. The first resource on my list is reading.

Reading? That’s right.

Reading is the first step in becoming better writers. One on the top writer’s resource on my shelf is a book by Stephen King. It’s not one of those stuffy books of Do This and Don’t Do That lists, it’s the story of King’s own writing journey and the book is packed with the nuggets he’s discovered along the way.

But the reading doesn’t stop there. I belong to local and virtual book clubs, where we read and discuss books. I’ve never read a book that I didn’t learn something from— and when I’m engaged in a book, my writer-self is right there with me learning how to improve my own craft.

So, yes, the first step in becoming a better writer is to be a passionate reader.

Next step? Become a passionate writer.

Get writing. Yup, that’s what writers do. On a single piece for my blog, I may write, edit, and rewrite several times before publishing a given post. When I’m working on a book—now that’s a different story. That’s where you need plenty of help, once you’ve got the first draft ready for amateur editor eyes—bless those darling beta readers.

While that draft is vacationing at beta readers resorts, reread your draft one chapter at a time as you edit and rewrite along the way. Always save an unedited copy of every draft just in case. Should one of your beta reader be a professional editor and is willing to reread, that’s fantastic. If not, before you publish, do hire a reputable editor.

Between edits, take breaks so you can look at the work with fresh eyes. It’s amazing what you’ll discover as you travel the path to publication.

Happy reading and writing!

Thanks again, Bette! Interested in checking out a few of Bette's books? Visit her Amazon page and take a look! 
You can also reach her on Twitter: @BetteAStevens
or Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorIllustratorBetteA.Stevens/




Thank you for supporting our RWISA (Rave Writers ~ International Society of Authors) Members! Please follow and support the entire tour by visiting 4WillsPub.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Seeing Is Believing...And Not Judging

"You're so lucky your daughter's in a wheelchair!"

That was said to me by a fellow mom at a parent support group meeting I attended when Emily and Hannah were young.

"Excuse me?!" I responded.

"My daughter is autistic," she explained, "which is quite debilitating for her. But she looks normal, so people judge her...and me. They have no understanding of or patience for her disability because they can't SEE it. Your daughter is in a wheelchair. People know right away not to expect normalcy from her, so they're more likely to accept her for who she is. I'm jealous!"


Fast forward about 20 years. I now have a 21-year-old daughter who is still wheelchair-bound and a 24-year old (fully mobile) daughter with high functioning autism and mild to moderate cognitive delay (translating to social, developmental, and emotional abilities of about a 12 to 14-year-old. It was diagnosed a year or two after that particular parent support group meeting). There have been many times over the years when the words of that conversation have rung true - but probably none so blatant as a recent flying situation we found ourselves in.

Emily has flown to New Hampshire alone a few times to visit her best friend, Stacy (who happens to also be her ex-stepmother, a.k.a. my ex-husband's second ex-wife...but that's a story for another time). In the past we've always gotten her onto a direct flight from Seattle to Boston, knowing she would struggle with the challenge of changing planes in a layover.

Emily wanted to spend Christmas with Stacy this year, but for some reason the direct flights were much more expensive than usual. I did find, however, that a few airlines have programs for adults needing assistance with plane changes, much like the program most airlines have for unaccompanied minors. Delta is one of those airlines. When setting up Emily's travel plans I was told,

"All she'll have to do is walk into the airport, approach anyone at the Delta counter, and discretely say the words "Greet and Assist". Our agents will walk her through security and accompany her to her gate. At the second airport someone will meet her as she exits the aircraft and help her to her next gate."



Perfect. On the day of travel I printed out Emily's boarding passes and, indeed, found the words "Assistance Required" printed right there in black and white. Excellent. To make absolutely sure there would be no confusion, though, I also gave her an index card to carry, which read, "I'm in the Greet and Assist program and I need help, please." I told her if she had any trouble, to hand that to any Delta employee and they'd know what to do. Feeling nervous but reasonably confident, I dropped her off at Sea-Tac. She kept in contact with me by phone and text. Everything went swimmingly. The Delta agents were all helpful and respectful. She felt very much at ease and was pleasantly surprised when they informed her that her status allowed her to board the plane first. She wouldn't even have the stress and anxiety of bumping her way through a crowded plane as she nervously looked for her seat number. Fantastic!

A few hours later I got a call from Emily from Minneapolis, where she was switching planes. "Mommy! There's nobody here!" she yelled, in a panic.

Trying to keep my voice calm and even (despite the fact that I was more than a little nervous because I didn't know how long her layover was) I said, "It's okay, sweetie. Just take a breath, go up to the desk, and ask the person there for help, just like we talked about."

"They can't help me; they're too busy helping people onto the plane I just got off of," she said in near tears.

Obviously they wouldn't be boarding that plane so soon after she walked off; her response just demonstrated her level of distress.

"Breathe, Emily, it's going to be okay. Here's what we're going to do. You're going to go to the closest person in a Delta jacket. I don't care if that person is talking to someone, on the computer, or whatever - you will interrupt them and say, "Excuse me; I need help right now." Keep me on the phone so I can be with you until they've helped you."

She approached someone and said, "Excuse me. My name is Emily and I'm in the Greet and Assist program, and I need help getting to my next gate."

"The what program?"

"Greet and Assist."

"...and HOW old are you?"

"Twenty-four."

[pause] "Uh...John! Will you help this woman to her next gate?"




I hung up the phone after Emily reported she was on a golf cart, headed for her next gate. I told her to text when she got there.

I got a call a few minutes later. Emily was, again, desperately trying to hold back tears. "Mommy, I'm in the area where my gate is, but I still don't know which is the right one."

"Didn't the man take you to your gate?"

"When he dropped me off he said, "Your gate is around the corner to the left," but there are a lot of gates here and I don't know which one is mine!"

"Okay. Can you see one of the screens with the flights listed?"

"Ummmm...yeah..."

From there we determined which gate she was supposed to be at and that she had about 45 minutes until she needed to board. I suggested she get a snack, and when someone got to the desk, to ask if she would be able to board first again, since that had been so helpful in Seattle.

She later called me from the plane, reporting that she had been one of the first people to board, but not until after she had nearly the same conversation she had had when she got off the previous plane.

"Hi. My name is Emily and I'm in the Greet and Assist program. On my last flight they let me get on the plane first. Will it be okay for me to do that again?"

"The what program?"

"Greet and Assist."

"...and HOW old are you?"

"Twenty-four."

[pause] "I guess...if you feel like you NEED to."



A few days before her return trip home, I called Delta and explained the "Tale of Two Cities", where their Seattle employees were the perfect picture of respectful assistance, and their Minneapolis employees...might benefit from a review of Delta's program, since none of them appeared to have heard of it. Not only had Emily told them the name of the program, but "Needs Assistance" was written right on her boarding pass! Attempting to bring the point home that getting help should not be so difficult under those circumstances, I said, "I mean, multiple people have told us we should just put her in a wheelchair when she gets to Logan airport, so maybe someone will ACTUALLY help her!"

The customer service representative shocked me with his response.

[slight pause] "Yes...yes. That's a good idea. Put her in a wheelchair as soon as she gets to the airport. She'll get help, then. And I apologize for her stressful experience on her last flight. I'm upgrading her to our Comfort Plus seating for both flights on the way back to Seattle, so she'll not only be the first on the plane, but she'll be first to get off the plane, too."

I called Emily and explained the plan. She didn't understand. It broke my heart as I tried to explain it in a way that wouldn't insult her or make her feel self-conscious. She said, "But if I'm in a wheelchair, won't the other passengers wonder why I'm not walking? Won't they think I'm just being lazy or something?"

"No, sweetie," I said, "Nobody will say anything to you. And if they do, you can say you just had surgery and your doctor doesn't want you walking more than a few steps. BUT...we are NOT pretending that you can't walk at all. When you're on the plane, if you have to use the restroom, you GET UP and walk to the restroom. Nobody will think anything of it."

The entire trip back home went as smooth as silk. Everyone happily helped her along every "step" of the way. I'm relieved that it was a much less stressful experience for her, but it's sad and frustrating that people need the "visual aid" to accept that someone needs assistance. Sad and frustrating...but oh, so true.



Sunday, January 1, 2017

WTH, TSA?! ...SMH...

Going through the TSA (Transportatin Secuirity Administraton) security check at the airport is [at the very least] annoying to everyone. For some people, like Emily, however, it is a downright torturous bombardment on the senses (it's too loud, crowded, fast, etc.). She is overwhelmed and flustered by the time she comes out the other end, often to the point of near tears.


I thought it might help if I got her signed up for TSA pre-check so she will at least be able to zip right through that mess. I filled out an online request, and was scheduled an appointment for her to visit their office and finish the process. The email told me she only needed to bring her passport, but I brought along a copy of her guardianship order, in case she needed to sign anything (to explain why I would either be signing for her or with her).

In a small, eerily quiet, windowless office, Emily and I sit at one side of a desk as the TSA guy types on his computer on the other side of the desk. Emily has a screen and a key pad in front of her with a few options, like "yes", "no", and "enter" to choose from.

Our address flashes up on her screen. "Yes", that's our address. A statement flashes up stating Emily was born in the United States. "Yes", she's an American. A statement flashes up stating she has never been covincted of a crime. "No", Emily is not a criminal. A statement flashes up stating she has never been deemed mentally deficient or spent time in a mental hospital. The guy says, "And for this you just click the 'no' button."

I interrupt, saying, "Um...wait; I have full guardianship over Emily." [I hold up the court order] "So would that mean we need to answer "yes" here?"

"No," he says impatiently, "This is only for people who have been found mentally deficient or mentally ill."

"Riiiigghhttt," I say, "which she haaaaasssss....", trying not to say too much, being sensitive to the fact that Emily is sitting right next to me, but enough to get this moron to understand what I'm saying.

"No," he says, even more impatiently, then he adds in what I can only assume is his most patronizing voice, with a slight shake of his head, tilted to the side, "A judge would have had to have ordered it."


"You mean like this one did, right here?", I practically hiss, pointing to the papers with a shaking finger.

He snatches the papers from me, brow furrowed, mouth turned down in a frown. "Oh," he says in a surprised, moderately confused tone after reading over the order for a few moments, "so she's..." he shoots a glance over at Emily like she's some sort of alien (the green Martian kind, not the immigrant kind) "...she's really mentally defici-"

"Right," I interrupt him in a growl, trying desperately to spare Emily even more embarrassment as I simultaneously imagine 6 different ways I could reach across the desk and do this insensitive ass bodily harm, "so, do we put a "yes" here, then?"


"Well, I...I suppose you'll have to. This has never happened before...but I suppose...yes, you'll have to answer that one "yes"." His expression is the most bureaucratically shell shocked I've ever seen. "So, what...you, like, have power of attorney for her or something?" He doesn't even attempt to make eye contact with Emily anymore, as if he might catch something if he spares her a glance.

"It's kinda like a step above power of attorney," I patiently explain.

Then comes the part of the process where Emily is supposed to sign the little slab of plastic with the stylus so there will be a completely illegible indication that someone has "signed" the application.


But Emily can't [legally] sign it, of course, so I sign. The TSA guy suggests I include my "title" of guardian under my signature. Given the struggle with writing anything that could ever be successfully deciphered later, however, I ask if there's a comments section to explain that Emily just has a guardianship, that she's not mentally ill and has never spent time in a mental hospital (as the simple "yes" to the very loaded 2-part question may have suggested).

"No," he says, getting up to usher us out, having returned to his baseline holier-than-thou civil servant demeanor, "It's just yes/no. You can visit the website to check on the status of your application. I have no idea what effect that "yes" will have on your wait time or if it will keep her from getting approved. Have a nice day."

As we leave the office, I seethe, disgusted and embarrassed for Emily. What could the purpose of that last question on the application possibly be? I can only assume that anything asked in a TSA application would have to relate to security. What does cognitive disability have to do with security? I could see how some mental illnesses could have security concerns, but not most. That's something that would require clarification or explanation (which, of course, they don't allow for). And - even if you do have some valid reason for asking these things - why combine the two inquiries in a single yes/no question? "Do you have Down Syndrome or are you a homicidal schizophrenic who is currently off your meds after having recently finished an involuntary commitment at a mental hospital? Just click "yes" here, because regardless of which better describes you, the potential threat you pose is virtually the same." What the hell, TSA? [...Shake my head...]