What do I have in common with a breakdancing gorilla?

Did you hear that? That was me breathing a huge sigh of relief.

I finally finished four huge papers for my Master’s Degree. I’ll have a few weeks off and then I’ll be back to the grind of writing papers again.

In the meantime, I may or may not have celebrated like this exuberant gorilla. I’ll wait while you watch:

That looks like so much FUN. I want to get right in there with him. Don’t tell me animals don’t have emotions. Look at that joy!

Speaking of fun, I’ve been making myself indulge in some. My husband has figured out how to get the pool water the perfect temperature and I have had wonderful evening swims with the grandchildren and even by myself. Swimming is my favorite.

July 4, 2017 with the grandchildren and granddog! That’s Mr. Himself in his robe. Hee hee.

In other news, my next book launches next week! Stay tuned for some giveaways and spread the word! If you can come to the launch parties, I’d love to see you! Here’s the info:

Official launch day is July 25! 

The twins are so excited. I am trying not to be nervous. But as Mr. Himself said, “You’ve worked hard your whole life for this moment. Enjoy it.”

Okay. Breathe. Breathe.

Until next time: dance like a gorilla! Splash  in a pool! Get out there while you can, kick up your heels and have some FUN!

Please tweet: Get out there and dance like a gorilla!

Proof: teaching sign language and communication works

In my last post, Teaching autism: first things first, I talked about the importance of teaching sign language and communication skills first.

After I posted the video, I found the following inspiration:

I’m passionate about kids getting early intervention and getting it consistently. Indiana education systems need to wake up. There are too many students who don’t get the chance that the young man in the above video got.

Kids with autism can learn to communicate if they’re given the appropriate intervention. It’s time to stop dragging our feet. It’s time to help kids like Ben.

What do you think? Weigh in!

Please tweet: What other autism questions do you have?

I’d love to meet you! You’re invited to my autism book talk on August 3! Here’s a link to the event page on Facebook: https://goo.gl/ScsskD

The book launches on July 25. You can purchase it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com and everywhere books are sold. The twins are so excited to sign books. They’re adorable about it. “Should we practice signing our name, Mom?” I can’t wait for you to meet them and see how awesome they are. And I can’t wait to meet you!

Teaching autism: first things first

What do we do first for kids with autism?

Teach them to communicate!

Meet their sensory needs!

Here’s the video I created to share with those who work with your child with autism. I hope it helps!

 

Let me know what videos you’d like to see by leaving me a note in the comments below.

Please tweet: What other autism questions do you have?

I’d love to meet you! You’re invited to my autism book talk on August 3! Here’s a link to the event page on Facebook: https://goo.gl/ScsskD

The book launches on July 25. You can purchase it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com and everywhere books are sold. The twins are so excited to sign books. They’re adorable about it. “Should we practice signing our name, Mom?” I can’t wait for you to meet them and see how awesome they are. And I can’t wait to meet you!

Princess in training

I’ve been interviewing for a day job for months now. I want the day job for which I’ve sacrificed and gotten my degree. I know that job is out there. It just hasn’t found me yet.

I was asked recently in a job interview what two most important lessons I’d learned in the past year.

My answers: Humility and Perseverance.

I was a student teacher and a long-term substitute teacher last year. By humbling myself and submitting myself to learning from others, I reached my goal of obtaining my teaching license in special education and elementary education.

In the process, I was rejected from time to time — by other teachers, administrators, what have you. Anywhere you work, you’ll experience rejection. News flash: not everyone is going to like you.

Writers get rejected a lot, too. And as a writer, I’m a little thin-skinned. Writers must be emotionally vulnerable to have insight into the human condition.

Rejection is painful, but for highly sensitive people such as myself, it’s brutal.

Another reason rejection is difficult for me is because I struggle with not internalizing it and letting it label me. As a child who was rejected in the womb, left at the hospital by her mother (for whatever reasons, good or bad), rejection is the ugly thorn the enemy uses the most to torment me. He pokes at my insecurities and whispers:

“You’re never good enough.”

“You’ll never measure up.”

“You’ll never get a teaching job. You’re too old. Washed up. You have no future. Give up, already. Crawl in a hole and just die, why don’t you? No one gives a flip about you or what you have to say.”

“You’re not worthy.”

“Who do you think you are?”

I have two choices when these demons do a jig on my self-worth . I can listen to them, wallow in self-pity and consume copious amounts of chocolate, or I can stand up to their bullying.

Who do I think I am?

I am the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). If God is for me, who can be against me (Romans 8:31)? If God favors me, what does it matter what others think (Psalm 5:12)? I am not what others think I am. I am what God says I am.

God formed me with His hands and breathed in my nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). I am created in HIS image (Genesis 1:27). Before I was formed, He knew me and knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139: 13 & 16). He knows the number of hairs on my head and before I say a word? He knows what I’m going to say (Matthew 10:30, Psalm 139:4).

I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)!

I am worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31) and have been crowned with glory (Psalm 8:5; Genesis 1:26).

Cool! I love tiaras! Crowns = princesses. I’m a princess in training. Take that, ugly demon  of rejection. You’re messing with royalty here.

God loves me so much that nothing can snatch me out of His hand (John 10:29) and He will never leave nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

Yes, it’s been a humbling twelve months. But I’ve also learned how strong I am. I’m stronger than anyone ever imagined, including myself. Not because I’m spectacular, but because I  know where my help comes from.

I don’t live by my own power or understanding. I’ve learned this past year that I  have tons of plans, but it’s God’s purpose that prevails (Zechariah 4:6; Proverbs 3:5). It’s not my might, but His Spirit that gets me through the day and guides and empowers me (John 16:7, 13; Acts 1:8, Galatians 5:16).

Rejection is painful but it won’t kill me because I won’t let it. I know I’m strong because I keep getting back up and trying again. I have always believed it isn’t the most talented that persevere and succeed but the most determined.

My crown might be a little crooked. There are a few gems missing, and there are a few scratches that need rubbing out. Even when I fall, it manages to stay on my head. It gets bumped and bent but that doesn’t mean I’m any less of a king’s kid.

I’m not what negative thoughts and spirits say I am.

I am what God says I am.

A child of the king.

You are, too, if you follow King Jesus. Never, ever forget it.

What are the two most important lessons you’ve learned so far in 2017? Weigh in!

Princess in Training first appeared on KarlaAkins.com.

Help for Indiana Schools: Autism Resources

It’s frustrating as a parent of children with autism to know there are excellent resources out there but that Indiana schools fail to access them.

In too many public schools, autism is an annoyance, especially at the secondary level. This is partly due to not addressing the needs of students with autism at the elementary level.

If students are reached very early with evidence-based interventions, many of the issues for students who respond to therapy, phase out by the time they are in secondary school. There are certain things a student must be able to do in order to be successful at the secondary level, and one of them is the  ability to handle anxiety. Others include being able to attend to a task, take directions that they may not want to comply with, and be able to respond to conflict in socially acceptable ways.

Notice that most of these issues aren’t academic. They are social and emotional. Still, if a child with autism is to be guaranteed access to a free and appropriate education, they aren’t able to access it if they can’t get past the social and emotional piece. Yet, during IEP meetings, schools argue that these  are non-academic issues and schools are not required to address them.

What I’ve experienced in Indiana is a lack of genuine compassion and interest in helping students with autism succeed. I’ve also experienced a shameful scarcity of school attention towards helping students struggling above the precarious precipice of diploma track vs. certificate of completion. (I heard a rumor that “no diploma for people with low I.Q.s, etc.,” could be changing for Indiana but I’m not holding my breath.) Too often I’ve been told or have overheard teachers and paraprofessionals say, “don’t bother wasting your time helping that one, they’re taking them off diploma track anyway.”

Special Education teachers burn out because of lack of administrative support. They are given over-sized case loads that result in students falling through academic cracks. They’re not provided with materials, resources, or training for meeting the students’ needs. The mantra is to do the bare minimum of intervention so that schools can legally pocket the rest of the special education monies. Students in dire need of 1:1 aides are not provided them. Instead, one “instructional assistant” or “para-professional” is given to classrooms, and only maybe 1 or 2 per grade if that. No one student is given enough attention and support. Sometimes, high school students still need 1:1 support. Need is the operative word, and is the word that schools interpret any way they wish.

And where is the accountability for special education dollars? Why is our local area program bankrupt? The money wasn’t spent on my twins with autism, I can tell you that. (They are 22 now.) Was the money (millions) spent on teacher training in my school system? No. Was the money spent on 1:1 paraprofessionals for students with autism in my school system? No. Was it spent on administrative conferences and trips? Yes. Why are we not allowed to see how the money is spent?

Special Education teachers are under strict orders not to offer any services outside of the bare minimum. And because teachers want to keep their jobs, they do what they’re told. If you want services, you, the parent, have to bring them to the table. Remember, the school is not obligated in any way to go above and beyond anything but minimum. This is how they interpret and practice “free and appropriate.” Period.

Not all schools are turning their backs on autism. I hope to find these schools and highlight what they’re doing right. (If you know of one, please let me know in the comments below.) But far too many are doing it wrong. Far too many simply don’t care. What’s more important to many schools is keeping ISTEP scores high so they can attract high-scoring students to their schools via the voucher program.

If your student doesn’t make the administration look good, you don’t matter. You’re an inconvenient annoyance. The school hopes parents will pull the student out of school by the end of the year. If the student has already attended X number of days, they get to count the student for the full year and get to pocket the special education monies without spending a dime on support.

Parents are ill-informed of their recourse options. Even though the state law requires that parents be given the “Procedural Safeguards” brochure at the IEP meetings, few parents have the energy to read and digest it. Most of their energy is poured into getting their student through one more day, working their own jobs, and dealing with their other children. This brochure usually isn’t explained by anyone in the IEP meeting. And parents with low-functioning abilities are too embarrassed to have anyone explain it to them.

Here are some resources every parent with a child with disabilities living in Indiana should use:

Indiana Resource Center for Autism. This organization provides incredible training for teachers working with students with autism. Why aren’t all the schools in Indiana accessing this? Is it time to ask our legislators to  mandate this training for our Special Education teachers? There are also great resources for parents, including a Lending Library and a few helpful videos:

 

Another excellent help for parents when working with public schools is In*Source.  If you’re not getting what you believe your child needs in school, and every IEP meeting is a war zone, this organization can help you. They provide trained support advocates to go with you into the IEP meeting and help you navigate the laws to get your child’s needs met. I am a trained In*Source advocate, but now that I’m a teacher, am unable to be part of this service. These advocates are volunteers, and are passionate about helping kids with disabilities get what they need in public school. Don’t hesitate to contact them for help.

Other (Sort of) Helpful Autism Resources in Indiana:

Autism Society of Indiana

Autism Speaks

The reason I call these “sort of” resources is that they do provide information and fund-raising types of things, but not much practical hands-on help for families living in the trenches. However, I’m not belittling what they do. My focus for this post is for helping parents get what they need for their child at public school.

I love helping parents find answers. What questions do you have about autism, disabilities or accessing public school services? Leave your questions and comments below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!  Do you know of a school that does autism intervention right? Please tell me so I can feature them on my blog!

My newest book is available now for pre-order at the following locations. I am so excited and the twins can’t wait to meet you! Our Book Talk will be August 3rd at Manchester Public Library. I will post more information as the date draws near!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indie Bound

Powell’s

“Help for Indiana Schools: Autism Resources” first appeared on Karla Akins’ blog at KarlaAkins.com

Public School’s Answer to Autism: Jail

What kind of society yanks a 10-year-old child with autism from school in the middle of the day, tears him away from his mother (who had NO notice until the moment it happened), and throws him in jail for something he did months ago?

The United States of America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. Aren’t we something? Makes you real proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

Yeah, we really protected society  from danger by cuffing little John Haygood’s hands behind his back and escorting him out to a police car in front of God and everybody in the middle of a school day.

“Excuse me, do you have any paperwork or anything you can show to me?”

John’s mother didn’t have the faintest idea why her son was being taken away in a police car. They finally told her he was being arrested for leaving scratches and marks on a teacher back in October 2016. Felony battery. And now it’s April 2017. Yeah. That’ll teach him. He’ll definitely connect the cause and effect of that one. (Not.)

Since when does our society think it’s appropriate to arrest a 10-year-old boy at school in front of God and everybody in the first place?

The most troubling thing isn’t this one incident, but the fact that this is one of many, many incidents like it. Far too many schools resort to police interference in the elementary school setting. (What better way to condition children to accept a police state? But that’s another discussion entirely.) What I want to focus on here is the lack of common sense schools exhibit when it comes to helping kids with autism succeed in a classroom setting.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a teacher. I don’t relish being kicked, scratched or punched by a student. My granddaughters attend public school. I don’t want them hit or scratched by an out-of-control child. Let’s be clear: I’m not condoning bad behavior. My beef is with the lack of in-class support given teachers and students with autism so that this situation doesn’t occur in the first place. If a student with autism is placed in a regular classroom, and expected to act like regular students, then the school should provide every support necessary for that student to succeed. Instead, from the sounds of it, the student and teacher were set up to fail.

How do I know this when I wasn’t there? Because a child with autism with proper support won’t throw paper balls in class, hurt other students and teachers, or be on his own to react to a reprimand the way this child did. And a teacher, well-trained in autism, won’t react to an autistic student’s behavior in an in-your-face confrontational way, or grab a student with autism and bodily remove him from a classroom.

I know because I have taught students with autism as well as my own children. Children with autism cannot have open-ended expectations and succeed. That’s like asking a child with paralysis in his legs to navigate the school halls without his wheelchair. You don’t physically man-handle any child, leave alone a child with autism. Tactile defensiveness sends the brain into fight or flight mode in kids with autism. You wouldn’t expect a diabetic student to go without checking his sugar or taking his insulin during the school day. And yet, we violate the needs of children with autism everyday in America’s schools.

Most schools in America don’t get this. But they better figure it out because according to the CDC, 1 in 42 boys have autism now.

Wait. Let’s take a moment for that to sink in. 1 in 42 boys have autism.

If that statistic isn’t enough to make you shudder, you ain’t got a shudder button. I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, I don’t think I even met someone with autism. And now, 1 in 42 boys have it.

If that statistic doesn’t  shout out the fact that your typical children or grandchildren will share a classroom with a child with autism, then you ain’t comprehendin’ what I’m tryin’ to say here.

This problem  of inappropriate services for students with autism isn’t going away. In fact, it’s only going to get worse. And yet, schools in general don’t take the time to train staff about autism, or provide the sensory tools students need to get through a day. Sooner or later a school is going to get sued. And when it happens, I hope it wakes up the whole lot of them.

We don’t expect blind students to read the same textbooks or navigate the building the same way typical students do without the tools they need. But schools expect students with autism to. Far too much  is asked of teachers and students and no tools are provided. How do I know? I’m the mother of twins with autism. I wrestled myself with the schools. I’m now teaching in a public school and I see the lack of support with my own eyes. I experienced the lack of support when the twins were growing up and homeschooled them for almost all their elementary and junior high years.

My book about my twins with autism. Release Date: July 2017!

When I speak of support, I’m not talking moral support. I’m talking about visual boundaries, a 1:1 aide, visual schedules, and the most important thing of all: keeping the student with autism meaningfully engaged. An engaged student doesn’t have negative behavior. Yes, there are exceptions. There are students who refuse to be engaged. I understand that. But most negative behavior stems from students not being effectively, and meaningfully engaged. The activity must have relevance. It must have a clear beginning and a clear end. Students with autism can’t be expected to sit in an open-ended classroom without proper guidance and 1:1 support.

Society, in general, likes to call kids with autism brats. Americans and the world in general are sick and tired of hearing about autism. But they’re obviously not tired enough because we don’t know why 1 in 42 boys have autism now. When will the experts take a good hard look at this epidemic? When the statistic becomes 1 in 2?

When people told me that I needed to spank my sons with autism, I invited them to my house for one hour. One hour. Spend one small hour with my sons and tell me that all they need is a good spanking.

Funny. No one took me up on it. Doesn’t matter. I guarantee you they wouldn’t have lasted more than five minutes back then. (We’ve come a long way!)

Society also wants to believe the rumor that more kids are diagnosed with autism because it’s the new trendy disorder, much like they assumed ADHD to be in the 90s. But that argument doesn’t hold water because autism is the only disorder dramatically on the rise while intellectual disabilities, Down Syndrome and Cycstic Fibrosis remain relatively the same. Something is wrong. Very wrong. And whether or not we find out the reason behind these brains that fire differently and explosively, we’ve got to address the current crisis effectively. Most public schools simply don’t.

My challenge to you is this: find out how your school supports students with autism and then let me know in the comments below.

Does your public school have:

  • A sensory room for students with autism to calm?
  • Teachers trained in autism teaching techniques?
  • Lessons provided in an accessible way for the student with autism so they can learn the same material in their own way?
  • Visual schedules?
  • 1:1 trained aids for students who struggle with volatile behavior? (Not rotating aids — the same aid every single day)?
  • Lessons/activities that provide clear beginnings and endings?
  • Social Stories?
  • The use of video technology to help the student with autism decipher social cues?
  • Extensive social skills and behavior training for the student with autism at the preschool-3rd grade level?

My guess is the answer is no. And folks, that’s just the basics a school should be providing. Just. The. Basics. Instead, most schools are terrified of having to provide something like the list above because it may cost more. Well, guess what. We either take care of the kids diagnosed with autism intensively at the preschool-3rd grade level, or we support them the rest of their lives.

So, until the public schools stop brushing students with autism aside (and hoping and praying to God that their parents will remove them from school and keep them home), kids like John will continue to be arrested, handcuffed, and taken to juvenile detention centers for overnight stays. (I can’t imagine the horror his mother and he went through. She wasn’t even warned of any warrants for his arrest!)

It’s unconscionable. Frankly, it’s child abuse. Students with autism need advocates to stand up for them. I hope you’ll join me in adding your voice to mine.

Public School’s Answer to Autism: Jail first appeared on KarlaAkins.com. Karla Akins is a public school teacher and the author of A Pair of Miracles: A story of autism, faith and determined parenting published by Kregel. Release: July 2017.

Autism grows up: social media, bullies, and boundaries

Autism & Social Media

When we adopted the twins 22 years ago, I couldn’t have known the challenges we’d face with them when they became adults. Besides having to use key-less entry locks to keep things in the proper places, we’re also learning to navigate this brave (sort of) new world of social media. How does a parent with adult children with disabilities help their child through the swamp of online bullying, manipulation, and outright danger of online relationships?

Disability rights advocates frown on parental interference in adult relationships, but what if that adult functions on an eight-year-old level? Isn’t it indeed abuse not to intervene to protect that individual?

cyberbully

I’ve learned the hard way that I never should have allowed the twins unfettered access to social media. Not that I could have stopped them, really. They’re both tech savvy. They both want to fit in, and they both love the socialization that happens on Facebook. That’s been a huge plus for them socially because they’re more comfortable writing than speaking. But frankly, I wish I didn’t have to oversee what goes on with them online because it’s extremely time-consuming.

In my interview with Gloria Doty, I learned how her daughter with autism was manipulated, raped, and abused due to online relationships gone wrong (the incident is discussed at 57:10).

What my sons have experienced is bullying, controlling and manipulation. But what is worse, I’m terrified one of my guys will contact an underage girl and be misunderstood. This has happened before and we almost had a dad show up ready to kill. We had to talk him down and explain it was a harmless contact. Nothing would ever come of it. He was not very understanding. I don’t blame him.  (Nothing inappropriate was said or done. But the fact my son was 19 at the time and the girl was 14 freaked the dad out as it should have.)

the-ultimate-protective-dad_o_530456

I’m looking into alternative social media for the guys but there’s slim pickings. PLUS, they want to be where everyone else is. And why wouldn’t they? If Facebook appeals to over a billion people, of course they’re going to want in on the “fun.” (Personally, I don’t like Facebook for many reasons, but that’s another post for another day.)

Do you know how difficult it is to delete a Facebook profile when the owner can’t remember his password? Do you know how difficult it is to keep an intellectually-immature person from creating one in the first place? Do you know how embarrassing it is to have people sending me screen shots of stuff my sons post in innocence but could be taken wrong? (I do appreciate this, by the way. It helps me keep them safe, but still…)

deactivate-facebook-profile

We’ve gone through several really bad online girlfriend situations. These girls were absolutely ruthless in their bullying and control. One young woman took over my son’s page and wouldn’t allow him to have any of his everyday friends on it. He started using bad language that she used. She Face Time called him every day for hours at a time. It was a nightmare!

At other times one of the guys will post on Facebook that he wants a girlfriend and to contact him if interested.

!!!!!!

Talk about the dredges of society crawling out of the darkness! I now know things about people and sexuality that I never wanted to know. I now have seen things I can’t un-see.

unsee

If you have any ideas about keeping people with intellectual disabilities safe on Facebook, let me know. It’s difficult for the guys to understand that not all young women who say they are young women are really who they say they are. I’m very concerned that some undercover agent is going to bait them and they’re going to fall for it. Worse, I’m very concerned that they’ll be bullied again.

internettroll

By the way. While writing this post my husband informed me that one of the twins rang up some international calls. I’m thinking of starting a GoFundMe page…

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Tweet this: Autism grows up: how do we handle social media?



Photo Credits:

Photo credit: Enzo Morelos via Visualhunt.com /  CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: FixersUK via Visualhunt /  CC BY-ND

 

Are you old school 3-D or digital?

over the hill birthday

I think I live in an awesome time to be a writer. What used to take months, even years, to research, I can learn now with just a few clicks. I don’t have to travel anywhere but to my writing cave to go all over the world. I don’t even need a thesaurus, dictionary or encyclopedia at my side. Click. Click. A plethora of resources appears at the command of my fingertips.

app

As I’ve shared before, I really do wish it were possible to read the entire Internet. Then again, sometimes I read so much of it I’m left with even fewer answers than before. The reason? Not every expert agrees. Our knowledge on this earth is finite, and our faith, work and lives extremely complex. There’s simply no way to know everything.

Our knowledge on this earth is finite, and our faith, work and lives extremely complex. There's simply no way to know everything.

And then there’s the issue of digital versus 3-D. Print book vs. e-book. Hard copy versus virtual. I find myself unable to commit to one or the other. Fact is, I’m a hybrid consumer when it comes to using resources.

When organizing your thoughts while writing and planning, do you lean more toward digital or 3-d? I find myself doing both. I still haven’t completely committed to a digital calendar. I record both in my hard copy planner and my digital google calendar. For some reason, the hard copy planner is like a security blanket for me.

Noon

Click to print!

Maybe if I’d grown up recording my life in the virtual world I’d be more willing to let the hard copy calendar go. For now, though, I have it on my phone, computer, on the wall on a whiteboard and in my planner. I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting older and am afraid of being forgetful, or if I just enjoy planning.

-weekly To Do-

Click image to print!

As for planning a novel, I find myself using both Kanbanflow, WriteWay software and a 3-D notebook for storing ideas, outlines, characterizations and research. I found a really awesome little notebook that I wish, oh wish, they’d make in a 2″ binder. In this I keep all sorts of notes, such as my Pixar graphic organizers, character charts, names, research and more. I like being able to reach for the notebook instead of having to figure out where I stored the info online or on my laptop. And while WriteWay has given me a great tool for storing research and ideas, too, I still like having that back-up of a 3-D notebook.

binder

Click to buy

For now, both 3-D and virtual/digital planning works for me. I know I’m probably working at it a little harder than the next person because I use redundant methods. But it makes me feel safer somehow. Plus, I’m an extremely visual person. Not being able to physically see my resources makes me sort of anxious. Am I the only one?

How about you? Are you more a virtual or 3-D consumer/planner/writer? Weigh in!

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Please tweet: Are you a 3-D or virtual consumer/planner/writer?

 

An open letter to friends and family from a writer

Dear Friends and Family:

(Note: This letter is not in any way a reference to my darling Mr. Himself!)

Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one. (1)

There have been some rumbles lately about the time I spend writing. To help us all get on the same page about this wordsmith-ing gig I’m into, I thought I’d write this letter to set a few things straight.

Few people understand the sacrifices a writer makes other than other writers. Especially writers with full-time jobs outside of writing. The perception most of the public has of people who write books, is that their work is easy and effortless. Authors sit down and *POOF* out pops a book.

pooffixed

When you’re a writer, people assume you don’t have a “real” job with “real” hours. Deadlines, to them, are just excuses to say no to things you don’t want to do, when the opposite is true. People also assume writers who are published get big royalty checks each month. Um, no. Not unless you’re a national/international best-seller. So far, no one is banging down my door offering me movie contracts or begging me to publish with them. And if a big royalty check arrived in the mail, someone stole it.

contract

Some of you wonder how I juggle so many things and wear so many hats. It boils down to three basic things:

  1. I don’t watch TV. Think of how many hours you watch TV each week and add it up. That’s probably several whole days of writing for me. I get several whole extra days a week others don’t because I spend my spare time writing and researching instead of passively frying my brain on drivel. (As you can see, I have a high opinion of television these days.)
  2. Writing for me is as much a part of me as breathing. I must write. It’s been such a part of me, from such a young age, I simply can’t imagine not doing it. Ducks swim. I write. You hunt. I write. You are a car enthusiast, I’m a writer. I’m different from you. Different isn’t wrong, it’s just different.
  3. I’ve learned to say no. It upsets people. They call me names. They hurt my feelings by saying things like, “I’ll be sure they put ‘I have a deadline’ on your tombstone.'” (More about that in a minute.) But I’ve learned that no one will respect and protect my writing time but me. No one understands it, or wants it, as badly as I do.

KarlaQuote

I’ve learned that there’s no way to please everyone, so I’ve stopped trying. My aim is to please God and God alone. This has taken me far too long to learn. I wish I’d have done so many years ago. I’m thankful I’ve finally arrived at a place of self-respect and self-care.

You see, I really don’t mind having the epitaph of “I have a deadline” on my tombstone, because that’s exactly what I’m working for, that final deadline.

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We will all stand before God one day. Alone. No one will stand there with us. The enemy will accuse us and Jesus will defend us. But we stand that day without any of our earthly friends and family with us.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” 2 Corinthians 5:10, KJV.

“…And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” 1 John 2:1, KJV.

Heaven is the deadline I’m working toward. And that is why I must write. Far too many people don’t understand the outrageous love God has for them. Far too many live in deception and recklessly dance on the precipice of hell. I’m called to share the Good News with them. I’m called to rescue the perishing with my words.

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I might not have the glamorous social life some of my friends have, or I might not be up on the latest pop culture, but I’m okay with that because I’m doing what I was born to do. Friends and family may reject me because of this writing passion. That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I don’t live to please them.

I live to please my God. The One True God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I look to the heavens every single day wondering if this is the day my Jesus returns for me. I look to those heavens with a mix of anticipation and excitement for myself, but sorrow for those I’ve not yet reached with His Words.

(Let me be clear. This does not make me more righteous or better than anyone else. My righteousness comes from my Messiah, Jesus, alone. In myself, I am nothing.)

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My sacrifice is nothing compared to His. My sorrows nothing compared to what He endured on the cross. I don’t care if you call me addled or crazy. I know that I know Who He is, and Whom I serve. I serve a living God. I serve the God who created all those who call themselves gods. I serve the most powerful, most glorious, most merciful YHWH. I can no more stop writing to spread His message, than I can stop breathing.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of

So the next time you try to shame me into stopping this writing thing? I’ll hand you a copy of this post. Maybe you’ll understand. Maybe you won’t. But at least it is written. And like my father always said, “People believe if it is written, it is so.”

In this case, yes, it is indeed so. I will say no sometimes to fun, to something someone else wants me to do at the spur of the moment, when I’ve already carved out that time in my week to work (i.e., write). I won’t always be able to drop what I’m doing and get someone out of a bind because of something they failed to plan for. I am called to write, not fix someone else’s poor time management foibles.

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That may sound harsh. But it’s what we writers must do in this day of rapid-fire-time-guzzlers. Someone is always going to misunderstand a writer’s need for space and time to create. Contrary to what people think, great words don’t simply magically appear at the end of our finger tips or pens and morph themselves into books, articles or blog posts.

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If this writing thing was easy, everyone would publish a book. Newsflash to friends and family: this writing thing can be grueling. Yes, I love it. Yes, it’s what I’m made to do. That doesn’t mean that it’s not just plain hard work sometimes. There are times when people are asleep all snuggled up in their warm, comfy beds that I wish I was, too. Instead, I’m up earlier than the birds or later than the stars. I sacrifice sleep, family meals and going to the movies, just as you do at your own jobs. Writing is what I love, but writing is also time-consuming work.

If you love me, you’ll try to respect and understand this singular, unconventional path I walk. You won’t hold it against me when I can’t come running because I’m at work, just as you can’t rescue me when you’re at work. Instead of knocking me down, you’ll build me up and give me wings. It’s amazing what a little encouragement will do. I can go for hours, nay, weeks, on just one “atta girl!”

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Finally, I love you. I love you with all your quirks, bad habits, and bad choices. I love you with all I have in me. Just because I’m writing doesn’t mean I stopped loving you. It just means I’m busy answering the call. And I promise. I promise. In between projects, I’ll emerge from my writing cave, and we’ll party and dance and eat and celebrate with outrageous abandon like a fat, sassy robin in springtime.

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But there will come a day, when the cave will beckon me in again, and I will hibernate. Some hibernation times last longer than others. But never fear. They don’t last forever. When I emerge, like a moth from a chrysalis, I will fly back into the real world and do all I can to make it up to you.

Just please try to understand. This writing thing can be hard. The path is often lonely. And it’s made all the worse when I don’t have the sustenance of your blessing. I may not live to please you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want your support.

And maybe, just maybe, a movie-maker will knock down my door. And when that happens? You’ll be right there with me on that red carpet.

I guarantee it.

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Announcing Blog of the Year Winner!

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Last year I held a contest in which I featured a different blog each month. The following blogs recieved the Brilliant Blog Award in 2016 and were in the running for the Most Brilliant Blog of all 2016:

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1. Camels and Chocolate by Kristen Luna. My favorite secular blog. It’s a travel blog and the photos and layout of this blog are impeccable.

2. Miss NiNi’s Food Blog. There’s nothing I don’t like about this baker and writer’s blog. Her writing voice is just as delicious as her delectable pastries. Meet Miss NiNi here:

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3. Zoe M. McCarthy’s Blog on Writing.  This is probably my favorite blog right now for practical, simple, easy-to-grasp advice on writing. I have printed out pages of this blog to file in my writer’s notebook, and have created graphic organizers with some of the tips she shares. I highly recommend this blog.

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4. Grace on Parade by Karen Wingate. Karen inspires me with  her fortitude and commitment to leading a life dedicated to her Savior.  Her life as a pastor’s wife is intense, but there’s a peace and serenity to her blog that I favor. Her struggle with legal blindness and the miracles attached to that experience are riveting. You really must visit this blog, and often!

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5. Kristy Cambron. This blog is not only pretty, it’s rich in encouragement and spiritual food. I fell in love with Kristy after reading her first book. I also like the way Kristy incorporates video into her blog. You’re missing out on something very special if you don’t subscribe. Kristy is a consistent blogger and you can count on her posts each week to inspire you to draw closer to Jesus.

6. Bob Hostetler’s One Prayer a Day Blog. I love getting these prayers in my emails each day. (I subscribe to his blogs by mail.) He also has other blogs you can check out here. Bob’s a former pastor and a best-selling author. I can hardly wait to dig into his latest book: The Bard and the Bible. 

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7. Books & Such Literary Agency. Everything you need to know about working with a publishing agent can be found on this blog. Read and digest!

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8. Shelley Wilburn’s Walking Healed.  Ever since Jesus healed Shelley, she can’t stop speaking and blogging about it! Her blog is delightful. And anyone who wears mismatched socks is just okay with me! You’ll love her. She now has a companion study guide to go with her book. You’ve got to check it out!

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9. Tom Threadgill’s wit and satire on his blog are second to none. I always giggle when I read Tom’s blog. He is also an editor and you can acquire his services over on his editing website, Eagle Eye Edits.

There were only nine blogs nominated because I was student teaching the last three months of the year and simply didn’t have enough time to blog about all the wonderful blogs out there. (You can read my teaching blog at KarlaTeaches.com.)

Now, I know you can hardly wait to learn who the winner is, right?

Drumroll please!

And the winner is–

NINI

MISS NINI’S FINE DESSERTS BLOG!

Congratulations!!

Miss Nini’s blog received the most votes for Blog of the Year!

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