Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Aspergers or Hamburgers

I guess sometimes I get distracted with the many things that fill my day. Normal stuff... the day to day rigors of parenting, books, writing, school... And you forget to pay attention to the little things. To take out a moment and let the tears make salty tracks down your cheeks as your soul opens up enough to let the worries and fears of being a parent come to the surface.

The tv show Parenthood has a little boy with Asperger's on it. It is a really good representation of what life with a kid on the spectrum is like. He wrings his little hands when he is frustrated, struggles with social interactions and shines with that special little light that so many of these kids have. Every time I watch that show, I am driven to tears.

I have said before that having Princess has been a great struggle and sometimes a practice in patience-- patience with myself when I want to fix things and can't. Patience with her when she does things that aren't 'normal' and patience with others who don't treat her as I feel she deserves.

Today I spoke with one of her teachers and she said Princess was reading and comprehending on a 9th grade level. I literally broke down on the phone and cried as the teacher told me this.

When Princess tried kindergarten the first time through, her teacher was an ass. She literally told me in a conference that my daughter couldn't learn. I wrote a letter to the principal in response to this. I told him that Helen Keller could learn and she was deaf and blind, don't you dare tell me that my daughter, with all of her faculties in tact, couldn't learn.

But she struggled.

Learning to read took YEARS. Literally, I had read the flashcards out loud so many times that my youngest (no more than 3 or 4 at the time) would overhear us. So when I held up the A card and asked Princess what it was, he would reply, from across the room, "A is for Apple. A-p-p-l-e." I would look at her and wonder how the baby could get it and she couldn't. But it was all an uphill battle for her.

To hear from a teacher that she was now ABOVE grade level... I couldn't help it. I cried. It was so good to hear that all the time, all the repeating over and over... It worked. She had done it.

I have said before, that looking at your baby... Lying in that hospital bed and counting the pearly pink toes and seeing such a beautiful creature (she was born looking like she had been dipped in water before being handed to me... Not a speck of blood or ick on her. So perfect and lovely.) and knowing your child is whole and healthy...

To finding out years later that something inside her is just a little off. Something that you can't put a bandaid on or kiss to make better... It kills daily. I can't make the world be nice to her. I can't make it all come easy to her. Learning will always be a struggle for her and sometimes, when I learn things quickly, I feel guilty. Why was I given the ability to grasp concepts so easily and she left to struggle with every nugget of information? It isn't fair!! I would give it to her, if I could.

And late at night, when I am worrying the loudest, that is when I have found that I sometimes yell at God. I beg any higher power that might be listening to make it better... to make it easier... to tell me how to fix things and make the world okay for her.

But no one answers. Not that I can hear.

Sometimes this makes me feel very alone. Like no one would understand how much it makes your heart hurt to not be able to make the world a safe and lovely place for someone you love so much.

And there is that stupid tv show. With that beautiful little boy... and his struggles.

And I cry. Because I am not alone. Other parents are worrying the same fears. Other parents are struggling to do the right thing, make the right choices, not mess up too badly with the terribly wonderful responsibility that comes with these kids.

They see the world in a way that we can't. And if we let them, they give us little glimpses into their view. But the world is afraid of change and different. So sometimes people hurt their feelings for being special. Sometimes I say things and bite my tongue the minute the words come out but you can't take back the little things you say. You can't protect them from everyone all the time...

So the worry is there.
Right alongside the beauty.

Anyway, the point of all this was that it is good that there is a show like this. A program that says, "I get it," in a way that no amount of sympathetic nods can. I like knowing that she (and I) are not alone. That probably it will all work out okay, and if not okay, then exactly as it was meant to.

Today I watched an episode where the little boy was all alone and people called him a freak. I have seen this happen to my kid. But in the end, the people that cared about him were by his side. And she has been lucky enough to have a best friend that has been there since she was in 1st grade... who accepts her and her Princess-isms and doesn't judge her. Someone who doesn't give a rats ass if she has Aspergers or hamburgers... Who loves her for who she is, not the label that was stuck to her.

In the end, that is the most that anyone can hope for. Someone who loves you, despite what may or may not be true about you, no matter what. Someone willing to call bullshit if the moment warrants and to tell you to knock it off when you are being too weird.

Love comes in many forms. The best one I have found is friend.


I woke up to find that Clothing Optional had climbed back to #4 for romance and hot shorts on my publishers bestsellers list. I also found out that some awesome reader from Virginia (the state, not me) had left this review on :

Clothing Optional is a short, hot read that pushes the boundaries of love. Virginia Nelson, best known for her Odd Stuff series, takes a break from the paranormal to share a story about three characters, who start as friends and end up lovers on a getaway weekend at a clothing optional resort.

Ms. Nelson p...resents this tale in such a way that it's believable for all three characters to fall in love with each other. Not only is it believable but she has her readers hoping for that perfect happy ending. Do they get it? Well, you'll have to read the story!

For a scintillating read, check out Clothing Optional!

So to celebrate all the love (since the book has been out quite some time, I am a happy author to wake up to this...) I figured it was time for a giveaway!!!

But I don't want to just love on Clothing Optional... I will let the winner have their choice of my backtitles (Odd Stuff, Siren's Song, or Clothing Optional) because I am just swell like that.

All you have to do to win your free choice is either message me on Facebook or comment below.

Feel free to share the contest with your friends. Best of luck!!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

On Scientific Discoveries and Edits

As some of you may know, my eldest and youngest are going to an online charter school. This means I get a front row seat to their educational escapades. Although this may not sound like the most amusing of ventures, I find them a daily dose of fresh and fun comments. For instance, today Princess was again working on her scientific discoveries time line.

Princess: I can't believe that discovering Uranus is a scientific discovery.
Me: Why not? I mean, it was important.
Princess: You don't get it, Mom. I just wrote : Discovered Uranus.
Me: Uh huh.
Princess: Your anus?! Your anus?! Someone discovered Your Anus.
Me: Just finish the timeline.

My son is working on a narrative essay about state parks and what kind of things they can teach us. He is focusing on our camping trips to Mosquito Lakes and things like owl poop.
Ash: I am revising my narrative essay. Is that like your edits?
Me: Kind of, yeah.
Ash: Except you get to cheat. They TELL you what you did wrong. Is there such a thing as an elementary school editor? And how do I find one? Maybe google?
Me: Your editor is you. You have to find what you did wrong.
Ash: Well, you writers are kind of cheaters, then, aren't you?
Me: *scowl*
Kids. Meh.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Death and Pain and other inevitables

My uncle, Virgil Parnell, passed away this week. There is nothing like a funeral to get you thinking about mortality.

When I was a kid, JuJu (his nickname) was a larger than life figure, probably because my mom had grown up looking up to him and passed a bit of that hero worship down to us girls. When she was a kid, he was off in the Korean War, being a soldier. She told us a bit of her childhood and he would visit, riding on an Indian motorcycle or driving some new car and it always impressed her, a simple girl growing up in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

I remember one of his visits when he took me shopping and bought me this disembodied head (a Barbie kind of thing with hair I could style and pretend make-up....) and some plastic money.

Later, he came and picked up our little family and took us on the longest car ride I had ever been on at the time. He had this shiny brown and tan Bronco and I had never even been in a truck. He got us our first McDonald's and took us to his home by Lake Erie. I remember being awed by the Lake. It seemed to be the biggest thing in the world...

Uncle JuJu played the hero quite a bit for my childhood. He came one Christmas and mom had only gotten me this big blue coat while my sister got toys. Uncle JuJu came back and gave me a radio with a tape deck. I thought that was so cool (I still have the antiquated thing in my attic...) and later in life he paid for my drivers ed classes. I remember sitting on his lap in his recliner and watching movies and feeling so safe... He was big and strong and seemed at the time to be some scary constant that was larger than life.

Like I said, nothing like a funeral to have you consider mortality.

In my upcoming release, later this month, Sleeping Garden, written under my pseudonym Virginia Ashley, the characters have to deal with death and mortality. It is a YA Paranormal that starts out with the main characters mother passing away suddenly after being very healthy. She is left to try to go on without her mother there... something she never imagined. Dealing with grief is something that everyone deals with in their own way and Olivia's way is probably neither better nor worse than anyone's in those circumstances.

On the reverse side of things, Colin, one of the lead guys in Olivia's life, has been sick his whole life and dealt daily with the knowledge that he will probably not live to see adulthood. This has made him a bit of a morbid character and, when confronted with Olivia and her new grief, he is forced to reevaluate how his perspective of things are hampering each day he is gifted with.

Dealing with death and the knowledge that all life ends isn't easy for even adults. When coping with these topics as a kid, it is even harder since most of the time they don't have the words to even express what they are going through. Somehow, losing someone, brings us back to memories, faded and stuffed into dusty boxes in the backs of our minds, and makes us look at who they were and who we may have wished they could have been.

Probably editing a book about death while mourning was bound to make me think about it more than I would have otherwise but in a way, it also helped me work through what I was feeling on the topic.

Rest in Peace, Uncle JuJu. Semper Fi. Once a Marine, Always a Marine.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

In My Mailbox

Since it was my birthday this past week, I have gotten lots of cool stuff. But my mailbox has been busy this week, too, so I thought I would show off some of the cool book stuff and author swag that has come my way. First off, I won this copy of A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies from Goodreads. Here is the back cover
Basically, it is a couple of angel boys and one not-so-ordinary girl. Looks good. Trying to get it read this weekend so I can toss up a review. You can pick up your copy here or by clicking on the cover art.

Next, I won a contest held by Jackson Pearce to celebrate the release of Sweetly which got me this sucker, the UK cover version of Sisters Red (signed!) and a fail invite. I was super excited about this one as the kids and I are huge Jackson Pearce fans. You can pick up your copy of Sweetly here or by clicking on the pictures.
For those of you who didn't read Sisters Red (the companion novel to Sweetly), Jackson has created some truly scary monsters and has a lovely voice to her writing. Sweetly is a modern retelling of Hanzel and Gretel. But better and I haven't quite finished it yet but it has been great so far.

And lastly, I went to the beautiful wedding of Leslie and Shawn Tromler and had the most excellent strawberry wine I have ever had. It was from a local winery called Virant Family Winery and you can find their website here. It literally tastes like a liquid strawberry shortcake. Good stuff. I know, it wasn't in my mailbox but it was too good not to mention.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The guy with the drunken elk

I am taking a physics class called Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe. Most of what we are talking about is pretty familiar to me since I am a dork and read things like The Universe in a Nutshell and A Brief History of Time for fun.

However, when the professor brought up Tycho Brahe he really caught my attention. It was a short sentence, in passing, about Tycho having a silver nose because his was shot off in a duel.

A guy with a silver nose?

Who gets a prosthetic nose? Tycho. That's who. And it was enough to send me clicking on the internet to find out more. I must research this man further.

What I have learned so far:

1. Born a twin, his brother died as an infant. However, his parents had promised to give him to his uncle. It doesn't say why other than 'to become a scholar.' When they didn't follow through and give away their son, he came and took him. Kidnapped would probably be an okay term to throw around here. But they never tried to get him back.

2. Tycho did get into a fight at a party and it resulted in a duel in which his nose got shot off. He, from then on, wore a prosthetic nose held on with 'paste' (read: he glued that shit to his FACE). However, green stains around his skull-when he was brought up for modern curiosity-suggest that he wore a copper one around the house and such. It was lighter and more comfy. Picture this for a moment : Guy with green stains and a silver and gold nose. He had to get laid A LOT.

3. He was loyal. He married a commoner and stayed with her for 30 yrs. Go Tycho!!

4. He had a pet tame elk. Yeah. Guy was a rockstar. But one night, at a party during dinner, the elk drank too much beer and fell down a staircase and died. It was a moose that liked to PARTY.

5. He also kept his own dwarf. His name was Jepp and Tycho thought he was clairvoyant. Tycho liked to keep him under the table during dinner. It doesn't say how the dwarf died but I fear beer and staircases due to his experience with the elk.

6. He died of some bladder ailment. First he couldn't pee then he could only do this in extreme pain. That we have the bathroom history of a guy that lived in the 1500's is fascinating to me.

Okay, that is all I know about him so far but I think you can see how I would have become fascinated by him. He is now officially on my 'if you could have a dinner party and invite anyone living or dead' list. Possibly top of that list, really.

Do you know anything weird about anyone from history?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert... For the painfully thin and somewhat transparent...

I have been reading The Near Witch (by Victoria Schwab) lately (among other things...) and so far I love this book. The storytelling is beautifully wrought, the main character is witty and strong, the plot and fairytale created within the book are brilliant.

So since I can't review it yet (I haven't finished it) I figured I would share a recipe that would help fatten up one of the scrawnier characters in the story. The Stranger is a wisp of a boy and Lexi's mom is a baker, so I figure the idea of fattening him up has to have trickled through her mind at some point or another...

And if you are interested in the book, you can find it here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


In August of 2001, I gave birth to my youngest son. This, in and of itself, isn't remarkable to most (other than perhaps those associated with him) however since the doctors had advised that giving birth would likely kill me, I was jubilant to prove them wrong.

When my birthday rolled around a few weeks later, I was beyond triumphant. This was the birthday I wasn't supposed to see.

I woke up and was giving the kids a munchy grazing variety breakfast. (Ash was newborn, Princess four and Deej only 2.) The sun was shining and it was warm enough that my sliding glass door in the living room stood open to allow the breeze to flow through my house uninterrupted. The grass outside looked so green, that day, especially against the nearly unbroken jewel bright blue of the sky. It was a beautiful fall day, here in north east Ohio.

Rugrats blasted from my tv. I remember this because when my phone rang just before nine, I told my mom as much.

"Good morning!" I chirped.

"Are you watching TV?"

Since I was expecting a 'happy birthday!' I frowned and glanced at Tommy Pickles and his friends on the tv. "Yes," I answered.

"Turn on the news." I remember feeling no little irritation. I didn't want to watch whatever my mom found important on the news. It would make the kids upset to turn off their cartoons.

"What channel?" I grumbled.

"Doesn't matter."

Her words sent a strange chill through me. I flicked through the channels in time to watch the second plane hit. I remember crying. I remember the feel of the carpet under my hands when I crumpled.

That whole day was full of terror. At first, I thought to take the kids and head to friends in Canada. No one knew what was happening, if there would be more attacks.

I packed them into the car and stopped at my mom's on my way to run... And found they had closed the border.

Trapped, I spent a day mostly at Ashton's grandmothers house... She was waiting for news from Ash's grandfather who was in NY. We later found out he was okay. He was on a bridge, stuck in traffic. Other than his vehicle being covered with ash, he remained unscathed.

I remember driving back across town and seeing long lines at the gas stations and that Domino's had closed early (which didn't happen.)

I remember being scared. Feeling inadequate to protect my kids...Looking at a sky that had no trails of planes in it at sunset and thinking, "What kind of world would my children inherit? Would it be like the one I had lived in or had everything changed?"

I forgot, for most of the day, that it was my birthday. So did everyone else.

One friend remembered. He came late in the night with a six pack of Mike's hard lemonade. I thought it was a gift... He thought it was the only way he would ensure that I would sleep (I was pretty wound up.) He slept on one couch, I on another, in my living room and the last things I remember from that day was the sound of the news playing on the tv.

It was the birthday I thought I would never live to see. And it is the birthday I will never forget.

To those who lost loved ones on that sunshiney September day... I am so sorry. Words aren't enough to express what you went through and go through everyday because of your loss. May you find some peace, even if only a little, in knowing that a nation grieves with you.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Jackson Pearce did a blog sometime last night that went over the misconceptions about authors... Like they are all rich and such.  Well, after watching this blog, which you can view here...

I thought about the misconceptions of homeschooling your kids. 

1. Only really religious parents home school and they do it because they want to brainwash their kids into their cult.

Nope.  I am neither really religious nor really anti religious.  I am very fence.  And I believe that my kids should have the freedom to decide what they believe.  So... Not all homeschooling parents are even religious at all.  Not to say that there aren't any of those cult varieties out there, growing up the next crop of followers who don't know anything BUT the cult... But I haven't met any.  You can (and some do) expound upon the lessons offered and supplement with religious content but you still have to learn state required information.  Anything religious you want to add... That is all on you...

On the same token, there was only a brief passage on Sojourner Truth when my 'adopted' daughter and youngest son went through that portion of history... and I really liked her.  So we went over it all. We were finding video and I read the 'Ain't I A Woman' speech to them... because of the kind of school it was, I was able to make sure they understood WHY I thought she was cool.  I enjoy that freedom.  :)

2. All homeschooling kids are learning off archaic books/supercomputers/a piece of slate.

Again, nuh uh.  My kids are using the same books by the same publisher that our local brick and mortar school are using.  And I am 'homeschooling' by having my kids attend a charter school that happens to be based online.  It is good stuff.  Same books as public but we are doing school in the comfort of our home and wearing pjs.  Fun. :)

3. Homeschooling is a lot of work.

It is quite a bit of work.  I have to help them and make sure they understand what they are learning... but I did that when they were in public school.  I have them around the house, so I get to spend more time with them... but that DOES mean that they are doing the not-touching-me game ALL the time and not just after 4pm.  But a lot of work... Not really.  The school creates the curriculum.  There is an teacher with a cyberclassroom that meets with my kid and teaches them lessons (just like public but one-on-one.)  The school plans the field trips and homework... I just see that it gets done and they don't plagiarize. 

4. You have to be really smart to home school.

No, you don't.  You have to not be a rock with a pulse, yes.  But I have met just as many stupid parents and brilliant ones on the cyber school trips as I did at the public school ones.  People are people.  Don't ever assume anyone is smarter than you or not as smart.  It will exclude you from too many cool things and really... the who and whats of people never changes.  Only the view behind them.

5. You have to be really patient to work with your kids every day.

I think they would disagree.

6.  But you are a writer.  You have all kinds of time to do this.  I work.

Yup.  I am a writer.  That means I spend gargantuan amounts of time clicking away at my computer.  That means, some nights while you are sleeping, I am clicking away at a computer until my eyes scream.  That doesn't mean there are more than 24 hours in my day, either.  We all have the same allotment of hours in a day.  I just feel that their education is something I have to take some time out for.  If that is not what you feel you want to do, fine.  But the illusion that I have more time to potter about the house and was so bored that I am using this to fill my day... yeah, I think my friends and family can attest to the fact that I am booked A LOT and that I am usually running around like a headless chicken trying to get everything squashed into today... just like you.

7. Homeschooled kids lack the important socialization they get in a brick and mortar school.

Maybe this was true when people lived a two day cart ride from civilization.  But today, yeah.  I can't become a hermit if I TRIED (and I didn't work.)  My kids have friends and they hang out with them.  My kids go on a couple of group trips a month.  They have things they are involved with.  But their school is online so during the school day, they only talk to people online and each other and me.  This does not mean that they are cut off from society.  6-8 hours does not a day make.  The rest of the time, they are around people.  I don't worry that they will lack important peer-to-peer relations at some later age.  And my kids probably travel more than the average kid.  So they experience lots of stuff.  Because that is what I feel is important.  Sometimes I WISH they were less social... It would certainly clear up quite a bit of the time that I spend driving them here or there...

8. Homeschooled kids aren't ready for the college experience when the time comes...

Since charter schools offer the same PSEO (Post Secondary Education) as public, this is a flat out lie.  Kids going to online schools go at their own pace.  They don't have to wait for the whole classroom to get a topic.  If they get it, they can move on.  If they don't, they can spend however much time is needed to get it.  Online school kids have just as much chance of finishing their highschool required education and then taking two years of college for free as public... if not more.  

And since most colleges now offer online classes, if anything, they may be more prepared for the educational experience of today's college than your public schooled kid.  Seriously.  

9. But Sally would miss her friends.

Do you think that by online schooling your child, they fall off the map or something?  If they are her friends now, why would homeschooling stop that?  Today we have facebook, cars, email... Why on earth does everyone assume that by pulling their child out of public school, they stop existing?  I was frustrated with the public school and the education that my kids were getting.  I am with Fredrick Douglas insofar as I feel knowledge gives you the keys to freedom.  If my kids are given enough ammo in the world of booksmarts, they can do ANYTHING.  So, yeah, maybe I am spending more of my time working with them, but to me--WORTH IT.  If it isn't a big deal to you or if you really like your kids school... great!!  But there isn't a magical, impenetrable fortress that springs up around your house to keep the outside world from your kids if you decide that learning at home is good.

They do, however, have less of the garbled nonsense that kids were filling their heads with on the bus and other free times in the public school.  I can't say this is a negative and keep a straight face, though.

10. Well, you can afford the school and books and internet.  We can't.  

Any family can afford any THING they choose to put the money into.  Maybe you have a big screen HDTV.  I don't.  Good for you.  

The online schools provide your books, some of your science/gym/art supplies, and a computer.  They also give you an internet subsidy to help pay for the computer.  There are still expenses.  However, your public school kid needs supply fees.  They need special 'school clothes' rather than just the ones you bought because they grew.  They need a backpack.  They need supplies...

Yours isn't free either, you are just accustomed to paying for it.   So if charter schooling your kid and having them at home all sounds swell to you, don't let the idea that only rich people can afford to do it stop you.  It is the same as everything else.  If you want it, you will make it happen.

Now, all this being said, am I telling you to pull your kid out of public schools and bring them home? 


My middle kid is still IN public schools.  He likes the band.  He likes his friends.  He is happy there.  My other two kids weren't doing well.  I pulled them out.  That was my very personal decision.  But I still think there are a lot of people who don't understand what we are doing and then question us.  This was just a clearing up of a lot of the misconceptions I have heard and I am not sure where they all started...

But they are pretty funny from my point of view... 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Guest Blogging

I am guest blogging over at Coffee Time Romance for their Thursday Thirteen!! Check it out. :)