The Silver Linings Aspie Playbook

•June 30, 2013 • 4 Comments

Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops. ~Cary Grant

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I normally don’t watch movies like Silver Linings Playbook. The reason for this is simple: my time is limited, and I’d rather watch movies about puppies or grand adventures or famous landmarks exploding than I would movies about dysfunctional families screaming at ear-exploding volumes.

Up until a few years ago I was relatively sheltered from the dysfunctional family. Our family had its share of issues but there were no Hollywood-worthy scandals to speak of (unless one wants to count my wayward uncle, and I don’t.) I am an only child. I have Asperger’s ( thoughI didn’t know officially until 2011, and Mom and Dad simply thought I was being obstinate). I am adopted. I sometimes despised my parents and sometimes loved them more than life itself. So yeah, there were issues. But not I-need-serious-therapy issues and not let’s-wake-up-the-neighbors issues.

A lot of people seem to love these flicks about families gone wrong. They regularly clean up at awards shows. To me, I don’t want my art imitating life. At least not too closely. My readers will know that I hardly ever talk about my family. The reason for this is mostly privacy, but also because my blog was meant to be mostly about fantasy and pop culture. It is about what could be, not what is.

I did identify with one characteristic of the protagonist of Silver Linings Playbook, who is unlike me in most every other way. It’s the actual concept of “silver linings.”

As an Aspie I’m often accused of not living in the real world. I immerse myself in the world of pop culture, my books, my writing. I maintain an elaborate Walter Mitty-style fantasy life inside my head. And I’m also stable, independent, and have a decent job without having been thrown in jail. It’s good. It keeps me sane.

The silver linings part of it is about my incurable optimism. Or maybe my weird sense of pragmatism. I’m not sure which.

I even look at my (extended) dysfunctional family through this perspective. Until a few years ago they were an afterthought. They were straw men and women to whom I wrote letters, made the occasional phone call, and exchanged gifts with at the holidays. They were hardly more real to me than Santa Claus and far more dysfunctional. Through my dad I heard sordid tales of meth addiction, fatherless kids, multiple divorces, and an endless supply of drama that seemed more appropriate for Jersey Shore than my own life. It was two states away and didn’t affect me.

Now it does, though only indirectly, since that side of the family now live in my area. I don’t make many associations with them. I don’t have to because of my job and because, to them, I am like a museum exhibit. Look, but don’t touch. They also don’t know about my AS. I suppose they think I’m well on my way to spinsterhood and a bevy of cats. I don’t dissuade them from this idea.

What I do worry about is the cumulative affect of this dysfunction on Mom and Dad, to whom I am now very close. That’s where the silver linings come in.

The old adage tells us that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Where once our little family unit was tense and, dare I say, on its way to being estranged, now we are closer than ever. We understand one another. We are not the dysfunctional family who smash objects and shout at one another over bad meat loaf. Instead, we have calm, rational discussions. We talk, whether it’s about our jobs or times gone by. We engage in real conversations. I hate to say this, but before the dysfunctional folks arrived, we almost never did that. It’s amazing how much a common adversary can bond people together.

As for the Dysfuncties themselves, maybe they have a silver lining too. I’m not sure what it is. Their lifestyles are alien and distant to me (just like the idea of Bradley Cooper slavishly devoted to his lost wife is kinda weird to me). My MO is to stay aloof and impartial. They are NTs with NT issues. I’m an Aspie with AS issues. Never the twain shall meet. While they’re arguing over whether it’s OK to let a teenage girl run a tattoo parlor, I’m sitting at home watching Sunday Night Baseball and downing a cold green tea.

That’s my silver lining…that and the fact that Bradley Cooper was also in The A-Team.

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What’s your silver lining?

Coming this week: Interview with the Site Mascot and contest winners!

8 Movie Moments That Made Me Cry (And Have Nothing To Do With Death)

•June 25, 2013 • 9 Comments

You know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.

~Lemony Snicket

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Everybody has some movie that makes them cry buckets. For my dad it was always Brian’s Song. I think my mom’s was Love Story. And the site mascot weeps every time The Lion King is on. There’s some obvious connections here, which is to say, movies where people (or animated lions) die are usually quite bloody sad in parts. Slow death by cancer or quick death at the hands of one’s evil brother are a bummer.

The problem with me is, with AS, I cry at all the wrong times, and when I’m supposed to cry, I usually don’t. It’s weird. (No, I was not that weird person you heard cracking up during Saving Private Ryan.) The movies that usually get me are the ones that are supposed to be for kids or for families. Don’t believe me? I still can’t get through these scenes without a box of tissues.

And nobody dies. I’m not all morbid like that.

#8: Mulan (1998)

OK, so scene was also done (in a way) in The Return of the King, but I’ll say I like this one better because it’s a *girl*.

#7: The Princess Bride (1987)

This movie has a happy ending. It makes me cry because I think love like that still exists in the world.

#6. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

There are much sadder scenes in the Star Wars universe, but I’ll always remember this one from the first time I saw it on the big screen, the way it was meant to be seen.

#5. Avatar (2009)

I’ve always been more moved by music than images, and if there really is a heaven, I hope this type of beautiful music accompanies me in the hereafter.

#4. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Damn you, Pixar, for having a nearly unbroken string of cry-worthy movies. This one gets me because, I dunno, the little girl reminds me of myself at that age.

#3. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

This movie gave me nightmares as a kid because it was about A CARTOON CHARACTER WHO KILLS PEOPLE. Think about that for a sec.

#2. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

My all-time favorite Disney movie, which I went to see 5 times in theaters and have seen countless times since. It still makes me cry…as it should anyone with a heart.

#1. Rudy (1993)

This movie is Hollywood-ized and shamelessly sentimental. It’s also about everything I hold dear: perseverance, the power of faith, hard work paying off, and a real Cinderella story. I can’t watch it without crying. I’m sorry. (The music is also my all-time favorite score, by the late, great Jerry Goldsmith.)

So, what are some of your favorite so-happy-they’re-sad moments?

You still have a few more days to enter our contest for a great prize! Jump in!

cryingmurdock

My Book Now Has a Title

•June 19, 2013 • 11 Comments

I’m writing a book. I have the page numbers done. ~Steven Wright

bookcover

This is going to be a reality…my goal is a manuscript by the end of the year. I’ve been told to write what I know, so that’s what I’m doing. Funny, quirky essays about life with autism and as a fangirl supreme. It’s just like writing for P&Q (or so I keep telling myself.) Who cares if it sells or doesn’t sell? This is for me…and it’s the fulfillment of a promise I made long ago.

I love it when a plan comes together! Stay tuned for updates!

Enter our contest for a chance to win an Amazon gift card, why dontcha?

white paper

Summer Reading For People Who Hate Summer Reading

•June 17, 2013 • 2 Comments

Books – the best antidote against the marsh-gas of boredom and vacuity.  ~George Steiner

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It’s summer reading season at the library. Personally I can’t imagine a summer without books, but it seems some folks have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the whole proposition. Most of these are the ones who, if they read a book at all during the summer, turn in James Patterson novels with sand trapped between the Mylar and the dust jacket.

This list is for everyone who can’t stand the idea of being force-fed The Giver or The Outsiders , or remember such drudgery from school. Personally I’ll pick up any book that looks good. These particular books are just plain fun. Some of them have won awards or are written by acclaimed authors. Others are the literary equivalent of cotton candy. Since I devote a bit of space on my sidebar to books I read, it’s only fair that I share some of them with my readers. I also tried to keep a theme here: each of these books has something “summery” about it. And no book reports are required, folks.

Summer is Baseball: The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrychby Doug Wilson

I love a good Cinderella story, and there’s hardly a better one than Mark Fidrych, who was a rookie phenom before I was born. This was my kind of guy: he talked to the baseball, dug up the dirt around the pitcher’s mound, and shook hands with the groundskeepers. Even if you don’t like baseball, you’ll be charmed by the meteoric rise and fall of one of America’s forgotten heroes.

Summer is Weddings: “Insane Cityby Dave Barry

Predictable? Yes. Corny? Kind of. Derivative of The Hangover? OK, yeah. It’s also gut-bustingly hilarious. Imagine, if you will, the Wolf Pack on the loose in sunny Miami with half the cast of Seinfeld in tow, with a pinch of the Marx Brothers and a dash of Every Which Way But Loose. Read it alone just so you don’t annoy people with howls of laughter.

Summer is Road Trips: “Going Bovineby Libba Bray

I’m not much of a YA reader anymore, but this one sucker-punched me with its witty dialogue and zany surrealism. It’s a sort of Don Quixote for the MTV generation, and features a happiness cult, a Norse god trapped in a garden gnome’s body, and a paranoid dwarf named Gonzo. It’s the kind of book Hunter S. Thompson might have written if he were actually trying to be funny.

Summer is Internships: “Marcelo in the Real Worldby Francisco Stork

There have been a number of books written with Asperger’s protagonists recently. This is by far my favorite: it’s hilarious, touching, sad, and moving. The title character’s voice is one I couldn’t get out of my mind for weeks afterward. It’s that rare novel which serves as both entertainment and enlightenment.

Summer is Travel: “Random Violenceby Jassy Mackenzie

I needed a good new female protagonist, and I got one in this series. I also needed a South Africa fix since District 9 won’t have a sequel anytime soon. This is the first in the Jade de Jong mystery series, and it’s a gritty, tough look into life in Johannesburg. I don’t think I’d want to live there, but reading these books has been a good compromise.

Summer is Patriotic: “In the President’s Secret Serviceby Ronald Kessler

I don’t pretend to think politicians, even presidents and their families, are perfect. This book, written by a former agent, is that type of book. It’s an interesting behind-the-scenes look at what is maybe the hardest job in America.

Summer is Adventure: “The Lost City of Zby David Grann

This is the kind of book that just feels like a big-budget adventure film. It’s the story of Percy Fawcett, the Indiana Jones of his day, and how he disappeared looking for a legendary lost city in the Amazon rainforest. Like Indy’s film exploits, this is not for the fainthearted.

Are you doing Summer Reading this year? What book or books would you recommend?

Don’t forget to submit your questions for our new contest for a chance to win an Amazon or iTunes gift card!

New Contest: Interview With the Site Mascot

•June 13, 2013 • 9 Comments

An actor should never give interviews. ~Daniel Day-Lewis

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It’s summer. And it’s been a while since I’ve given back to my loyal readers. Therefore, it’s time for another contest at P&Q!

This one is kinda simple. I’d like you, my readers, to come up with questions for an “interview” with our site mascot, the one and only H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock. Everything is fair game and he will do his best to answer each question in a future post. (assisted by me, as he is, after all, insane.) Questions can be about anything and everything as long as they are in good taste.

What’s in it for you? The chance to win a $20 Amazon or iTunes gift card. One randomly selected reader who submits a question will win.

How it works: Submit a question via the comments section or via Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook. No limit to the number of questions and each separate question counts as one entry. For each mention of the contest on your own blog or in social media, you will receive an additional entry. I will be taking questions from now until midnight Central Time on June 28th.

Also, the winner will receive a guest blog spot on P&Q as well as his/her blog featured on our sidebar for a month. Cool, huh?

Submit your question(s) today and you might be the winner!

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Since It’s My Birthday, And You Asked…

•June 11, 2013 • 5 Comments

There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents, and only one for birthday presents, you know.

~Lewis Carroll

death cake

My birthday just snuck up on me out of nowhere this year, like the season finale of Game of Thrones, the 90-degree heat and my incompetent cell phone carrier’s text messages. In any case it’s on top of me. And, since the site mascot asked me to take a few well-needed days off to, you know, actually write, I realized I needed to address the issue beforehand.

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I’m at that age when birthdays are less of a celebration and more of an excuse to shamelessly hit up family members for practicalities I otherwise couldn’t afford. I’m asking for gas cards and teeth whitening kits. Sheesh. Before long it’ll be discounts to 5:00 buffets at Golden Corral and those little walkers with tennis balls on them. I’m getting older, but I’m not a geezer. Not yet, anyway.

When I was a kid, birthdays, along with Christmases, were an excuse to cook up wild fantasies. Remember the endless Calvin and Hobbes strips where the little guy asked for a thermo-nuclear missile launcher and a private continent? That was me, though my wanton desires were a little less militaristic. I wanted a horse, a trip to Thailand to ride elephants, ninjitsu lessons. I never got any of it.

But, now that I’m older, I don’t stop thinking about how much cooler I would be if I were an elephant-riding ninja with her own horse. Let me set aside my practical side for a day, and ask purely hypothetically for these few little trifles. I will have a fund set up on Kickstarter soon should anyone wish to contribute (that’s a joke, I promise.)

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vintage warbird flights

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Czech Republic Loket Castle_20090615171614

And, of course, no birthday would be complete without:

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So, Prost and I’ll drink to another year of good health and (hopefully) some teeth whitening strips.

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What were some of the outlandish or weird things you asked for at your birthday or Christmas? Did you ever get any of the items?

8 Cheap Things You Gotta Do This Summer

•May 27, 2013 • 3 Comments

It’s a cruel season that makes you get ready for bed while it’s light out.  ~Bill Watterson

calvin2

I love summer. Always have. When I was little it was an excuse for me to go out early, have adventures, get eaten alive by insects, and get back in time for dinner. Now that I’m older, it’s more about getting caught up on the two-foot-high stack of books I keep meaning to read.

With the Great Recession still on, everyone’s looking for a few good free or cheap things to do during the summer. And if kids are involved, doubly so. Never fear, good readers…because I have the perfect solutions for you!

#1 Head out to a state or local park. I’m a total park junkie. Whether it’s fishing or camping or hiking, or just a relaxing place to write and hang out, state parks can’t be beat when it comes to value. The majority of parks are free. Find one in your area here.

#2 Catch a local ballgame. No matter what anyone says, baseball is still America’s game. If you have kids, support their Little League or Pee Wee team. If you don’t, head out to a local college or adult pick-up field for some cheap fun. The nice thing about baseball: even if you know nothing about the game, you can still chat and enjoy a beer and hot dog.

#3 Take advantage of your public library. I feel like such a cheerleader here, but libraries are so much more than just books today. Free language lessons, puppet and musical shows, great TV shows and movies on DVD, and digital magazines are just a few of the things we offer. And yes, we do still have the Summer Reading Program for you diehards.

#4 See a summer stock performance. To me, nothing says summer like an amateur production of Gypsy or The Foreigner. Many workshop theatre groups offer free or low-cost shows. And they’re happy to have an audience. A lot of Shakespeare in the Park shows are free also but gladly accept donations

#5 Go for a swim. Again, what’s more perfect for summer than swimming? A lot of public pools are free or cheap for the summer. If you’re not into those, try a local lake or reservoir. Just don’t sneak into hotel pools in the middle of the night. (I speak from experience.)

#6 Visit a local museum. I’d never actually been to our (free) state museum until recently. When I went, I was delighted to see everything from Native American artifacts to a full-size Victoria fire engine on display. Don’t forget to make a small donation if you can.

#7 Have a yard sale. Everyone has stuff in their home that they don’t use. Make it fun, clean up, and earn a few bucks in the process.

#8 Attend an NFL training camp. This is really a cool experience; I went several years running to the one in San Diego. Most of the time you can grab players’ autographs after practice.

Just remember to stay cool, have fun, and never forget sunscreen!

ateamsummer

What kinds of free or cheap things would you recommend for the summer?

 
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