Birthdays have been coming at breakneck speed these last few years.  Time flies—not necessarily because I’m having fun—but because I realize there’s so much less time left for me in the future than the past.  (See “Fast Forward Birthdays,” 3/8/13).  Each year I ask myself:  “How is it even possible that I’m fifty-something?” Before I know it I’ll be entering—gulp(!)—a whole new decade. I shudder to think what it will feel like to punch in TWO new numbers on an elliptical machine. If I want to reinvent myself—as all empty nesters must—then NOW is the time.  No more postponing, no more saying “there’s always next year.” Turning middle-aged dreams into reality takes time and planning.

     My latest ideas are a lot more complicated than converting my son’s childhood room into a den. For the past five years, I’ve been gestating a memoir, writing and rewriting the story of raising my unusual twins.  Now it’s time to hatch the book: “My Picture Perfect Family.” Coincidentally, the launch began on my birthday; I met with my editor, publisher, and marketing expert to brainstorm about the book’s release. Writing my memoir was daunting enough. But now there are more unfamiliar tasks to be tackled and decisions to make.  What should the cover look like? (Yes, you CAN tell a lot about a book by its cover, ESPECIALLY if you believe, as I do, that a picture is worth a thousand words.)  What is my “brand?”  What about a subtitle that clarifies the book’s purpose? Should there be an endorsement on the front cover? What’s the difference between a prologue and an introduction?   Which copy editor is cost efficient? Which publicist has the right area of expertise?

     What started as a relatively insignificant birthday turned into a brainstorming session about the ins and outs of birthing my book in proper form, and sending it out into the world with a message of hope for people raising children on the autistic spectrum. There’s a lot of work to be done—some of which I was secretly dreading—but now I see that it’s actually going to be a lot of  FUN.  Writing is a wonderful creative release, but it can leave you feeling isolated and alone.  On the other hand, publishing is a collaborative process, and equally creative in its own way. Oddly, I find myself enjoying the launching process more than I’d ever thought I would.  Maybe I’m just excited because I’m involved in publishing my very FIRST book. Writing has always been about my relationship with the empty page; now I have a supportive and enthusiastic “team” behind me, which includes my best friend.  And sometime this coming year, I’ll finally share my story with the world. Stay tuned. . .

     This year I had a bountiful birthday.  Not only did I receive a lovely gift and roses from Henry, but my son and his girlfriend also sent flowers.  My daughter gave me a beautiful card with hearts painstakingly drawn on a pink envelope.  What more could a birthday Mom want?
       After two weeks of blogging about dismal headlines decrying discrimination against women (and especially women with disabilities), finally I want to tell you some good news.  This week there was an open house at Felicity House, a new Community Center dedicated to—can you believe it—women on the autistic spectrum! Better still, my daughter, Sarah’s film, “Keep the Change”(winner of the 2013 Columbia University Film Festival) was shown. (See Sarah’s Next Fifteen Minutes,” 5/30/14).  Director Rachel Israel and female lead Sarah were invited to speak about the film and answer questions. Maybe just maybe somebody will be moved to invest in the full-length version of “Keep the Change?” In fifteen short minutes, this extraordinary film shows that two young people with disabilities can struggle for romantic and emotional connection and succeed.  What could be better proof of this ability to connect than my real-life daughter Sarah and serious boyfriend of over a year?  There MUST be parents out there who dare to dream that their sons and daughters on the autistic spectrum will find love and someone to care for them after we’re gone.

     The hopes and dreams of women on the autistic spectrum matter.  Although 80% of people on the spectrum are male, that does not excuse marginalizing the 20% female minority.  Sadly,  50% of the world’s population (neurotypical women) are still not treated as equal to males, so what hope do women with disabilities (a double  minority) have of finding a productive and respected place in the world?  Answer: Not much, and that’s why I’m SO grateful  to each individual and every event that shines a spotlight on women who—like my daughter Sarah—have already exceeded most people’s expectations. For me, that’s the best birthday gift of all.



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