Friday, September 6, 2019

Dark, Cold, and "Tired"

I saw an ad recently that showed an old car. No big deal to most. To me it was a time machine that took me back nearly 40 years. It looked just like my first car!

          My first car was a station wagon – a 1968 Plymouth Satellite to be exact. Yes, I am that much of a nerd.

Ride with me in that Plymouth Satellite time machine to a chilly Wednesday evening in Fall 1980. The sun was setting when I dropped off a couple of kids at their remote farm in Grayson County, Virginia.

I worked for their parents. I did a couple of chores before hopping back in my olive-green freedom machine. I threw the column shifter into reverse, gave it some gas and lifted the clutch.


The car moved back a couple of feet, wobbling like…

One look confirmed it. The driver’s side front tire was flat.

I was more than a little irritated. You see, I knew the spare was also flat.

That wasn’t enough. I walked back around the car to use the house phone when I noticed the front passenger side tire was also going flat! I was not going to make it to youth group at church that night.

I called my parents. They agreed to pick me up, but I would have to meet them at the road, a quarter mile down the driveway.

By the time I removed one of the front tires and the spare so we could get them replaced, it was completely dark. A single bulb on the porch shed weak light on the yard. Clouds blocked most of the starlight. The woods along the driveway blocked the rest.

You should probably know that I had lived in that area less than two months at this point. Before that, I lived in the suburbs of San Francisco. I had no concept of the total lack of light I would experience that night.

As the driveway entered the woods, a creek could be heard on the right. The crunch of gravel under my shoes reflected off the embankment on the left. 

I saw nothing.

Every now and then I heard noises in the woods. Visions of mountain lions and bears flooded my imagination as I tightened the grip on the pocket-knife in my hand. The pounding of my heart almost drowned out my footfalls.

I tried to stay in the tire ruts as the driveway curved down to the road. I took small steps to keep from stumbling – a strategy that wasn’t completely successful.

I heard no traffic ahead. This was about as far back as you could get in the country. The few local residents were already home.

Eventually I heard wood under my feet, marking the bridge at the end of the driveway. The clouds parted mercifully, leaving a small patch of starlight in the middle of the road. I stood in that patch for the minutes that felt like hours until my parent’s car approached.

This Sunday I'll teach 4th and 5th graders about trusting in God. I have to admit that I had far more fear than trust that night. Nearly 40 years has taught me that I need not fear the unknown. When fear creeps up like total darkness, I know that I have a light that I can trust in.

Wil Clarey has to deal with many of the same fears that I did. If you haven’t figured it out, his move from LA to Virginia is based on my experiences. In fact, his grandparent's farm is based on the farm where I experienced this story.

We have all had experiences of fear and trust. Where is your trust. Feel free to share yours in the comments here or on the Facebook post of this story. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Inspired by a Ninja

Yes, it has been a while.  A lot of stuff happening around the Solano household. Tonight, after work, My wife and I have been gardening.  Twenty bags of mulch in, the yard is beginning to look good.

But that’s not what inspired me to write tonight.  After cleaning up, I came into the living room to find Janet watching American Ninja Warrior.  I, being the caring, supportive husband that I am, sat down on the sofa and put the Rockies baseball game on my I-Pad.

That’s also not what inspired this blog (though Ian Desmond did just hit a home run. The game is still on in the corner of my screen as I write.).

What inspired me was what distracted me from the game.  Past the sound of strikes and balls in my ear, heard the word “autistic”. That’s when I learned about a 21-year old contestant by the name of Steven Moul.

Steven has autism.  Despite this, or maybe because of this, Steven found himself in front of a roaring crowd, bright flashing lights, TV cameras and a course that he trained for 8 years to complete.  The crowd chanted his name as he challenged the course.

Few complete the American Ninja Warrior course.  Steven was among that majority that try heroically but fall short of completion. But to me, he was the most inspiring. Like Wil Clarey, he shows us that those on the Spectrum can go far beyond what most people think.  Unlike Wil, he is real. I pray that you find hope and inspiration in his story.  You can find it HERE.

Now I return to my less than inspiring baseball game (at this moment, Rockies are behind 1-3).  May you experience an inspiring distraction tonight as well!

Monday, April 1, 2019

What Do I Know?

     That’s a loaded question!  What do any of us know?  Sometimes not enough.  Especially when it comes to parenting.

     There was that one evening, a few years ago.  I was convinced that my son was being dishonest.  He absolutely refused to tell me what I thought was the truth.  I decided that, until he was honest, I would withhold his treasured stuffed animal.  This brilliant tactic inspired rage on his part.  Yeah, I know – not so brilliant.  Had I only known…

     What I didn’t know at that time was that my son’s High Functioning Autism (HFA) gave him an extreme view of truth and justice.  It turns out that he was being honest.  It was almost impossible for him to be dishonest.  When I was unfair and withheld his cherished stuffed animal, that was unthinkable to him. 

     It took a while to realize my ignorance and foolishness from that night.  But I did.  I have realized that I can trust him.  I am learning how he sees the world and trying to help him find his own unique success in life.  I have high hopes for him, as I have for all my kiddos.

     We have four kids.  Each is unique.  Four distinct personalities.  Four amazing people.  They remind me of the child psychologist who started his practice with four theories and no children.  Ten years later, he had four children and no theories.  Those four awesome humans constantly surprise me with their uniqueness and growth.

     So, what do I know about parenting?  After nineteen years, a lot, and never enough.  I am learning constantly, loving them consistently, and moving forward when I blow it. 

     To be honest, that’s a big part of what compelled me to write the Wil Clarey series.  I want to give people an insight into the life of a teen with HFA.  I don’t believe that Wil is a typical teen with HFA.  I don’t believe that there is a typical teen with HFA. 

     Wil is unique (not my son with another name).  He displays some of the characteristics of HFA, but not all.  He and those around him learn to deal with those traits in a constructive way, growing in his strengths and dealing with his weakness.  Kind of sounds like how we all deal with life.  Maybe Wil is actually each of us. 

     If you would like to know more about the Wil Clarey series, please contact me at Solanowriting  I am willing to release a limited number of prerelease digital copies of Wil Clarey: A Kerryville Summer to those willing to review it.  Stay tuned here for publication news as I meet with agents and editors next week!  Your prayers and thoughts are appreciated during that time (April 12-15th)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Spoiler Alert! Excerpt from Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks

     As promised, here’s the first chapter of Book 2 of the Wil Clarey Series - School of Hard Knocks.

     Be warned, it does contain a major spoiler from the end of the first book.  If you would like I digital copy of the first book first, I may be able to arrange that.  Email me at

     While this chapter has been edited and revised, it may still be revised further before final publication. It turned out quite a bit longer than my typical chapters.  I hope you enjoy it!  Let me know what you think.

                                                     Chapter 1 – Locks’ Locks
     “C’mon Locks, work with me here.  Let us in!”  Mom was frantically punching the “unlock” button on the car’s remote.  Nothing was happening.
     “Use the key.”  I was thinking Duh!
     She tried the key on both sides.  It didn’t work.
     “Are you sure this is our car?”  I started walking in circles.
     She gave me “that” look.  “How many beat-up 18-year-old gold Tauruses do you see in this parking lot?  Besides, that’s our stuff in the back seat.”  She had a good point.
     My mind, which works in strange ways, immediately asked myself if it was supposed to be “Tauruses” or “Tauri.”  Instead I asked, “What about the trunk?  Maybe I can crawl through.”
     She tried the key in it.  Surprisingly, it popped open.  We pulled out enough stuff for me to climb in and reach the seat.
     “There’s no release.”  I turned and tried kicking the seat down.  As hard as I tried, it wouldn’t budge.  A voice made me jerk my head up, bashing it on the edge of the trunk.
     “Don’t break your car.”  The voice belonged to an old man in a Ford pickup who stopped behind us.  “I bet I can get it open.”
     I crawled out, rubbing my head.  I was down for any solution that didn’t involve more pain.

     I guess I should explain that we were at the Grand Canyon after our first day of traveling from California to our new home in Kerryville, Virginia.  Mom surprised me a month before when she told me she was buying a house there.  I had just spent the summer in the area and was loving it.  I was excited to be moving.
     The past month was spent frantically packing our stuff and loading it into a big trailer that a moving company would haul to our new home.  That very morning, we took off in “Locks” (short for Goldilocks), our old Ford Taurus.
     After eight hours on the road, we made it to Grand Canyon National Park.  It’s a big hole in the ground.  Okay, I gotta admit, it was pretty cool.  It’s sooo big!  We climbed up this old stone tower to watch the sunset.  It was crowded (which I hate) but the view was pretty amazing.  I got some pretty good shots with my new camera.
     That brings us back to trying to get into the car.

     Mom eyed the man with suspicion.  “How would you know how to do that?”
     “Same thing happened in my daughter’s car.”  The man dug a small screwdriver out of his glovebox and started taking the back cover off his truck’s remote.  “Let me see your remote.”
     Mom hesitantly handed it over.
     “Your ignition lock was probably replaced at one point.”  The man explained as he transferred the battery from his remote to ours.  “The trunk shouldn’t have opened but maybe they took the ignition lock and the trunk lid from the same junker.  That sort of thing happens all the time.”  He pressed the unlock button.  The car unlocked.  “Keep the battery, I’ve got a spare at home.”
     “How can I thank you?”
     “No thanks needed.” He smiled.
     I imagined him saying in a country accent, “Aw shucks, it was nothing.”
     “Have you had dinner yet?”  Mom surprised me.  She hardly ever talked to strangers, much less invited them to dinner.
     He sat there and looked at her.  Then at me.  Then the ground.  “I would be honored if you would join me and my wife for dinner.  But I won’t let you pay.” He said, that last bit in a serious voice.

     That’s how we found ourselves enjoying a late dinner with people we just met at a Denny’s in Flagstaff, Arizona.  We followed Lou and Myra, the elderly couple, all the way to the restaurant.  They took a while to get out of their pick up, so I ended up pacing by the door of the Denny’s waiting with mom.  “Do we have to have dinner with them?”
     “It won’t hurt you.  They’re nice people.”
     Lou walked up and shook mom’s hand.  He then reached for mine.  I know it must seem rude, but at that point in my life shaking a stranger’s hand was horrifying to me.  I looked down and turned away.
     “I’m sorry.  He has Asperger’s and shaking hands is not something he has gotten over yet.”  That’s mom – always coming to my “rescue.”  Embarrassing, but effective.
     “No problem.”  Lou smiled and opened the door.
     Throughout dinner, Myra sat quietly, not saying much, a lot like me.  Lou, on the other hand, could not stop talking.  We heard about the old cars he restored and how Flagstaff got its name, and what Native American Tribes were here, and which one he came from.  You get the idea.
     At one point he asked, “Are you praying people?”
Mom tilted her head.  “I guess you could say that I am.  Why do you ask?”
     “I was just curious.  Do you ever pray for Wil’s healing?”
     Oh man, what is she going to say?  I knew mom well enough to know that she didn’t like that kind of question.  I think she calls it a “trigger” question cause it can make her explode like a gun.
     To my surprise, she stayed calm.  “If Wil was injured or sick, I would pray for healing.  I don’t believe that having Asperger’s is something that he needs healing from?”
     “I’m not sure I understand.  Isn’t it a disability?  Wouldn’t life be easier for him without it?”
     “Life would probably be easier if I were stupid.”  She stopped for a moment.  “I’m sorry, that came out wrong.”
     “Don’t worry about it.  I’m just trying to understand.”  Lou glanced my way.
     I felt like disappearing under the table.  Part of me wanted to speak up like I did last summer on the Today Show.  But this was different, in person with a total stranger.  I think Mom handled it well.
     “People with Asperger’s think differently.  Their brains process information in unique ways.  That makes some things harder and other things easier.”
     “So, you think that the positives outweigh the negatives?”
     “I don’t think you can break it down to simple positives and negatives.  Every person is unique.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  I’ll never be a genius, but, that doesn’t make me any less valuable.”
     “I think I may understand.”  Lou actually scratched his head like it helped him think.  “Maybe the better prayer would be that Wil be able to become the best person that God intends him to be.”
     Mom smiled.  “That’s probably the best prayer for any of us.”
I couldn’t help but agree – at least in my head.  I wasn’t about to say anything.

     It was late when we got to the motel.  Mom went straight to bed while I emailed Hannah, my best friend in Kerryville.  You’ll hear more about her later.  She lives on the farm next door to my grandparents.  We’re kinda opposites but somehow we became good friends right away.

Hi Hannah,
We finally made it out of LA.  We left early and made it to the Grand Canyon in time for the sunset.  We went up on top of an old tower to see it.  The Grand Canyon is a really big hole in the ground, but it was pretty cool.  I attached a couple pictures.
     Mom had problems with the car.  I’ll fill you in when we get there.  We finally got to our motel around 10pm.  Mom is already snoring, and I’m really tired.  I might fill you in more tomorrow.
     Bestie Wil

Thursday, January 10, 2019

What's Missing?

This is what my writing nook has looked like most of the time lately.  Empty!  Life has been busy.  Since the first, I have written one chapter of Synchronized.  I also spent a good deal of time setting up the new web-site (which still needs a lot of work). 

Tonight, I was chastised by the thumbnail that tagged along with a message I sent that referenced this site.  It was the picture of my Christmas story in the trash.  Time to move forward.

I am going to continue to write Synchronized.  I am excited about that!  What may be of more interest to those of you on this site is the fact that I am going to start the rewrite process of Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks!  I think I have had enough time to distance myself from the first writing. 

Right now, most of it is in such bad shape (my daughter/editor says it's some of the worst writing she's seen from me) that I have my work cut out for me.  The story is there, but there are grammatical errors galore and significant inconsistencies (from changes in mid-story).  I am also wrestling with Wil's personality development. 

It is a heavy book in which Wil goes through some serious changes.  Probably my biggest struggle is keeping it fun to read while dealing with serious issues.  Your ideas and prayers are welcome!

I will post a few excerpts here.  Expect the first in a couple of weeks.  Thanks for your patience in the meantime!