My Son Wants You to Know He has Autism. 5

puzzle piece

Last week I shared Seven Things I’d like to Write About. I’m working on the great Eclipse post – it takes a time to get pictures downloaded and embedded! Until then, I’ll jump ahead to the last one on that list.

My son, he’s ten, has high-functioning autism. Yup, betcha didn’t know that. I didn’t either until about a year ago. I’m ready to start sharing about it.

I’m sure that one may have come as a shock for some and maybe as an “Ohhh, that explains it all!” for others. 😉

It’s been a long journey and I wasn’t really ready to write about it or share too much since it’s very personal.  I’m also a protective Mama Bear who wants to shield my son’s reputation. Plus, it was only a year ago that we received the official “high-functioning autism” diagnosis after years of scratching our heads and wondering what the heck was going on with our son.

Now, a year later, I feel like I still have sooo much more to learn yet I’ve also come so far in my understanding – and most importantly in my accepting – of  the autism spectrum and how it relates to my son in particular.

That said, I still hesitate to share for a few reasons that I hope you’ll keep in mind as you read and comment (I love comments!!):

~ I hope no one suddenly avoids my son or treats him differently now that they know. He’s still the same sweet, wonderful, energetic “normal” kid.

~ At the same time I do want people to approach him differently now that they know he is different.

~ I seek and welcome support and encouragement and resources but I’m not looking for a “cure” or a “magic pill”…or any “second opinions”.

~ There are many families who have children on “the spectrum” but all children are still unique.  My child and another’s child may both “have autism” but our situations can still be drastically different.

~ Since I’m still “new” to this autism world and have a hard time keeping up with always-changing politically correct terms, I hope I don’t say anything that may offend others.

That all said, my son keeps telling me that he wants people to know.  One day last year, shortly after we’d told him about his autism, he came home from school and asked me,

Does the whole wide world know yet?

About what?

That I have autism!

Oh…no, not the whole world…do you want them to?

YES!!!

Well, I guess if he’s not shy about it, why should I be?

I’m ready. Ready to share our journey.

For my son – so others will understand him better.

For me – because my therapist (yes, I have a therapist, doesn’t everyone?) suggested writing about it might help me process it all and let others “in” on what we’ve been going through.

For YOU – so that by sharing some of our challenges I might somehow help you in whatever struggles you face within your own families. (And so you’ll know you’re NOT the only one with challenging children.)

I’ll end there for now – it’s past my bedtime! I plan on sharing bits and pieces of our journey and struggles as I can in between other unrelated blog posts so stick with me, this will be a crazy-wacky ride!


7 Things I Want to Write and Share 3

Ok, so in my last post I asked what I should write about.

Thank you Deanna for your comment here and for your ideas!  Since then, I now have a few exciting events and interesting subjects to write about and share.

I’m sharing the 7 things here so that, just in case I don’t get to them soon, you’ll at least know what’s been on my mind lately – because you’ve probably been wondering, right?

One: Hiking and Summiting a 14’er 

Yes, I did!

Two: Recharging in Colorado’s Beauty

Took an kind of impromptu family vacation before summer ended to visit good friends and bask in Colorado’s beauty.

Three: Total Solar Eclipse Amazingness!

It was…I still can’t come up with a word to adequately describe how amazing it was. Amazing pictures to come!

Four: School Resumes and Life Adjustments

Summer ends, school begins, and routines change – again.

Five: Exercise Plans

I love staying active and find it helpful if I share what I’m doing/going to do keep myself accountable.

Six: Simple Cooking

Life’s easier when cookin’s simpler.

Seven: Autism

My son, he’s ten, has high-functioning autism. Yup, betcha didn’t know that. I didn’t either until about a year ago. I’m ready to start sharing about it.


Help me Write 2

pencil and blank paper

The first thing I think about doing when I get up – well aside from going back to bed – is writing.

My eyes open, the dam breaks  – a torrent of thoughts releases and gushes through my brain. I want to write, I yearn to write. I need to write.

But what do I write about?

I scroll through writing prompt ideas, they’re all either too much bite than I can chew in 30 minutes – about all the time I have these days – or they’re just too…meh.

So help me! I have a soul full of writing but don’t know where to start since it’s been so long. What should I write about?

Books? Movies? Who I want to be when I grow up? What’s inside my van right now?

I feel like I’m learning how to walk or run again. My heart says yes, my body says – what the heck are you trying to do?! I’ll start slow, 30 minutes a day or less…more if I can. Maybe pictures, or not, but probably because I heart Pexels and Canva.

So, send me your “writing prompt” ideas and hold my hand while I get my writing mind and fingers back in shape again.

Ok, ready, set….go!

……

Ouch! My hands are cramping up, I need to rest.


The Beauty of Silence 2

I love St. Mother Teresa’s “The Fruit of…” prayer –

The Fruit of Prayer and Flower 11x14

(image credit: Erika Marie)

It’s a recipe Mother Teresa whipped up for us as a guide for how to live a fruitful and abundant life.

I’m sure she wrote it as a step-by-step  guide but I mistakenly looked at it like a list of ingredients to collect in no particular order.  I tend to skim right over the fruit of silence bud and dive head-first into service activity, failing to realize the significance of each “fruit” and its deliberate position in the prayer.

I busy myself with so much “service”, thinking I’m doing all these good things with love before falling flat on my face, wondering why I feel no peace from all this doing. 

God has a way of subtly – or sometimes not so subtly –  getting me to see what’s missing.  I’m sure He tries to get me to see but it’s hard to catch my attention when I’m buzzing around 100 miles per hour.

Sorry, God, I’m too busy serving you to pay attention to you or hear what you’re trying to tell me.

Then –

BAM!

I hit a brick wall and, in my dazed confusion – look to God and indignantly ask why He didn’t warn me about the wall.

Silence.

Oh, so now that I’m finally listening, You’re not going to say anything?

Chirp. Chirp.

Oh…I slowly catch on. I stop listening for a big booming voice, or looking for His answer written clearly in the sky. And then I hear it…

Silence. 

In my zeal to serve God, I dismissed the importance of seeing Mother Teresa’s “fruits” as a step-by-step guide in which each step cannot be accomplished without first cultivating the preceding fruit.

Silence leads to Prayer, Prayer opens our hearts for the fruit of Faith to grow, Faith points us to Love, Love moves us to Service, and, only after those five fruits are fully grown, blossomed, and habitually cultivated, can the fruit of Peace begin to take root in our souls and our lives.

After the heart-wrenching experience of my dad’s death and the deafening numbness of the grief that’s followed, I really couldn’t do anything but go back to that first branch,

The fruit of Silence is Prayer.

Like I shared about using the gift of time I have better, I lessened my commitments and activities and spent more time simply listening and allowing God’s gentle and healing Grace wash over me.  Over time, these moments of silence have become a prayer, a wordless but soul-filled conversation with the One who Loves me and Knows me. Through these moments of silence and prayer, He rolls my heart out and kneads a new kind of Faith in me, a refiner’s fire faith. Stronger, deeper, truer.

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1: 6-7)

From this refiner’s fire – humbled, laid bare and still aching – we are finally ready to receive Love.

But what is Love?

Love is not a what, Love is a Who. And the Who is God.

God gives Love by ceaselessly giving Himself. In turn, we give Love by giving ourselves back to Him. We give ourselves to Him in silence, through prayer, with faith…and then – by giving Love, by giving God, to the people we encounter.

The wisdom of Mother Teresa’s prayer is that if we ignore the Silence, Prayer, and Faith steps, we’ll lack genuine love in our hearts and any acts of service become monotonous busy work to pass the time, avoid pain, or make ourselves feel better about being a “good” person.  All the “good work” we might do will lack long-lasting and fulfilling significance.

Anyone can do good things in the name of “service”; it takes prayer and faith to LOVE. 

When I use the time God’s given me to stop doing and just listen to God in the silence, in prayer, with faith, and through Love, I finally notice the buds of Peace poking up through my thawing heart, and in the hearts of those around me.


A Healing Goodbye to Our Dog 1

About three years ago, we welcomed our first dog into our family Bella.

Sadly, a few weeks ago, we had to let her go.

I had been resistant to getting a dog despite my husband’s and kid’s desire for a family dog. We had a chance to dog-sit Bella a couple times for our friends and loved her.

I told my husband, “Well, if we had a dog like Bella, then maybe we could get one.”

Then, one day, our friends told us that they were going to have to find another home for Bella and my ears perked up and I started thinking….hmmmm.

Long story short, one day, for Father’s Day, we brought Bella to our house and surprised everyone – especially my husband – when we told them she was ours to keep if we wanted. It didn’t take long for everyone to say, “Yes!”

Bella was about seven, we weren’t for sure, and so it was the perfect way to introduce our family to dog ownership. She was trained, wasn’t quite as energetic as a puppy but loved to play with all of us, even the toddler at the time, and she was used to being an outdoor dog – my main requirement.

We all grew to love Bella and, in the beginning, everyone did a good job helping to give her attention and care. Like most new things, the excitement wore down over time and she had a few bad habits we didn’t appreciate (chewing on kids’ toys, peeing in the house if we weren’t constantly watching her, eating her…nevermind that’s too gross.) Nevertheless, we all still loved having her, including me.

She was a good friend for me especially last year in the dream-like daze of intense grief. Sometimes I’d go outside and just sit on the back steps. She’d come up to me, tail wagging, and set her snout on my knee and beg me to stroke her. As I stroked her soft fur, it brought us both comfort. The repetitive action and the soothing texture calmed my mind and soothed my sorrowful heart. My Dad loved Bella so, in a way, I felt connected with him during those moments.

Whenever I was feeling frustrated and angry with myself or because of behavioral difficulties with the kids, I’d go out and throw the ball around with Bella or run around the yard with her  – providing her needed exercise and entertainment and me a positive release of my emotions.

Admittedly, she was so  laid back it was easy to take her for granted. One evening, after being gone for the day, we came back and I noticed her stomach area was suddenly very enlarged, which was unusual since she was always on the skinnier side of an average lab.

The next day, I noticed it even more and I remember sitting out on the back porch and rubbing her tummy like she loved so much. I gently pressed on it and could tell it was very hard and it made her uncomfortable, though she didn’t whimper or show any other obvious signs of pain.

However, there was something….familiar. I had felt this feeling before. The feeling of knowing, somehow, that death is close. I stroked her fur and scratched behind her ears and felt a foreboding sadness for her, and our family. Later that day, I went out to throw the ball around with her and noticed she didn’t seem interested. She’d run and get it and then slowly trudge back. With the last toss, she trotted over to get it but then dropped it back in the grass and sulked back to her favorite spot to lay down in the sun, as if she was saying, “I want to…but I just can’t anymore.”

The next morning, I brought her to the vet to see if we could figure out what was ailing her. After poking around and examining her, she determined the cause of her abdominal swelling was pretty serious.

“Possibly liver disease…or a cancerous tumor…,” I heard the vet gently explain.

I knew where the conversation headed and, to my surprise, I started tearing up as memories of sitting in a doctor’s office listening to the doctor briefly explain my Dad’s diagnosis suddenly flooded my mind.

Lung cancer….mutation….stage IV….incurable….

I looked at sweet Bella, peacefully ignorant to the meaning of our conversation, and felt pity and shame. She had probably been in pain for a little while now but, being the sweet mild-tempered dog that she was, just didn’t show it until now. I knew we could choose to go all out and try to “cure” her illness. I also knew this would be highly expensive and, as the vet agreed, had a low chance of success.  In the end, I left the clinic with Bella and a day’s worth of pain medicine for her.

That evening, my husband and I sat down with all the kids and Bella in our family room and shared what the vet told us about Bella. (another familiar scene) We gently explained why exploratory surgery or medicine most likely could not help her. Our oldest picked up on what the other option would be and cried out, “No, not that, we can’t do that to her!”

The younger boys picked up on her emotions and pretty soon everyone had tears in their eyes.  Gently, slowly, calmly, we explained that we needed to think of Bella and her pain. There was a lot of confusion and questions.

“But, I thought we weren’t supposed to kill?” Our oldest son, so practically and black-and-white minded, couldn’t quite understand how this could be ok.

“We all love Bella,” I said, “and we don’t want her to die….but we also don’t want her to be in so much pain. We can’t keep her alive for us and make her continue living a life of pain.”

They took these words in and it was the same oldest son, who usually struggles with showing empathy, who was the first to say, “I think we should do option two. So she isn’t in pain anymore.”

My heart swelled and broke all at once in that moment. My son grasped the reality of the situation and was able to appreciate what Bella really needed.

That night, we let Bella sleep in our daughter’s room, since she was struggling the most with the decision and because we didn’t want Bella to sleep on her own that night. Despite the pain medicine we’d given her, Bella was very restless. She wouldn’t sit or lay down in her bed no matter what we tried. In the morning, our daughter said Bella never went to sleep and kept pacing around the room.  Through that night, our daughter’s reluctance over having to let her go turned to a sorrowful acceptance. She had seen how much pain Bella was in and knew it wouldn’t be right to prolong her life just because we wanted to keep her with us longer.

We let the kids each have time to say tearful and quiet goodbyes to Bella before leaving for school, knowing she’d be gone when they came home. My husband and I brought her to the vet together and they kindly showed us into a room. The vet gently and compassionately explained the procedure and let us know we were welcome to stay for however long or little we wanted.  We said we’d probably only stay for the first part – the Valium that puts her into a relaxed state before the final injection.

We had a few more moments alone with Bella while they prepared the medications. Though still in obvious pain, Bella stood alert by the door, her ears perked up listening to the sounds of other dogs or cats and people there for regular check-ups. It struck me, how she stood in front of me then with no idea what awaited. In that moment, I felt a conflicted sorrow.

Is this ok? To purposefully end her life instead of letting her die naturally?

I tried again to get her to sit but she wouldn’t, her abdominal pain too intense now. She looked up at me with kind and loyal eyes, and I stroked her back and rubbed her ears like she loved so much. In that moment, looking at her, I felt a great sense of gratitude. 

“Thank you, Bella, for being such a good dog for our family. ”

The door opened and the vet and her assistant came in. They laid a white towel on the floor and had Bella stand on it. Gently, slowly, with soothing words, the vet injected the Valium in. Within seconds, Bella let out a low groan, as if she was saying, “Ahh…that feels good.” Then, she sat down – the first time she’d done that since the day before – and then her legs gave in and her body melted down to the floor as my husband and I gently stroked her. The vet explained that she was now in a deep sleep.

I felt happy for her, relieved of her pain and finally able to sleep after the past restless nights. This was the point we had decided earlier that we’d leave but now that we were there, we couldn’t leave, we wanted to stay with her until the end.

The vet quietly injected the final medication. We stayed with her as her body went limp, her eyes closed, and her chest stopped swelling in and out. I wiped my eyes  filled with tears I couldn’t contain. In those moments, my body was with Bella in the vet’s office but my mind was back in the hospital room watching the same process happen to my dad’s body a little over a year ago.

I felt like a hole in time opened up in that hospital room, all other noises outside vanished and a warm glow of light vignetted us.  The seas of time parted and swirled around us, the whirlpool of eternity spiraled in, gently pulling and guiding my dad’s soul through the “birth canal” of death into new life.  Once his soul passed through, his heart deafeningly silent and his chest formidably motionless, the whirlpool lifted out, the warm glow of light faded, and the seas of time crashed down around us again, pushing us down into the intense pain of shock and grief.

The nurse came back in the room and put her stethoscope on his still chest. I asked, “Is it done?” She nodded and gently confirmed, “yes.”

Back in the vet’s office, the vet put her stethoscope to Bella’s chest, paused, then quietly confirmed, “She’s gone, at rest and in no more pain now.”

We nodded our heads and let out long sighs.  Slowly I wiped my tears, we offered our final thank you’s and gave Bella one last stroke goodbye. Then, we stood up, opened the door, and walked back into the world of time.

We drove back home in silence, both of us struck again by the jarring finality of death and surprised by our grief. After all, she was “just a dog”. But…she had been our dog. And, in the way only animals can, she loved us and we loved her. We hated that we had to do that, wishing she could have gotten better on her own, but accepting that, for her sake and not ours, we had to let her go.

I hated that my dad got sick, that he had to leave us so soon before we had barely begun to process his out-of-the-blue diagnoses. In the 24 hours I spent with him in the hospital, I saw his pain and his incredible discomfort. The more we tried to save him, the further away he sank. Through a torturous night, I began to see the reality of his prognosis.  By the morning, I knew we’d need to let him go, for his sake even if not for ours.

And so it is, with life and death:

The Lord giveth…and the Lord taketh.  (Job 1:21)

He blesses us with the gift and joy of life….and then, after a time, He retrieves life – His beloved creatures – back into Himself where we ultimately belong.

Thank you, Lord for the gift of Bella. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of my Dad. Take them into you, and bless our mourning hearts with your loving and comforting mercy. 

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