Category Archives: Empathy

From Out Here: A Grandmother’s View of Autism

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I pen this as an observer; I claim no expertise. I’ve never parented a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I don’t go to therapy appointments, I don’t visit the neurologist or the behavioral specialist and I don’t deal with the inevitable daily challenges of raising a child with a neurological disorder.

However, I love a child with ASD. He’s my grandson.

I also don’t have type 1 diabetes. I don’t prick my finger eight or more times each day to test blood sugar. I don’t position a spring loaded device on my belly and push the button to insert a cannula to deliver insulin – to literally keep me alive. I’ve never woken from a diabetic coma, surrounded by paramedics and feeling rotten. I’ve never been hospitalized with Diabetic Ketoacidosis.

But I love a man who does, who has. He’s my hubby.

It’s been a journey. So here I am, twenty years after his diagnosis, still clumsily discovering how to be an encourager and advocate while maintaining my primary role as wife and lover. I avoid being the “diabetes police” but I’ve said the wrong thing and responded in the worst way when he most needed compassion.

diabetes-528678_1920I cannot express the highs and lows (no pun intended, but it’s so true) of dealing with diabetes. You can do the same things day in and day out and get wildly different results. Just last Saturday, the excitement of finishing a 5k was clouded within minutes when his blood sugar reading was high. There is big potential damage to vital organs from exercising with high blood glucose. But there are so many factors outside of his control, and virtually none within mine. There were many emotions that surged, from aggravation to fear, but the truth is that you just deal with the present. Adjust, course-correct where possible, and keep living life with this person I love with all of my heart. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

ASD makes normally simple things hard for our boy. He struggles with waiting. Changes in routine are upsetting; he doesn’t like to share certain toys and he’s not especially affectionate. Many times he’d rather play alone than with his siblings. Some days are just hard for him to deal with normal stuff.

He’s learning and developing skills to cope through therapy and the efforts of his parents. They are his champions.

 

Watching him run and play outside makes my heart soar. He’s brilliant, this little guy. He loves books – he will sit with anyone who is willing to read. When he is having a good day, he is delightful. His joy is pure and wild and unfiltered.

Since his diagnosis he has made significant progress. I have high hopes for this boy, confident that he will reach his potential because he is surrounded by people committed to building a strong foundation.

So here I am, clumsily discovering how to be an encourager and advocate, while maintaining my role as his grandma and my daughter’s mom. I am not an expert on ASD and I’ve said and done the wrong thing. I’ve responded with impatience when I should have been compassionate. I’ve already made some monumental blunders in dealing with him. Without a doubt, I’ve annoyed his parents by saying the wrong thing or reacting inappropriately to his behavior. I’ve misunderstood and been misunderstood because I didn’t know enough about his symptoms and limitations. We’ve learned to extend grace to him and each other.

I don’t know what our sweet little grandson’s experience will be. I’ve read lots about autism, pretty much everything I can get my hands on; I listen and ask questions of his parents. And what I’ve learned is to expect the unexpected. The things that worked yesterday (or the last time that we were together) don’t always work today. Regression can occur and expectations have to be adjusted. But at the end of every day, the little boy who lies down (possibly after jumping in his bed for a bit) and sings himself to sleep is a gift from God, fearfully and wonderfully created.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. – Psalm 139:14 NIV

May we ever grow in compassion and joy for every life.

April is Autism Awareness month. The Autism Society has issued a challenge of sorts. Awareness has been mostly achieved, so they encourage friends to become partners in the movement toward acceptance and appreciation. During April I’ll share some ways that you can take that next step.

Autism

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Familiarity Breeds Compassion

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a little bit swirly

It’s been an interesting week in blogging world. My post on dating resulted in lots of comments online and some moments of uncomfortable silence face to face. Apparently, everyone now thinks that I’m opposed to married couples dating. When they rolled the announcement video for the next dating night in our church yesterday I could feel the tension. After all, I had shared my opinion that dating is not “the” key to marital bliss with the entire World Wide Web.

It may be true that I am occasionally melodramatic and perhaps only a few people among the hundred had actually read my post. Nevertheless, I felt it.

It also was my most viewed post ever. And by ever, I mean the last seven months that I’ve been at this. Today an edited version appeared on foreverymom.com (check it out here)!! If you don’t follow that one, you should. It’s a great compilation of posts related to moms. Twice. Twice now, Jenny Rapson, the editor, has chosen my stuff to share. I’m amazed and grateful and I might have thought I was doing pretty well at this blogging thing until…

I got my first rejection last week. Already this blogging journey is teaching me that I have a lot to learn. And I’ve got some things to learn about writing, too.

I might have been devastated for a while if not for my honest blogger friend who shared her history of rejections, even as one of her wildly popular posts about….wait for it…vomit, was going viral. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and head over here to read it. Over 90K readers can’t be wrong about that one.

Last week I also started a Facebook fan page. It was one of the things that I knew I needed to do to grow my blog, but I had been wrestling with indecision. I needed a push. And a graphic for the banner page. Again, a nudge and an assist by Jami and the page is up and beautiful!  Please check it out and “like” it. There’s a link at the bottom if this post.

At the end of a very eventful and exciting week, I looked back and realized that I made new friends in this journey simply by reaching out to people with shared passion and they have joined hands with me. It is through these friendships that I’ve been encouraged to take the next step or to just keep writing in spite of setbacks.

There are times that most every heart waxes pitiful or sad and feels like the world is unaware or indifferent to it. It’s tempting to look around and wonder if anyone cares to share or even knows about our current struggle or even success.

A momma in the trenches wearily faces the day after a sleepless night, knowing there isn’t enough coffee in Brazil to ward off the fatigue that threatens to overcome her best intentions to do better today. She might have been nursing a baby or waiting for a teenager who missed curfew, but she’s tired and her patience is thin.

The parents of a newborn wait anxiously outside the NICU for an opportunity to just standbebe-616418_1280 next to the bassinet where their newborn son lies half-naked, connected to wires and tubes, alarms beeping.

A widow, living alone, misses physical contact…a hug or a lingering touch on her hand. It seems that the world has gone back to normal, but normal eludes her.

A daughter is separated from her aged parents by fifteen hundred miles, her father’s health precarious and mother caring from him as best she can on an island that’s barely five miles wide. Good health care is a prop plane trip across an ocean. Helpless to lend a hand and worried, she carries on with her toddler, preparing for the birth of a daughter who may never meet her grandparents.

seniorhandsA grandmother, missing her grandchildren, longs to snuggle with a baby or play Go Fish with a toddler. She’s so desperate she would welcome a mini lecture from an eight year old on the fine points of playing Minecraft!

 

 

I work full time and when not working, I alternate between cleaning frenzies and wandering aimlessly around Hobby Lobby. And yet, I witnessed every one of the scenarios in the last few days among people in my circle of influence.

I might have missed them; I often do because I’m lost in the details of my life. Listening is way less fun than talking, and I am a woman of many words.

Experience has taught me that the fault I see in another is often noticeable because of my familiarity with it. Without fail, it’s something that is also a struggle for me. I’m also learning that when I begin to listen to others with compassion, I recognize familiar fears, anxieties and passions.

We are never alone in our thing, whatever it may be. Finding a fellow sojourner may require revealing that vulnerable spot, the place that is most tender, but I promise that you will make a friend and your burden will be lighter even as you take up the weight of another. Familiarity will breed compassion.

I’m aware of the things I can’t do, but every day, I long to do what I can to make a difference and I’m so grateful for those who are making a difference for me.

When you do the things that you can do, you will find a way.” ― A.A. Milne

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What Your Mother Really Wants for Christmas

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edit Door Prize WrapI write one post a week and the most difficult words to write are the four to six in the title. Last weekend, while enjoying a rare theme park date with my husband, the title came first.

I’ve been a mom for more than forty-two years.  Motherhood was my first job with benefits and it’s a great gig. I’m quite sure that I’m not the first woman to say that it is the most difficult, yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

I love that God saw fit to give me girls.  (Without them, I would have zero fashion sense.) Now that they have children and we have mothering in common and I think they even get me sometimes. At my age, when I look into a mirror I see my mother’s face…and I am shocked! But I look into the faces of my daughters and they reflect my life.

The Osborne family of Arkansas donated a bunch of lights to Walt Disney World after their neighbors got in an uproar over the display at their home.  Disney took those lights to Hollywood Studios and in true form turned them into something magical. The magic happens when you turn the corner from the back lot onto the Streets of America and see millions of dancing lights, Christmas music filling the air and a mass of people absolutely in awe and full of Christmas cheer.  I’ve taken that walk with my children and grandchildren. We’ve danced together in the streets to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas tree” and I’ve kissed my sweet husband as we sang “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. I’ve stood in awe of the beauty of the nativity. If that display were Sodom and Gomorrah I would be a pillar of salt because I can never just walk away without glancing back and wishing I could stay a little longer.

edit Osborne Peace

 

They claim this is the last year – I doubt it. They may relocate it, but I digress. Just in case, I desperately wanted walk under those lights one more time, to relive the memories my heart cherishes; the selective memories that don’t include the tired children, the grumpy parents and the complete absence of any place to stop and rest.

How do you feel about questions like “What do you want for Christmas?”?  I detest them. Answering always makes me feel greedy, and typically I can’t think of a thing. To be honest, I’ve been in a bit of a funk this Christmas season and what I secretly want is Christmas like it used to be.  Kids opening presents, food and lots of family. Waking up to an empty house and waiting until almost new years to have everyone in one place is the new normal.  And it is way better than some people’s normal…I know that well.

Because  she works for the mouse and she makes magic happen on a daily basis, but mostly because she loves me, my sister gave us tickets to see the lights one more time.

My hubby has something called severe spinal stenosis.  For a least three years, he’s had issues with standing in one spot for more than a few minutes; for the last year, the pain is excruciating when he walks even short distances.  He wanted to go with me (insert emoji of joy mixed with angst). After agreeing on the limitations his current health conditions  impose, we decided to make a day of it – a sort of mini vaca before he has spinal surgery early next year.

The inspiration for the title came as, throughout the day, text messages  from our daughters popped up on both of our phones.  “Get a wheelchair for Dad” “You don’t have to wait in line, Dad. Get a wheelchair. Do it for Mom…you want to be able to make it to see the lights – this means a lot to her!” “I hope you are taking it easy, Dad.”

My greatest gift these days is their love and care for us. They know how we love one another.  They’ve seen how we prop one another up and push through hard things for one another. In the midst of their busy days they took time to urge us to take care of each other. We didn’t get a wheelchair, but we stopped when he needed to. He carefully managed his  pain and we had a wonderful day.

The way that our children love us is touching.  I’m especially moved by how they care for their dad.  Families are dynamic and I know that God has scattered ours a bit more than this mom would like.  But the real test of family is how we care for one another. Nothing is sweeter than watching your children, though separated by 400 miles, rally a joint campaign to ensure that their sentimental fool of a mom remembers their dad’s limitations. They were with us and they were looking out for us.

This Christmas, perhaps the greatest give you can give won’t require wrapping. Who needs to know you are with them and are looking out for them as we enter the new year?

Osborne Nativity

Merry Christmas, friends! May the peace of Christ fill your hearts and homes this Christmas.

 

 

It’s the Theater, Dahling

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homelessman2We hurried into the theater after picking up tickets at the will call window. As we made our way to the ticket taker, a line of men looking more like they were reporting for a work detail than a Sunday afternoon performance snaked in and around to the concession stand.  They  were out of place in the midst of theater goers dressed in their festive holiday attire.

We took our seats with a few minutes to spare, but not enough time to get popcorn and drinks.  Just a minute or two before curtain, the line of men from the lobby, escorted by an usher, stopped at our row.  We stood to give way to the men, and the last of them sat in the seat directly to my left, popcorn box and water bottle in hand. They reeked of cigarette smoke, but were clean and neatly dressed. I assumed they were guests of a local ministry to the homeless. Honestly, I was feeling a bit out of sorts about the whole thing, but determined to try to enjoy the performance

As the show began, there was hushed chatter between some of the men, as well as rustling of popcorn boxes. I wondered if they had any clue about  theater etiquette. What are the chances – when I bought our seats these were the only two without an obstructed view.  Just my luck!

As the lights came up for intermission, I heard a woman directly behind me speak to the gentleman on my left. She asked him to remove his hat, saying that her view was obstructed, then making the same request of the gentlemen to his left. Her tone registered negatively with me – it seemed more of a demand than a request. The men quickly and even humbly complied, even though their hats were stocking caps that didn’t add height to their profiles.

Then men stepped out of the row, presumably to go outside the theater to smoke. My date left for snacks and I was in a position to overhear the conversation that took place behind me.  “She deserves to see the show, after all. He must be eight feet tall.” The words were spoken with obvious disdain; as if he had no right to be there.  A catch in my spirit reminded me that the words were similar to the thoughts I’d had earlier.

Everyone returned to their seats and the second act began. The production of Miracle on 34th Street continued and finished strong. The crowded theater was filled with applause;  when the actor who played Santa took his bow, I heard one of the men to my left say “We’ve got to stand for this!”. People popped up around the theater in  standing ovation and then one of the actors called for quiet.

She asked everyone to take a seat in order to recognize a group in the audience.  “Please help me welcome our special guests from Veterans Outreach. Gentlemen, please stand and be recognized.

The entire row to my left stood, timid at first, but then tall and proud.  Even as I write these words, my heart is wrung right up in my chest with the thought of it.  These men, now struggling to find a life, served our country in defense of Sunday afternoons at the theater, where friends and family gather in freedom to celebrate Christmas.

I can’t say that a scripture passage flooded my memory; it was more like God quietly whispered. “I’ve called you to kindness.  When you walk with me that will be your default.”

As we walked out into the afternoon, I realized that the seats were ordained. God loves me enough to patiently arrange lessons that will lead me to truth. Kris Kringle wasn’t the only one teaching on kindness in that theater.

“Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.” ~ Hebrews 13:2 HCSB

 

To Everything There is a Season

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There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

Ecclesiastes 3

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We have been in the Pacific Northwest for a few days. And this week, pictures will have to speak of the beauty and the sorrow that are all mingled together in my soul. It’s fitting that leaves are falling from the trees, like brilliant tears that will leave the branches naked and exposed. Our souls can feel like that – like a cold wind has blown through and left us empty.

But there is beauty even in the falling away.  The trees have worked all summer producing energy; the shorter and cooler days of fall signal the approach of winter and the end of work for a season. As I linger for one last look at the brilliant color and watch as the leaves are falling quickly, the promise of rest is near.

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