No Trick

Don’t know what the publisher had in mind but today (Halloween) is the release date of our book.

If you go to the Amazon.com page, you can see the front and back covers of the book and even peek inside.  It’s available in paperback and Kindle formats.

If you shop on Amazon on some regular basis, check out AmazonSmile.  You can set up so that a portion of anything you buy on Amazon is donated to a worthy group of your choosing.

If you are so inclined, you can identify SD Achieve (aka LifeScape), which is the organization that provides wonderful service to our son, Joey.

Thank you!  More care giving antics to be blogged soon…

 

Toll Road

The costs of care giving pile up.  Along with financial obligation, amplified by a disabled person’s reduced or eliminated income, there are emotional and physical tolls to pay.

Yesterday I preached in a town about 100 miles to our north.  The morning was chilly, but during a very filling lunch after the service, the sun came out and began to warm things up.

Driving back down the interstate the big meal, the sun through the windshield and my perpetual lack of deep sleep got the best of me.  I fell asleep at the wheel.

Thank God I had a friend along on this trip (one I usually make on my own).  I heard him saying Whoa there and realized his hand was on the wheel with mine, keeping me from veering off the road.  We pulled over and he drove the rest of the way.

Melissa tried to let me nap but this, that and the other thing kept me awake.  I have a few days off coming, but my mind is occupied with catching up on stuff I let pile up over the last few tired weeks.  So sleep remains elusive and, when it comes, is fitful.

Then Joey had a minute long seizure.  Melissa got to him first, and his thrashing was so violent that it was all she could do to secure his head and get him on his side to keep his airway open.

So more physical and emotional tolls piled on.  Melissa’s strain in grappling with the seizure.  The rush of adrenaline as we reacted to it, followed by the big crash once things settled down.  The frustration with our inability to decode Joey’s language – he kept saying Bath with mom, which usually means here’s my preference for help with my routines , but this time was an effort to put into words his sense of an oncoming seizure.

Objectively, Melissa and I would agree that our lives are going pretty dang well right now.  But the daily nickel and dime tolls of care giving add up.img_20140806_150524_781

We share tales and encouragement for other family caregivers in our new book, available at Amazon.com.

 

Maybe Next Year

Hi, friends.  For your weekend reading pleasure, here’s a chapter from our book, Raising a Child With Autism.  OK, the book doesn’t have the cool pictures.  Ain’t blogging grand?  Have a great weekend, and hope this chapter is good news to you.

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XII. Maybe Next Year

Growing up in L.A., I was a fan of the Los Angeles Angels when they were a brand new American League expansion team. This was before they built their own stadium down in Anaheim. When I was a kid, they played in the stadium named for the “real” team: the Dodgers. The Angels were so hapless that some of their advertising highlighted their visiting opponents: “Come out to see Mickey Mantle and the New York Yankees!”

Of course, they went on to win the World Series decades later. But in my childhood, they were a “maybe next year” team. Maybe next year they would win more games than they lost. Maybe next year they would climb up from the bottom of the standings.

We have a “maybe next year” tree by the street in front of our house. We needed a tree out there to block some of the summer sun that routinely fried our lawn. We also craved fall color, so when a landscaper showed us pictures of a maple called a “Fall Fiesta,” we said, “Wow, look at all those fiery leaves! Put one in right now!”

So he did. And all the budding leaves fell off and the tree went dormant. We looked at our bare little tree all winter, praying that dormant was something different from dead.

The tree budded in the spring. Of course, it hardly cast any shade, little thing that it was. The lawn still turned brown when summer came.

And the fall colors turned out to be less than a fiesta—some yellow, mostly brown and then all gone.

Maybe next year?

The next year was better. The tree budded in the spring and there was noticeable fresh growth on top. It grew taller. Its leaves seemed fuller. It didn’t shield the lawn from the sun, but it cast a respectable shadow where the dog liked to pee on hot days.

There were some deep red leaves in the mix for autumn.

Maybe something more next year?

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Yes, the actual tree in the story as it looks today.

Each year adds. It grows taller, the trunk is stouter, and that tree actually shades the main part of the lawn except for a few days when the sun is impossibly high in the sky. And it totally lights up in an array of warm colors to tell us fall is here. Fiesta!

Digging Around

Like waiting on a plant to bloom, taking care of an autistic person requires patient hope. Your heart, and maybe your mind, will break if you are into precise timelines. “Next September our kid will achieve X” must be held loosely. “X” might happen in October, or November, or the following spring, or September two years out, or not for a very long time.

We agonized for years about our son’s inability to tell us when he was sick. He couldn’t say, “I have a headache.” And his dislike for sustained effort meant he wouldn’t cooperate with our “process of elimination” questions. He would say “Yes” to anything just to get rid of us.

“Does your head hurt?”

“Yes.”

“Does your stomach hurt?”

“Yes.”

“Do cats fly on tiny, little wings?”

“Yes.”

Trying to teach him to point at what hurt wasn’t any better. He would wave his hand up and down his body, like Vanna White displaying the board on Wheel of Fortune.

But he had a recent breakthrough. He seemed a bit off, so Melissa asked him, “How do you feel?” Usually, he’ll just say “Fine” or “Happy” even if his face and tone say anything other than those qualities.

But this time, he responded to his mom with, “Do you have a stomachache?” Yes, it was a question when we wanted a statement—but it was his way of sharing precise information with us.

Like hopelessly loyal sports fans or amateur gardeners, caregivers have to keep telling themselves, “Maybe next year.” And in the next year, or tomorrow, or a few seconds from now, a once abandoned hope arrives as a surprise.

Fertilizer

Blooming idiots like ourselves must learn and relearn “deferred gratification.”  We might want to stick a stalk in the ground and see a tree the next day, and we want to think that one or two sit downs with an exercise book will have our kid reading literature in time for kindergarten.

But when it comes to caring for someone with special needs, it is important to hold a goal patiently.  If it is a good goal (helpful and realistic to the person in our care, not a fantasy to please ourselves) it is worth holding onto in heart, mind and habits over many seasons.

Jesus’ follower Paul put it this way, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24)

Like travelers using the four cardinal directions on a map, people who follow Jesus find spiritual orientation from three cardinal virtues: “faith, hope and love.” (I Corinthians 13:13)

Hope keeps us looking to the horizon, to what’s next. We hope for what we do not see or have, but believe can be out there.

Hope allows us to act with purpose, believing that our efforts are worthwhile and taking us toward a good destination. It means long seasons of waiting, of doing the right stuff over and over even when a longed-for result isn’t coming into view.

When we come to terms with hope, we find that it isn’t really about a particular event, thing, or outcome, but about coming face to face with the one who is calling us forward.  It is about meeting up with Jesus and continuing the journey forward with him.  Paul seems to have been a blooming idiot of sorts, since he discovered this through much trial and error.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)20161021_173509

Hope this helps… [UPDATED]

book-cover

Blogging’s been sparse here down the home stretch of distilling some of our insights into book form.  See?  I’m so worn out that I’m mixing metaphors.

Anyway, here it is, available for preorder at Amazon.com.

UPDATE:  Some of you might be asking, “Hey, what happened to Blooming Idiots?  THIS IS THE SAME BOOK.  My editors had a late insight – a good one – that there could be a perception problem.  Can you imagine a Tweet something like “I just read a #book about #autism called Blooming Idiots” ?  The implication would be that people with special needs are idiots – precisely the opposite of the book’s message. 

We tried some artsy titles, but they made it sound like a gardening manual.  So we went literal, just laid it on the line.  Wise move, which is why one has editors.

Also, some have asked about formats.  It will be available in paperback and in a Kindle version.  At the Amazon page, there should be a show all formats link.  If that doesn’t work, try clicking the link version of author name (Timothy Fountain).  That should show the choices.

We pray that it will reach and help family caregivers, especially those just stepping onto the ground we’ve been walking these last couple of decades.

And hopefully we’ll be back to blogging and sharing more thoughts.  Thank you all for being part of this.

 

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness – Yom Kippur 5777

Compelling thoughts and a prayer at the end that includes caregivers. Your compassion for those in your care is precious.

Rebyehoshua

There is a town in Belgium called Geel (Hyale), with a remarkable 700 year old custom of compassion.

Its origin lies in a legend about a seventh century Irish princess named Dymphna.  When Dymphna’s mother died, her father went mad, insisting on marrying her.  Dymphna fled to the continent.  When he caught up to her in Geel, he beheaded her.  Dymphna was sainted, and pilgrims began visiting the site of her martyrdom in search of miraculous cures, especially for mental illness.

A church was built in 1349, and later, an annex to house the visitors.  Eventually, the townspeople began to welcome the mentally ill relatives of pilgrims into their homes as “boarders.”  For the townspeople, it was an act of charity to open up their homes.  “Boarders” stay with their hosts for long periods of time, as many as fifty, or even 80 years, becoming part of the family.

At…

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