Reflections of and on a probably Asperger's parent parenting an Asperger's kid (or 2)!

dragon pups

dragon pups

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What If....?

More Controversial Autism Spirituality

So, the previous post is about how I have found a connection with my Christian upbringing, my Christian Faith with my own Journey into Autism, but there is more to it than "just" that.  So now I'm gonna "jump off the deep end" and try to verbalize my "heretical" insights.  This may be VERY convoluted, so bear with me... I hope it doesn't sound too much like a sci-fi novel.  Of ONE thing I am VERY, VERY sure:  THIS IS STRICTLY A DESCRIPTION OF HOW I WRAP MY HEAD AROUND IT.  IT IS NOT AN EFFORT TO PREACH OR SWAY.  I am convinced that we each, separately and individually, must build a relationship with God that is inherently distinct and different.  The way I know God cannot be the way you know Him/ Her.  The purpose of sharing is to awaken insight, to define by comparison, to weave our journeys together into a Divine Tapestry.

I profoundly agree that Jesus was sent to Earth to solidify that bond between God and Man; I think Jesus was "sucked up" as a living being into the heavens, the realm of God.  I think it just might be possible that God needed some "flesh" to cement/ create/ validate/ "magic-ify" that very real connection between our physical selves and our spiritual selves.  Almost like God needed a piece of "dirt" to make the connection happen?  I actually saw a show about the Shroud of Turin on the History Channel Easter weekend that kinda led me to this same place.  The whole point/ connection of the show is tat we live in a "2 dimensional" world while an "invisible 3-dimensional" world exists around us...  It left both me and my 5 year old unable to sleep because it touched something profound...

But I have some conflict about the linear nature of time.  I am pretty sure that time is a physical? construct.  I am not sure what the best word is... We clearly see the effects of time here, in this world.  Plants and children grow, new buildings go up, old practices die, empires wax and wane, and mountains diminish.  Whether counting seconds or eons, time most certainly passes for us.  But the common belief of heaven is eternity.  We expect to see lost friends and family, to lose all the pain associated with aging bodies and illness.  "No beginning and no end" is a phrase I heard a lot at church as a child.  God simply IS, always has been, always will be... and those ideas are pretty universal between ALL religions.  So does that make time a human construct?  Clearly God does NOT have to obey the "laws" of time; God transcends them...  How can each life exist both "trapped" by time as well as "free" from it?  What would the logistics of that be?

There have been Truths in my life that my deepest being recognizes without reservation.  Convictions that I simply cannot explain to you why I KNOW they are true, except to say that at some place in my core, I recognize them.  Like the term "old soul".  Certainly it seems clear enough, but when I met an Old Soul, it was as if 2 Tetras pieces matched in my heart.  People like Yoda, who just have more insight than one lifetime would seem to allow...  Like the term "kindred spirit".  There are people in my life, through out my life, whom I have "recognized" the very second I saw them.  While I am known to be gregarious upon occasion, it's more than that.  These are people I have instinctively known to not let slip out of my life, or they have kept showing back up in new, odd contexts, or I have been able to share and love them in the time I spent with them, clearly able to connect their presence with a new direction in my life path.  Most CERTAINLY, these are the everyday angels we speak of.  I see it as Proof that I am being woven into the Divine Tapestry, and there is no denying that I recognize these players...

So, I struggled as long as I can remember about trying to decide "why was I here?"  What purpose could this life have?  Why did God spend time combining this selection of matter with the knowledge I posses?  The "typical" teenage questions of "why me?" turned into "why THIS me?"   Why did I have to live in California?  Why did I have to watch my father leave for work every night knowing it was another night he may never return?  Why did I have some people as friends, but not others?  Why did I have to have certain physical ailments that inhibited my lifestyle?  Why did I feel compelled to some choices, but not others when the "logical" examination would not match?  How did I know the day I visited my university that I needed to be there (I still had 5 more to visit)?  Why did drugs and alcohol not look attractive to me?  Why did I always feel like I had to marry my husband, as if there simply was no other man on earth (even when he was a dolt and jack#$% - how did I know that guy was gonna grow up and have exactly what I needed)?  How did my "nurture" combine with my "nature" to create a me?

I came up with 2 answers that Rang True for me:
1) The process of living is the process of learning.  I am here, exactly where I am geographically and in time, because this is the place God needs me to be to learn or do whatever it is He/ She needs me to do.  Too many events in my life, both tragic and triumphant, have worked out P-E-R-F-E-C-T-L-Y for it be other wise.  While it is well and good to say that my upbringing "taught" me to look for silver linings and learn from mistakes, the reality is that I am VERY strong-willed, and have been VERY thick-headed about some decisions.  When I persisted in a path that was NOT my role in the Divine Tapestry, I paid for it.  So every experience I am brought to, every choice that must be made, every door and window that gets knocked on, every rough patch or smooth sailing, all are there to inform me, to teach me, to make me into whatever it is God needs me to be.  I believe in my deepest of hearts that each person is created for the purpose of growth.  How, where and what God's task for them is, is between them & God, but that is why we are here  - to learn.
2) There is WAY more to be learned than can be mastered in one lifetime.  Holy Smack... I have enough on my plate working through what I get dished to even consider the lessons in all the stuff I haven't tried yet!  How can there be SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO many people on Earth, and SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO many different experiences that I could learn from them ALL?!  The magnitude is overwhelming.  Clearly I, this me, the body I am in now, is NOT meant to encompass them all.  I get to learn from my tiny dot in the Big Picture, just like everyone else does (because the Divine Tapestry is not mine.... the plan is bigger...).  How can I reconcile this idea of "old soul", of a "returner", with my conviction that we are each singularly and solitarially exist to complete a distinct spot in the Big Picture we don't see?

This is where the time thing comes in.  What if....?  What if the time does not exist to God?  If Time is "permeable" for God, then all our "manifestations" could be at the same time spiritually even though they are at different times materially...  What if...?  What if God is over "there", and He/ She sends us over to learn, and we don't get it?  Wouldn't He/ She send us back, to try again?  Don't we deserve that chance? But, if time doesn't exist "over there", then couldn't our "second" shot actually be earlier in physical time? or later?  I mean, if you had a Divine Plan, wouldn't you want to mix it up so old souls could teach new souls, or so new souls could remind old souls?  Would you want to have a bunch of novices at the start and then just old fuddy-duds at the end? - But wait, we are saying there IS NO beginning or end.. it's just a continuous looping cycle....

The cyclical nature of time is apparent in the study of history.  We see it in fashion clearly.  James Madison studied it in empires to inform his creation of the Constitution.  Empires wax and wane, and archaeologists are surprised to find ancient civilizations that harnessed similar technologies to today (like flush toilets in Pompei, or aqueducts in the Andes, or the Chinese circumnavigating the globe over 100 years before Europeans did).  We are baffled by mysteries like the Easter Island heads, or the Great Pyramids, or the Anasazi Pueblos...  My Padrino (godfather) and I spoke on the new discoveries being made about ancient civilizations in South America - mummies freeze-dried in the Andes.  And he said to me: And those are the youngest mountains on Earth... IMAGINE THAT!  My soul stirs to be here in Appalachia, and geologists have proven that this range was once connected to the British Isles... Funny how Southern Appalachia found itself settled predominately by the Scotch-Irish... or is it?  My genealogy goes back to Scotland.  What if it's even older than THAT?

Another Dutch Uncle spoke to me about the "path" of souls.  I knew him as a traditional Jew, as in we had to cook Kosher meals when he visited.  I don't know enough about the man or the religion to tell you how these ideas fit into his relationship with God, but he described to me a book he'd read that proposed that souls travel through time, through existences, as "family groups" - that we keep seeing each other again in new relationships, working out new ways to know and care for one another.  Funny that he instinctively knew that I would be receptive to that idea when he knew my parents would not.  Interesting that a man who does not and wishes to never have children, an academic who served in the Army with my father, a man who certainly has been a blessing to me and my family even though I have been in his presence maybe 20 times my whole life felt compelled to share that idea.  Even more amazing how as soon as he said it, I felt the words become... solid, for lack of a better description... in my very core. I had the physical sensation of seeing Truth. (Boy, I wish I could explain that better.)

I sought to learn about and compare many religions, trying to find the grains of Truth that comparison would highlight - something MANY people do, academics and not. There are connections I made about peace and conflict, about sharing and hospitality, about learning and progress that I am not even listing here.

And then I had an Autistic son.  He CLEARLY has some insights and abilities that are ... untraditional :)

I will go into ESP stuff later, but he has orated some incredible thoughts about God.  Understand that he was baptized in a traditional Lutheran Church, and that while my husband accepts that I know God in my way, he does expect his children to meet God in a traditional way, in the ELCA, with all the ceremonies and common experiences that entails.  We go to Church on most Sundays, we have only ever attended ELCA (Traditional) Lutheran churches or Episcopal churches with our children, we do VBS and Sunday School, have many books on bible stories and I use Christian biblical parables to help explain concepts and set rules for my children.  I have told him on MANY, MANY occasions that his differences are a gift to him from God, that he is distinct because he needs to not hide his light under a basket, that only by being exactly who he is can he be a part of the Body of Christ, play his role in the whole being of God's plan.  We have discussed that God is loving and forgiving, and more powerful than anything else, that Our God is a God of Love, that God is Love, and that love should guide every decision he ever makes, big or small.  We have talked about stewardship, and that God created the plants and animals for us to manage, and use - that it is OK for us to eat living things as long as we are thankful for the gift of that life, and wise and kind in managing it.  (Yes, before the age of  7 we have had some all out battles about not being "able" to eat meat or plants because they are alive.  You tell me what he is "sensing"...)  But there are many times when he will offer a rebuttal to our exhortations, tearfully, intensely describing to us how what we are saying about God cannot be true...

He tells us that God does not "exist" because, He is broken into tiny pieces that are inside each and every person.  My son asks us how God can be bigger than his nightmares when He is broken into tiny pieces...
He tells us that God is not "powerful" because, we are God, so how can He be stronger than we already are...

Mostly the arguments are about the "size" of God, whether or not he is "big", but there have been lots of discussions about eating or using living things....  It is easy and nice to academically dismiss these statements, his passion, as an acute misunderstanding of an underdeveloped mind - that he is just too young and cannot comprehend the magnitude of life - that he is trying to make sense of all the disparate chunks/ pieces he hears, those paradoxes of Christianity.

But what if....?  What if I were to entertain the notion that his insights are valid, that he is compelled to share them to help inform MY understanding, just as I am compelled to show him how I know God?  What if he has touched on an understanding that is Truth is his heart?

This is where the "psychic"/ "intuitive" piece comes into play.  I will elaborate on specific experiences we have had in another post, but I have witnessed evidence that my son can touch the minds of others, that he can communicate without his body, and that he touches/ sees a reality that is beyond?/ above?/ next to? where he physically exists.
 Sometimes the stuff he says is like a sci-fi novel... and what if it's True?  

Friday, March 16, 2012

On Grief, Guilt & Grace

I have had this odd thought for a while now, and recently read several posts from various circles about how special needs parents feel that brought this idea into focus.  While clearly each one of us, as blogging special needs parents, is finding sharing with the communities we've built here cathartic, it becomes clear there is a pattern here.  A post will come up about parenting guilt, and 2 days later one will come up about special needs grief, and 2 days later there will be one about seeing the blessings, and 2 days later guilt will show up again.  Even though each of us works through our thoughts, out emotions with this (basically) public journaling, it doesn't seem like we are "through"... it keeps coming back.  It's as though the grief, the guilt, the finding joy through the pain is a ...constant, as though we just keep seeing more reasons to keep going through that process over and over again.

So here's my crazy idea, and maybe you can see if I am off base in this association with the guilt/ grief/ grace cycle.  There's lots of background story building here (in typical Asperger's fashion, I cannot assume that my "common sense" is entirely "common"), so bear with me:

I consider myself a Christian, but it is probably safest to say that I am "non-denominational" since what my heart/ soul perceives as Truths are not commonly held in the modern Christian church, but I DO believe that basic tenet of Christianity:  Jesus was the Divine incarnate, the Son of God here on this Earth, and that he was a living sacrifice for the sins of all people, and that he conquered death and ascended into heaven.  I am absolutely convinced of that as a Truth, so lets start there.  One of the most quoted versus is that "...He gave His only son...".  One of the things I admire about the Christian Bible is that it goes out if it's way to tell parables, to put ideas into a context that demonstrates the idea in action, uses a language that would be familiar to its hearers.  While I certainly identified with the story-telling as a child, I really figured it out when I had a nursing infant and the reading at church used language describing how man seeks God like a nursing infant seeks a mother.  Oh yeah - now that was understand able.  Then I realized that even the language of the "only child" was supposed to elicit that level of understanding.

Certainly Isaac had an only child to sacrifice, and God spared him (both), but it is easy to keep that barrier between you and the story, to think "well, I am not THAT faithful, so I do not identify with Isaac".  But in the New Testament, it's about God's son.  A son who saw his share of danger and threat as an infant, and yet was able to survive to adulthood - he got through the "worst".  Worst, you say?  This is where the historical perspective comes in.  Think very, very carefully about your own family histories... my grandfather was one of 7 living children.  My great grandmother was one of 13.  My grandmother has an infant sister in the family plot, my husband has an infant brother buried in the family plot.  I was surprised how many miscarriages there are (because people don't tell you until you are pregnant/ a parent - they just don't identify that information with you).  Why so many children?  Sure, we can talk about farm economies and free labor, but the Truth:  most families lost a child before they grew to adulthood.  This, today, the current generation is the first generation to believe that parents should outlive all their children, ever, in history.  We have "eradicated" childhood diseases that kill and maim, we protect them with softer playgrounds, and closer supervision, and protective gear.  I would say that public discourse makes it clear that parents are supposed to die first.  The public coverage of things like children being kidnapped or missing just proves that.  I remember hearing/ reading many, many times the lament that a parent should never outlive a child.  Yet that is EXACTLY what God does.  His child survives that dangerous, questionable period of childhood, and then his "life's work" takes him in the "line of fire".

Now I grew up in a police officer's household.  My dad worked as a street cop in Los Angeles for 25 years.  He was on the streets during the Watts Riots and the Rodney King Riots, he lost a tooth in a gang fight, and I don't even know what else (he is trying to protect me from that reality).  I can only now imagine how my grandmother felt, but I can tell you that as a kid, we knew the risks he took, and we accepted them as part of him, part of the package that made him into what he was meant to be.  He was an adult, making the conscious choice to endanger himself for the sake of others.  It's kind of a "love me, love my flaws" kind of thing.  God made Jesus to die, and Jesus owned it, he chose the mantle.  Good man; he's got the gonads to own his purpose. That's Jesus's contribution to the event, to carrying the sin.

Does that make losing a child easier? I have not yet lost an adult child, so I don't know.  I deeply honor the sacrifice of other officers and military personnel.  Theirs is a road I did not choose; I did not step up to that burden.  But I have watched my infant die in my hands.  The baby came back with resuscitation, but he DID die.  The burden came to me.  And Lord, the guilt and grief!  I replay the whole incident nearly weekly now, after 7 years, admonishing myself for not giving the rescue breaths sooner, for not knowing how to get to the hospital faster, looking for whatever I could have done to have prevented and lessened the impact.  It doesn't help, AT ALL.  I have finally come to the conclusion there is nothing I could have done differently (though, of course, my heart does not accept that), that it was "meant to be" - that it was an event that helped shape who we are as a family.  The grief part is in the later development.  The neurologist told us that that oxygen deprivation probably triggered the autism, and my child turned into an alien.  I remember asking my husband and my mother, "Where is my son?!  What happened to the child I knew?"  I see that same lament over and over in MANY autism parenting books, & blogs, & comments.  I had to know it was OK to grieve from a stranger before I allowed myself to do so.  And I have worked very, very hard to alleviate that grief with advocacy.  I have tried very, very hard to watch my little alien and try to bring the world to him and him to the world, to be the liaison, the interface, the interpreter, the facilitator, the warrior mommy, and also to give him space (more than many are comfortable with) to create his own terms with the world.

I can NOW understand MUCH better this idea that God gave up His only son, that he saw a success sacrificed, that he turned his living son into an "alien"  - and there are many ways to look at that.  And I NOW understand how to love an alien, how love is GREATER than whatever else, why Jesus says that the new commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself".  I can justify that I am an alien too, that we are all weird in our own ways, that we each survive in our own peculiar perceptions of reality, but the Truth is that justification does NOT change that LOVE IS BIGGER THAN THAT!

And this is only a "Christian" spin on that insight, my personal history trying to come to terms with my personal experiences.  There is a LARGE group of people in this autistic community that have a more nebulous (to me), more "fringe group" type of understanding of this same Truth.  They talk about UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, and how it will set you free, and you will be able to see and harness energies around you and through you.  It's "intuitive" or "psychic" or even "telepathic" for some.  And I can say that I have seen events justifying all those ideas in our Autism Journey too!  (I'll try to give examples later.)

SO, my point is that the spiritual nature of this "Autism Thing" is undeniable.  There is a Divine purpose to the event.  An autism diagnosis, or a family member touched by it, or even public discourse about the condition, these things are divinely purposeful, even if the hearer is fighting the significance.  I can tell you how it has played into MY faith journey, and I am seeing lots of other parents demonstrate how it is playing into theirs in their blogs and stories.  The vocabulary we are using is about guilt, grief and grace.  The stories are each singular, each specific, but there are universal themes.  Just like parables...

How humbling to think I am living my parable, the one story that will help me see the main idea...

I hope my insights help you see your parable...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Further On Weird

The previous post was really the explanation of how I came to accept my weirdness.  It's a list of all the reasons I have been forced to agree with those who see me as weird.  And yes, I have come to a place where I own that weirdness, but it isn't always that easy, especially when it is your kids you are watching...

I did a lot of crying in high school, a lot of regretting and fearing, afraid that I really was missing the "best years of my life".  I have never been even tempted to party or get into bad stuff.  One could argue that I grew up in a conservative household, but that isn't really true.  Conservative by California standards, maybe, but not even remotely close by Southern standards.  The truth is I was afraid of guys, and I was afraid of people my own age.  That was driven home to me when I went off to college. I was TERRIFIED of these big block parties.  I was trying soooooooooooooooo hard to be outgoing and "do as the Romans in Rome", but I kept finding myself watching from corners.  In the long run, I did EXACTLY what I needed to do.  By the end of the first month I had established a core of friends (including a boy who would be my husband) and I stuck it out with their fraternity house.

One of the challenges I have had to face is my knees.  My knee caps have dislocated since I learned to walk.  One of my first memories is of playing in a lawn while waiting for dinner at a restaurant and my knee cap dislocating.  There is a place in my head where I simply do not have faith in my body to perform.  My knees became a challenge for me in college (cold weather is NOT my friend - I discovered I have some pretty severe arthritic damage).  I ended up missing a semester to get double knee surgery.  Lots of fear - of falling on ice, of traumatizing others, of not being able to do common things, like walk or dance- and lots of embarrassment - big metal braces, afraid of going out, dancing like a stick puppet.  The truth is that the time had come for me to face that challenge. And I did.  I took PT as my PE class for 2 years. I had to walk down stairs backwards for 2 years.  I was sure everyone knew who I was.

And I found I was still REALLY uncomfortable with being in groups of only my own age group.  So, I became a Girl Scout leader so I could be around kids again, and I went to the local knitting shop to hang out with the old ladies weekly.  I found strategies that helped me feel whole, comfortable.  At a university that is in the top ten in the nation, I discovered that I was too weird to fit in to even that academic crowd.

The weird didn't stop after graduation, of course.  I got married to that college sweetheart, and we struggled like young couples do.  I struggled to find a job I could live with emotionally, and finally gave in to Divine Will (stopped banging my head on the wall) and became a teacher, but unconventionally.  I have had a hard time keeping any job longer than 5 years.  It means I have experience in LOTS of different settings, but it also means that my parents and my husband keep telling me I am NOT a team player.  The job I have now is the most comfortable I have ever been.  It is seasonal, it is a teaching job, it is outside, it is very dynamic. And so far I have not pissed anybody off so much they want to make me leave. :)  I am capitalizing on all the experience I have from all those other jobs.  It's pretty amazing to feel like the Universe has put you right where it wants you.  I am afraid it won't stay that way, but it does feel good now.

So then I had kids.  Pregnancy was healthy for me, if uncomfortable. It was exactly what it was supposed to be.  We had a struggle with my 1st's delivery - oxygen issue. Stressful, but I kept thinking, "well, LOTS of people have issues."  Then we had an incident at 1 month.  The baby quit breathing. I had to recesutate {sp}.  I did, and we had the baby on oxygen for 4 days.  Again, stressful, lots of fear, but it worked out so "perfectly"... the whole thing could have ended MUCH worse if just one variable had been a little bit different.  I felt there HAD to be a divine message.  I decided to let God take care of it... I would accompany, I would shepherd, but I would not control.  I became "crunchier" about child rearing, pretty laid back.  And my children were perfect.  They look like porcelain dolls.  They attracted people everywhere we went.  They cooed and loved and hugged and snuggled.  We played and learned everyday.  It was awesome.

Until it wasn't.  My father challenged me about eye contact.  A stranger cop on the street told me I should have my kid "checked".  The church was very stressed about having the kid there.  There was HUGE amounts of frustration and physical outbursts. I was concerned for safety.  We started the diagnostic process.  It took MONTHS, YEARS.  Doctors all kinda said the same thing to differing degrees of severity - Autism Spectrum.  He was "high-functioning", but he had definite "issues".

Boy did I struggle.  I had been labeled at a young age, and I wanted to avoid that for him.  I wanted him to be able to define himself, to be whoever it was God sent him back to be.  Lots of crying, lots of praying, lots of hurting... Finally a gentleman I worked with said "it's probably a lot like having your child diagnosed with cancer.  You have to grieve for what your child could have been so that you can enjoy the child you get."  I finally had permission to grieve.  And I did.

But I came to realize, that if I really meant to accept him mas he was, to let him be whatever God sent him back to be, that labels didn't matter.  He IS weird, and legitimately so.  He comes from a loooooong line of weird.  He'll be labeled "gifted" or "geek" or "autistic" or "freak" or something anyway.  If the doctors needed one label to get help, so be it.  If the school needed another label to get appropriate services, so be it.  Humans have an innate drive to categorize.  I cannot protect either kid from all the labels they will receive in their life times.

All I can do is instill in them that knowledge that their differences are sources of Glory for God, that If they have a thing about them that just doesn't go away, then it is meant for them to have it, and they need to harness it, not deny it.

Language has power, yes.  But it is a human construct, not a divine construct.  We can use that power to create a focus word for our actions - I see it as a line that has love on one end and fear on the other.  We can use language to describe what we see.  From a place of love that description becomes praise and constructive criticism, from a place of fear that becomes insults.  We can use language to play.  From a place of love that play shows an honest respect for strengths and challenges.  From a place fear that play shows demeaning others to feel better about yourself, bullying.  We need to use language as a tool, not let it be the tool that uses us.  And we know that, instinctively.  That's why when my best friend calls my names during a card game it doesn't sting like when my husband mutters his disappointment under his breath.  I am sensing the underlying love or fear intention, not just the words.  You do it too.  The examples you give yourself will be more insightful than any I can make up.

So if you are that kid out there who is being called weird.  If you are being bullied - understand that what you are looking at is THEIR fear.  It has NOTHING to do with you. Make the effort in yourself to be making choices from a place of love, and people around you will know & honor your better intentions.  Not to say that other's bad mojo will never effect you. Ugly rumors cost people jobs and friends everyday.  But time will solve that, God will solve that.  Sit it out, choose to stay "in" love and the universe will deal you new cards, things will realign.  When I am at my darkest, when I feel fear driving my actions, I try to remember what I want people to say about me when I die.  Maybe morbid, but death has an undeniable honesty.  I want people to say that I was a loving person, the genuine article, that I did my best to be what God asked me to be.  And God NEEDS me to be weird so that people can notice how much I love them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On Weird

Several blogs have brought "weirdness" to the discussion.  I am thinking that is a bandwagon I can definitely ride, maybe even provide the rousing chorus that keeps it rolling :)

These are the odd things, the unique things, the weird things that define me... some of them are the things that lead me to believe I am Asperger's, but I have come to learn that ALL of them are the things that convince me that God made me to be ME, and no one else, so that I am equipped to fill the niche He has made for me.  I could have come to that conviction in self-defense, true, but my experience has shown me that there is a core singularity that defies my best efforts to train it differently... a weirdness that is inherent to me.

For me, definition is all about context.  Know that I come from a long and honorable line of crazy people.  My father worked 30+ years as a police officer in Los Angeles (as if THAT isn't crazy!) and I learned that law enforcement/ first responder people have a pretty crazy sense of funny.  Lots of practical jokes, lots of finding the absurd in tragedy (I think it is what allows them to compartmentalize and deal with the gross realities they see).  Things like kidnapping the station dog and dying him pink, or putting old perfume in the windshield washer jets and turning them to face out, or the gross stuff, like finding the dismembered reproductive organ of a train-pedestrian victim ready for action ("It must have been a GOOD dream").  There were LOTS of stories. But they didn't come from no where.  My dad and uncle nearly killed their uncle when they put popcaps in his cigarettes - they were lit while he was laying down, so he lost all his chest hair.

Of course he came by that naturally.  My grandmother (his mother) once ran out of gas 3 times in one day.  First she called her husband, and he brought her 1 gallon and told her to go to the gas station. She forgot, so about 20 minutes later she called her father, who brought her one gallon of gas and told her to go directly to the gas station.  She got sidetracked.  Within the next hour she called her brother.  By that time the men had spread the word and they didn't take her gas, they went and picked up the kids....  She also loved BRIGHT color.  In my father's childhood apartment she painted their basement kitchen "day-glow orange" as my father called it.  The fire department came 3 times because neighbors reported a house fire seen through the basement windows.  I was VERY worried about what she would wear to my wedding.  Her tastes were.... eclectic.  She knew I wanted her to dress "conservatively", so she went and bought a fuzzy pink suit... yes, eye-lash fabric in pale baby pink in a well tailored suit.  It was pretty horrific.  I convinced her that I did not want her to feel so repressed, so she wore a pale blue sun dress with florescent green shoes. (Feet aren't in pictures.)

And the stories about my uncle.. whooo-heee.  Looking back, it is CLEAR that he is ADHD at least.  He is VERY social, but he is very..... salty?  A living TMI, if you know what I mean. And he taught us how to cheat at cards.

My mother's family is somewhat more refined, but after my grandmother's death we found that to be more farce than reality.  My mother has her own issues.  I will not dwell on them, because I am not really at peace with them, but I can tell stories about her family! :)  Both her parents were chemists, on the Manhattan Project.  My grandmother was a chemist on the Manhattan Project.  She convinced a small town banker in Georgia to give her a personal loan for a college degree in the 1930's.   She was a pilot in the 30's and 40's.  My grandfather forced her to meet him by setting her sweater on fire in the lab.  They were well known in their circle of academics as the destination for luaus and happy hours.  And his family... we just found a genealogy record in my grandmother's stuff recording that my grandfather's father's family had been so tight-knit that they had a secret family language, and spouses were not allowed to learn it.

Clearly the oddness, the weird goes back FAAAAAAR here.  I tell you, if you want to know weird, do genealogy!  Some other highlights are that we are related to the famous "cattle rustler" Rob Roy McGregor, and to Captain John Smith of Jamestown (by marriage), and my parents are 34th cousins.  There was a man who had a wife in 3 different counties, spelled his name differently in each county, named the first born son in all three families after himself.

So, I am weird too.  I was identified "gifted" in 2nd grade (when we moved out of a Montessori school).  I was in a magnet school, with other "gifted" kids, but that did NOT make me normal by comparison!  I spent almost every recess sitting out, doing all the written work I just could NOT get done in class.  This happened right through grade school.  Middle school is tough, but for me the "weird" felt right. I was BIG into Girl Scouting (my best friend called it our "church meeting" so other kids wouldn't think she was weird).  I got into the Academic Decathlon.  That is exactly what it sounds like... TONS of studying to take a Saturday to go take 8 multiple choices tests, perform a judged speech and do a game-show-type quiz.  I thought it was AWESOME, but soon discovered that most others did not.  I loved it.  I did that right through High School. It got even un-cooler (until the other kids realized how good it looked on a college application).

Our family life was "weird".  My dad worked the graveyard shift most of his life.  He slept all day while we were at school (we had to play outside quietly after-school), and we all had dinner together at 8:30 pm.  My friends in high school were appalled that I had to be home for an 8:30 dinner... but eventually they all just started joining us for dinner, so it must have been a "good weird".  The sitting all together, the having a blessing, the discussing world history, the raucous jokes (usually at my expense since I was the blonde - that is my prescribed role in the play, with the knowledge that I was a Master rope splicer in the regional Girl Scout competition and had a 4.0+ GPA.  You know, I was gullible - too literal - and they apparently thought it was amusing to watch me turn colors when I got worked up about something), and the awesome international fare my mom has mastered. (She was in her sorority's Gourmet Cooking Club.)

And then there is our family hobby: Cowboy Action Shooting.  Hear of that?  Check out SASS - the Single Action Shooting Society.  It is a global sport of target shooting with historic firearms.  Basically we dress up and play cowboys.  Everyone is a character - no real names.  For a historical re-enactment group, it's pretty open.  People are actual characters (Annie Oakley), or fictional characters (Snidely), or farcical characters (Flint Westwood), and everything in between.  We started going to these events when I was 5.  I won a marble spitting contest at 5 years old.  In high school I had a scholarship interview the weekend of a big shoot - so I went in my 1880's bustle gown - a replica from a historic pattern, in a color suited to me, of course, made by my mother & I.  I bet they thought THAT was weird.  The stories there are eeennnndddllleeessss.... trust me.  Re-enactors OWN history, even when they are being flippant about it; it become an obsession.  And yes, my obsession is history.  Usually clothing and children's games, but I tend to get into most anything - looking for connections with my family's past.

And then I grew up and got weirder.  I mean I tell myself all the time that I am going through all the life events that everybody else does, but it's pretty obvious my path is solely my own...  I splatter painted my kitchen cabinets (love it!).  I have a serious fabric habit.  My favorite color is plaid!  I prefer dinner foods, even for breakfast.  Bell peppers and celery make me burp for hours, but I can eat a curry with no problem.  I had a hard time adjusting to layers of clothes when I moved to the colder East Coast (I feel like a snow man when I am in more than 2 layers - like I have no joints), so I tend to shed clothing more than some people are used to.  I think it is safe to say I have absolutely no modesty (there is a story there about my grandmother too!  The first time my mother ever saw her future mother-in-law, my grandmother was running naked through the forest. True.)  I have followed an odd career path that has led me to exactly where I need to be... using unconventional methods to teach an Asperger's son at home.  At the age of 35 I became a lifeguard and a challenge course facilitator - jobs for college kids.  My joints do not take to it well all days.

There are other peculiarities.  I am probably the worst house-keeper known to man (at least according to my mother & husband).  I can't eat til I have been awake for at least 1 hour or I get sick.  Unless I am deathly ill, I can't sleep through the night, never have.  I cannot STAND closed toed shoes - wool socks & sandals all winter.  I wear my underwear inside out so the seam will not bother me (actually my best friend noticed that one on a Girl Scout camping trip).  I talk to my dog empathically (I know that is hard to prove, but I don't have to - he doesn't make you have to pee when he wants you to wake up.)  I have some pretty odd ideas about the space-time continuum and how God permeates it.

Yes. I AM WEIRD.  The secret is to OWN IT.  Be odd, be strange, be unconventional, be unexpected.  If you own it, people don't question it, they RESPECT it.  As long as you are honest and act from a place of love, weird is GOOD, probably divinely created.

And this isn't ALL of it!.. there is more about it in the next post...
If I could figure out how to do the links in the text, I would. I will get that done later - I promise...

Monday, March 5, 2012

We went to a movie...

We were lucky enough to see The Lorax this weekend.  While it did open this weekend and many, many people got to see it, our viewing was a very special event.  We were visiting our grandparents and cousins out-of-state and were invited to join our cousin’s Cub Scout pack for a special screening.  It turns out that the town is so small that the theatre had to get the movie from another town and had permission to use it for only a matter of hours.  We actually saw the theatre owners put the giant reel in their van to take back.  It was amazing to feel like we were let in on such a special secret, such an exclusive opportunity.  While yes, we could have carted the kids to a bigger town and felt like part of the general public, it was awesome to see what lengths a small town mom-and-pop joint used to ensure that kids in their town didn’t get to miss an opportunity.  It was powerful to see what trouble they had experienced to make that screening happen - especially since it was very inexpensive and included popcorn & drink for every kid.  They put their time and their money where their mouth was.
      So the movie was AWESOME.  It was very powerful.  The themes are not new, and certainly not the story (published 1971).  The use of musical numbers to make a point is not novel either, but the movie was GREAT.  Even my husband was in tears at the end (don’t tell him I saw!).  The message of stewardship for our earth was clear (as Wikipedia reports is the point) and accurate.  A good look at history will show you that industrialism has taken its resources for granted – often.  Whether it’s taking the viewpoint that natural resources and raw materials are endless or taking advantage of the workforce, Industrialism, and the industrial economy system tends to lead to excessivism and callousness.  The whole idea of a market economy is that the balance is reached after the demand has been exceeded. We have seen this cycle repeated since the Age of Exploration – tribes in Africa stealing members from each other to be sold into a global workforce that grew and processed sugar on plantations that drove local peoples and ecosystems into extinction, master workmen driven to abandon expertise for interchangeable parts, turn-of-the-century industrialists consolidating businesses vertically and/ or horizontally so that economies-of-scale would allow volume to turn profit even when underselling… the Roaring Twenties boom had to be evened out by the Great Depression, an economic “depression” that reflected industry’s (Wall Street’s) excess “greed” and overextension of natural resources (Dust Bowl) making a depression in our hearts and souls as well as our pocketbooks (ensuring I come from a long and honorable line of hoarders – waste not, want not).
The modern age has conversations about these concerns, sure, and has found improved ways to address some of them.  The 4-H was established as the arm of the USDA to bring “scientific health” back to farming practices (but not stop cash crop farming…), and the Scouting movements (established 1910 and 1912) were designed to combat the moral starvation of a youth left unable to contribute to their family’s economies (child labor laws and white collar work left children with out a role in society).  The Lorax was written at the height of environmentalism, when we finally began entertaining a public discourse on what our stewardship responsibilities really are in this industrial economy.   Forests do need to be replanted, and harvested carefully.  The trade off between the value of a raw material and the impact of collecting it need to be weighed thoughtfully (which the mining industry is doing).  I would argue that the current “Occupy” movement relates directly to the 9-11 terror attacks that saw the middle class (white collar workers) sacrificed (every individual lost was a person who had invested time and money into improving themselves, finding that exact niche that led them to that sought-after job.  Yet they were all replaceable.  Even New York’s finest and bravest have not been manned-down.  Businesses are not losing money; the city is still safe; how valuable were those lives? WARNING: do NOT read into that statement – you don’t know what happened to me on that day.  When I get the strength to write it, I’ll put up another post about it.  I only intend to make the reader think deeply.)
I think that we are approaching another point in history where we are looking in the mirrors and realizing that we are just specks, and we are trying to find significance.   Modern discourse is full of it.  We are all looking for the right labels to wear, whether they are racial or ethnic, or regional, or disabled.  Lord knows my experience in the autism community has shown this.  Lately the argument is what kind of autism you’ve got (the one comparing the Harry Potter jelly beans?).  The parenting books are about Mean Girls, or Jocks, or Geeks, or whatever subset of cultural identification you remember from high school.  Parents classify themselves as Soccer Moms, or Homeschoolers, or Warrior Parents, or Working Moms, or Single Parents, or Organic.  Even in country music I have heard an effort to solidify that sense of identity and classification – Red Necks can be any working class person, Camouflage is the national color of the South, and country folks can survive (again, I will post more about this later – but I would argue that we have seen a growing dynamic between rural and urban America through this generation – it’s visible even in our electoral maps).   We use these labels in our politics commonly, because democracy requires collectivism, but we don’t keep them there, we look for them in all aspects of our lives, and we ask our kids to too; its how modern culture works.
How is it that I am watching this movie about clear cutting forests and am moved to tears when we have stopped that practice and replanted them?  We have been teaching for years that clear-cutting is evil – showing the burning in the Amazon by satellite when I was a kid, including environmental science in our curriculums (my 1st grade state standards this year include it), seeing it as I road tripped through the West and the South.  What could have been in this movie that was powerful?  The message in The Lorax seems to be clear, but like most Great Authors there is depth to Dr. Seuss’s message, and all the characters get to grow.
“Unless someone like you
Cares a whole awful lot,
It’s not going to get better.
No, it’s not”
      This limerick says nothing about seeds or trees, or mystical creatures… it specifically talks about YOU CARING.  It’s that simple, and that complicated.  Who needs to do something? YOU.  It starts with yourself, not with making someone else do it, not with watching someone else do it, not with “we all do it together”, YOU have to do it.  The subject, the one committing the action has to be YOU.  What is it that you need to do? CARE.  The action verb here is CARE.  The only qualification here is “a lot”.  Not be empathetic, not walk away, not pretend you don’t know, not give up, but CARE DEEPLY.  And what does caring a lot lead to? BETTER!
      The place where contention comes up is the “what”, we argue incessantly about what you are supposed to care about.  REALLY?!  It can’t matter, because the subject is YOU, not me! Don’t you think that it is very likely that we truly ARE made with different gifts, with different abilities, with different passions for a reason?  It is possible that I am the only one who is right, but it is far more likely that God made us each to be a different “part of the body of Christ”, a different piece of humanity, because
We only fit together when our shapes are different, not repetitive.
The call to action is: YOU CARE DEEPLY – live passionately in that thing that drives you to a passion.  Surely God made YOU to do that job, to be the one who will fit that niche, to CARE enough to make it better!  The differences are the Gift, the thing that lets you be the one whose caring makes it better
            There is CLEARLY still work to be done in the world!  The Lorax shows that, not just with a Once-ler who saves a seed from a world he destroyed, but also the boy whose love for a girl is strong enough to drive him to fight the whole world for her dream.  In the end of the movie, the characters sing about how they all agree to plant the seed, but each does so for a different reason!  YOU CARE DEEPLY – that is your job, and when you care deeply for that thing that you are driven to care for, then Divine Will is met, and the Great Plan will come together, and we will ALL be glorified in our differences that create a whole!  We all need someone to stand up to bullies, someone who is gifted at fixing machines, someone who is excellent at giving hugs, someone who makes us think really hard, someone to help us.  Don’t you find that every person in your life offers you a different strength, a singular gift?
            I am begging you, please care deeply, because unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, it’s not going to get better.  No, it’s not.