The Pendulum Swings of Autism

Autism is generally referred to as a “spectrum disorder”. All this means is that no two cases of autism are exactly alike. It manifests itself in different ways, in different people. After the weekend we had, I wonder if we could also categorize each day living with autism as “spectrum” days – no one day looks exactly like another.

On Friday night, Melinda and Anna’s school had a fundraiser walk/run. We had paid $30.00 to enter and participate in the activities. Unfortunately, we got to the school and Anna refused to get out of the car. By the time we figured out we weren’t going to make the event, we were stuck as they had closed the roads leading in and out of the school for the walk/run. So, basically we paid $30.00 to sit in the parking lot for 20 minutes. Lovely.

Fast forward to Sunday. Someone at church gave us tickets to see “Disney on Ice”. With excitement, mixed with fear, we accepted the generous offer and drove into Nashville. This time it was different. She not only went, but she had a fantastic time. As a matter of fact, she woke up this morning happy as could be, begging to go again.

I can point to dozens of other days where she is fully engaged and cooperative, and others where she refuses to do anything. We just never know which day today is. I can’t explain it, just like I can’t explain why she can do some things other kids with autism can’t, or they can do things she can’t.

Now you know why the international symbol for autism is a puzzle piece.

The Last of the Firsts

Today marks the one year anniversary of my position being eliminated from Thomas Nelson, and the end of an almost sever year run with a great company. After I was let go, I almost immediately began marking time in milestones – the first sales conference I missed, the first time I didn’t go to this type of meeting, etc. I would actually call my old number to see if it was still active, and mourned the day it came back as “invalid”.

I guess this was one of the ways I coped with the shock and the disruption to my routine. I would go to Christian bookstores and look at the product I helped place on the shelves. I followed ministries closely to see the custom product I had created for them. I would keep in touch with as many people as I could. It was my way of validating myself during a very trying time.

A lot of this was thrown back at me as I went to my first NRB last week since not being at Nelson. Seeing former co-workers and clients in my new role was awkward and difficult, but I was proud to represent my new employer well. I even got a compliment on that from my former boss at Nelson (the one that let me go). That felt good.

So, today puts the proverbial nail in the coffin. It’s the last of the firsts. Maybe now I can truly move on, as I no longer have milestones to measure. I guess we’ll see.

Is there anything you’ve been hanging on to for a little too long?

Blogging Makes Me Feel Like Charlie Brown

I mostly keep this blog for me. It’s a way for me to put down some of the random things bouncing around in my head.

That being said, it’s nice to know that someone actually looks at my blog. Maybe even a few someones.

Remember how Charlie Brown keeps looking for Valentine cards that never show up? That’s what looking at my blog stats feels like. I keep hoping that there are more hits, but they never show up. Like Charlie Brown, soon I get a complex.

My busiest day on record for my new blog (and the one on which I have been more consistent in posting) was 23 views. Big whoop. I’ve had even less (WAY less) interaction. I’ve started to question the material. I’ve started to question how many people even read what I post on Twitter (most of my referrals come from Facebook). All in all, it’s a very demoralizing experience.

I have to keep reminding myself – this is for me, this is for me. But it would be nice to know that more than 3 or 4 people care, and if they even like what, or how, I write. I’ve even had people comment about my blog posts on Facebook and Twitter, but not on the blog.

I know I sound all whiny, but don’t we all want/need to feel validated? It reminds me of this post, from a man who has no need to whine about his blog traffic.

So what can you do to help me? First and foremost, comment on my posts! Tell me you love it or hate it. Tell me you agree or disagree. I promise I won’t be offended if you don’t like it or don’t agree with me.

Second, if you do like what I write, tell others about it! Let them know to check it out.

Third, subscribe. You can enter an email address (on the right side) and get a notification when I post. That way you don’t have to remember to come back and check to see if I put up anything new.

Finally, validate someone else. We all need it.

One last thought – why have my last two posts used cartoon characters to draw analogies?!

I’m sure there is a blog post about that in there somewhere… 🙂

Maybe What Christianity Needs is a Grinch

You remember the story of the Grinch. Yes, the one that stole Christmas. I was thinking about the Mean One and one of the reasons why he hated the Who’s so much. It was the noise, noise, NOISE!

As you recall, the Grinch then proceeds to remove all of the objects of irritation to him from the houses of the Who’s. After he has stripped them of everything, he expects a wail of dismay to erupt from the town of Whoville. What he gets instead is a united chorus of celebration. Something so unexpected it swells his heart and causes him to turn from his old ways.

As I reflected on this, I thought of Christianity and how our rights are being stripped away by the world (the Grinch) simply because we are an irritant to them. But as I thought a little more, I wondered if maybe they are right? Maybe we are a source of irritation to them simply because of the fact all Christianity appears to be is cacophonous noise. We don’t agree on anything, we are constantly bickering over little matters, constantly forcing our rules on them. When you look at it that way, I can understand a little of their meanness toward us.

So what will it take for us to be unified as believers? Will it actually come down to the “Grinch” stripping everything away from us before we realize that what binds us is more important than what divides us?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating we water down the message of the Gospel. Quite the opposite. I’m saying that the Gospel is what, together, we need to sing at the tops of our lungs from the center of our towns, like the Who’s did on that Christmas morning. THAT is what brings us together – not petty arguments over music, clothes, food, etc.

Jesus said it best when he was asked what the first and greatest commandment was. Jesus could have answered anything. He could have pulled from any of the many Old Testament laws (He wasn’t limited to just 10). Instead He chose to answer this way in Mark 12:29-31 – 1) There is only one God, 2) You should love this God with all your soul, mind, and strength, and 3) You should love your neighbor as yourself. Wow.

I think we, as Christians (no matter your other “label”), all better start showing some unified love. Otherwise, the Grinch will come and steal everything, forcing us into it. I would rather choose it. What about you?

How are you loving the one and only God today, and, in turn, showing that love to your neighbor?

Don’t Do Your Best, Do What It Takes

This is the stuff they make movies out of! I’m talking about the amazing run the Tennessee Titans are having right now. Here’s the breakdown:

Last year the Titans had the best record in the NFL. There were high expectations this year that fizzled quickly as they started 0-6. The decision came down to start the relative rookie over the veteran that had played in a Super Bowl before. When they won their first game, everyone assumed it was a fluke. Then they won again. And again. And again! Last week they faced a pretty good Arizona Cardinals team, who had themselves won three in a row. At this point no NFL team had ever won five straight games after starting a season 0-6. Three huge mistakes by the Titans put them in a situation where the only way they could win was to get a touchdown – a field goal wouldn’t cut it. They got their last possession, with just a few minutes left in the game, but the ball was on their 1 yard line. The relative rookie rallied his team and took them down the field, converting several 4th downs along the way. Finally, with just seconds left, it was 4th and goal. The Titans HAD to score or their winning streak was over. Sure enough, a pass into the end zone as time ran out was caught for the game-winning touchdown. The Titans had made history.

But, amazingly, the story isn’t even finished yet. At 5-6, the Titans are only two games away from having a winning season. But first, they have to get through the tough, undefeated, Indianapolis Colts. This will be a huge game. Again, Hollywood couldn’t have scripted this better!

Have you ever faced loss after loss? Sometimes all the platitudes and trite sayings in every leadership book you have ever read won’t do any good. As author Andy Andrews recently said, “It is not always enough to do our best… Sometimes, we have to dig in and do ‘what it takes'”!

Are things down right now? What excuses are you hiding behind? The economy? The sales team? The manufacturing team? The creative team? At the end of the day, only you can change your destiny. That’s not to say others won’t throw obstacles in your way, but what responsibility are you taking? Are you working longer, harder, better, and faster, or are you allowing the losses to pile up and have given up the season simply because no one has ever come back from that kind of a bad start?

I don’t know how the Titans season will end up. Yes, the opposition is tough, but by “digging in” and “doing what it takes”, they have a good chance at coming from a huge deficit, and pull out a winning season. That means you can do it too.

Are you doing your best, or doing what it takes?

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I always hear about how we gloss over Thanksgiving, but I think it’s getting worse. Thanksgiving is no longer thanks-giving day, it’s a day of rest before the big shopping race. I heard a commercial on the radio today announcing a certain store will be open ON Thanksgiving day to accommodate shoppers a little earlier. Now, the actual day is no longer sacred.

I honestly don’t remember in years past Halloween AND Christmas decorations being out at the same time, but this year I saw it in several places. Commercialization at it’s finest.

I think the reason we are diluting Thanksgiving as a legitimate holiday is because we aren’t GETTING something. For Halloween (which, according to some, is now the second most celebrated holiday of the year) we get candy. For Christmas, of course, it’s all about the gifts. Even Easter has become a time of “getting” (new clothes, presents in your baskets, etc.). But Thanksgiving has always been about taking time to pause and consider. Well, we can’t have that, now can we? So what do we do? Center the day around sales, and shopping, and GETTING.

Here’s a suggestion – instead of being just “thankful” tomorrow, try being grateful. What do I mean by that? Being thankful, to me, is synonymous to manners. “Thank you for holding the door open for me”. Gratitude implies indebtedness – “There is NO way I could have done this without you”.

So, using my definitions, how would that change how you look at tomorrow, and the rest of this weekend? Does it change your perceptions of the people you are thankful for? Does it change your attitude towards God? What have these people done for you that you couldn’t do for yourself?

You see, if you want to make Thanksgiving about getting, make it about what you have already been given. Show gratitude towards your wife who, for most households, keeps it together like you never could alone. Be grateful for the friends that love you unconditionally all year long. And, of course, be grateful for what God has done for you. And, by the way, He would have done it just for you. He did it for everyone, but He would have done it JUST for you. Ponder that…

Tomorrow, and this weekend, I choose gratitude. I have been given much already. Much of what I have been given, I could never have done for myself. I will choose to stop, rest, and ponder all of it.

What about you?