Housecleaning with Max

  Today Max and i began to rearrange his room.
  i share this to give you a feel for working with this wonder-full, communication-impaired young man with autism, as well as inevitably a bit of my own limitations.
The"Desk to Last a Lifetime,"
when Max and MyGuy had nearly finished constructing it
  i've known for some time that he wanted the room arranged differently, but there aren't many options, what with the Desk to Last a Lifetime that takes up 1/4 of it.  Plus, let's be honest, there's ANYTHING else i'd rather do than housekeeping, never mind housecleaning with Max.)
  We began with two hours of "Keep it or get rid it?" about every single item on his dresser, piled a foot high in places.  (MyGuy and i are not ones to do the purge & ask questions later thing.)
  Well, back up.  First i had to determine that Max was willing to do the project now.  There have been other good times for me that were not good times for him.
  So anyway we got on with sorting the stuff on the desk.  Some of the "get rid of" stuff is things i've been looking for, & will go in the scrapbook or to his teacher for schoolwork.  Or maybe enrichment here.  i found the instructions for a mini digital camera he was given several Christmases ago.  Maybe the camera will surface too & we can look at the photos he took. (But he sure had fun shooting.)
  That took a couple hours.  Very boring.
  We took everything off, polished the top, vacuumed the available carpet, moved the dresser, vacuumed again the additional available carpet, then began the process again with the stuff on the bookcase headboard.  There wasn't so much, so that didn't take so long.
  At that point we called Dad/MyGuy to help with the bed.  Moving, more vacuuming, reminders of why moving furniture is bad for the marriage, replacing stuff.
  i'd measured wrong.  Yes, the bed goes where i thought.  Yes, the dresser does indeed fit in the niche under the window.  But the shelves don't fit between the bed & the window, so they'll have to stay where they are. But that won't be the problem i'd thought either.  They can slide along the wall they're on, or not, as Max prefers, as long as we remove the boxes on the floor that extend past the shelves.
  But the shelves must wait for later.  Now it's time for MyGuy and Max to go to the grocery, then we'll reconvene as a family for lunch and library.  Today i think we'll also take the tree down.
  Saturday routine has kicked in.

Providing for our Needy: Complications on Complications

  i spend too much time reading.
  But i think about what i read, & make connections too.
  Yesterday i began that gift book about TR, Mornings on Horseback.  McCullough begins with a couple chapters about TR's parents.

  Our 26th president set out to live up to his father's name and in the end eclipsed it.  Who knows these days that President Theodore Roosevelt was the son of Theodore Roosevelt?
  TR senior was the sort of philanthropist whose travels were greeted with a sigh of relief.  Not because he was an odious man; he was in fact very well-liked, but because he threw himself completely into his causes: personally, with his own considerable finances, and soliciting from his also wealthy friends.  One friend estimated he had a thousand dollars additional disposable income the year the Roosevelt family spent in Europe.
  He set up museums and homes for NYC orphans.  During the Civil War, he approached Lincoln about funding for the families of soldiers.  What he received was not  government funding, but backing to visit the troops and carry the soldiers' own money as designated by them home to their families.
  He spent most of the war years traveling on the project, often sleeping in tents and on trains, seldom seeing his own family, who had their own health problems.
  Nothing is mentioned of his appearances at the family firm during this time.
  Theodore Roosevelt senior did not fight in the union army, out of consideration to his Southern wife, but he cared about the plight of Union soldiers and their families.  And he backed it up with his life.

  Yesterday Diveboard Dave posted about the  "While Others Play" letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star.
  Understandably the writer is frustrated by the scads of money going to fripperies while someone he loves is in need.  As am i.
  But we must remember the man has earned the money in an honest way, must be presumed to pay taxes honestly, and donates charitably.  The money is his, and whether we like it or not, he may do with it as he pleases.
  And that is not the entire picture.  The fancy guitars were made by craftsmen. The craftsmen were paid by former owners, but they were paid.
  Artists and craftsmen have a place in society.
  The fancy guitars were sold to this man by somebody.  Personally, i own some collectibles.  Some i paid for myself, $5 at a time over months.  Others are antiques inherited from deceased family members.
  When i sell them, i sincerely hope there is someone out there with the disposable income to buy them for something like they are supposed to be worth.
  My $5/month collectibles came from the Tyrol Valley of the Alps.  They came through numerous intermediaries.  The artists did not receive all the profit from them, but from what they did receive, they are able to continue to live in their beautiful valley.   i enjoy them as much as my art from local artists (which i also have some of, and have created some of).   Likely i would not have them without the intermediaries.  And the valley people, who have a decent living from the crafts, would be considerably poorer without these intermediaries.

  So, to gather up my threads, where are we?
  We can't dictate what others do with their funds.
  We can take an active part in asking, suggesting what they might do.      We can definitely take more part in caring for our own, both family and neighbors.

   The Arc of Indiana, in their Blueprint for Change, talks about "soft supports" in the community, family and friends, being part of the solution.  Carlene Crum, is a person who did just that.Her son required many hours of hands-on therapy.  In her book Something of Value,  she describes speaking in churches and other places, asking for volunteers to donate an hour a week to working with her son, meeting his needs.

  i don't care to point fingers at others.  There's too much to be done in this corner of the planet.

More about A Wrinkle in Time



  Madeleine L'Engle was a faith and reason Christian who was first of all a storyteller.  MyGuy says her science only holds up enough to hang the story on - i'm not the one to ask about that.  And my theology is not the same as hers, but what stories.  They are unquestionably faith stories, and faith-strenghtening stories..  
  Conservative Christians - and i do count myself loosely in the number - are often offended by L'Engle's books.  There are details in them that must be taken as part of a fantastic story.   Although a Newbery Award winner, A Wrinkle in Time "is on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 at number 22."

  Throughout these three books, i was impressed by the continuity of the themes of the importance of active love, the control of our Creator over all, and joy in finding our God-ordained place in this world.  The Murry family is not a churchy family, but the supernatural beings interacting with them know and  reverence to God.  They quote Scripture in His praise and to encourage the young protagonists to do  the hard tasks  that need doing.  L'Engle looks at good and evil, conformity and being willing to be different, arrogance and humility, the vast spread of our smallest choices.
  A lot of the story is truly fantastic.  But God moves in fantastic ways, and these are after all stories, and scifi/fantasy stories at that.  Why shouldn't they be fantastic?  Fiction is about a suspension of disbelief in the details so that we can see a greater truth.
  Finally, i would like to share a quote from Madeleine L'Engle herself which sums up the ideas in these books:
. . .  what we must look for is not the destructive power but the vision of interrelatedness that is desperately needed on this fragmented planet. We are indeed part of a universe. We belong to each other; the fall of every sparrow is noted, every tear we shed is collected in the Creator's bottle. ”




Words on Wednesday


  More about what i'm reading --

  = Still reading Something of Value, by Carlene Crum.  It's shorter than an Agatha Christie mystery, but much meatier.  i'm reading it a little like a devotional, but not quite.

   = i've dipped into two new Christmas gift books, Mornings on Horseback, about TR's coming of age years, by David McCullough, and Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip, by Matthew Algeo.  Not that i've really read them yet, but they look really exciting.

 =  Mostly i've been reading Madeleine L'Engle's Time Trilogy, A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and currently A Swiftly Tilting Planet.  With MyGuy and FB, i've also rewatched the movie A Wrinkle in Time.

  Apparently i've only gotten part of the story.  L'Engle wrote the books over many years, and after my boxed set was published, she wrote Many Waters, which sequentially inserts between Wind and Planet.   (These are the first three she wrote in the series.  She also wrote about the next generation characters, and some of those novels are included in a "Time Quintet," or possibly larger series.  i've not followed the storyline that far.)

  Anyway.  i don't propose to describe the plots of the stories here, but their effects on me.
  i first read them in the early 1980s.  i'd seen Wrinkle on the library shelves when i was a kid, and the whole idea of a wrinkle in time was scary.
  When i first read the boxed set, i was a new married young adult, and read them for coming of age stories.  They are, after all, young adult fiction.  And i enjoyed them at the time as such.
  Now, i am reading them at a deeper level.  i think any book with any substance can show more on subsequent readings.

 More on that in a future post. . . .

Deconstructing the Quilt

  This quilt had seen better days.
  Actually it was no one's special quilt by the time it came to us.
  i don't even know who made it.  It was no longer in really good shape when we got it.  A few years back MyGuy decided it was the best thing we had for a draftstopper.
  Most of that time it's been shedding its batting over the floor.
  Not good.
blue stripes: new draftstopper
patchwork quilt on right, with burgundy backing at top
  When my niece told me she was sewing Christmas gifts, i told her that her uncle would like a draftstopper.  Actually, i was tired of the shed batting.
  Old quilts shed worse than corgis.
  And i promised her the remains of the quilt after Christmas.
  So when she delivered on the nice draftstopper, i knew that the quilt needed to come apart.  It needs to be washed, and that batting is definitely not going through the machine.  The quilttop and the base will need to be put in separate pillow cases, though i think both will survive.  Without the batting.

  It's amazing what work went into this quilt that nobody loved.
  i have no idea how old it was.  i do know it was old when i first saw it, back when i was a kid. So it dates from at least my mom's childhood, back in the 20s, 30s.  Maybe as recently as the 40s.  It was made by someone, or a group of someones, in her family, or people they knew.
  Made by hand.  Hand stitched and hand tied.  There seems to be some fabric in it that was new at the time (flour sacks?), as well as the pieces of worn dresses and shirts.
  The backing must have been entirely new fabric for the quilt.

  i got a trash can and began cutting and ripping the batting off.  Because even though it had been shedding too much for too long, most of it was still there.  Max helped me some with pulling and cutting the red yarn that tied the layers together.
  The entire process took maybe 45 minutes, probably less.
  The making of it way back when probably took months.

  And i'm excited to see what my niece will make of the recycled fabric.

Saturday Sisters - Anna


an occasional series of meditations

 
How blessed are those who
dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You! Psalm 84:4
    This woman was not normal.  She never left God's house, the temple, and apparently she never did any "useful" work there either.  So how did she fill those seventy or eighty years after her husband died?

  With worship.  Pure worship.  Worship "in spirit and in truth," as Jesus later said.  She prayed, filling her mind with God's word instead of her body with food.  As she remembered how God had interacted with her people in history, she came to know Him herself, and so could recognize Him when He appeared before her, as promised, as a tiny baby.

You might think that we, with our full lives and busy normality, have nothing in common with this ancient, frail weirdo.  I mean, I'd love to worship all the time too, but there's the husband, the job, the kids. . .

Did you know that Anna had an obstacle too?  The temple was set up for men.  There were three public areas: the outer one for nonJews, a middle one, and the central one.   The real worship ceremonies took place in the central area, called the Court of Israel, while Anna was never allowed past the middle area, the Court of Women.  She lived in a society where the men actually thanked God for not making them women!

So.  We have responsibilities, but she was shut out.  Can we truly say we worship God with all our hearts, even so?
Anna lived most of her life in God's house,
 worshipfully, joyfully awaiting God's Son.

 
There was nowhere she'd rather be than with her God.

Luke 2:36-38; Psalm 84

  So God has given both His promise and His oath.
  These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie.
  Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can take new courage, for we 
can hold on to His promise with confidence.
  This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. 
 It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God's inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us.      . . . . . . 
  Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.
Hebrews 6:16-20a, 10:23

Communication & Trust


   i don't remember why we took this photo.
   Possibly it was a safety valve for getting angry.
   You see, Max wasn't supposed to bring the entire cereal box into the living room, there being so much potential for the whole thing spilling & being so messy.
  But by the time he was this age, i would've known the difficulty of conveying this to him.
   i deal in words.  He does not.  Even less so back then.  i have, by well-placed questions, caused people to reconsider:
                -  the usefulness of 5 syllable words over one syllable ones
                - look at different political and religious stances that they had previously held as perhaps not so off the wall as they'd thought before.  Sometimes just by the gentle questions someone will even do an about-face on the issue.
    But i cannot convey to one autistic kid that not being allowed to bring the entire box into the living room does not equate to, there is no more food for you, ever.
   Because that is what it is about.

  Max was about 5 in this photo.  He is 21 now.  He no longer brings cereal boxes into the living room. But communication is still a problem.
  To figure out what he wants, we do a 20 questions sort of dance.  "Is there anything you want to talk to the doctor about today?"  "YES!"  "Okay.  Is it your medicine or something different?"  "Medicine."  
"Do you want a different medicine, or more of this one, or less of this one?"  "Different medicine."  "What bothers you about this one?"
  Here i followed with a short list of possible side effects with a request for more choices. "More choices."
   Is this getting tedious to you?  It is to me.  Several minutes later, we figured it out, and had a major communication triumph to bring to the doctor.
 Later still, we left the office with different medicine, which seems better for him.

  There's also trouble with trust issues.  While he has enough experience now to know we'll feed him, he also has enough experience to know his memory is way better than mine.  Once i said we'd go to a Sesame Street day, then forgot.  My own events don't always get on the calendar, and i take it in stride.  Max couldn't tell me what i forgot, and we dealt with a major meltdown.  It was a couple weeks later before i remembered Oh, yes, THAT'S what that was about.

  We're still trying to figure out the communication thing.  As he's grown, i've had more time to read about it.  (When Max was in preschool, his wonder-full, well-meaning teacher gave me a huge binder about how to communicate.  i was so overwhelmed with the dailiness of living with him, that i forgot i had it & only recently uncovered it.  It would have been better if someone could have gone through it with me.)

  If you'd like some tips about communicating with people with autism, the Indiana Resource Center for Autism has great articles.  Here's a short one specifically geared to communicating, helping us see their point of view:
http://www.iidc.indiana.edu/index.php?pageId=519

  Another take on trust and communication comes from fellow blogger Dave, who works with adults in the special needs community.  While the story he tells here is representational of many individuals, not one in particular, attempting to put yourself in Carla's shoes can give some insights on why trust and communication can be difficult:
http://diveboard-dave.blogspot.com/2011/12/fictional-friday-carla.html

Words on Wednesday: a Peek at what i've been reading

  Lately i've been skipping around.  Several books are unfinished.  Here is a selection:

- A Season in the Desert: Making Time Holy, by W. Paul Jones  Some practical devotional advice, some of Father Paul's personal jouney, some frankly too metaphysical for me to follow, it's fascinating.

- various Agatha Christie stories: Hallowe'en Party, The Clocks, Passenger to Frankfort, Come Tell Me How You Live, "The Water Bus."  There may have been some other of her novels; these read quickly for me.
   Come Tell Me How You Live is different.  It is a "faction" of her life as an archeologist's life in Syria.  It's a much more leisurely read, with insights on how people in the area think.  For example, Jezebel is wicked not because she painted her face, but because she looked out the window.

- Jill Paton Walsh's continuation of the Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane stories, The Attenbury Emeralds.

- i picked up a summer issue of The New Yorker at Borders' going out of business sale & have been enjoying it.

- i keep poring over, not actually reading, some scrapbook magazines and an art book on collage and another on sketchbook journaling.  i'm getting started in the latter.  Learned some fascinating stuff about the Halifax explosion of 1917, where one of the artists grew up.

- i seldom read it on the right day, but i read The Indianapolis Star.  Apparently they still consider me one of their education bloggers.  i just got an assignment from them.  i'd set the required article aside to read later, so i needed to find it and still have to read it.  But i already have opinions.

- When i worked the Discipleship walk last fall, i met a wonderful lady named Carlene Crum.  She was our prayer warrior, and she had written a book about her experiences in the 1980s raising a special needs child.  Last week i bought a copy of her book, Something of Value: a mother's spiritual journey with a special needs child, and it also is onmy reading shelf.  The short chapters make Ben's disability real while dwelling more on Carlene's journey that made her the person she is today.  i'm reading it slowly and digesting the thoughts that Carlene lived through in the 17 years of Ben's life.

- Another quick read was was Henry vanDyke's novella, The Story of the Other Wise Man.  Based on a dream he received at the end of a year of pain, it tells how a 4th wise man kept getting distracted in his journey to visit the Christ Child by people in need.

- i'm not familiar with Smith Magazine, but when i saw the library book compiling responses to their six word memoir challenge, i had to check it out.  They vary from funny to stupid to profound - actually the gamut of human experience.  It's called Not Quite What I was Planning.

- Could be a pipe dream, but i'm hoping to get a family vacation to Florida in the next couple months.  So there's a few planning guides on the shelf too.

- oh yes, and enough PTA stuff to make me go deer in the headlights.

Time to stop talking about BOOKS and get to work.  Any hot reading tips out there?

Saturday Sisters - Mary


an occasional series of meditations

"How can this happen?" Mary asked the angel. . . .Luke 1:34a,38, NIrV

   She said yes. 
    In the middle of her ordinary life, an angel appeared, told her of the impending miracle, gave her a choice:
                Will you give God His way in your life?
    Did she think, at that moment, what it would cost her?
    She knew that, in the normal course of things, what the angel proposed was impossible, but she also knew that, with God, all things are possible.  Didn't He make humans out of dirt?  And the dirt itself out of nothing? 
    Did she realize that, if she of great faith wondered how it was possible, the rest of her world would consider her an immoral, lying fool?  That her fiance, that just, honest Joseph, would be repulsed, would seriously consider how best to break things off with her? 
    Maybe at that moment, all she knew was that the God of the universe was inviting her to become part of something bigger than herself.
    And that He would be with her through whatever came.
"I serve the Lord," Mary said.  "May it happen to me just as you said it would."Luke 1:38a, NIrV
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, 
and the weakness of God is stronger than men. . . .  
that no man should boast before God.

                               I Corinthians 1:25,29



working out the Christmas tree thing


  When i was growing up, December was the month of parties.
  Grownup parties, that is.
  We  put up our tree on the day after Thanksgiving and by the first Sunday in December our house was filled with people.  First it was my mom's sorority Christmas party, and we often had my parents' Sunday school class over.  Closer to Christmas, we had my dad's family in.  Since he was part of a large family who pretty much all had large families, that was a houseful.
  Seldom, though, did my mom's family come.  Her sister had claimed that event, barring the emergency of my dad being on call for the holiday.
  Our Christmas tree went up early, and stayed up late.  It was a central prop for the parties, complete with the Nativity set beneath.

  When i married, there was a bit of culture shock at Christmas time.
  Our tree was always, within my memory anyway, an artificial one, accompanied by the brief but passionate tale from my mom of The Year the Christmas Tree Burned.  
  For some reason i am uncomfortable in a home with a "live" tree.
  Do you see what's coming?
  MyGuy had grown up having one of those "live" trees every year.  With much grumbling, he acquiesced to the "fake" one, admitting that real ones had drawbacks.  Sure, they smell nice, but you have to   buy a new one every time and keep it watered and vacuum up needles.  Never mind fire hazards!

   The really difficult thing, though, was the timing of setting it up.  You see, he didn't just want to wait unti December.  MyGuy says if you get out Christmas stuff too early, you wear out the season.  To not "wear out the season," that means waiting until at least the 20th, preferably the 21st or 2nd.
  It took years for him to reallize that, for me, there could be no shopping, Christmas cards, any preparation whatever, without that tree in place.  There were a few years along the way where we didn't put one up at all, because if you wait until the 20th, there is simply no point.  

It hasn't always been easy.  It was really hard to not put a tree up the day after Thanksgiving, but i eventually realized that doing it that early is not an option.  
  So we worked it out.  Eventually.  Compromise.  We're worth it.
  Christmas is too important to fight over.

Saturday Sisters - Elisabeth


an occasional series of meditations.

from Luke 1
Think of ways to encourage each other
to outbursts of love and good deeds.
Hebrews 10:24NLT

  For centuries God had had no word to give to His people.
  In a culture that put much store in the meaning of names, it is fitting that the next word He gave came through a devoted couple whose names were Zechariah, "God Remembers," and Elisabeth, "(His) Oath."

  It started out as an ordinary workday for her husband when he got the news. It was not an ordinary day for Elisabeth when he came home from work mute and somehow let her know there was going to be a baby.
  Zechariah had been convinced this would not happen, though they had been praying for a child for many long years. Elisabeth believed. Did she remember that this had happened before, to Sarah and Abraham?

  A few months later, her young relative Mary arrived unnaounced  for a lengthy stay. Rather than regarding this as a major inconvenience, Elisabeth listened to the still, small voice of God and was thrilled to see Mary. Elisabeth recognized Mary, not merely as a relative whom she loved, not as a girl who had misbehaved, but as a young woman of great faith, the recipient of a blessing from God even greater than her own.
  From the great well of her faith, experience and emotions, Elisabeth gave.

"You are blessed, because you believed
that the Lord would do what He said."
Luke 1:45NLT

When Elisabeth knew she was at last going to receive
her heart's desire, she continued to trust and obey God.

It's not about the Movie


  Today Max was picked up at school for the first time by a Caregiver Support Person  (Caregiver Support Person).  The IDEA was, they would go, at our expense, to see a movie while Mom (the caregiver) does something for Mom, other than work or go to school.
  This is something that we are - horrors - ENTITLED  to by virtue of being on 3 waiting lists for Medicaid waivers.  You do not want me to go there.  It's entirely too complicated.
   For now, we can say this is a step on the way to Max not ending up eventually in Carl's situation.  Max is 21 years old, but functions more like a 3rd or 4th grader.
  Next year he will no longer be eligible for free public education.  Presumably there will be some job in place by then, but he will not be supporting himself for a long time, if ever.  We are involved parents, but there is a limit to what we can do for Max.  He will need other people involved in his life.
   People who are not family or school people.
   Hence the theoretical movie outing.
   So far, Caregiver Support is a bit of a hassle and a lot of worry for me.  It would be a lot simpler to let Max veg out on the couch with the PBS afternoon kids' shows.  But he needs the exposure to other people and experiences, which we would not be able to afford, and i need to learn how to work with the system so that eventually, when he needs more, it will be in place.
  i would like to also guide others, but i feel shaky enough about our situation.  Heck, i feel shaky enough about the whole ENTITLEMENT notion in the first place.  But i know what my kid needs, and this is the best i can see to get it for him.

  Actually they didn't go to a movie.  Max ran onto the bus and had to be removed, then he called me for reassurance.  i told him he could trust CGSP and he should go see the movie & have a good time.
  In a few minutes, CGSP called me from outside the theatre.  Max was insisting he wanted to come home and not see the movie.
  i told CGSP that if he doesn't want to see the movie, that's fine.  (Remember, it's not about the movie.)  But i want him to do SOMETHING  before he comes home.  i talked to Max again.  Where would you like to go for a snack?  Hardee's?  Steak n Shake?  McDonald's?  McDonald's, he says.  Ok, i say, then you ask CGSP and she'll take you there, then home.
  So i talk to CGSP again, and ask if she knows where a nearby McD's is.  She doesn't; i tell her.
  And they're off again.

  Gosh, it would be so SIMPLE to have let him come home on the bus and veg.

It's not about the movie.  It's about the MAX'S FUTURE.

A Little Help from My Friends


 i am very much an introvert, sometimes even to the point of being a recluse.  However, one thing i am passionate about is the necessity of friends.
  i enjoy, and NEED, my friends as well as my time alone.
  When i posted a few weeks ago about 10 Hints to Guess My Favorite Comic Book Superhero, two of my hints are that he's an ordinary guy whose superpower is friends.  (He's The Phantom.)
  We all need a little help from our friends.  Friends are fun, they keep us sane.  It may not be so dramatic as with The Phantom, but they save our life.

Max and Friends
  Friends are very difficult for individuals with autism to have. i've read a lot about the subject, possibly have some understanding from the inside, i know that relating to Max can be difficult though rewarding.  Like any other young man, Max needs peers, yet they are even less certain of what to do with him than we are at home.

  i found this article

Autism Therapy More Successful When Peers Involved Too

interesting.  It seems that research bears me out.  Relating to these wonder-full people is neither simple nor natural, yet vital.
  It also helps explain why most of the reports i hear of special needs kids in regular schools are stories of heartache, where the student struggles to learn material perhaps not matched to their abilities while being bullied or ignored for being different.  Very few are the heartwarming tales of acceptance that i come across, though they should be more universal, routine even.
  Meanwhile, Max is happy at his specialized public school, where, on every IEP, it is noted as the disadvantage to being there, "no interaction with typical peers."  At this point in his career, i don't plan to push to have him elsewhere. Friends need not be school friends.  Yet somehow we must find them.
  Friends.  They can be your superpower too.

Time and Creativity

  Tomorrow is Breakfast with Santa at school.
  i'm a little frazzled and i should go to bed.
  Actually, i should've stayed home tonight instead of going scrapbooking, but the creative release was good.
  When i left school this afternoon, the games we were expecting hadn't yet arrived (as i edit after the Breakfast they did indeed come, and were much enjoyed) and one lonely game was in place for the kids.
  i spent most of the evening making games.
  A couple of sheets of scrapbook paper, cut into 12 cards each, and here's a matching game.
  A sheet of foamcore, and some pens, and a half hour, and here's a tree to stick bows on and decorate.

  The amazing thing was the awed comments i got from the women around me.
  It's just a throwaway project which will probably be trash before noon tomorrow.  Three steps and a bit of time, anyone could do it.

  Or could they?
  i found this a fun, relaxing project, but the women around me, all creative in their own ways, doing amazingly beautiful work, got stressed at the very idea of attempting this simple tree, even after my three step tutorial.
  Do the framework in brown, needles in green, add more needles until it looks right.  The last ones weren't even necessarily on framework,
  Everyone knows what a tree looks like, right?
  i told MyGuy about this, and he said, "How long have you been looking at trees and drawing them?  Count that time too."
  Well, decades actually.  For having spent that long drawing one stupid tree, it's pretty ugly.  For 30 minutes on the poster, 2 minutes on the tutorial, maybe not too bad.
  As my first art teacher, Nadine Starken, said, "Learning to draw is learning to see."  i think i spend more time looking than drawing.

  But i think another part of the problem is time.  We're in such a hurry for everything.  i really believe most people, if they allowed themselves to start, would get to Step 2and say, "See?  I told you - can't do it!"
  i once spent every minute of three hours telling a better painter than i "Yes, you're right.  It is a mess.  But you're not done yet.  Keep going."  She would have thrown that piece in the trash a hundred times otherwise, but, by the  time she was finished, she loved it.

  At first, when i began my tree game, i just wanted something quick and cheap.  Then i started having fun with it, adding dots for a cranberry garland and some bluejays and a red pot in the snow.  i could've left it at just the tree, but more creativity comes with more time.

  For a further, even more fascinating, illustration of this, see Susan Gaylord's Time and Creativity post, which describes what happens when young children are asked to complete an obvious drawing, first in ten seconds, then in ten minutes.
  It is amazing.

Life with Two Browsers


  Well, Chrome is here.
  As Boom assured me, it is simply another web browser.
  i was happy with Firefox, and i still use it for many things, but there is one important difference.
  i did need Chrome, because for whatever obscure, probably fixable if there were inclination, reason, Firefox does not recognize my Google profile.  This makes it impossible to comment on blogs and do other neat stuff with Firefox, but that's why i have Chrome.
  And at least until i figure out how to turn off that annoying Spellcheck, i have Firefox for composing blog entries.

The Lying Truth and the Truthful Lie

  i know people who do not read fiction because they say it isn't true.
  i say fiction can be truer than fact.
  Facts can be manipulated to the point where they are unrecognizeable.
  What is this?
   More later.

  Untold Tales, by William J. Brooke (Harper Trophy, 1992) is a delightful collection, not just of fiction, but of twisted, retold fairy tales.  
  In the second tale, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Beauty shares how her father moved the family into the forest to escape creditors when his merchant ship was presumed lost.  Eventually, word arrived that the ship had returned, laden with the treasures it had been sent to trade for.
  This was true.  The family rejoiced and imagined what would be purchased with the wealth from the returning cargo. 
  However, this was a lying truth.  The cargo was indeed all the father had hoped for, but the letter neglected to mention that, in the years family and ship had been absent, the creditors had brought lawsuits which far exceeded the value of the merchandise in worth.
  Beauty's father had to flee the city, poorer than before, to avoid being cast into debtor's prison.

  You can find the truth somewhere in the factoids of daily life.  In a world where image builders learn to arrange them to present the desired picture, though, it's hard to find them.  Composite fictional stories, such as presented by Diveboard Dave here can do a much better job than facts and figures in getting the message across.

Oh, and my photo above?  It's not worms.  It's headlights, with camera shake.  Here's the full photo.
Broken Fire Hydrant, 9/30/2010

10 Hints to Guess My Favorite Comic Book SuperHero


  i've never really been into superheroes, but i realized yesterday that i really do have a favorite one.  See if you can figure him out.

10) Although he's strong, well-educated, and clever, oh, and of course he spends his life fighting evil, he's pretty much an ordinary guy.  No spiderwebs shoot from his fingers & he's not from another planet.
 9) He's heavily invested in the family business.  And in his family.
 8) He can climb into any plane and fly it.
 7) He's at home with the richest of the earth and in the mean streets of the city, but
 6) he lives deep in the jungle.  In a cave.

 5)  When he needs a break from all that evil fighting, he has his own tropical island paradise

4) He wears a purple suit.
3) His dog is a wolf.
2) He rides a white horse, which is better trained than most dogs.
1) His superpower is -- friends.

Any guesses?  And did i "lead you up a garden path" anywhere on the way?

the answer is here, in my post about A Little Help from My Friends.

Getting Along: Laundry Edition

  My mom finally, taught me to do laundry when i was 18 and about to leave for college  One of the things she told me was to clean the dryer's lint trap AFTER every load.  That makes it nice for the next person.
  i always do that, clean the lint trap after every load.  (well, when i can FIND the lint trap.  Can't always, in laundromats.)
  But everyone else doesn't.  Maybe they just forgot.  Maybe, like my guys, they believe in cleaning the lint trap BEFORE every load.
  Anyway, i taught my kids to do laundry at a much younger age than i learned, and somehow they haven't been nearly as influenced as i was by mom's laundry dictums.
  Anyway, back to that lint trap.
  The whole point of cleaning the lint trap is to keep the lint from building up.  It doesn't really matter when it's done, as long as there isn't any on it when you start the load, so that you don't get a heavy buildup during the load.
  It used to irritate me that my guys wouldn't simply clean the lint trap after they run the dryer.  But now i've trained myself to simply be grateful that they do laundry at all.
  And i check that darn lint trap before putting my load in, as well as cleaning it after.
  Because getting the job done is what matters.

Grandma for Thanksgiving

  When i was little, we usually went to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving.
  Except when Daddy was on call.  He had one of the very first, brick weight pagers in Indianapolis.
  This photo would be from about 1967.  Everyone came to our house.  And Grandma fell in love.  Puppy love.
  But who wouldn't?  Lad may have been at that awkward, gangly stage, but he was a magnificent dog even then, and he was exactly Grandma's type.

  As we gather with family and friends today, i wish you the warmth and joy of a peaceful gathering with family and/or friends (not necessarily to be confused with calm and quiet!) and the blessing of knowing Whom we are thanking on this day.

Life on the Computer Farm - Chrome?

  Well, MyGuy's been cultivating the Farm again.
  It's an ongoing process, really, but only sometimes does it affect me.
  He tells me i now have updated Firefox.  i can see that, though i really don't see any improvements from it.  i do see changes to adjust to - all sorts of things that i used to be able to just FIND, i now need to go to a single drop-down menu for.  That took awhile to figure out, but i did it on my own.
  Then there's other things i've used before, can't remember just now at this horridly early hour, that i haven't found at all yet.
 But i'll adjust.  And Boom tells me that, if i'd prefer the info and links to the "real estate" i now have (and still can't see that i have), that can be arranged.  That's good to know. i'll give it awhile, though.  Getting used to new stuff takes time for bodies that don't catch on quickly.
  Max seems to have had no trouble adjusting to the updated Firefox.

  But MyGuy also says i have Chrome, which theoretically will help this blog work better.  And i can't find that at all.  i looked under All Programs, which has two alphabetical lists, and neither Google nor Chrome is there.  When i told MyGuy i wasn't finding Chrome, that was his first suggestion - already done.

  So Chrome lives somewhere on the Farm.  Maybe on Duckpond.  In a few weeks with a bit more cultivation i ought to be able to use it.

Love Actually

 
Bridge over Buffalo Creek
  This is where MyGuy proposed to me, many long years ago.
  That is, the second time he proposed to me.
  The first time was earlier that day, as he sat, whiteknuckled at the wheel of my car in the mall parking lot.  Naughty girl that i was, i laughed at him.
  It doesn't excuse my insensitivity, but he HAD told me that i would know he wasn't serious if he wasn't on his knee.
  Later he explained that he had just realized that he wasn't complete without me.  That was a scary thought, with only one conclusion, and he had to grab his courage when he found it to get there.
  Then i laughed at him.
 
  He thinks i engineered our walk later that evening to include this romantic bridge over Buffalo Creek, but honestly, no.  i was in the midst of exam week at college.  My boyfriend was visiting.  My mind is at best a scattered thing, and i truly didn't remember that proposal in the mall parking lot.
  i do now.  And i'm glad our walk led us by this bridge, and that he wasn't put off my laughter earlier.

  The reason i'm reminiscing on this now is because of my blog wandering.  Blog trainer Cris encouraged the class to visit new blogs, and mentioned her husband loved to tell funny stories.  i thought, yeah, funny stories, sounds good.  But what i found was this one, 15 Years, and it touched my heart.

  Thanks for sharing, guys.  Maythe next 15 years find you as much in love & content with each other as you are now.

Culture Clash

  i call this photo "Fax Dog."
  i took it on Christmas Eve, when i was frantically trying to finish the gift scrapbook before going visiting.  Since my art room is a total disaster, i was, as usual, working on the living room floor.
  And my dog, wanting only to be with distracted me, to have at least a little of my attention, was all over my papers and photos.
  We had different goals, you see.
  i call this photo "Fax Dog," because she's being a Facsimile of a well-behaved dog here.  i asked her to "Down," and she did.  You wouldn't know that, seconds before, she'd been making a mess and causing trouble.  But she's eager to please, to do what i want and ask.

  i think this may be the root of some of the difficulties in schools.  There's old-school culture. There's new school, twenty-first century culture. There's politics.  There's parents - and i really believe that,even if school people are parents, because of their training, they come from a different place, especially if they got their training before becoming parents. And the end result is, we don't really understand each other, because we don't start with the same "We hold this to be true"s.
Oh, we try, but the gulf is as wide as my dog trying to understand what gives with that crazy human sitting on the floor in the middle of all the papers  and getting mad when she walks and sits on and among  the stupid papers.

  We have a vital interest, and strong will, to connect.  Finding the common ground though, that's tricky.

A Life-Changing Experience

  Some things that happen when you are a certain age stay with you forever.
   When i was growing up, the Six Day War took place.  Later there was the Watergate scandal , and in between i was reading all sorts of pretrib, premillennialist  literature.
  These things influenced me and will always be part of me.

  Shortly before my aunt passed away, she told me the most amazing story.  i didn't at once recognize it as the same sort of thing, but now i do.
  This is my subject today.

  In 1914 my grandparents married.  They were a farm family, reasonably well off for the time and place.
  The aunt who told me the tale was #3 of five, and my mother was the baby of the family.
  The story is about my grandparents' 25th anniversary trip in 1939.  Now you and i would think an anniversary trip is a couple-only event, but my grandparents took the entire family, plus their daughter in law.
  They took a train to New York .  They saw Niagara Falls and swam in Lake Erie.
  But the life-changing event was not any of these things, though they must have impressed the girls who may never have left the farm before.
  They saw the 1939 New York World's Fair.
  The World's Fair had Futurama, with its suburbs and highways.  It had electrical appliances, which made work easier.
  It was Utopia, to the farmers whose lives were never-ending work.


Sixty Years Later


  As i sat talking to my aunt that day, over sixty years after the event, i knew i had to get all the details possible from her.  i wrote them down, such as they were.

  And since then i have done some paltry research on the fair.  There are some websites about it. Wikipedia  is, as you've noticed by now, my favorite place to start; they have other links.  i've had library books out about it.
  Currently i have a unique "faction" type book by David Gelernter, 1939: The Lost World of the Fair.
   Gelernter alternated showing his research in musings about how 1939 was different from today, such as the character in Fitzgerald 's novel who took his girl out on Sunday afternoon, came home at midnight, worked until 3am, THEN removed his tie before bed, and interviews with and excerpts of the diary of a fictional woman who experienced the fair.  This lady's experiences, along with those of her fiance and friends, sum up what the fair was for all the people he interviewed.

After the Fair: The Future Arrives

   Within a year of seeing the fair, my aunt married her boyfriend, then graduated from high school.  She got to experience first hand the benefits of the highways promised at the fair as she followed him to Texas and many other places his service took him in the war.
  The fairplanners had a vision of the future.  Amazingly, they were correct in many ways.
  As fairgoers exited one of the exhibits, they were given a button which read, "I have seen the future."
  It excited and energized them.
  My aunt seldom talked about the fair, but she was carried by that to the end of her life.

Life on the Computer Farm


  MyGuy is a computer pro of decades long standing.
  It's only natural that we have a computer farm in our home.

  Which in a way is rather funny.  Not too long ago i rediscovered something i wrote in college, saying i couldn't imagine ever wanting ONE computer in our home.
  MyGuy says the computers are "ours."
  i say they are his, well, one is a family computer.  i have no computer, but "squatting rights" on 3.
  There are at least six working computers in the house, including MyGuy's and FB's laptops, but not including FB's iinternet access iPod and other small electronics.  There may be at least that many nonworking computers for all i know.  It's just a matter of time before they are working again, you know.

  The first photo, NOT a recent one, shows Max, who just turned 21, at the first computer we had family access to.  The computer is still there, but only MyGuy uses it, if anyone. i think it was called woodpile.      And Max still has that Maximum Smile.


  This is haystack, the current master bedroom computer.  My main Thunderbird mail program is there.  It drives me crazy.  i can get email anywhere in the house, but until i accept it here, this program considers that i haven't collected mail.
  MyGuy says it's not supposed to work that way, but it does.





  This is duckpond, our current family computer and my usual choice these days.  It's in the playroom, and it replaced south40 - yes, at the south end of our home.
   All these computers are upstairs.  If i want to work downstairs, there is barn, in the  office, and two others, which only MyGuy can use.  But working on the computer while waiting for the school bus is not really a practical option.

  The computers are supposed to be networked, so that whichever computer i began the file on, i can access it from any computer the next time i sit down.  MyGuy can do that, but it doesn't work that way for me.  i'm always having to email myself files and addresses from one computer to another.  Occasionally i can see the file i want on the NetHood file, but when i try to access it, i'm told that i need admin status to do that.

  i expect i'll be coming back to this topic occasionally. 

"I want to be a pencil in the hand of God. . . ,


 ". . . writing a love letter to the world."


 A pencil is a very anonymous sort of thing.
 Some are plain, some are fancy, some are fat, some are skinny, some are even mechanical.
 Those don't work for me.
 But the main thing about a pencil is that it's got a job to do. It's made to get used up doing the job.  No museum piece, the pencil.
 Sometimes i've tried to use my pencil to stuff or hammer something in place.
 Or dig something out.
 Neither works well.  And it doesn't do anything good for the pencil.  Leaves nasty marks over the other thingie too.


  So i'm not going to labor my point.  The pencil has one.  It works right or it doesn't.
   i like hanging out with the flashy sparkly pencils.  They're fun, but i prefer to be the simple blue or grey one that says the right thing at the right time.  Not really noticed much, but says the right thing at the right time.
  Some days i even get to be that pencil instead of the one just lying there or stabbing into the wrong place.


 
  When i began writing this blog entry, i was convinced the quote was from Mother Theresa.  In making certain of the attribution, i found i was unable to do this.  It was also attributed to Corrie tenBoom  and to Mrs. Jonathan Edwards.
  But that's the way quotes are.  One person says it, possibly several different ways at different times; another or several others learn of it, like it, take it up.
  Actually i heard on the news last night that that famous Kennedy statement about "Ask not. . . " was a quote from someone at one of his schools.
  Ultimately, it doesn't matter.
   The pencil - or the quote - may be sparkly or plain, but the only thing that matters is that it gets the job done.
  


                                               

The Autism House Makeover - A Personal View



 In 1993 MyGuy and i decided to makeover our home.
 It was too small.  We didn't want to move, liked it here, all the usual reasons.
  The makeover sort of grew, because, well, if you do this and you want to do this too, you may as well do it now.
 We added a whole second story.
 Which involved tearing off the roof, and we had to move out for 6 weeks, even though moving out wasn't the original plan.  Then we moved back in and had to hook on to city water, and after we did, the post office told us, oh, by the way, this is unrelated, but you now have a new zip code.
  Yeah.  We didn't move.

 Anyway, my perspective on the program.
Max was two and a half when we moved back in.  One of the kids on the show looked about that age.
 The house they got looked wonderful.  Some aspects we should really incorporate, some we have.  Some i'd just like to have closeby.  It reminded me a lot of what my friend Sharon has been trying to put in place for years.  (For her story see http://sharons.tripod.com/autism/)
   i should say the program is not generally my taste, too emotional, though i was glad to see Temple Grandin.  And i was really happy to see a deserving family helped in such a fanstastic way.

   The part that most affected me, though, was the time when they showed the family the destruction of the old house.
  This is the sort of thing we're always doing to kids on the spectrum and not realizing it.  The oldest kid was visibly upset.  i could see him thinking, I thought these people were our friends.  They sent us to this wonderful place, and now they're destroying our home?
   i couldn''t tell how the younger autistic child was reacting.  He may not have been tuned in at all, but don't count on it.  He may have been more upset than his brother.
   And the parents knew this, but needed to put on their grateful for all you're doing faces.  That they were grateful, i have no doubt.  But they had to know at least one of their kids needed to not see this.
   You see, you and i, the parents and the show people, knew "the end from the beginning," but the kids only saw - what?  Their home being destroyed.

   Like in our own radical makeover.  One day, i was bringing Max home from preschool and decided to stop by and see the progress on the recently-begun project.
  The progress was: the roof was totally torn off.  Our house was standing, with twisted timbers on the ground and plastic tarps over the top.


  And Max lost his maximum smile and blew his roof, so to speak.
  i quickly took photos and LEFT.
  On the way to Papaw's house, i tried to tell him, over the screaming, what was happening, but it was of no use.
    This was no happy camper.
    A few weeks later, when we next visited and he saw there were new walls and STAIRS, could he finally understand. We had the same house as before except better.  He had his own room, and there was new, really soft carpet.




   If i could do it over, i would have just seen the house without bringing Max.
   But like the people doing theshow  house, i had no clue.  They were even taking a lot of care to make things right and special for the family, having just educated themselves about what autism means to a family, an individual.  i was still learning myself, one blow at at time, and i was just combining errands as seemed logical.   i didn't think how this would seem to Max.

  It takes extra effort to see the world in this different, no surprises way. but it's well worth it.

Confidential or Private?

Boom as a Toddler

   i am a private person.
  Here is how you will know my family:  MyGuy, Boom (for Boomerang Kid), and Max (for Maximum Smile).  Not exactly full openness, but protects their privacy.  Two of them have webpresences, and both have public and private personae.  Max has confidential school stuff, which is, in this computer age, no doubt stored online.
    What is the difference  between confidential and private?  Theoretically, the two words should mean the same.  i can tell my story, but not theirs.  Our stories are very much interwoven, but they must tell their own stories.
   i care passionately about education, but find i can only speak in generalities.  The school's story, you see, is not mine to tell.  i don't have enough behind the scenes details.  My son's education is vital to me, but i would be speaking from not knowledge if i tried to tell what's happening.
   There's a word for what i do if i tell your story without you, and it's not pretty.   i can come along side you as you tell your story.  That's called advocacy, much nicer than gossip, and it tends to be more accurate too.
   But confidentiality bothers me a little.  Though the two words are theoretically the same, confidentiality often reads as "I'm protecting me while hiding behind protecting this other person."  That may not be the intent, but it comes off that way.
   You may think i'm hiding something too.  That's your right.  i would say much more if i knew you.  As it is, i want to share, but feel bound.