A Real Example

Like so many of you, I was surprised to read of Whitney Houston’s death.  Her beautiful voice amazed me.  Her life saddened me.  Her death shocked me.  For me, these tragic events cause my mind to turn to spiritual matters and to think of the principles of God’s Word that should control the life of every believer.  I’m not here to pass judgment on whether Whitney Houston was a Christ follower.  Her death has given me pause for thought, however. 

I remember how the Kardashian divorce made me ponder the faithful, enduring marriage of my parents.  Other events of the rich and famous have caused me to draw similar contrasts between those whom according to this world have it all, and those who do not.  And now as I have worked around the house today I have had time to think about the life of Whitney Houston.  Nearly every radio or television newscast mentions her name over and over.  It’s hard not to have her on my mind. 

The woman whom I keep remembering that stands tall in contrast to Houston is Gary’s grandmother, Rachel Eller Edmonds Gunter.  I am not going to write about her life now, but someday I want to do just that.  She is one amazing woman!  Born in the western mountains of North Carolina, she married and found herself widowed at a young age – with four small children, one a young baby.  Life was hard then and her choices were few.  She was wooed by a man who claimed to be a preacher and she married him.  It wasn’t long before she realized that he was a preacher in name only.

Her life became, in many ways, a fight for survival.  She fought for her children to be safe and cared for, even as she bore a child to this man who was her husband.  She cared for many of his illegitimate children that would show up at their home.  She worked hard jobs to provide for all of these children while this man she married was gone for long trips to who-knows-where.  She gardened, canned, sewed, cooked, cleaned, and still worked outside the home as she cared for her family.  She neglected herself in order to put her children, and later her grandchildren, first. 

Perhaps the most amazing thing of all is that she forgave.  She had to forgive many people, I’m sure, but forgiving those dearest to her for their indescribable hurts in her life was a testimony to her relationship to Christ.  As I grew to know and love Mama Rachel when I became a part of this wonderful family, I noticed her serenity and her love for the Lord.  Forgiveness was evident in her life.  As I learned more of her story, I was amazed at what she had endured and what she had forgiven. 

As I think of her today, I am again thankful for her example and her testimony of faithfulness over the years.  If anyone on this planet had a reason to turn to alcohol or drugs to escape from reality or to dull the pain, Mama Rachel certainly did.  I’ve not even scratched the surface of what that woman experienced.  She had no money with which to escape; no great talent to make her famous; no captivating beauty to propel her to stardom.  What did she have?  She had her relationship with Christ.  She knew Him and she followed Him as she read her Bible, attended church, and lived out her faith.  She taught us that this was enough.

She lived to be 100.  God blessed her faithfulness.  Her picture was never on the front of People magazine; her name was not on the news; her death was not announced to the world.  Yet she is one that I want our children to remember and to emulate.  I want her life and her story to be woven into the fabric of our family because she lived the way that mattered.  Not the way that was noticed by the world, but the way that influenced who her family became.  My children have her blood coursing through their veins and I want them to know how blessed they are. 

Who can find a godly woman?  Her price is far above rubies.  I am reminded again that we are rich indeed………….in the ways that matter.

Lessons From the Droopy Leaves

This summer has been brutally hot and dry. The only time to do any yard work is in the early morning. It’s a pleasure to walk out to the vegetable garden every morning and see how fresh everything looks, despite some evidence of heat and drought damage on some of the plant’s leaves. The squash and cucumber leaves are full and alert, and the okra stands tall and erect. They look hopeful and seem to be ready to face the blazing sun and furnace-like winds that may soon come. The garden is largely shaded in the morning and so is very pleasant. Birds are singing and flitting from tree to tree, bees are buzzing softly, and life is generally calm and pleasant. But later in the day, in the late afternoon while supper is cooking in the kitchen, I walk back out to check the garden and find a much different scene. The sun and hot winds have done their damage and left their marks. This time I see wilted squash and droopy cucumber leaves. The tall okra looks sagging and defeated. This is bad news indeed for the vegetables that are trying to grow underneath the protection of these large leaves. Without this growth overhead, the squash will become limp, the cucumbers will dry up, and the okra will harden.

I take the water hose and pull it out to the garden, where I stand outside the fence and gently spray the cool water on all the parched leaves. The water drips off of each leaf, washing off the dust and cooling the plants and vegetables in this terrible summer heat. Then I plug the hose into the drip line that Gary wisely installed in the garden when we first planted back in the cool spring. Later when I have given time for the water to do it’s restoring work, I walk back outside to see an amazing sight. The leaves are once again full and pretty, ready to shade their fruit and face another day. It would have been easy to ignore my garden in the busyness of my day but I’m so glad that I took the time to nourish and water it when I did.

It seems that the older I get the more I see people around me struggling with the effects of discouragement in their lives. All of us know what this is like in some form or another. We can be living a pleasant and serene life, strong in our walk and in our faith, and thanking God for His many blessings. We are shaded and fed and watered. Others can see the abundant fruit of our lives. But one day it all changes, sometimes in a moment. A doctor visit; a phone call; a wayward son or daughter; a deep hurt; a car wreck; a painful loss. I’ve watched family and friends that I love face these sad, life-changing events. Now these dear ones are struggling, weighed down with life’s heartaches and burdens. What can I do? Each person and situation varies, but everyone going through tough times can always use the encouragement of a caring friend or family member. Grab the hose and gently spray the water of loving acts – a listening ear, a hug, a meal, a prayer, a card, a phone call. The painful situation may not go away but your care will help to bring nourishment to their soul. Drip by drip your prayers and your acts of kindness will uplift the spirits of the hurting, and will perhaps bring them to the place of bearing fruit again. Paul encouraged believers to take care of each other in I Thessalonians 5:11 – “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another…” O Lord, may I never get so busy with my life that I don’t take the time to bear my brother’s and sister’s burdens. Help me to know when to water and nourish and love by acts of encouragement and kindness.

Are You Listening?!

I’ve said it before – and after this morning it bears repeating – that not every day with Aaron is full of “HaHa Happy Moments.”  He can get very frustrated and then become very frustrating.  It seems like he starts getting into a pattern and keeps going downhill until something puts the brakes on.  At times we are the ones who must apply the brakes, get him back on track, and then enjoy the good days until we see that pattern starting to take shape again. 

Up and down………….up and down…………….I feel like a yo-yo.  Just call me Yo-Yo Ma.  Sorry – that was bad and I apologize to all you music lovers out there.

The last few days I’ve noticed Aaron getting more frustrated in the mornings.  Remember the blog about The Lost Trust?  Well, he’s lost his trust……….again.  Letting him keep his computer keyboard in the mornings isn’t working out………..again.  He’s been getting mouthier and mouthier, not wanting to be in a hurry, not caring about taking a shower, so forth and so on.

Today he got very angry with me as I was urging him to get ready.  He finally called me a name.  So today while he was gone I removed his keyboard.  When he got home from his group, I was once again upstairs and listened to his typical, “Mom!!!”   

He found me and began telling me about his day……..which was mostly about what he had eaten………….a #5 meal at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.  If you know what a #5 meal is at Auntie Anne’s then you eat there way too much.  He described the Pretzel Dog to me – “It’s pretzel dough wrapped around a hot dog and it’s BIG!!!”   He told me it came with a drink – “Mom, could I have had coffee?”  –  but he chose a Root Beer instead.  He finished with, “Later we stopped at Sonic and I got a water and now I’m stuffed!  Can you tell?”

Honestly, Aaron, you always look stuffed to me.  No, I didn’t say that out loud………just in my head, where I regularly hold conversations with Aaron that I don’t want him to hear.

He finally clomped up the hall to his room, and there was silence.  Then he clomped back to my room and said, “So can I have the keyboard back?” 

I told him maybe, but I don’t know when and don’t ask when.  So he said, “When?”

Why do I even bother?

Whereupon I refreshed his memory concerning our not-so-pleasant morning and finished by asking, “Aaron, what did you call me this morning?”

And he answered, “I don’t know.  I wasn’t listening!”

I couldn’t laugh.  I couldn’t snicker.  I couldn’t even grin.  I had to be serious and stern and use this teachable moment, knowing that he probably wouldn’t learn anything long-term anyway but I have to keep trying. 

It is very unhealthy for me not to laugh, so I was so happy later when Wendy called me and I could belt out a huge laugh about it with her while Aaron wasn’t near. 

HOW CAN YOU NOT LISTEN TO YOURSELF, AARON???!!!

But I can tell you one thing……….he was listening to ME for some time after that! 

Every Kiss…….

Aaron has been fascinated by the Kay Jewelers commercial for months.  He stops what he’s doing when it comes on, watches it, laughs, and then sings along.  He “highers” his voice, as Aaron would say.  It really is the funniest thing to hear big old Aaron sing this little song.

Tonight he told me I could take a video of him singing the Kay Jewelers song.  I sure hope it comes out and that you can hear it.  It’s very brief.  I apologize for the poor quality and for the clumsy ending.  I’m obviously new at this! 

Enjoy Aaron’s debut! 

The Fever

Having a fever night before last made me remember the time a couple of years ago that Aaron got sick.  I mean, really sick!  Disgustingly sick!

Poor guy, though – of course, he couldn’t help it.  Gary and I were sound asleep when our bedroom door came open and there stood Aaron.  He was holding his arms out away from his sides and looked stiff and awkward.  I was trying to wake up and understand what had happened when Aaron very flatly said, “Mom.  I threw up.”

Well, that was putting it mildly.  He had pretty well erupted.  He was covered in vomit, so I led him to the bathroom and helped him into the tub.  I told him to undress and it’s all a blur from that point.  Gary got up, too, and we both had to totally strip the bed, clean, etc.  You all know how it is.  It took awhile, but Gary and I got things back to normal and eventually got Aaron all tucked into his bed.

This wicked virus he had also caused him to have a fever.  I was explaining to Aaron that these covers weren’t his normal ones – that fact is very important to Aaron – and he was being very understanding.  Then I saw that his fever made him start quivering as he chilled and got hot, chilled and got hot. 

He looked up at me and through his shaky lips he said, “Mom.  In my hotness I’m cold.”

I don’t remember ever hearing before then or since a better description of a fever.  That’s how I felt last night – in my hotness I was cold. 

Aaron does have amazing use of the language to convey his thoughts.  I’m so thankful for that…………well, most of the time.

The Hug

In the guidelines for teacher’s that I’ve referenced before, under Impairment in Social Interaction of those with Asperger’s Syndrome, it states that a person with Asperger’s “may not like physical contact.”  This certainly describes Aaron.  Actually, Aaron enjoys physical contact that involves him whacking someone on the back, or giving irritating pinches………..things along that line. 

When it comes to sweet hugs, Aaron has always struggled with that.  When he was little, he would back up to us to give us a goodnight hug.  It was pretty funny and very unique.  Gary’s mother used to get such a kick out of her goodnight hugs to Aaron.  I can’t say goodnight hugs FROM Aaron because he was completely uninvolved in the hugging process.  He backed up, stood there, and if you wanted a hug you had to do it quickly.  Very heartfelt, you know?

Last night I started feeling puny, like I’m fighting the flu.  I was chilling and achy, and just generally felt yucky.  At 8:30 I told Aaron that I was sorry we couldn’t play Skip-Bo or do anything else, and that I was going to bed.  First I sat at my desk to do a few things and Aaron came in our bedroom, standing by the desk and of course, talking.  I’m not sick very often and it’s something that he usually either feels uncomfortable with or could care less about.  Usually the latter, honestly.

So imagine my complete surprise when he took a step towards me, out of the blue, and put his arm around my shoulders.  I was expecting a pinch or a rough jab, which he thinks is very funny, but instead he was gentle and sweet.  Then he laid his cheek on top of my head as he kept his arm around my shoulder!!!!

A hug??!!  A tender moment that Aaron initiated??!!  A show of concern for someone other than himself, especially for good old Mom??!!

Why, I wouldn’t have been more surprised if Aaron had…………..well, if he had…………..blown his nose!!!!

It was over in an instant.  I waited a minute so as not to embarrass him, and then very calmly said, “Aaron, that hug was very sweet.  Thank you!”  He heard what I said and I know it registered, but he kept on talking about what dirty bombs are………yes, he did…………and the movie he’s watching that has a dirty bomb and what are dirty bombs and who uses dirty bombs and do I want to watch the dirty bomb movie with him sometime.

That sweet moment will warm me for a long time, even though not five minutes later when I went to his room to set out his clothes for the next day he gave me a swift whack on my rear. 

Oh well.  I still feel the love……..I know I wasn’t dreaming.  He really did hug me very sweetly. 

I should get sick more often. 

I Decided To

Yesterday morning Aaron came into the kitchen right after he got up out of bed.  He gave a cough and a snort.  His cold is lingering.  I looked at him and said, “Good Morning, Aaron!  How are you?”

“I’m worse,”  he answered.

“Awww.  What hurts now?”  I asked.

He responded, “My nose.  I had to get up last night and blow it.”

This news of nose blowing was very surprising, to say the least!  I wanted to ask, “YOU BLEW YOUR NOSE??!!”

But I showed no affect and calmly asked, “You blew your nose?”

And just as calmly he answered, in his deep and monotone voice, “I decided to.”

Well!  I guess desperate times call for desperate measures!

Aaron turned and walked away, completely unaware of my shock and pleasure at the news that he blew his nose.

Who knows?  He may use the SHREDDED Parmesan next.  Just because he decided to!

Parmesan or Not?

I fixed spaghetti one night this week.  Aaron loves spaghetti, especially if I let him put the Parmesan cheese on top.  He takes the grated Parmesan container and shakes for all he’s worth.  Cheese ends up all around his plate, like snow or maybe a bad case of dandruff.  It really is a mess. No amount of reminders or warnings totally solves the problem.  Therefore, we try to avoid this mess by taking the cheese and shaking it on Aaron’s spaghetti ourselves.  He doesn’t appreciate our help at all.  He says, “I’m not a baby!  I can do it myself!”  Or, “I’ll be careful!  I won’t shake it hard!” 

Yeah, right, Aaron. And even if he doesn’t shake it terribly hard, it’s still the amount of cheese that’s a problem.  He mounds it up like a sand pile on top of his spaghetti.  I sarcastically asked him once if he wanted some spaghetti with his cheese, but of course the sarcasm was lost on him.  Too bad. 

The other night he ate his spaghetti after we did.  Gary and I had already left the table.  I guess Aaron went to town with the Parmesan.  I had no idea that he had used it ALL.  Every little grain. 

Last night I searched the frig for the grated Parmesan for another recipe and I couldn’t find it anywhere.  Hmmmmm………..I wondered where it was and figured it got put up somewhere that I  couldn’t see.  I just used some shredded Parmesan that I had instead.

Tonight I fixed some soup that Aaron doesn’t like and later when he came down to check on supper, I asked him if he wanted some of the leftover spaghetti.  He immediately asked, “Is there Parmesan?”  As we talked I realized that Aaron had used it all the other night.  Well, Aaron, since you didn’t tell me that you had used it all then I didn’t know to buy more so………no Parmesan.

BUT……….I have some other Parmesan that you can use, Aaron. 


He was very suspicious of this unknown Parmesan.  I assured him it was the same thing as I reached in the frig to get the bag.  See, Aaron?  It’s Parmesan! 

I showed him the bag as I laid it on the counter.  He looked at it as if I was handling a bag of poison that was about to erupt and contaminate us all.  He actually walked back a few steps as he looked at the impostor cheese.  I knew what was happening and that Aaron didn’t want anything to do with this strange cheese that claimed to be Parmesan. 

I said, “Aaron, this is Parmesan cheese.  Here, try some.”  I put some in my hand and he backed up even further as he said, “I would not think I would like it.” 

I know this.  I know this as surely as I know that Aaron will not blow his nose or change the order of the covers on his bed or eat defective Goldfish crackers.  He will not eat this strange looking Parmesan cheese that isn’t in the container that he’s used to and that says its shredded and not grated, for crying out loud! 

Gary, Andrea, and I gave each other knowing glances and smiles behind Aaron’s back.  They know, too.  We know and we understand, even though we don’t really understand.  Knowing Aaron is like piecing together a multi-colored quilt in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  It comes together, but it sure takes time and patience.  The result is interesting and fascinating and sometimes frustrating. 

And now I know that Aaron’s quilt will have grated Parmesan – NOT shredded.

The Cold Continues

Poor Aaron.  He still has his cold, and now besides the snorting he’s also been coughing.  Still no nose blowing……………there won’t be, either.  I could only hope for that.

I do feel sorry for him and don’t like seeing him feel bad.  Aaron has a high tolerance for pain and inconvenience, but he also demonstrates the classic characteristic of many Asperger’s individuals in that he is very egocentric.  He definitely demonstrates this trait when he has something like a cold.  He talks and talks and talks about it.  For instance, I just woke him up from a nap and the very first words out of his mouth were, “I don’t feel well.” 

The other day he was telling me that he can tell he doesn’t feel well because at night he’s been so tired.  “Mom, I’ve been easier to fall asleep!”  Then he added, “I sleep on the outside of my bed!” 

He’s not running a fever, but the outside of the bed means on top of his covers.  Of course, he had LOTS of covers and in the right order……………and he sometimes wears his sweater that he loves to bed.  Good grief!  I’d sleep on the outside of my bed, too, Aaron!

I fixed him a bite to eat after his nap today.  Then he tried to get into his Mike and Ikes, but I told him that he only needed a few – not a few bowls full!!

“Mom, I still don’t feel well.” 

Snort.

He decided to watch some television after he ate.  As he walked out of the kitchen, he said, “I’m just not having a fun life!” 

Awww, Aaron.  Spoken in that monotone voice, his statement reminded me of Eeyore.  As if his cold isn’t bad enough, he’s just been told that he can only have a few Mike and Ikes!

So I fixed him a cup of hot tea, which he loves, and knew that he would feel better all the way around. 

I went downstairs and it wasn’t long before I heard the Mike and Ikes rattling into the bowl.  Sounds like Aaron has his own ideas of what will make him feel better! 

Let the fun begin! 

Meal #2

Aaron came home from his group yesterday and just as soon as I heard the door to the garage slam shut, I heard the familiar, “MOM!!”  If I’m nearby, like in the kitchen, he immediately begins telling me about his day.  “MOM!!  Guess what? Today……………”   and off he goes.  He doesn’t say hi, how are you………nothing.  Sometimes I’ll interrupt and say, “Well, hi Aaron!”  This never really gets his attention.  In mid-sentence he’ll mutter a quick hi but he doesn’t miss a beat with what he knows I’m just dying to hear about his day. 

 I was upstairs doing some ironing, so I heard him say, “MOM!!”   Thump, thump, thump as he walked around looking for me.  “MOM!!”   Thump, thump, thump.   “MOM!!!”   I’ve told him a million times (at least!) to not walk around yelling, “MOM!!” but to just find me and then tell me what he wants to say.  It’s a waste of my breath, though, and today was further proof of that.  “MOM!!”  So I just kept quiet and waited patiently while I ironed.  Soon he thumped up the steps and found me in the bedroom. 

Again, no hello, hi, or there you are!  “MOM!!  We went to the east mall today!  There were lots of people there!” 

Well, hello Aaron. 

I asked him if he had fun and what did he do at the east mall.  He said that he had a good time and then told me the most important thing that he did at the east mall……………..bought his lunch.  “Mom, I got some pizza for lunch!” 

Really?  He confirmed that it was good and when I asked what kind of pizza he got, he said that it was just cheese pizza.  After a pause, he said, “I wish I could have gotten a meal #2.”

When I asked him why he wanted a meal #2, he replied, “Because it’s a BIG circle kind, not just one piece!” 

Of course Aaron wants a big circle kind of pizza that costs $13 dollars, he told me, and has lots more than just one slice! 

I reminded him that his one slice of pizza, though, was a very big slice – right?  Yes, he said it was a big slice and then later when they stopped at Sonic he got a drink – water, he told me – and that his stomach was full. 

So, Aaron, your stomach is full but you still wish you had been able to get a meal #2. 

“Yeah”, he said.  “So what’s for supper?”  Uh………we’re having soup for supper, Aaron. 

“Well, I’m not hungry, Mom.  Can you imagine?” 

Honestly, Aaron, that is very hard for me to imagine…….but I bet if we were having a meal #2 he would suddenly have been very hungry!!