Laughing Again

Sometimes Aaron talks in his sleep.  He has conversations that are so clear it’s as if he’s awake, talking to me or Gary.  I hear him because I keep a baby monitor with me when Aaron is asleep, to listen for seizures.  One recent morning, I heard this “sleep talking” from Aaron, and I quickly wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget.

“Mom,” he said.  “In the movie theater, when I was laughing, I couldn’t see myself laughing.  I want to see myself laughing…..again.”

I have no idea what he may have been dreaming that prompted this little conversation.  But I sure have been thinking about it, wondering if deep in Aaron’s mind there is more meaning to this than I…..or Aaron…..knows.

Aaron goes through highs and lows emotionally as well as physically.  Lately, we’ve been having more lows.  He doesn’t want to go to his day group, Paradigm.  Then he goes, and is at times verbal and physical with staff and clients alike.  Sometimes he’s trying to tease and other times he is genuinely angry, but both times he can be hurtful.  He does so much better one-on-one, and most times he doesn’t participate in the group activities.  It’s just sometimes one thing after another during these low times.

Aaron is unfiltered.  Sometimes it’s funny…..sometimes it’s not.  He can tell you to shut up one minute, and the next minute be wanting to tell you something funny……and then wondering why you’re not laughing.  He’s so complex!!!  So frustrating!!!  And so endearing and heart breaking, too.

He knows when he’s done something wrong, but he just can’t seem to stop himself from doing it first, before the knowing kicks in – in time to stop the doing.  Make sense?  That’s our world.

So when he said that he wants to see himself laughing….again….I had to wonder if he is deep down genuinely wanting to be happier, like he used to be more than he is now, and hopefully will be again. 

When I pick Aaron up from Paradigm, I never know if I’m going to see happy Aaron:

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Or pensive Aaron:


One night last week, I was so tired and so done with some ways Aaron was acting that I was the one who lost control.  I laid down the law with him, but I did it through gritted teeth and a pointing finger.  Yes, I was that tired and upset.  So the next morning, Aaron stood by me and said, “Mom, I’m telling Barb that you grind your teeth!!”

Barb is his second mother – his favorite Paradigm person.

“I don’t grind my teeth,” I replied to Aaron.

“Yes you do!!” he asserted forcefully.  “Last night you went like this!!”  And he clamped his teeth together and bared his lips, much like a rabid dog.

Oh dear.  Is that what I looked like to Aaron?  Probably.

But more than how he said I looked, his comment was a glimpse into how it hurt him for me to respond to him the way I did.

I’m so thankful for every new day, and for God’s new mercies that He shows me every new day.  Those are the same mercies I must extend to Aaron, hard as it sometimes is.

You know what’s really hard?  It’s really hard to remember who has the special needs here.  Sometimes Aaron is so high functioning that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that his brain does not operate like mine.  And also easy to lose sight of the reality that he deeply feels his struggles more than we can know.

A day or two after I gritted my teeth with Aaron, I noticed that our house was getting a little dark.  The sun had been shining so brightly, but I looked outside to see a dark storm cloud forming right over our house.  Then I heard thunder, and next came a few large raindrops.  Nothing even showed on the radar at this point, but I sure saw and heard our little storm that soon moved on east of us and became a big storm in Wichita. 


And I thought of what a picture that is of life with Aaron.  He can be our personal storm, loud and disruptive, and then move on to Paradigm to do more of the same there. 

But on this day of our storm cloud, Barb had called to say that Aaron had a bad day.  She said that her daughter, who has Barb’s kind heart, wanted to take Aaron to Wal-Mart.  I agreed, and then when I picked him up later he was so very happy.  He held a Dr. Pepper, and was full of laughter and talk about their little adventure.  What a difference Casady made in Aaron’s outlook with that one simple kindness!  The rain had ended and the sun was shining, both literally and in Aaron’s heart.

And this week, Aaron hurt his friend’s arm by being too rough as they were goofing off or as he greeted her…..I don’t know which.  He broke his glasses in anger on the same day.  Another storm cloud.

He didn’t go to Paradigm the next day.  I took him to Carlos O’Kelly’s for lunch.  It’s one of his very favorite places.  We had a wonderful server who has two special needs boys.  She was so good with Aaron, and I relaxed.  I just watched Aaron eating his food.  He loved every single bite.  He asked to go to Best Buy.  I’ve been saying no to that, but I agreed and off we went…..with Aaron happily pocketing two toothpicks to add to his toothpick collection.

He strolled through Best Buy, looking at this and that, and not asking to buy anything.  He just wanted to look.  It felt good to make him happy in such a simple way……lunch and Best Buy. 

He’s so dependent on us for these times out…..and so dependent on us for his happiness.  Despite our tiredness…..our frustrations…..our ineptness…..our failures…..he needs us. 

I want to see Aaron growing, learning, controlling himself, being responsible.  Like any parent, right?  It’s just a little more difficult for those of us with these issues like we have with Aaron.

But I must agree with Aaron.  Maybe on most days, more than anything, I want to see Aaron laughing again…..laughing from his heart.

And I want AARON to see himself laughing again, happy and having fun, knowing that he is loved. Loved by his Paradigm staff……loved by me and Gary…..loved by friends and family.

And most of all, created and loved by God. 




Take Time

Last year, especially in the fall, we were having a terrible time with Aaron’s behaviors.  He was generally miserable, and so therefore everyone around him was miserable as well.  Poor behaviors, no filters, and an inability to figure out cause and effect, can certainly produce some headaches for everyone.  It’s the side of autism as well as the effects of seizures, at least for Aaron and for others that I know, that is most difficult to understand.  Difficult, too, to have compassion and empathy for our adult Aaron when he is hurtful with his words and careless with his actions. 

Aaron seems so high functioning.  He is, in many ways, just that.  So it’s very hard to decipher when he is manipulating us and being willfully disobedient, and when he is truly on a track that he just cannot control. 

We see a wonderful psychiatrist for Aaron’s autism.  Gary and I resisted any drug intervention for a long time, but eventually years ago we decided it was time to see if medicines would help Aaron.  Several have been tried over the years. We feel that we have found a beneficial drug now.  The change in Aaron has been dramatic, for the better.  Perfection?  No.  But the improvement we’ll take, for sure!

Since we increased Aaron’s dose of this medicine in January, he has done so well at his day group and at home that it’s been like a vacation.  Well, not totally – but definitely we have seen positive strides. 

But then this week happened.  It’s not been over-the-top awful with Aaron, but he hasn’t been his chipper and happy self as much as in the past few months, either.  He had been collecting steam for two days, disgruntled in the mornings and just very edgy.  Yesterday morning he was fully on track for a bad day, and I didn’t have the ability to derail him, try as I might. 

To add to the volatile mix, I am very vulnerable right now.  Honestly, I don’t handle holidays very well sometimes.  That’s because I miss our two kids who live too far away to come home quickly.  My loneliness for them runs deep during holiday time…..any holiday……and I am more emotional.  Easter is this Sunday.  I love what this time of year is all about.  I long to live every moment in the victory that is mine in Christ.  Then along comes Aaron…..

God bless him!  I picked him up from his day group yesterday.  For maybe one minute things were fine.  Then he told me that he had given his money away….again….and that he did do this and didn’t do that.  And I was just done.  I didn’t yell, but I lectured, which is almost always ineffective with Aaron.  We can do this and we won’t do that and maybe so-and-so……  And I was cold and distant, which makes Aaron feel abandoned. 

We were home, I was in the kitchen, and Aaron kept coming in to say one more word… throw one more barb at me.  It’s amazing to see how he thinks.  How I can be making a profound point, eyeball to eyeball with him, and then to have him open his mouth and still be way back at where he was in the beginning, totally not connecting things the way most of us would. 

He finally bent over, hands rubbing furiously together like he does when he’s excited…..but this time he was NOT excited……and his eyes were wide and wild. 

“I don’t love you anymore!!” he said through firm lips. 

And he waited for my response.  I turned my back and it hit me.  I am vulnerable.  I am tired.  I am emotional. 

It’s the perfect time for Satan to attack.  He is no gentleman.  He loves to kick Christians when we are down.  I knew that the adversary of my soul would have been thrilled for me to lash out at Aaron with my words……to release all my pent up anger at him……and then to blame my reaction on Aaron and on my emotions and even on the upcoming holiday! 

I had asked some friends earlier in the day to pray for Aaron.  I know they were praying for me, as well.  And there in the kitchen, with my back to angry Aaron, I prayed, too.  I asked God for peace, for wisdom, and especially for Satan to be defeated right then and there.  I claimed God’s power over our home and over this situation, recognizing that His power was and is all that I need. 

I hoped for time with Gary alone when he came home from work, before Aaron bombarded him unexpectedly with all the sordid details of the day.  That doesn’t often happen, but God was so good.  Aaron was busy in his room when I saw Gary’s truck pull in.  I was able to meet him in the garage, where he knew right away that something was wrong.  We had alone time to talk before Aaron burst through the door.  Gary was ready then, able to be kind and calm, with understanding. 

I was amazed at the happy Aaron that came in the house soon after!  He ate supper with us and acted as if nothing happened.  I was so thankful!  And after Gary and I cleaned the table, Gary told me to come with him as he headed out the door for a walk around the yard.  That sounded wonderful to me!

But it also sounded wonderful to Aaron, who of course knew what we were doing.  My heart sank a little as he followed us outside.  He didn’t care that he was wearing his pajamas already…..didn’t care who might see him……didn’t care that he wasn’t wearing shoes.  So I told him to take off his socks, and he happily joined us for a stroll outside. 

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It actually turned into a very sweet time.  Gary showed Aaron the sunflower plants that were popping up in the garden from last year’s seeds that had dropped in the soil.  Gary pointed out the deer tracks all around, the toad jumping in the water, the clearing he’s been doing out back, and the new grass seed planted.  He pointed out an ant hill and how busy the ants were working.

He showed Aaron how the oak tree is budding and how the buds look like baby pineapples.


He showed Aaron the oak tree seed pods that fly like a helicopter when you throw them in the air…..things that Aaron knows but that are fun to see again with fresh eyes.  Then Aaron threw one up and watched it land.




Suddenly Aaron remembered something that HE wanted to show Gary.  It’s something that I had pointed out to Aaron a couple days earlier. 

“DAD!!!  Come look at this plant!” Aaron insisted.

We followed Aaron, with me knowing where he was headed, and we found him standing there just staring at the Lilac bush.  I love the way he stops and stares at things that interest him, as if he’s absorbing every detail…..which he probably is.


Aaron then leaned over and smelled the sweet lilac scent, and Gary and I followed. 


I was filled with more than the smell of lilacs.  I was filled with reminders of how important it is to give Aaron time…..time to work through his frustrations and anger without losing mine.  Time to hopefully express himself better.  Time to join Gary and me in a few moments of simple pleasures.  Time for him to see and to know that he is loved.  Time to hopefully show him how to live in thankfulness for all that God has given him. 

If I’ve learned anything with Aaron and with autism, it’s that taking time is absolutely necessary. 

Take time to smell the flowers.

Take time to understand our Aaron.

What Will I Wear?

Aaron notices much more than we sometimes give him credit for.  I love how he will point something out to us, often something that we never paid attention to at all, and then offer his comments on it…..of course……whether we want to hear them or not.  We usually DO want to hear what Aaron has to say, but trust me – there are times when we do NOT want to hear what comes out of Aaron’s mouth. 

Aaron rarely gives any thought to whether we want to hear his observations or not.  His insights may be new, or they may be ones that we have heard over and over and over and over…..and over……again.  It doesn’t matter one whit to Aaron.  He would probably implode if he didn’t talk, so talk he does……and we listen, regardless.

He shares things with perfect strangers, too.  I took Aaron to Wal-Mart with me after I picked him up from Paradigm on Friday.  Aaron was happy that I had found a soft fuzzy blanket on sale and that I had put it in our cart. 

“Is it for ME?” he hopefully asked.  But when I told him it was for our aging Great Dane, Jackson, Aaron was not at all disappointed.  He loves Jackson. 

Aaron sat on the bench near the register as I checked out.  I loved the look on his face as I looked at him and smiled.  Inside I was hoping not to hear him blessing us all with his ear splitting loud clapping…..or a silly ‘meow’……..or a fox whistle……or a very embarrassing farting noise. 


But Aaron didn’t stay on the bench for very long.  No.  He saw the cashier ring up the soft fuzzy blanket, which reminded him that he had something important to share with her.  He didn’t care one bit that he didn’t know our nice Wal-Mart associate.  He did know, though, that she needed to know something.

So he got up from the bench and purposefully marched over to where she and I were finishing my transaction.  He pointed to the soft fuzzy blanket.

“That’s for our dog.  He’s nine years old and he has weakening in his muscles.”

She thought that was so nice to be buying our dog such a nice soft fuzzy blanket.  She and I were starting to have a dog conversation when we heard Aaron again.

“LOOK!!” he blurted out.  And there he stood, lifting up his right arm and showing the poor unsuspecting soul his yucky yellow and purple bruise on his arm. 

“Aaron…..” I started, but he barreled right over me.

“My desk chair fell on top of me when I was reaching for apples and peanut butter, and I got a bruise!!” he explained. 

She showed him his desired amount of shock and sympathy while I tried to hurry up my payment.  Knowing smiles were exchanged between us as I readied to leave.  Well, knowing smiles shared quickly between her and me. Aaron was already off in search of his next victim, so I had to run.

So back to what Aaron notices, and then shares all too fully with us…..or anyone else who is fortunate enough to be nearby.

On Thursday I wore this blouse.


Aaron came into the kitchen, looked at me with his head tilted to the side, and then offered his opinion.

“That shirt looks like it should be colored,” he commented.

This forced me to look with new eyes at my shirt. 

“Aaron,” I asked.  “Does this remind you of the adult coloring books that you and I have seen?”

“YES!!!” he replied, so excited that I had gotten what he was trying to convey.  “It looks like it should be colored!”

“Do you like this shirt?” I asked.  And he told me that he did like my coloring shirt, very much. 

So on that day I was fun.

The next day I wore this blouse. 


Aaron had come in the bedroom and seen me wearing it, before I added a sweater.

“WOW!!” he said, in awe.  “You look like a princess!”

I just laughed.  A princess?  But there was something about this blouse that he loved, and so he saw me as someone very special as I wore it. 

On Sunday, as I was getting ready for church, Aaron came in the bathroom and saw me wearing this blouse.


“Ewwww,” he said in a measure of disgust.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

“What you have on,” he answered. 

“Don’t you like it?” I asked.

“NO!” he replied.  “It’s ugly.”

There was something about it that wasn’t fun like my coloring blouse and wasn’t special like my princess blouse.  This blouse, to Aaron, was ugly……ugly enough to him that he reacted instantly to it.  He wasn’t trying to be mean.  He was just being honest.  The design; the colors that he saw since he’s color blind, perhaps; or maybe the style – whatever it was, he didn’t like it one bit.

I’ve thought about all this since our morning yesterday.  Aaron was not one bit happy to be going back to Paradigm after enjoying his weekend.  I’ve learned to just let him work through it, to not force the issue, but to let him make the decision.  He knows the consequences of going and of not going, so it’s good to let him be the one to choose. 

But yesterday, on this Monday, he was extra unhappy and extra grouchy.  Downright hateful a couple times. 

“I want a break!!” he angrily told me.

“You just had a break,” I told him back, but not angrily.  I know better.

“When was my break?!” he wanted to know.

“Saturday and Sunday,” I answered as I fixed my hair.

“Don’t say that Saturday and Sunday were my break!!” he told me.

“OK,” I said.

So I’m fairly certain he came in the bathroom a dozen times, each time saying with more and more anger, “Don’t say that Saturday and Sunday were my break!!”

He continued on down his anger path.  I didn’t react……I breathed deeply……I prayed…..and I looked forward to Aaron making up his angry mind about what he wanted to do. 

He finally came in the bathroom, bent over while he rubbed his hands together, and said, “I don’t love you anymore!!!!”

Then he was spent.  I was, too.  He walked away, calmed down, went to Paradigm while he happily listened to music, and the storm passed. 

What I wear, in a sense……what I display to Aaron when he is so angry…..makes a huge difference in the outcome.  It’s much like my blouses that caused a reaction in Aaron.  If I show anger when he is angry, the result is explosive and nothing is accomplished.  If I show patience, then he sees that his anger isn’t accomplishing what he hoped it would.  If I ignore him totally for awhile, he becomes uncomfortable and realizes that he has crossed a line. 

I can choose what I wear during these episodes just as much as I chose those three different blouses on three different days.  Will I be fun, or special, or ugly? Every situation with Aaron is different, too, so I need wisdom…..which is a big reason that I pray.

Oh, I get upset, too.  I mutter under my breath……think not-so-kind thoughts……and if Gary’s here, he is at times my sounding board, as I am his. 

But still, what I wear in front of Aaron is so important.  Above all, I must wear unconditional love.  It’s hard sometimes to do that, especially when he tells me he doesn’t love me anymore.  Thankfully, that doesn’t happen often, but when he does go that far, I struggle.

When I picked Aaron up from Paradigm that afternoon, he acted as if nothing had happened between us at all.  And last night, as we watched Wheel of Fortune, Aaron starting rubbing his hands together wildly.

“MOM??!!” he loudly said, “I LOVE YOU!!”

Which is Aaron’s way of saying that he is sorry, and that he does love me for real.

I slipped on some forgiveness right then.

“I love you, too, Aaron.”

It felt very nice, maybe like the princess blouse.  And fun, like the coloring blouse. 

I’m thankful the ugly was gone, at least for now. 

Mama Rachel: A Life of Forgiveness

Everybody has a story.  I’ve always found it so interesting to hear people’s stories.  Biographies are some of my favorite books to read.  Nothing, though, can compare to listening to someone tell their story…..their real life story.  I’m not talking about famous people.  I’m talking about common, everyday people like you and like me. 

There is a story……an all too true story……that I have wanted to tell for a long time.  A story of love, of sadness, of betrayal, and of ultimate forgiveness.

The story of Rachel and Leah.  But not the Rachel and Leah you might be assuming I mean.  This is not the Rachel and Leah story found in the Bible.  No, this story is one that is all too close to my husband’s family.  You see, this Rachel of whom I speak is Mama Rachel……the affectionate term by which Gary’s Grandmother, Rachel, was known. 

Her story begins in the year 1905, when Leaketh Rachel Eller was born to Joseph Adam Eller and Florin Bavaria Moten.  I include their full names because I find those mountain names to be so intriguing……so full of the rich heritage of the Smoky Mountains where they lived.  It was in Weaverville, North Carolina, where Rachel was born.  This little mountain community in western North Carolina was home to the Ellers.

They later moved to Flat Creek, not too far from Weaverville, where Rachel was raised……along with Robert, Roy, Mary Jo, Leah, John, and Jack.  At the age of 12, Rachel went forward in their small country church and made a profession of faith, as it is often called.  But Rachel would later tell everyone that she really wasn’t saved on that day.  She made a firm decision to follow Christ two years later, at the age of 14, after singing in the church choir and being under great conviction about her sinful heart.  That day, after she had washed the Sunday dishes, she went out behind the house.  She walked up through the garden into a clearing in the pine trees.  There she knelt on a large granite boulder and repented, promising the Lord to faithfully follow Him all the days of her life.  Her commitment to follow Christ and His desires for her life that day never waned.  She lived that life both publicly and privately before her acquaintances, her friends, and more importantly, her family.  That decision to follow Christ totally  changed her life, evident more than ever in the coming hard years. 




There was a man in those mountains, a good man, named William Edgar Edmonds.  Edgar had been in the army, fighting in Mexico against Pancho Villa.  When he was discharged from the army, he became a structural steel worker.  And somehow he met Rachel. 


Edgar and Rachel


Edgar and Rachel, he twelve years her senior, fell in love and were married in 1922.  Rachel was only 18.  Edgar was 30.  Edgar lovingly called Rachel “Puny” because she had appendicitis shortly after they were married.  Another, deeper pain entered their lives when Rachel lost their first baby.




But more children followed.  Willene, Jay, Betty, and Mary Leah were born while Edgar and Rachel lived on Balsam Avenue in Asheville, North Carolina.  Edgar was a hard worker whose steel jobs took him far away from home for extended lengths of time. 

Edgar left the steel jobs to take over a service station and garage so he could be home with his family. One autumn day he came home for lunch and told Rachel that he was going hunting with two friends.  The three men later got in a small boat and proceeded to cross the French Broad River.  Recent heavy rains made the river run high and the current strong as they set out in their boat.  There is much mystery about what really happened that day, but the tragic end was the same…..Edgar fell, or was pushed, from the boat and drowned.

It was November 19, 1932.  The first policeman who went to Rachel’s door to give her the horrible news couldn’t bring himself to tell her, so a second policeman broke the awful news to her.  Rachel was holding 3 month old Mary Leah, and in her shock she threw the baby in the air.  Rachel’s sister, Mary Jo, was there and caught Mary Leah in her arms. 

The heartache was made even worse by the fact that Edgar’s body couldn’t be found.  The raging river made it impossible for searchers to find his body, even after using grappling hooks and dynamiting the river bottom.  Rachel’s grief was deep and unending.  For weeks, she walked the river banks looking for her Edgar. 

Finally, on April 8, 1933, three boys decided to go swimming in the French Broad.  They held hands as they waded in the cold water, daring each other to get wet.  One of the boys stepped on something, looked down, and told the others that he had found Ed.  Later, one of Rachel’s brothers identified Edgar’s body.  No one would let Rachel see him, though she tried.  And so she began her life for real as a widow with four young babies to care for. 

It wasn’t easy for a young widow in those days to provide for herself, much less for herself and 4 children.  Rachel was fortunate to have a mother and father who were still living and who loved her.  They built her a house on Flat Creek, where she moved and where she set out to raise her children.

There was another man in those mountains……a man quite the opposite of Edgar.  This man’s name was Wayne, but he is known by family simply and disdainfully as The Preacher.  He did go around the mountains preaching, but by absolutely no means did this man know the Lord personally.  You will understand soon why I say that.

The Preacher carried the mail in those mountain communities.  He was married to a woman, but one day he told her that he had met another woman that he wanted to marry.  He said that her name was Leah.  Leah……Rachel’s sister.  But in the meantime The Preacher found out about Rachel, now a widow, and probably assumed that Rachel had insurance money.  So he wooed Rachel, all the while seeing Leah.  Rachel, unaware of any of this……and probably in some desperation over her situation…..married The Preacher.

Rachel and The Preacher lived at Flat Creek where a son, Wayne, was born to them.  The Preacher began moving his other chidren to Flat Creek.  Yes, there were other children up in those mountains……children that Rachel knew nothing about……children that she began to care for. 

The Preacher eventually moved the family down to South Carolina for a period of time.  He made the children work in the cotton fields…, hard work in the summer sun.  Then he moved them all back to Flat Creek, where later a son was born to unmarried Leah.  Rachel and her mother were both with Leah when her son was born.  Unmarried Leah…..but they all knew that The Preacher was the father of this new baby.  And in anger, justifiably, Joseph Eller disinherited his daughter, Leah.

The Preacher moved Rachel and the children to Bryson City, west of Asheville, deep in the Smoky Mountains.  Then came the war, and The Preacher moved to Akron, Ohio.  Rachel finished training as a machine operator so that she could help during the war, so The Preacher sent for her and some of the children to come to Akron.  Rachel boarded a bus for the long trip to Akron.  She finally arrived, exhausted no doubt, and stepped off the bus.  There stood The Preacher…..and beside him, to Rachel’s shock, stood Leah…..holding a baby.

Leah lived there in Akron with Rachel and The Preacher.  It’s hard to imagine how difficult that was for Rachel.  At some point, The Preacher came back to Bryson City.  Later, he told Rachel he had a heart attack, so she returned to care for him.  Leah returned to Flat Creek. 

The following years were full of great hardship and terrible times.  When he was home, The Preacher was mean and selfish.  Then he would be gone for long periods of time, saying he was preaching revivals.  Rachel did what she could to make ends meet.  She was a mail carrier, even traveling over the mountains to Asheville.  She was a seamstress……a maid at a hotel…..worked in factories……and gardened and canned at all hours so that she could feed her children.  And feed The Preacher’s children, whom she still kept with her. 

Finally, one day Rachel had lived in that desperate situation long enough.  The Preacher came home, yet again, but this time Rachel told him to be gone when she got home from work.  Whether it was in the way she said it, or some other reason, The Preacher did leave and never came back. 

Years later, Rachel and Leah’s mother, known as Granny Eller, decided to try to find Leah.  She was ready to ask law enforcement for help, but guess who stepped in and found Leah?  Rachel. 

Rachel contacted Leah, living in Arkansas with The Preacher, and told her that she needed to contact their mother, now very old.  Leah eventually came home to North Carolina for a visit.  None of the family wanted anything to do with her, except for one sister.  Rachel.

Over the remaining years of Leah’s life, Rachel kept in touch with her.  The one person that you would think would never want to talk to Leah again, much less see her, was Rachel.  But Rachel had learned some lessons since she gave her heart to Christ at the rock behind her parent’s house on Flat Creek.  That young 14 year old girl never dreamed the turn her life would take, but she had given her life to Christ and by doing that, she walked on a narrow path not traveled by many.

It was a path of some joy, yes, yet for much of her life it was a path marred by pain and hurt for which she could never have prepared herself.  But she was kept on that path by the God she knew and loved, to Whom she was always faithful, and Who taught her about forgiveness.  His forgiveness of her, and so her responsibility to forgive those whom had hurt her so deeply.


I met Mama Rachel in 1978, when Gary and I were dating.  I loved her from the start.  She was kind and she was wise.  She loved telling stories, with a sparkle in her eye and her mouth turned up in a grin before she would often let out her wonderful laugh.  She was a faithful saint, a woman of prayer……and her prayers and her love are the reason that Gary came to know Christ.  I never detected an ounce of bitterness in her.



When later I listened to this story of her life, I was stunned.  Just stunned that she had endured such awful things, but more so that she wasn’t angry or bitter.  She wasn’t angry or bitter because she had learned how futile and disobedient it was to live that way.  To follow Christ meant you let Him have charge of it all, even forgiving the ones that to us were the most unforgivable of all.

To follow Christ also meant loving everyone, including Leah’s three boys.  Mama Rachel always let them know that they were cared for by her and welcomed in her home.  She also did the same for the preacher’s other children, laying aside any heartache she may have felt in order to help each of them.  They sometimes lived with her and continued to visit her for the rest of her life.  The fruits of her forgiveness were seen in the love that these children had for Rachel. 

On January 21, 2005, Mama Rachel celebrated her 100th birthday.

Mama Rachel on her 100th birthday, 2005





Then 10 days later she entered heaven, free at last from age and pain and the hurts of her life.  She was truly an amazing woman in so many ways, but none more so than in her ability to live her life in forgiveness…..and model to all of us how to do the same. 

Well done, Mama Rachel!  Such a good and faithful servant.


Mama Rachel with Willene, Betty, Jay, and Mary Leah


Mama Rachel at our wedding, 1979


Mama Rachel with Aaron, Andrew, and Andrea





I’ll Go Happy

Last Monday, Aaron had a rough and grouchy day at his day group.  Sometimes we can pinpoint the cause and other times we just can’t.  I’m so thankful for the understanding staff at Paradigm.  I don’t know how they do what they do on some days, but I do know that they don’t get paid enough for all they endure on those days.  I love their philosophy:  Tomorrow is a new day and we start all over.

As I said goodnight to Aaron at the end of his rough day and gave him a hug, Aaron said, “Mom, tomorrow I’ll go happy!”

So on the next day, the new day in which we were starting all over, Aaron was indeed happy.  His attitude was entirely different than the no good very bad yesterday.  And on this better day we also got some wonderful news from our daughter in Houston.  She has a break between jobs and was coming home for a visit!!!!  Not only Andrea was coming, but also her boyfriend Kyle!!!!  Not only Andrea and Kyle were coming, but also Andrea’s two dogs and Kyle’s dog!!!!!   


Can you tell I was excited?  You bet!  Aaron was excited, too.  He loves and misses his sister.  He’s getting to know Kyle and to realize that Kyle is a new part of our family.  But oh, I know Aaron and I know that having a house full of people and pets can be challenging for him.  We face this issue any time that we have extra people around…..extra noise……extra routine disruptions……extra attention grabbers away from our usual main attention grabber.

We work to prepare Aaron for those disruptions before they occur.  I went over several things with him, like how he would use Gary’s and my bathroom while Andrea and Kyle were here.  We talked about the dogs and how we need to act with having four dogs in the house.  I tried to cover all the bases with Aaron, but Aaron brings out new bases quite often……based on what’s happening around him at the time…..things we just can’t predict. 

I let Aaron stay home from Paradigm on the two Paradigm days that Andrea and Kyle were here.  Aaron was SO happy with that idea!!  He loved going with us to eat lunch at Freddy’s.




He loved going for a walk in Swanson Park.


He loved being here with us and the doggies.


He loved us watching Independence Day Resurgence with him while he ate snacks and snacks and snacks.

He loved trying to sneak snacks and snacks and snacks to the doggies.

He loved talking to all of us, especially to Andrea and Kyle, about all his favorite topics.  And this is where we usually start seeing some issues with Aaron, because Aaron doesn’t know when to stop talking.  Sharing the stage is hard for Aaron.  He truly wants to be included in our conversations as we sit around the dinner table, for instance.  We do listen to him and try to include him, but Aaron isn’t going to talk about the subjects that we talk about. 

Here is a sample conversation:  We may be talking about Andrea’s new job or talking about Kyle’s summer at sea.  Then Aaron will loudly call one of our names.

“Andrea!!”  he says.  When she responds to him, we often hear this from Aaron:  “Ummm.  Ummm.  Ummm.”  We wait.  “Ummm.  Did you know what the Queen Alien on Independence Day Resurgence looks like?!”

“No, Aaron, I don’t know what she looks like,” Andrea answers.

“Well, she looks like a…..I don’t know.  Mom, what do you think she looks like?” Aaron asks.

So I try to answer but I don’t really know how to describe the Alien Queen because it’s been awhile since I saw that movie….and I don’t really care what the Alien Queen looks like…..and in trying to muster some enthusiasm and interest in this question that I’ve heard a hundred times, Aaron can sense a shift in my emotions.  As much as Aaron struggles with social norms, he is very adept at picking up the subtle cues that we are not as animated about Alien Queens as we are about Andrea’s job or Kyle’s schooling. 

He views our world from afar, wanting so much to enter in, but never knowing how.  But he does express his frustration by comments that we later hear.

“Mom, you didn’t want to talk to me.  You just wanted to talk to Andrea or Kyle,” he will say. 

I try to explain that we do want to talk to him but that we haven’t seen Andrea or Kyle in so long…..and we want to catch up with them on their lives…..but to Aaron that doesn’t make sense.  Round and round we go, and where we land nobody knows.  Or when we land.

Which happened on Friday during supper.  Andrea’s friend, Sarah, had come over to see Andrea and Kyle.  They sat in the family room visiting and talking and laughing.  Aaron was up in his room, then down in the family room…..up in his room, down again.  He wanted to be a part and he was in many ways.  He just can’t be the whole part and so conversation would swirl around him.  Kyle was talking and laughing at one point, and Aaron whacked Kyle’s leg with a book.  I heard it but didn’t see it.  It was a sign of things to come.  Aaron was frustrated now, truly frustrated, and when that happens he picks a target.  Lucky Kyle.

I don’t remember all the details of what happened at supper.  I was up from the table getting slices of cheesecake ready to serve.  Aaron was at a boiling point and we didn’t realize it.  His system was on overload…..his pressure gauge was maxed out…..and he erupted.  He leaned forward and yelled at Kyle. 

Aaron left the table.  We apologized to Kyle.  He was understanding and patient.  Aaron came down later and apologized.  We watched the movie later and Aaron was very happy, as if nothing ever happened.

Why do I tell you this story, one you’ve heard before if you’ve read this blog for very long?  Because this scenario is just a very real picture of how Aaron processes…..or doesn’t exactly process…..the world around him.  Our world is ticking along like normal, but Aaron’s isn’t.  He is so impacted by nuances that we don’t even notice.  Sounds…..loud laughter that he doesn’t understand…..hilarity……silliness…..his routine changing….   All these things greatly affect him, more than we can begin to know. 

So he reacts, usually loudly and hurtfully.  Then he’s sorry.  It takes great understanding, as I’ve said, to deal with this about Aaron.  He doesn’t think like we do or process as we do or react over time as we do. 

But he truly wants to. 

Andrea and Kyle left to go back to Houston the next day.  Aaron was with us in the driveway, entering into things, when Andrea asked for a hug.  Aaron ducked his head and walked away, through the garage and into the house as he muttered to himself.  A hug in front of everyone?  Are you kidding me?!  We know this about Aaron and it makes us smile.  He can yell, but spontaneous hugs are very, very difficult.

One of the first things I did after they left was to get Aaron’s things put back in his bathroom.  “Us kid’s bathroom,” he calls it.  We got his cup with his toothbrush and toothpaste put back on the counter.  We got his body wash and wash cloth back in the shower.  We hung his towel on the towel rack. 

Aaron then noticed that his razor attachments were not in the correct place.  He rearranged them the way he wanted them.  He stood back and observed the counter for a few seconds. 


Then he said, “OK.  It’s looking good.”

That night at supper, Aaron asked the blessing.  He nearly always says two things when he prays.  He doesn’t say the same thing with each prayer, but he says two things.  On that night he said, “Lord, thank you for the food.  And thank you that Kyle and Andrea got to come.”


Yes, it was looking good now for Aaron.  He was happy that Andrea and Kyle were here, along with Darcy and Oakley and Aries and our own Jackson.  He will be very happy when everyone comes for Christmas. 

Aaron will have every intention of saying, “I’ll go happy!” 

He’ll go happy into our family time, but it will be a time of upheaval for him and of struggle as well.  It’s up to us to understand that and to allow that for Aaron, all the while trying to help him know how to take time to decompress and not to blow up. 

Only when things are back to normal…..Aaron’s normal…..will he be able to step back and say, “OK.  It’s looking good.”

And it’s very important for us to be able to look at Aaron’s world through Aaron’s eyes, and still be able to say, “OK, Aaron.  It’s looking good.”

Let’s go happy!  It’s sometimes the hard choice, but always the best choice. 

It Makes Me Think

I wrote earlier about Aaron’s difficult day on Monday, and about his desire to take a “sorry card” to his friend whom he had hurt.  ( Another “Sorry Card”)  Time now for a quick update.

I walked into Aaron’s room on Tuesday morning, carrying his cups of coffee and finding him sitting on the edge of his bed.  He was writing in his log book the precise time that he was getting out of bed, and still trying to fully awaken.  I know not to talk a lot to Aaron first thing in the morning.  He needs time to process his new day, time to drink his coffee, time to shower…..and I need time to evaluate his mood.  So I said a simple good morning as I put his coffee on the bookshelf beside his desk.  He never even looked at me, which is typical.

But he did speak. 

“I don’t want to go today,” he softly said.  “I have a headache.”

I never know if he really has a headache, or if he’s just trying to get fully awake.  I don’t try to talk him OUT of having a headache, and neither do I encourage him to indulge his headache. 

“I’m sorry,” I said as I walked out of his room.  “I’m getting in the shower now.”

“I don’t want to go today,” he repeated.

“But what about the “sorry card” and Burger King coupon for J, and the pillow for S, and the green pepper for Barb?” I asked.

He was silent.

I went on about my morning.  I heard him taking a shower and then later heard him on his computer, yelling happily…..which is always a good sign that his outlook has brightened.

I went to his room for his glasses so that I could clean them before we left for Paradigm.  There lay the pillow for S, and the “sorry card” for J, near his empty coffee cups. 

“I’m going, Mom,” he said.  He even sounded cheery, and I was very relieved.

We walked out the door later, Aaron carrying a bag in which we had placed the pillow and the green pepper.  His “sorry card” for J, along with the Burger King coupon, were in a plain envelope and placed in the bag as well.

Aaron went into Paradigm with no hesitation when I dropped him off at the curb.  I prayed as I drove away, that Aaron would be happy and kind and would actually give his gifts to his friends…..especially the “sorry card” to J, for that was most important.

That afternoon my phone rang.  The caller ID displayed Barb’s name, and my heart dropped a little.  Sometimes Aaron calls me using Barb’s phone, and some of those times it’s because he’s unhappy.  Sometimes Barb calls me, though rarely, but usually it’s because Aaron is having a really rough day.  Sometimes Aaron also calls just to loudly laugh and tell me how much fun he is having.  Sometimes answering that phone is like playing Russian Roulette.  I just don’t know what pressing that answer button will bring.

“MOM!!!!” Aaron yelled into the phone.  And I immediately knew that he sounded like all was well.  “I wanted to tell you something!!”

“OK,” I simply answered, hoping for the best.

“I’ve been having a good day!” he continued.

“That’s wonderful!” I replied.  “Did you give J the “sorry card” and the coupon?”

“YES!!!” he said.  “WAIT, MOM!!!  WAIT!!!!” he eagerly said.

Now this always means that Aaron is getting ready to hand the phone off to someone else.  Often it’s Barb, and I’ll hear Aaron say to her, “My mom wants to tell you something!”  And Barb knows full well that I didn’t say I wanted to tell her something, so she gets on the phone laughing and she hears me laughing, and we talk for a minute while Aaron – I’m quite sure – is standing nearby rubbing his hands together furiously.

So on this day I was prepared to once again hear Barb’s voice, but it wasn’t.  I heard a young man’s voice haltingly saying hello to me.  He was a little hard to understand, but I figured he was J.

“Is this J?” I asked him.  He said yes.

“Thank you for the card and the coupon,” he said.

“You’re very welcome, J,” I told him.  “I’m sorry that Aaron hit you.”

“Oh, it’s OK,” he replied.  And he said something else about the coupon.  I could tell he was very happy with that, and with the “sorry card,” too.

He handed the phone back to Aaron, who told me with great exuberance that he had also given the pillow to S and the green pepper to Barb.  We soon hung up, with me feeling very happy for Aaron.

As we drove home that afternoon from Paradigm, we talked about how much it meant to J to get the card and especially the coupon.  We talked about how S smiled when Aaron gave her the pillow.  We talked about how Barb thanked him for the green pepper. 

And we especially talked about how happy it made Aaron when he was kind to his friends……how much better he felt on this drive home because of being nice.

These are simple, elementary truths that seem so hard for him to retain.  Aaron wants to be nice.  He really does.  But his impulses and his lack of filters sometimes drive his “nice” desires out of his brain quickly as he responds to the moment.

The next morning, Wednesday, Aaron wanted me to go inside Paradigm when I dropped him off.  He wanted me to talk to S about the pillow he had given her.  Sometimes my to-do list makes it hard for me to agree to anything extra, but something told me that I should do this for Aaron.  So I parked the van and we both got out, walking inside his day group together.

Aaron immediately strode over to the wheelchair where S was sitting, and I followed. 

“S!!!!” Aaron said, rubbing his hands together.  “Here’s my mom!!!!”

I felt like I was Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune.  “Here’s Vanna White and Pat Sajak!!!!!” 

I walked around to where S could see me, and I patted her arm as I told her hello and asked how she’s doing.  S always says that she is fine, as she is all bent over in her chair.  She amazes me as she does something else I always see when I am with her……she smiles.  A huge, sweet smile.

“Did you like the pillow that Aaron gave you?” I asked her.  There was that wonderful smile again as she looked up at me and said a simple, “Yes.”  But her smile said it all.  It must mean a lot to her, in her limited world, to have friends.  I know that Aaron understands that.

One day, when talking to me about his friendship with her, Aaron said to me, “S doesn’t have much friends.  Am I her friend?”  I told him that he is indeed her friend…..a good friend.

“It makes me think I don’t know what to think,” he answered after some thought.

How sweet!  How telling! 

Friendships do matter to Aaron, very much.  He just doesn’t always know how to make them… to maintain them……how to express his feelings to his friends without being loud and rough. 

But sometimes he does, like with S.  He talks a lot to us about her limitations and he feels empathy for her.  So even if he thinks he doesn’t know what to think, the very fact that he IS thinking about these things is very positive to us.  We’re thankful that this week turned out so well…..that Aaron hopefully learned some important lessons…..and that those lessons will actually STICK in his brain!!

Because trust me, there are many many days that Gary and I look at each other after an Aaron episode and scratch our heads.

Aaron’s words could easily be our words:  It makes us think we don’t know what to think!!!

But I do think that this week has been mostly positive, for me and for Aaron and hopefully for his friends. 

It makes me think that we have a very special son, even when he makes me think I don’t know what to think!

And that’s just how it is around here.



Another “Sorry Card”

I pulled up in front of Aaron’s day group today, waiting for him to come outside and wondering as I always do in what mood I would find him.  He wasn’t very happy to go this morning.  Mondays are often difficult for Aaron, like they are for many who must return to work or school.  Problem is, Aaron isn’t always able to filter his frustrations, so he may be angry and rude as he expresses his Monday morning blues.  But he did go this morning, carrying his bag as he got out of the van…….his bag holding two bottles of water from the house, two sausage biscuits and two boxes of Hot Tamales from Quik Trip, and two cucumbers from our garden.  The water and the food was for Aaron.  The cucumbers were for whomever he decided to give them to today.

Aaron’s language of love toward others is definitely sharing.  I have to watch him or he might try to sneak things out of the house that I don’t want him to share.  Or he might bring a smile, as he did a couple weeks ago, when he put a few okra from our garden into his pocket…..and gave several of the staff at his day group AN okra.  One okra.  I’ve wondered if they think me a bit stingy.

Anyway, I sat in front of Paradigm today trying to prepare myself for whatever form of Aaron would soon be climbing in the van beside me.  Happy Aaron?  Sad Aaron?  Tired Aaron?  Angry Aaron?  It’s so much like still having a kindergartner in school, going to pick them up and waiting for their stories of the day, and seeing what frame of mind they are in.  Except that all the clients at Paradigm are adults, not young children.  My Aaron is nearly 32 years old and weighs 225 pounds!  He is grown up, but sometimes still his issues are not. 

He walked out today with Barb, his very loving staff, holding Piper the resident therapy dog.  Along with Aaron and Barb walked one of Aaron’s friends who often comes to the van with Aaron to see if I have brought our big Jackson.  I could tell that Aaron looked like he had been crying at some point, and I was right.  As the van door opened, Aaron’s mouth also opened as he told me that he had gotten mad at J for telling him to be quiet so that another client could sleep…..and Aaron thought that J was being bossy…..and Aaron didn’t like a hand motion that he said J made (nothing bad – Aaron just really doesn’t like other’s hand motions)…..and so Aaron hit J in the back…..really hard. 

Oh dear.  Children’s issues but in adult bodies.  Barb was kind and supportive as Aaron declared that he did not want to come to Paradigm tomorrow, telling him that she hoped he would come, but not pushing the issue.  I said a little but not much, knowing it’s best to let the dust settle first.  More soft words from Barb and then she mentioned that he gave his two cucumbers away…..and his little friend standing behind Barb brightened, opened her purse, and pulled out one of the large cucumbers.  Aaron brightened, too, and my heart softened for this man/boy who has so many conflicted emotions in any given day, today included.  The moment suddenly turned sweet and funny, his little friend happily holding up her cucumber with a big smile on her face.  These special adults can touch me so deeply if I just pause to soak it all in.

Reality hit again as Aaron and I drove away.  He told me once more that he didn’t want to go back tomorrow.  I was seeing a long evening ahead of anger and sadness, with Gary getting hit with it as soon as he unknowingly walked in the door.  So I calmly talked to Aaron for probably the zillionth time about not hitting people, about how that holds him down in life, and how someday he might get hurt. 

He turned on the CD of Zac Brown.  “Don’t talk, Mom,” he instructed.  “Let’s just listen.”

This suited me fine.  We hit the three lane and rode in silence in rush hour traffic.  Finally, he reached over and turned off Zac Brown.

“Mom?” he asked.  “Can we go to Dillon’s and let me get a sorry card?”

What?!  Aaron’s mood had dramatically changed.  As he has in the past, he wanted to once again get a “sorry card” for someone he had hurt.  But this change had happened quickly.  He was sincere and quiet as we talked about it.  I told him that we had cards at home he could use, and he was satisfied with that. 

“And can I bring Barb an okra?” he continued.  I suggested a green pepper instead, and he was excited at that idea.

“Mom?” he asked again.  “I’d like to bring S a stuffed animal.  That’s why I wanted to bring her my spider.”  But I reminded him that his cute stuffed spider was a special gift from Bruce and Glenda, from Hawaii, and he shouldn’t give that away.  I told him we would look for something else to give S…..his very special friend who is wheelchair bound, all bent over, and the girl with whom Aaron loves to share his food and his conversation. 

I can’t explain the positive change in Aaron’s mood, but I sure have been praying lately about his hitting and his anger at times.  Praying, too, as Gary and I get so tired some days.  So I may not be able to explain Aaron’s happiness tonight, but I can say thank-you to God for allowing it. 

I ended up finding an ancient little “sorry card” that I had saved in my ancient container of cards……two “sorry cards,” in fact……so Aaron chose the one he wanted to give J.  Later, he saw the Burger King coupons from yesterday’s paper that he had cut out.  He asked if he could give one to J, so we chose one to cut out and include with the “sorry card.”


Then I showed him one of the green peppers from our garden that he could give to Barb, and it met his approval. 

Finding something for S was a little more difficult, but I remembered a very soft pillow stuffed with tiny microbeads, a pillow that Aaron never uses.  He set it aside in his room, ready to take to S tomorrow. 

I was happy that I had started supper early because Aaron wanted me to play the Frog in the Pond game on the Atari system that Gary hooked up to Aaron’s computer.  We laughed and laughed and laughed at me trying to get the frog to catch the bugs.

Aaron offered to set the table for supper.  He fed Jackson a piece of asparagus stalk.  He didn’t dump bad news on Gary when he came home from work.  He told Gary all about our Atari game and all about his sharing plans for tomorrow, but barely was mention made of his rough spot today and why he needed to give J a “sorry card.”  We watched Wheel of Fortune, and we laughed ourselves silly at the Nexium commercial with the man who was made into a burrito.


I pray that tomorrow morning, when Aaron wakes up and is tired, that he doesn’t change his mind about all that he has planned for tomorrow.  I pray that he is excited about all the things he plans to take to give away, especially the “sorry card.”  That’s the most important of all. 

I’m grateful for this happy evening, and I know that it is one to which I can direct Aaron as an example of how to handle life’s rough patches.  I can honestly tell Aaron that he was a wonderful example to ME of how to overcome anger and frustration. 

Sharing touches a loving chord in Aaron’s soul.  It always has.  I need to work with that more, and get creative.

I can see a trip to Dollar Tree in our future.  We need to restock Aaron’s “give away” items, or I may be missing some dishes…..towels………