Lessons From the Dead Bugs

We soon learned after we bought this house 12 years ago that along with the house came some unusual bugs. Well, unusual to us since we had never lived with this particular species before that we know of. As our first summer here began to unfold, I did some research and found out that these are very common Box Elder Bugs. They are black and grey with a splash of red. Box Elders proliferate like crazy so as the weeks of summer go by, the number of bugs increases dramatically. These bugs live very comfortably in the dryness and heat of a Kansas summer, so this year they’ve done particularly well. They thrive in our front flower beds among the mulch and down in the dead leaves that hide behind the landscape bricks. And they totally love our Golden Rain Tree right outside the front yard. Thankfully, Box Elder Bugs don’t bite, sting, fly annoyingly around our heads, or eat our flowers. However, they ARE annoying simply by their sheer number. Hundreds and hundreds of them congregate on the sidewalk, porch, tree, flower beds, front door – you get the picture. They even climb my legs while I water or weed the flowers, and in my book that’s beyond annoying.

  So I bought the spray. Gary and I hesitate to use poison but desperate times require desperate measures! Gary did the spraying one evening after supper, and the next day when I went outside to water I was amazed at the spray’s effectiveness. Where yesterday there had been hundreds of active Box Elder Bugs, today there was stillness. I have to say that I was happy with each little dead bug body that I saw laying on the ground or on the porch. As I watered the Impatiens under the Golden Rain Tree I was surprised at the hundreds of dead bugs laying on the ground around the tree trunk. Piles of bugs lay there, poisoned and dead, totally ineffective after the poison hit their bodies.

This scene brought to my mind a very uncomfortable truth. I thought of the hundreds of people that come across my path. Some of them I don’t know at all; some are mere acquaintances; some are casual friends; some are dear friends; some are family. How many times have I damaged someone by the words that I say? Are my words like the poison that killed the Box Elder Bugs, full of bitterness or hatefulness? Am I irritated with the receptionist at the doctor’s office, silent with the stressed Wal-Mart cashier, or hesitant to take the time to talk to a lonely customer that tries to engage me in conversation in the store aisle? Do I gossip with my friends or speak words of bitterness that allows others to continue in their own hurts and frustrations instead of moving beyond the hurt and growing into Christlikeness? Do I encourage those that are tired or do I drag them down with my own issues? As I open my mouth every day, will I spray poison with my words or will I edify and bless? When I look around at the effect I’ve had on others, will I see dead and lifeless bodies laying on the ground? Or will I see the light of hope and blessing in people’s lives because of the words that I have spoken? Paul said in Ephesians 4:29 to “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Oh Lord, may my words today and every day bring hope and blessing instead of poison and death!

Aaron and HIS Weight

Those of you who have followed my life with Aaron on Facebook for awhile know that he often talks about his weight.  He asks – a lot – if I think he’s losing weight.  One of his “famous” sayings from a long time ago was, “Mom, do you think I’m almost losing weight?”   Well, now, how am I supposed to know if you’re ALMOST losing weight?  But when I posted this, many of us girls decided that this would be our new mantra.    [How’s the weight loss going?  You know, I’m almost losing weight!!  Yep, almost there – almost losing that weight!]   Sigh…………..story of my life…………..ALMOST losing weight!

Aaron’s conversation with me today was so typical of him.  He came bounding in the house after his group dropped him off and began immediately telling me about his day.  It went like this:
“Mom, I went to Quik Trip and you know those Corn Dogs?  Well, I bought four Corn Dogs.  Then I got a Slushee………..a number 52.”    (Does he mean a 52 ounce?  Do they even sell 52 ounce drinks?  Maybe a 32?  Who knows?)     Continuing:

“The Corn Dogs came to $5.00.  With the Slushee it became $5.63.  Is it good that I bought Corn Dogs instead of candy?”    (Well……..sort of………….but FOUR Corn Dogs?!)
“So, Mom, do you think I’m losing weight?”    (It’s really hard to tell right now, Aaron.)

“Hey, Mom, can I have some of that vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce on top?” 

 Me:  “No, Aaron, not after FOUR Corn Dogs, plus a number 52 Slushee.  And all that ice cream with chocolate sauce won’t help you lose weight!” 

Aaron:  “Oh.  Do you think I’m losing weight?”

Round and around and around he goes………………and where his weight will be, nobody knows! 

Joking With Aaron

In case you don’t know by now, I enjoy laughter.  I can be as serious as the next person, but I come from a family that has always been full of humor, laughter, and joy.  We pulled tons of practical, innocent jokes when I was growing up – many of them at my dear Dad’s expense.  And he loved it!  My mother is the Queen of Puns, and still her humor shows through her progressing age issues. 

One aspect of Asperger’s Syndrome is that these individuals often do not understand jokes, irony, or metaphors.  Aaron is no exception.  He does better now than he used to at understanding jokes or other’s sense of humor, but it’s still a challenge for him.  A conversation between us a few months ago illustrates this point very well. 

We were driving to meet his group and Aaron excitedly said to me, “Mom!  Yesterday in Wal-Mart I saw a woman that looked just like you, and I thought it was you!!”   Deciding to make a little funny joke, I said, “So Aaron, she must have been real skinny and pretty.”   He looked at me in disbelief, gave a “Humpf”, and said, “I said she looked like YOU!!!” 

I’m thankful for the good sense of humor God has given me.  Thick skin helps, too.

The Coupon Pro!

Aaron loves cutting out my coupons every Sunday when we have some in the newspaper.  It’s been his special job for years.  He doesn’t like me to cut them out because, according to his expert opinion, I don’t do it right.  I will share with you his version of right, and show some pictures of his method.  He’s detailed and structured, for sure, and what would take me minutes takes him a WHOLE lot longer.

First, he must have the correct set-up.  He used to sit on the floor but now uses a card table, which is much easier on his back.  He has just the right scissors and holds them just the right Aaron-way.  He makes sure that all his items are around him that he wants at that time, which often is his carry-around clock, maybe napkins or toothpicks if he’s eating a snack, perhaps a drink, etc.

He cuts the coupons on the dotted lines just as closely on the line as he can.  That’s what drives him nuts about my cutting – I’m not as careful about those dotted lines as he is!!  He places the actual coupon very carefully into the plastic container that I have for them until I can sort them.  They aren’t just tossed in the container.  He has a method for placing them there and for how they overlap.  He takes other certain pieces of the page, then, and puts them in a particular wastebasket. Those are often coupons for special offers that he knows I won’t use, such as cigarettes.  He cuts some of the paper into narrow strips, holds the strip over another trash can, and painstakingly cuts it into little pieces.  He likes to watch them fall into the trash can.  Then if there is a larger piece of the page left he places it into another stack to be thrown away in the kitchen trash can. 

It’s quite a process and one that he is very serious about.  One night several years ago he was clipping coupons on his bed.  I went in to say goodnight and saw a special offer coupon that I wouldn’t use laying off to the side.  He hadn’t seen it, so I picked it up and purposely put it in the wrong container.  He, of course, noticed it but didn’t say anything.  After I left the room, I stood outside his door and watched him through the slightly open door.  He stared at the misplaced coupon for a few seconds and then his hand started to reach for it.  He moved his hand back, then went forward again, back again, forward again.  He did this a few times and finally quickly reached in, snatched the offending coupon out, and put it in the right container!  I don’t think he could have slept until he righted that wrong! 

The offers or coupons he knows I don’t use

The little pieces he cuts out of strips of paper

Persons with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to engage in rituals, and I would say that Aaron’s coupon cutting is indeed a ritual.  It’s also good practice for his fine motor skills that are lacking.  And helps me practice patience as I wait for my coupons and don’t dare bother his set-up until he’s ALL done! 

The Star Wars Game (Medium)

Aaron’s birthday is coming up in November.  Then, of course, comes Christmas.  So every time he starts telling me about a movie or a game that he wants I tell him to write it on his gift list.  I also tell him to write down the name of the store where he saw the item.  Today he told me about a Star Wars game set that he wants and so I reminded him to put it on his list. 

He kept talking about it and so I asked him, “What game is it again?”  And he said, “Well, it’s a Star Wars game set and it’s in a medium box.”  Then he used his hands to describe the size as he said, “One set is in a large box like this……(hand motions for large size)…………….but this game I want is in a medium box like this…………….(hand motions for medium size).”       Well, as helpful as this is, Aaron – I need more info than that.

“What store did you find it in, Aaron?”  And he said, “It’s in the east.”   OK, that narrows it down even further.  I need to go to east Wichita and search for a Star Wars game set in a medium box. 

I might make it home by Christmas.  Not sure yet. 

The Wristwatch

Aaron LOVES watches and clocks!  He’s very particular about his wrist watch.  He wants one that has numbers, not digital, which is good.  And he likes it to have a display that shows the day and date. 

Aaron doesn’t care one little bit about fashion or being cool or in style.  This attitude is refreshing, in a sense, but can also be embarrassing sometimes, too.  For instance, it’s a little weird when he hikes his pants way up to his chest in the middle of Wal-Mart while making a huge production of tucking in his shirt.  Quite a show for those who have the privilege of being nearby to see it!  Or stretching really big and really loud, with his belly sticking WAY out – again, in the middle of a store, parking lot, waiting room………..he’s not particular. 

So I wanted you to see how he wears his wrist watch.  He used to wear it down on his wrist like the rest of the world does, but now for some reason he wears it way up on his arm.  No amount of persuasion from us has caused him to move it back down to where it belongs.  Once again, Aaron follows his own rules and goes happily on his way.  Maybe we could learn something from him after all!