It’s a word we’ve heard a lot lately. So many people experiencing it in a magnified way during this pandemic. A widower friend was in our home a few weeks ago and commented that there are days, DAYS, he doesn’t even use his voice. It was an interesting thought. And I could see how with the world of texting and emails. I quickly told him to call us rather than talk to himself! And, vice versa, I need to be mindful to call him.

To be in a home with others probably can’t be defined as isolating. But it can be lonely. You know you can be shoulder to shoulder in a room full of people and feel alone because, for a variety of reasons, you haven’t connected with them.

A special needs family can feel isolated in many ways. Socially, physically, mentally, emotionally, etc. Somehow, often it’ll feel like you just aren’t part of a group. Or maybe you think the ‘group’ you are in can’t understand your daily, so there isn’t a connection.

For us, it seems that spur of the moment fun is rare. Spontaneity seems foreign. It isn’t unusual to have a plan that will have to change at the last minute. Having to always think through plans, have a Plan B, and explore options can be exhausting.

So many times, we (Mike and I) have taken turns when it comes to different experiences. Jacob can’t be left alone. Thankfully, when it came to most major life events, we’ve been able to line up a sitter. But not always for a simple meeting, a date night, or a weekend away. One of the hardest was when we couldn’t both travel to see our newborn granddaughter, 1200 miles away.

More recently, we had tickets to a play and were to meet three couples at a restaurant prior to the community theatre performance. At the last minute, everything fell apart when the sitter canceled. Mike pushed me to go while he stayed with Jacob. Friends were each calling offering to pick me up. Finally, I gave in and went. The three men who did attend made a point to let him know, the play wasn’t that great anyway! Those friends bent over backward to ease our frustration.

Don’t get me wrong. Family and friends have always, ALWAYS, said, ‘bring Jacob’. Whether we were invited to their homes for a special holiday or a cookout. But it isn’t that easy. Yes, we could take his wheelchair and he remains seated in it while we could try to visit. It’s truly the only way he can go because otherwise, he is worse than a toddler getting into everything. All in the name of exploring. And while he is doing that, we sure aren’t chatting but instead are trying to restore a home to the order it was in before our arrival.

I’m not trying to play the pity card. I am saying that I have felt isolated. When our friend said, ‘tell me about isolation’ he wasn’t being rude or playing his own pity card. He was just stating a fact that made me think. We have fared well during this unusual isolation because we’ve had practice.

We are hearing of how damaging social isolation is at the moment. It can and is taking a toll on people’s lives. And there are hard risks associated with it: loneliness, depression, poor sleep habits, and adverse health effects to name a few. It’s quite bothersome what feeling alone can do in the long term.

Everyone who is isolated now because of Covid will make a choice each day. If you are miserable, you can choose to wallow in your misery. But please don’t wallow long. It will not help. You will become more depressed, more sluggish, angrier at your circumstances. OR, you can choose to be thankful for another day. You can call a friend (so they can use their voice), you can surprise a neighbor, you can crank up the music and dance like no one is watching, you can tackle a project with your name on it. Do something. And, in doing so, you’ll feel better and those around you will, too.

Isolation is tough, but you are tougher. Plus, even when it feels like it, you aren’t alone. My God, the Creator of the Universe, knows your name and cares about you.

Let that sink in.

Morning Moods

Our routines have really changed in the last year. It’ll be interesting when Jacob is able to return to his Day Program, what our mornings will be like then. Instead of a 7:30 arrival, it may have to be postponed a couple of hours.

Mike works hard to stay in bed until 5 o’clock in the morning. I know, right? Forty-five minutes later and he has overslept! When he gets up, he usually checks in on Jacob and makes sure to cover him up to keep him cozy. Sweet rascal won’t keep cover on for long but loves to be wrapped in a quilt.

On the other hand, getting up at five is considered torture for me! A slow-motion morning is really nice. Sometimes Jacob is up earlier than I’d like. But most of the time, he’ll sleep a little or a lot later.

You know the saying, ‘they got up on the wrong side of the bed’? There are days that Jacob is just Grumpy Pants from the get-go. It’s like everything is wrong although I don’t have a clue what ‘everything’ is. He doesn’t want to be up, doesn’t want to lie down, doesn’t want me in his room, doesn’t want me to leave, doesn’t want anything to drink, doesn’t want me to put the cup away. CANNOT be pleased. We should all be allowed to wear our grumpy pants from time to time, though, don’t you think? It’s okay to have an ’off’ day. I know I do. Just ask my Mr. Man.

When he has slept in, I never know what I’m going to get when I wake him up. My friend said, ‘don’t poke the bear, right?’ Right!

A couple of mornings ago I went in to wake him. I tiptoed in the room and he was awake enough that he wanted the quilt thrown back over him. I obliged and he curled up. He closed his eyes tightly – obviously pretending to be asleep. ‘If I’m asleep, she won’t have the heart to make me get out of this warm bed.’ I watched him and he’d start to peek but would squint his eyes again so I’d be fooled into thinking he was in a deep slumber.

It was the best kind of sweet slow-motion. I didn’t insist he get up but slipped out of the room knowing he’d probably follow soon. It wasn’t long before he did. Happily, to find a stack of pancakes.

Those mornings are such a gift. Doesn’t a pleasant start to the day just make the whole day go better? Yes, me, too.

No matter the day before, whether horrendous or glorious, each morning brings a fresh start, a new beginning.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!

Lamentations 3:22-23 The Message

That is something to be thankful for!

She Believed

There’s a quote I like a lot:

She believed she could, so she did.

R.S. Grey

It says, to me, that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. That seems like a great approach to life.

Both of my parents are off-the-charts creative. My sister gave my dad a huge compliment way back. She said, “Daddy, if they’d had gifted classes when you were in school, you would have been in one.” He could sell anything, fix anything, build anything. My mom, absolutely, equally as gifted. She is a natural-born teacher. I remember her teaching me to sew when I was in high school. All the while, I griped and fussed and said I’d marry a rich man and never sew a day in my life. Guess what? That didn’t happen and sewing is good therapy for me, to this day. She is still teaching me in all areas of life without even trying.

I could not help but follow in their footsteps. I was raised with a you-can-do-this attitude. Between the genes my parent passed on to me and the example they set of ‘just do it’, a great deal of satisfaction comes with the process of discovering whether or not I can succeed.

I am constantly trying new things and exploring new hobbies. That’s the ‘she believed she could’ mentality. Some quickly fall by the wayside and others bring me a great amount of pleasure. I enjoy a challenge, experimenting, and learning something new. While still realizing, I am far from talented in more ways than I can count.

With that, sometimes I discover I am really crummy at something. Realize it will never be my ‘thing’ and move on. Every once in a while, confidence follows. Self-confidence is great. Self-doubt is not.

Believing you can handle everything that comes your way, though, is a formula for failure. If you haven’t already figured that out, you will. We aren’t meant to carry it all alone. Yes, we are given skills to manage many, many things. But it isn’t our job to fix everything.

Somehow in parenting, creativity and an I-can-do-anything attitude, doesn’t get you very far, does it? They can just yank the rug out from under you and send you reeling before you know what happened. Even now, being a mom for 41 years, I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing some days. I know for sure I don’t always feel confident.

This is what I do know, deep in my heart, ‘she realized she couldn’t so God did’.

I have come to understand that the only way I can stay on the Jacob train day in and day out, is with God as the conductor.

I cannot possibly be the mom he needs on my own.

She believed she could, with God’s help.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Crave Quiet

Does anyone remember a television commercial from decades ago that had a colorful animated house? I have absolutely no idea what was being advertised. It could have been candy, auto insurance, fast food, etc. Whatever it was, couldn’t be ignored. Seemed it was alive and danced to the music. The exterior walls expanded as if they were breathing in and out. Noise came from everywhere. I’ve often thought that when others see our home, that is what it looks like. I hope they also see energy, twirling, family, beauty, joy, colors, lights, and laughter.

If Jacob is awake, seems there is noise 75% of the time. Some days I can tune it out easily. Others, I absolutely CANNOT!

I like quiet. I’ve never been the type to want or need the TV going for some background noise. Actually, I really dislike that. I rarely have music playing because silence is nice. Even in the car. If I’m alone, I will enjoy just that. I’ve realized that as a result of Jacob being home now for almost ten months, I actually crave quiet.

An I-can’t-take-it-anymore day came along and the loud music was more than I could stand. I put my headgear on with speakers and had to turn my volume way up to tune Jacob’s out.

It worked. But only because on that day, I could tolerate music of my choice, somewhat drowning out his. And, well obviously, because sweet Lucas needed to snuggle!

I decided to take extreme measures and ordered some Professional acoustic ear plugs – designed to quiet noisy environments while isolating and filtering everything clearly. Great for: concerts, musicians, drummers, guitarists, DJs, festivals, raves, construction, fitness classes, loud work environments, dental hygienists, nightclubs, bars, sports, motorcycles, sporting events, shows, noise sensitivity, and more. I figured living with Jacob was in the ‘more’ category.

The ear plugs arrived and I was anxious to give them a try. Sure enough, Jacob gave me the opportunity. They were advertised as reducing the volume. Perfect. That’s all I asked. They did not help. Returned those and decided the next time, I could go more extreme and use our ear protectors for the shooting range.

So many people on the autism spectrum are really bothered by noise. Not Jacob! The only noise that seems to bother him is when he is startled. Otherwise we say “turn it down!” a lot, but that only works for about two seconds.

I was doing something in our garage on the opposite end of the house from Jacob’s bedroom. I could not have been further away from him. And, guess what? I could clearly hear Hickory Dickory Dock and other children’s songs!! Anyone walking down our street could have enjoyed the concert. My neighbor raking pine straw gets to hear whatever Jacob is listening too.

Years ago when we were looking at houses preparing to move, it seemed many of the newer developments had houses super close together. I truly couldn’t consider one of those for fear that Jacob would disturb the peace!

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be

Peace on earth is so desperately needed. Now more than ever. And I’m not making light of that at all!

I am wishing Jacob could let some peace begin in his daily activities! And while I’m at it, that snuggle buddy of mine, pictured above, can rock the house with his bark. Another reason quiet is such a gift when it comes!

Tonight, I won’t be the only one craving quiet. The fireworks bringing in the new year will disturb the peace in our home. The three of us plus two dogs will be glad when it’s over for sure.

Yes, we are the dancing house in the commercial. Sometimes it feels like a concert, sporting event, festival, construction zone, AND MORE! All up in here!

Wishing you all a peaceful New Year!!

Jacob and Griffen

In the spring of 2012 we lost our first golden retriever. It was sudden, unexpected, and heart wrenching. Andi was a gorgeous girl and a really important part of our family. We grieved her terribly and felt like our remaining golden, Barkley, missed her, too.

It wasn’t long before Mike discovered there was a Golden Retriever Playgroup in our area. Have you ever heard of such? Isn’t that the most fun idea?!?! He reached out and got the information needed for us to check it out.

We were welcomed with open arms by the hosting family. (They became dear friends and trusted us with Gracie from one of their litters.) If you like dogs and big dogs make you smile, imagine being in a backyard with golden retrievers everywhere!! It was practically magical and one of the most fun things we could have ever done. Especially on the heels of saying good-bye to our golden girl.

In that playgroup was a gal who had a male golden. We got to know her through the group and kept in touch. At some point she was looking for a dog sitter and I offered. If you’ve ever had ‘visiting’ dogs in your home, you know, it can turn out to be a really positive experience or unfortunately, sometimes it just might not be a good fit? Well, this was a PERFECT fit!

By the first time that he spent a day with us, we were again a two-golden family – Gracie and Lucas (after sadly losing Barkley). Griffen walked in like he owned the place. Never looking back at his ‘mom’ and wondering where she was going. They became fast friends.

But the friendship that blossomed most was that of Jacob and Griffen. He would go to the hallway and turn around as if to say, ‘come on, Jacob, let’s go to your room’. If Jacob didn’t follow, he’d go there and wait.

It became a given, that if I couldn’t find Griff, he was in Jacob’s bedroom.

For several years, he was a frequent guest in our home. It is safe to say that we all loved having him visit.

Sometimes he might only stay for a few hours and sometimes for several days. But no matter, every single time, he made himself at home whether hanging out with Jacob or sunning on the chaise lounge outside.

Jacob has been around dogs most of his life. Some of ours were more comfortable around him and him them, than others. But, of the pets we have loved, none made a point to keep him company for hours and hours, like Griffen. It seemed they developed a bond. Unspoken. But a strong one none the less and were a comfort to each other.

When Griff crossed the Rainbow Bridge almost three years ago, it was hard and emotional. Felt like Jacob had lost a buddy. A buddy that was a special gift not just to Jacob but our family for a long time.

Decorating Jacob’s Christmas tree this year, and hanging ornaments gifted to him, brought back sweet memories and a time for me to talk to Jacob about his special friend.

The gift of blessings come to us in all forms and this four-legged prince of a fella was one of the best!

May you receive a blessing in an unexpected form this year! Merry Christmas!

The Wonder of Prayer

Part of our long-time nightly routine with Jacob ends with his daddy saying a prayer with him. For the last four weeks though, he’s been out of commission recovering from surgery. Thankfully, he is doing great and has been able to help Jacob at mealtimes and with hygiene. Although, he is usually ready to turn in before Jacob, so I’ve taken that end of the day responsibility.

And, it has absolutely been the sweetest time.

Jacob lays back with his head on a pillow and I cover him up. A ritual of a sheet and one or two t-shirt quilts. Sometimes, he wants to look at the squares and me tell him about a particular shirt.

I kneel beside his bed and take his hand. He gently takes mine and I pray.

I admit that occasionally I peek and his head is bowed. Sometimes his eyes are closed. I pray for our family and ask his protection over them and our friends. Always give thanks for the good day we’ve enjoyed, how He has blessed us so much, and for watching over us. And, I wonder. Every evening my heart smiles wondering what Jacob is saying in his heart to God. Is he agreeing with what I’m saying? Praying for something that is bothering him? Praising God for being able to simply have a thought and know God hears.

won·der/ˈwəndər noun a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.

Friends and family have been quick to ask about Jacob even more than usual lately. I want you to know that we thank God at night for you. Your cards, your prayers, your texts all prompt us to remember you as well!

Maybe it’s the season but it seems that the wonder of Christmas and the wonder of prayer go hand in hand. I have a feeling Jacob’s prayers are simple. ‘Thank you, God.’ ‘Help me.’ ‘I love you, Lord.’ ‘Keep me safe.’ That’s the beauty of our prayers. God hears no matter how simple!

A friend reminded me last week that as Christians, we are able to commune with the King of the Universe! I love that word commune. What does commune mean in the Bible?  to focus on God, converse, talk, often with profound intensity, intimate communication or rapport as sharing your heart and mind with God in prayer. Any time, any place, out loud, or in our hearts, we can commune with our creator, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Let the wonder of talking freely to the King of Kings sink in.

Several nights ago, Mike was in the den as I told Jacob it was time to get ready for bed. He quickly went to Mike and wanted him to come to his room. It was a reminder that Jacob knows our routine has been off and he wasn’t missing an opportunity to invite his dad to pick up where he left off. It was the first night in weeks that his daddy was still up at Jacob’s bedtime. He was a good sport though and went without grumbling with assurance it wouldn’t be long before that old routine would return.

But until then, it has been tender and special and a beautiful, unexpected gift to commune with God while holding my sweet boys hand.

Look for the Good

I’m going to start with a Facebook post I shared in 2016.

Most mornings getting Jacob ready and out the door is hard. Real. Hard. He can be anywhere from just non-compliant to attacking. I am often frazzled by the time I drop him off at SON Valley. Yesterday was especially awful as his bad mood continued into the building where he was attacking everyone in his path. I am telling you; it hurts to see your child behave that way. This morning I was saying how much I loved him and to please be kind to everyone at SV. I went on to say when he hurts people it makes it hard for them to love him back and it makes them afraid of him. Usually, as I drive away, I am praying for my boy.

Just now I picked him up and got the best, biggest gift I can remember receiving in a LONG time. One of the staffers walked out with him and these are some of the things she said, “Jacob had a great day.” “He wanted me to stay in the room and watch Lion King with him.” “He held my hands.” “I saw him smile.” “I love working with him.” “People with autism are my heart.” “He is one of my very favorites.”

Y’all! Yes, I cried all the way home and still am. She had no idea how much I needed that encouragement and to hear those words.

I am not asking for pity because of my tough mornings. Everyone has hard things they deal with that are equally as overwhelming. I am saying that you never know how your words can encourage someone. She wasn’t saying anything about me—she was acknowledging the good in my child. Good, that is often hidden and hard to see. Thank you, Jesus, for answering this mom’s prayer this morning. It was the BEST!

While cleaning out a couple of weeks ago, I found a notebook that, for a short period of time in 2017, went back and forth with Jacob to his day program. A way for me to know details about his day that was hard to get otherwise. Here are some of the notes:

Jacob slept on and off most of the day.

Jacob had a really great day! He used nice, gentle hands when he wanted me to plug up the radio.

I can see so much improvement in Jacob’s behavior and his tolerance of others.

Jacob had another great day!

Jacob was very happy today and twirled a lot.

Jacob has been such a sweetheart today! He listened to country music all day.

He was really excited about the honeybun you packed for a snack.

I was able to get Jacob to participate in the art activity. He has had one of the best days I’ve seen So happy and proud of him!

Jacob ate well and had a good day. Still loving his country music.

I asked Jacob to help me clean the counters where he ate his dirty rice. Jacob walked over to me. I gave him the sponge and I hand over hand helped him clean the counter. When we were finished, I thanked him and celebrated his hard work. Jacob then grabbed the sponge with his right hand and with his left hand he grabbed my hand and placed it on top of his right hand that was holding the sponge. He truly seemed to enjoy cleaning the counters today.

Jacob has been calm and has enjoyed listening to his music the majority of the day. He’s also been resting on and off throughout the day.

Jacob seemed a bit aggravated this afternoon, but not in a physical way.

Jacob cleaned his plate today!

Jacob spent time sitting in the kitchen today.

Jacob had a good day!

Jacob motioned for me to give him some Pop Tarts. He hasn’t eaten them yet but I’m sure he’ll go back to them shortly. (When Jacob asked for the Pop-tarts, he had the sweetest smile on his face and he used very nice hands!)

Jacob had a great day! He danced with me this morning!

Jacob had a great day! He has smiled a lot today.

We tried to see whether or not Jacob would like the Glaze Pineapple Chicken, but he was not a fan of it!!

Jacob had a good day! We went on a van ride this afternoon.

Jacob was not very happy with me when I encouraged him to clean up the food dropped on the floor. But he was good at cleaning up his area.

Very often the notes would reference what he had to eat for lunch or snacks: brownies, fries, nutty buddy bars, prunes, pears, chicken nuggets, pasta, peanut butter crackers, goldfish crackers, hamburgers, etc. This helped me so much since I’d have no idea if he’d eaten or what. I did have access to a daily menu but they also kept a variety of snacks for my boy.

Can you imagine how hearing “Jacob had a great day” made me feel? It was worth more than I can even begin to explain.

Did you catch the main theme in those notes?

Looking for the good and sharing it, is where it’s at! Thank you to those who do just that!

Even If

On October 27th of this year, we got some difficult news. I hinted at it in the Stinkin’ Thinkin’ blog post – Then talked more openly about it in last week’s post: Gather in Your Hearts:

I was headed to work for a retirement luncheon in my honor. Mike was on the phone and I guessed it was with the doctor’s office so I waited to see what that was all about. Ten minutes before I had planned to leave home, he got off the phone, looked at me, and said, “it’s chordoma”. Tears started rolling down my face while I admitted that I couldn’t possibly go to the lunch after such a report. He hugged me said it was going to be alright and that seems he is ‘one in a million’ after all.

To be honest, I quickly thought, “why do we have something else difficult to deal with? Isn’t parenting Jacob enough?”

Later, we were talking about our different reactions. I asked my man if he might sum up his thoughts about his cancer diagnosis and this is what followed a day or two before surgery. In his words:

Getting a diagnosis of cancer is never a good feeling but when you are an old senior like me, it can’t be the same as when a young person gets the diagnosis.

I will say that for me, the news was not even a close second in sadness to the news we got from Dr. C. Tardo in 1980 that Jacob was autistic. That he would probably never walk or talk. I would think any parent would feel the same way when they receive really bad news about their child. Whether it be death, illness, etc.

A lot of things go through your mind when you get the word. One good thing is you start trying to live in the moment since that’s all any of us have. The cancer will hang on to you for the rest of your life with you potentially worrying if it has come back or not. But in reality, we all have death waiting in the corner to have his chance to get you. I always tell people this life is short and is preparation for the next life. Our real life.

Anyway, below is a conversation I may or may not have had with the Lord when I got my diagnosis of chordoma cancer:

Me: Why me, Lord?!
Lord: Why not you, Mike?
Me: Was it so all my friends, family, and people I don’t know could pray for my healing and we could rejoice and give glory to you when you healed me?
Lord: No Mike, that’s not why.
Me: Was it so I can deal with having cancer and show people how to give glory to you while in the midst of the trial?
Lord: No Mike, that’s not why.
Me: Then why Lord?
Lord: Mike, this cancer is personal between you and me. I want to know if you will love me, even if.
Me: Even if?
Lord: I want to know if you will love me even if I don’t cure you of cancer.
Me: I’m 66 years old, have enjoyed living all these years Lord. No problem, yes, I will still love you if you don’t heal me.
Lord: Careful Mike. If I take you by this cancer, it will mean your long time prayer to take care of Jacob ALL of his life will be answered with a No. Will you still love me, even if?

We all have an “even if”. What is yours?

I hope that I prove faithful to the Lord.

Gather in Your Hearts

Not being with family this Thanksgiving is a bummer.

We have alternated that holiday between our two families for many, many years. When both of our parents lived in the same city, we actually shared a meal in both homes on Thanksgiving Day. That was too much and I wouldn’t recommend it.

This year it was my family’s turn. We had decided it would not be wise to get together with parents, siblings, kids, and their kids. Goodness, that was sad. (Not so much for Jacob. He doesn’t enjoy a crowd and prefers to hide out.) Too many of us to safely share a meal. That hurt. But not as much as it would have hurt had an outbreak of COVID occurred amongst us afterward.

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect. The slower pace forced on us this year, this season, has given me plenty of time for that.

A month ago, we got a call. The call. ‘It’s chordoma cancer.’ A small tumor had been found and my husband’s biopsy confirmed something we were hoping not to hear. Not just the word cancer but the type—chordoma. Crazy, rare. One in a million.

I started reflecting on the last 12 months that led to that diagnosis. Below are the things that lead me to say, Thank You, Lord. Most occurred in the last two months.

Mike experienced enough pain to see a doctor.
An oncologist friend.
A MRI that covered the entire hip region, which isn’t always the case.
A deductible met.
Mike researching and asking the right questions. Many times.
A surgeon friend that didn’t agree with a radiologist report.
A local orthopedic oncologist.
My one in a million man.
A stash of homemade sourdough bread for Jacob, from Granny.
Localized cancer rather than spread to other areas.
Getting biopsy results over the phone to prepare us for the appointment the next day.
A friend’s shoulder to cry on.
A grape-sized tumor rather than the size of an orange as when typically found.
Assurance of prayer by family and friends.
A friend agreeing to stay with Jacob at the last minute.
No radiation necessary prior to surgery.
No chemotherapy necessary at this point.
Sufficient time to set up sitters for Jacob.
Sitters that love us well and go the extra mile.
Bouquet of fresh flowers and cut herbs hand-delivered to us.
People we don’t know lifting us up in prayer.
Jacob accepting my explanation of cancer and pushing me out of his room.
Surgery at an area hospital rather than option #2 which would have been 900 miles away.
Hearing the words, ‘the tumor is out’.
Out of recovery, Mike wasn’t groggy, grumpy, nauseated, or writhing in pain.
Nausea patch. Pain meds.
A two-night hospital stay that could have been four or more.
Mike’s sense of humor remained intact.
Technology of FaceTime and texting to keep us connected.
Second son helping out at hospital and at home.
Friends that provide. I’ve lost count of the number of meals and sweet treats!
Many, MANY cards, calls, texts, emails, and stopping by to wish us well.
Jacob has been great. Content and happy!
Minimal pain which is hard to believe considering what the surgery entailed.
A bag full of magazines, for Jacob, dropped at the front door.
Retirement came for me the same time the diagnosis did. Not having work to worry about was just what I needed.
A surprise of cinnamon rolls (plain because as you know, he doesn’t like rainbow ones), chocolate, and fast food gift card all for Jacob.

There are many other things for me to be thankful for this season. I’m focusing on the cancer and how we’ve been blessed around every corner. I have, no doubt, failed to list a kind deed or a God arranged circumstance. But, I won’t forget. And, I’ll pay it forward as I thank God for the many, many blessings poured over us.

Make you own list, whether in your mind or on paper, of things you are thankful for. It will make this holiday better.

This year our Thanksgiving will just be the three of us. But, I have already gathered each person, each family represented in the list, in my heart. So, it turns out, we are going to have a really, really big day with very full hearts.

Won’t you Gather in Your Hearts with us?

Work Ethic

Work ethic means different things to different people. Obviously. My parents didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in their mouths. Quite the opposite. Their parents’ generation experienced hardships around every corner. But, they did what they knew to do. Kept going. I watched my grandparents live with determination and honesty in every aspect of life. That included providing for their families.

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.

Proverbs 12:11

My dad was self-employed. While the thought of ‘being your own boss’ sounds appealing, it isn’t easy but he did it well. Both of our parents demonstrated a positive work ethic. The four of them exhibited the above traits. That display trickled down to us.

I was blessed to be able to stay home once Jacob was born. My only employment outside of our home, before then, was with an insurance company in the Claims Department. When our second son was born I started teaching a few aerobic classes a week. I could either take the boys with me or I’d teach a night class after Mike got home from work. I did that until burn out struck and then found a new career. It was always great to be able to get paid while doing something I enjoyed.

We are in an interesting season of our lives. Retirement. Put in the time and now the time has come for a change of pace. When I think of retirement, I picture friends who are empty nesters. My mind goes to traveling for weeks on end. That doesn’t describe us and we won’t be traveling the globe. But we will find satisfaction, at a more relaxed pace, exploring new adventures.

Not going into the office, nor taking calls, and the work email account disabled, all those things have already proved to be a welcome respite. And, I think we’ll transition easier than most since we’ve worked from home for most of this year.

This is a blog about our autism journey. How did I get sidetracked talking about work ethic?

Working outside the home brought me pleasure, challenge, spending money, friendship, etc. But, let it be said that the most rewarding and by far the most important ‘job’ title I’ve held is Mom. Being a homemaker and mom to special needs, I often feel that my real work is never done. I won’t be retiring from that role.

When I was an Aerobic Instructor, the team did secret pals. In the reveal party one year, M.K., who had drawn my name, had written a poem. It was beautiful and touching. I won’t share the whole thing, but this part came to mind:

While tackling each endeavor she never forgets
To look to the heavens for the guidance that is sent.
This year has been trying with two special boys in her life.
One placed in a gifted program and the other gifted not once, but twice.
Yes, you should have guessed. Both boys gifted.
Because God searched for a mother as special as you to be uplifted.

I hope it is always evident that my guidance comes from the Lord above. Yes, I have learned from my grandparents, parents, family, and friends but ultimately my decisions need direction from God. I feel like an ordinary person who has been gifted with an extraordinary life. What a blessing to be lifted up in so many ways along the journey.

This poem speaks about Jacob’s brother being ruled eligible for the gifted program. I suppose every parent thinks (and should, to some degree) that their child is exceptional. Somehow, Josh had what it took to succeed. Hopefully our values, morals, beliefs, and work ethic trickled down to him, too. There is certainly nothing exceptional I can claim that I did in raising him. Other than to admit that he was sometimes left to his own devices because Jacob needed the attention. And here’s the crazy thing, at under 40 years of age, he retired the same time I did because his work ethic created a marketable business that others wanted. The only thing I can boast, is to proudly say, ‘that’s my boy!’

And, Jacob. Sweet Jacob, gifted twice means exceptional ability and disability. Gifted in some way but faces learning or developmental challenges. Gifts that some considered exceptional and others a disability. He was never ruled a savant but that doesn’t mean he has no skills. While there is disconnect in his brain, he has proved there is so much more to him than could be reflected in a test score. Unfortunately, nothing that we’ve found that could strengthen a work ethic. His major challenges kept him from interviewing for a job or pursuing work.

I think a retired life of luxury is more what he has in mind.

And, I’ll repeat with pride, ‘that’s my boy!’