Completely Unaware

I’ve never been one who prided myself on always being ‘in the know’. Sometimes being ‘in the dark’ has it’s benefits.

Often I wonder what Jacob thinks about. A conversation he overheard? What our dogs are barking at? When will he go back to his day program? Who? What? When? Where?

He lives a fairly sheltered life. He can choose what channel he wants to watch on TV (within what is available in his room). He mainly chooses children’s shows. Sometimes the weather holds his attention. But he rarely watches the news. Not interested. Who can blame him?

Catching the news wasn’t a priority for me until about 4 years ago, leading up to the U.S. Presidential election. Also didn’t read the newspaper much either (only the Food section). I actually felt ignorant when it came to world news.

It seemed, on a daily basis, I was taking in and processing all I could. Figured I’d hear something when I needed to. I’m sure some of you have gasped at my lack of interest. No haters, please. While I’m being all transparent, there is not a single sport that warrants my time sitting in front of the TV. I heard that! I am the completely unaware one when it comes to sports.

I realize there are an incredible number of happenings, worthy of being reported. Stories that need to be told. Events that deserve close examination to learn more. Catastrophic pain. People close to home and far away that need our support in various ways. To share with and pray for. I’m not saying my choice was right to ignore, but I am saying that was my choice.

When our boys were little, we sheltered them from violence, abuse, foul language, etc. as much as we possibly could. While realizing they would and were exposed to those things as they got older and were out from under our wings. The good and the bad help you learn your place. How to stand up for who and what you believe in. To see right from wrong.

When our first granddaughter came along, I became highly sensitive to what was on the news. All of a sudden my awareness was magnified, wanting to shield her innocence. And not wanting her to hear about a school shooting or other things that nightmares are made of. It’s our job to protect eyes and ears, as much as possible.

Then this year we started hearing about Covid-19 and became glued to the news. Jacob’s life would certainly be affected by this pandemic. All of ours would. Even though he didn’t have a clue about the seriousness. What all the graphs meant. And certainly, wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet from anyone wouldn’t make sense in his mind. The only thing he realized, was it meant more time playing at home.

And as we watched/listened, stories didn’t match up, and it became hard to know what and who to believe. Seemed so much of it wasn’t factual news but stories to sway us one way or the other. To pit us against each other. I found myself back in the ‘rarely watches the news’ category. And, it was okay. It brought a sense of ease, even peace. Ignorance is not bliss. But I would go so far to say unawareness is. Especially when you put your trust in the God of all the universe.

If you aren’t on social media or tuned in to nightly news, you may not know about local, national, and world news. I would argue that at times, it might be just the prescription for mental health. Worry and anxiety come from all of the ‘what ifs’.

It’s pretty nice that Jacob is completely unaware. Social injustice doesn’t mean anything to him. He doesn’t fear being hurt because he heard that someone, like him, was. He doesn’t worry about getting sick or us running out of toilet paper. I don’t know if he’s ever thought ‘what if?’ about anything. Living in the moment matters to him. Not the future.

He is never going to play Trivial Pursuit or be a contestant on Jeopardy. He’ll never vote in an election. He needs peace rather than confusion. There are enough other things that stress him without hearing nightly news.

And that is fine with me.

Unaware: oblivious, out-of-it, ignorant, innocent, uninformed, unknowing, blind, inattentive, out-to-lunch, unmindful and negligent.

Those descriptions are hard to embrace. I have turned a blind eye to what is hard to watch. Been oblivious to ‘what doesn’t touch my family’. The truth is, maybe I’ve accepted – Ignorance is Bliss – because I can’t worry about what I don’t know about!

I choose to focus on what I do know, and that is, God is in control. Only God can heal our land. Only God can change hearts. And while you may feel completely unaware or have a firm hold on reality, I’d encourage you to listen closely to the words of this 3 year old. Yes, out of the mouth of babes, God speaks and we would be mindful to listen.

“We don’t know, we don’t know, but if you read this Bible…..”

Don’t be unaware of the truth of the good news. Shared by the precious one that made us grandparents.

“It will talk to you about, Jesus.” “That You love us.” “All the time.”

How Sweet It Is

If you don’t know Jacob, words really aren’t enough. If you do, words aren’t necessary. And yet, here I am trying to paint a picture with enough words to make our story real and give a clearer understanding, if that’s possible.

Reading this blog week after week, you are getting to know him and that is huge for me. Thank you for being interested in our life. Curious about autism. How he ticks. How we parent. (Disclaimer, we don’t know what we are doing.) What makes us laugh. What makes us cry, or at least feel like it. What we’ve survived!

The other night at bedtime our routine was different. Usually Mike is the last one in his room. Jacob listens to ‘Wheels on the Bus’ on the kindle, then night time prayers, he’s covered up, and lights go out. I was the last one in his room that night. I covered him (in his bearded man sheets that I say are pictures of his brother), knelt on the floor by his bed, and started singing to him. I actually sang a lullaby. “Lullaby and good night, go to sleee-eeep, my Jacob.” Over and over and over again. Part long-time lyrics and part made up as I went.

He was calm and his eyes twinkled and he didn’t want me to stop. It was a sweet, tender moment that was a God wink for me. I wish you could have been a fly on the wall to witness the stillness. The contentment. The bond.

How sweet it is to be loved by him.
How sweet it is, the love is not a whim.
You better believe, I close my eyes at night,
Thanking God for this precious gift in my life.
Everything I do, seems to be with him in mind.
Everywhere I go, to return from leaving him behind.
He makes me crazy, furious, and happy all in a day.
I can’t even begin to name all the countless ways.
For every emotion he brings me to, now and then.
Jesus, I just want to stop and say Thank You, again.

I don’t believe Jacob has a malice bone in his body. He is in no way perfect. I just don’t think he has the desire to do evil. Even though he has a sin nature, like I do, his thought process probably doesn’t work like mine, to get what he wants. Does he lash out? Yes. Lose control? Indeed. Show love? In his own way, absolutely!

The tune made popular by James Taylor in the 70’s started playing in my head that night. ‘How sweet it is to be loved by you.’ I started thinking about my privilege to be Jacob’s mom. To love him like I do because I can sing, “how sweet it is to be loved by You”. Knowing every good and perfect gift comes from God above.

And, I can look in his eyes and sing a lullaby to my 41 year old son. “Close your eyes, sound asleep, sweee-eeet dreams my boy.”

How sweet it is.

Surely Not!

My Instagram profile: Baker, Craft Maker, Autism Caretaker. That does not, by any means, sum up who I am as a person. But, it does describe a large portion of my days.

Baking is one of my favorite things to do. My mom loves to bake and her mom did, too. Being in the kitchen is usually good therapy for me. Jacob is one of my two resident taste-testers.

Rainbow Cinnamon Rolls had been on my list of things to try for several weeks. Thinking Jacob loves cinnamon rolls and fun colors. So, combining those two, surely I would have a hit on my hands.

I got a late start on the day I planned to bake so it was after 9 o’clock that night before they were ready to sample. Went back to his room, “Jacob, come in the kitchen, I’ve got cinnamon rolls made!” He jumped up and came straight away.

I had made two small pans. One of mini rolls and one regular size. I cut a couple of the minis into bite-size pieces on his plate. He studied (as in, ‘what is this odd thing you’ve set before me?’), leaned in close to smell, and then …

WALKED AWAY!! What? I was shocked. How could he walk away from a still warm cinnamon roll. And to top it off, multi-colored with sprinkles! Who can resist that?

I surmised that he wasn’t hungry. He just thought he was. That evening, he’d eaten more homemade macaroni and cheese than most could hold in a sitting. So, his dad, begrudgingly, agreed to be the taste tester and gave them a thumbs up.

Okay, that’s alright. He could have them for breakfast the next day.

Being as how, these days, we rarely have to be anywhere first thing in the morning, I let Jacob sleep in. He woke on his own about 9:45. Once he was stirring, I reminded him of the cinnamon rolls. Wasn’t interested. You may remember, there are some days that he rarely eats anything until over in the afternoon. That’s fine, I can deal.

When he did, finally, wander in the kitchen, I said, “here’s you some juice, and warmed cinnamon rolls”. He looked at me like, ‘not again’. I.Am.Serious. What in the world? Surely he wasn’t turning his nose up at homemade rainbow cinnamon rolls? With sprinkles?

He went to the refrigerator and started to open it. “No, take a bite. I made these and you like cinnamon rolls.” Walked away, again.

At some point he came back in to my same remark. This time, he covered the plate with his Sunday School lesson and a card he’d recently gotten in the mail. And, nicely, handed it to me. Surely not!

Mike and I were laughing as we ate lunch. What parent says, “you eat all that sugar before you can have anything else to eat!”? Me. That’s who. That is literally what I was doing. Figured I better let it go and let him choose what he wanted to eat (within reason).

Sweet fella, went back to the refrigerator and touched the red beans and sausage. I heated it over rice and he sat down and went to town.

Two more bowls and he finally had his fill. While the sad cinnamon rolls sat pushed aside feeling all rejected (or maybe that was me), as he chose Three Musketeers for dessert. He was a happy camper. And I, a bewildered baker.

Red Beans and Sausage (as recommended by Jacob)

2 lbs. Smoked sausage
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 cans kidney beans, drained
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme

Cut sausage into 1/4-inch slices. Brown sausage, bell pepper, onion, and celery until vegetables are tender. Add one can of kidney beans to crock pot and mash. Add browned sausage, vegetables and remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serve over hot rice.

I am seriously thrilled when Jacob enjoys anything I prepare. Always striving to keep my #1 customer and taste-tester satisfied! I even baked another batch thinking maybe the colors were so dark they weren’t appetizing. I was determined to win him over.

Rainbow Cinnamon Roll recipe: @thepurplecupcake_

Follow me on IG: @tereldaisterripig and @tereldasthreads

It didn’t happen.

One Hundred

Problem Free Philosophy marks its 100th post today! Pull out the streamers and cut the cake!!! YAY!

I got a WordPress renewal notice last week to continue for two more years. Hmmmmmmm…. decisions, decisions.

For quite some time, I used Facebook as a platform to share our lives. Funny things. Hard things. Happy and sad things. Not for accolades but as a way of explanation, of transparency, of truth.

As a way to peek into our lives. Into one family’s autism journey. Good or bad, we have really sheltered Jacob. Outside of our special needs community, few people know him, have ever seen him, and weren’t aware of his existence. One of my big regrets is not exposing Jacob to more experiences and more people. Instead, I let the awkwardness and the unknown steal memory-making moments from our family. We’ll never know how things would be different if I’d been braver.

We find ourselves at an odd place in our lives right now. In many ways, every day is the same as the day before. Jacob has been home for six months. In the past, a lot of my stories were current to what happened at his day program. Now, we don’t know what day of the week it is! Or, when he’ll return to that daily schedule.

In October 2018 I began to tell our story. Reflection is good, so I’ll do that. These are just some of the blog reactions that stand out, some repeated by multiple people:

“I had no idea.”

“I have a reminder set, every Thursday, to read the blog. It is really good and has given me a lot of insight.”

“Your blog touches my heart strings.”

“You need to write a book.”

“Your blog about insecurities is exactly what every new (and experienced) mom and dad needs to read!”

“I love today’s story and can relate!”

“Your blog entries are always inspirational, heart warming, as well as educational for me.”

“Snack. Eat. Snack. Jacob and I have been doing the same thing.”

“Jacob’s got a friend that loves him.”

“I’m sure every special needs child’s mom has gone through something like that one way or the other.”

“Jacob has a way of getting someone’s attention!”

“You have opened my eyes to living with autism.”

“You speak to my heart through all your blog entries! Today you spoke through a MEGAPHONE!” “So powerful.”

“That was just what I needed to hear.”

“If you’d consider putting these in a book form, we’d like to help fund.”

“Even though life is a different journey for me, I’m always encouraged by your story.”

“I think there is an insecure button in us that only we can push and it is up to us to take charge of our insecurities and put a cover on that button.”

“You and Mike are so blessed with a full on Prayer Army!”

“Jacob is GREAT!”

“There are moms and dads that need to hear your joys, as well as your struggles.”

“I’ve gotten to know so much about Jacob. Things I had no idea about!”

“I love reading about the funny things that Jacob does.”

“Thank you for being real. People need to understand it isn’t always easy.”

“I look forward to these every week.”

“You are right where God wants you to be.”

“My heart melted and my eyes are leaking.”

“I love hearing about Jacob.”

“Well, I cried thru that post. Thank you for being so transparent.”

“You were chosen. Much respect.”

“I love that God has given you the ability to laugh in the midst of tremendous frustration.”

Every week, someone comments on the blog, sends me a text, or comments on Jacob’s Problem Free Philosophy Facebook page some encouraging word that fuels me to keep going. Those above are just a few.

This blog does many things and one is that it makes me look for the positive. It makes me evaluate the negatives. It makes me more vulnerable to criticism. And, creates a self-imposed pressure to churn out a new post every week. It also makes Jacob more visible even though he’s been home for six months.

When Jacob’s Mamaw passed away in July, a long-time friend called me, “Jacob hasn’t been around me much, but I would be happy to come stay with him to help you out.” Would that selfless offer have been made if she hadn’t read approximately ninety Problem Free Philosophy posts? Probably so. She’s that kind of friend. Did having learned little bits and pieces about Jacob make her more confident that she could manage? I like to think so.

This blog became my sharing platform and without knowing it, you help write the posts. Thank you.