The Fallen One From My Hometown

Several years ago, I found myself at the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.  I didn’t know there was such a memorial.  I stumbled upon it during one of my many weekend adventures to the Capital City.  It was in my early years of working for Uncle Sam in the D.C. area that I would go on these trips to soak up historic riches in our nation’s hometown.  I came across a gold nugget that day.

In a previous chapter in my life, I had worked for my hometown police department for around five years.  During that time, there was not one police officer who died in the line of duty.  I only remember one shooting where an officer got shot in the leg.  It happened during his line of duty, but it was an accident.  I think they call it “friendly fire”.  He got a lot of ribbing when he came back to work on crutches.   But all were relieved he didn’t lose a leg, not to mention his life.

There was only one officer in my hometown who had died in the line of duty and it had happened years before I joined the police department.  I was in high school when it happened.  I heard about him during my time with the department.  Sometimes the subject of him would come up and officers who remembered where they were when it happened would go down a sad memory lane.

The law enforcement memorial features two curving blue-gray marble walls. Carved on these walls are the names of thousands of officers who have been killed in the line of duty throughout U.S. history, dating back to the first known death in 1791. Unlike many other memorials in Washington, DC, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is ever-changing: new names of fallen officers are added to the monument each spring, in conjunction with National Police Week.  I can’t help but wish that a spring would come where there were no names to add.

There was a book at the Memorial where you could look up a name and find the location where his/her name was etched on the Memorial Wall.  I looked up his name and was relieved that it was there.  There were so many names to look through, but then one is too many in this book.

I went to the place where his name was on the wall.  I placed my hand on the spot and rubbed my fingers over his name.  It seemed the fitting thing to do for a man from my hometown who gave the ultimate.  It didn’t matter that I never met him or knew him personally.  All that mattered is why his name was on the wall.

If you ever visit Washington, D.C., I’d encourage you to visit this Memorial Wall and look up the names of any fallen from your hometown.  Our military protect us from foreign threats.  Our local, state, and federal protect us from threats in our own backyard.  They deserve our gratitude, especially those who didn’t make it back home one day.

I am thankful to the officer from my hometown, Travis Williams, Mesquite Police Department, Texas.

Jesus, a Man, and Legion

Possession of an Unclean Spirit.  Possessed with the devil.  Demonic possession.  Exorcism.

Such things you expect to see in a horror movie or read about in a spine-tingling novel.  Something we might think about when Halloween rolls around.

However, demon possession was serious business to Jesus.  The Gospels that give us an account of Jesus’s life on this earth include his dealings with those with unclean spirits.  He didn’t limit his healing powers to those who were blind, deaf, lame, etc.  He also healed those whose mind and body had been taken over by evil spirits.  One such story is told in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  The story was about a man who had a legion of them.

According to Mark chapter 5, Jesus went over to the other side of the sea, across from Galilee, to the country of the Gadarenes.  When He came out of the ship, he immediately met this man who resided in a graveyard.  His neighbors were tombstones.  There were those who tried to chain him up for protection, but no man could bound him.  They were no match against the devil who had robbed this man of his sanity.   This isolated human being spent much of his time crying and cutting himself with stones.  He lived a miserable existence.

When Jesus saw the man, He ordered the unclean spirit out of this man.  The spirit immediately recognized Jesus and knew he was no match against Jesus.  Although no man could chain this man down, Jesus merely had to give the command.  The evil spirit cried with a loud voice saying, “What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.”

It is worthy to note that Jesus didn’t have to introduce himself.  There were many people who did not believe or were skeptical of Jesus being who He claimed to be.  But not this evil spirit.

Jesus asked him what his name was.  The unclean spirit answered his name was Legion; for they were many.  Knowing he could not stand against the Son of God, he asked that Jesus would not send them away out of the country.  Instead, he asked if Jesus would send them into a big herd of swine feeding nearby.  Jesus granted their request and the evil spirits entered into the swine.  This caused the herd of about two thousand to become violent and run down a steep place into the sea where they drowned.  

Those whose job it was to feed the swine suddenly found themselves with no swine to feed.  You could say they had an emergency on their hands.  Their job security had been at the very least considerably diminished.  They went into the city and countrysides to tell what they had witnessed with their own eyes.

The city and country folk came out to the place where the unimaginable had happened. The herd of swine was at the bottom of the sea all right.  Jesus was there along with the man who was was sitting, clothed, and in his right mind.  You would think they would have been delighted to see this man healed from his miserable suffering.  Instead, they were afraid of this One who had the power to put even a demon out of business.  

The people pleaded with Jesus to depart out of their neck of the woods.  Maybe it was sheer fear on their part.  Or, maybe they were upset at losing an income of around two thousand sheep.  

Jesus did not hang around and departed on a ship.  The man who was now free of Legion asked Jesus if he could go with Him because he wanted to follow the One who gave him back ownership of his body and mind.  Although it was noble for him to volunteer his service, Jesus had other plans for Him.  It was to serve but back in his hometown.  He had a story to tell and Jesus wanted him to go back to his original home and tell it to his friends.

The man had an awesome story to tell.  He once was possessed by unclean spirits; he now had his life back so to speak.  A life that was never the same again.  It reminds me of how I felt after the Lord saved my soul when I was nine years old.  I fondly remember how I wanted to tell the whole world that I had been saved.

The joy of salvation is a wondrous thing.  The excitement dies down a bit with the daily business of living.  I have to occasionally stop off the merry-go-round of life and reflect on how God’s marvelous gift of salvation sustains me.  I can’t imagine how I could go about the business of living, riding out the stormy weather life can bring, if I didn’t have this precious gift of Jesus as my Savior.

If one is saved, one has a story to tell.  If one has had a prayer answered, one has a story to tell.  I tell my story with the God-given talent of writing.  There’s more than one way to tell a story and be a witness for the Lord.  Whether it is in one-on-one conversation, a testimony given in a group setting, a phone conversation, or an e-mail exchange, what matters is telling the story laid upon your heart.  Just as the man who was freed from Legion by Jesus had one to tell.

 

 

Asperger Humor

A party invitation excuse:  Sorry, I can’t come.  I’m so depressed.  My brother’s friend’s mother’s sister’s dog died.

If one wants to hear me talk, just ask me about my electronic gadget collection.

Meltdowns happen in various places and situations.  Sometimes after standing in a long line at the only one of twelve counters open.

Although hating my hair cut, I tell the hairdresser it looks great and gives a tip.

I’m on the hunt in the store for an item I can’t find.  I pass by store elves stocking the shelves without asking any of them “what aisle is the …. on?”  If I find it, I pat myself on the back.  If I don’t, better luck at the next store.

I was a mature child for my age; I am an immature adult for my age.

I talk to myself.  I fidget with my fidget cube and spinner.  I run into things.  I scratch myself.  I talk too loud sometimes.  I don’t dress up.  I could live on eating starches only.  I am who I am.

 

A Stickler for Rules

It was just after I arrived at the school gym to sub for the coach’s sidekick that I realized I had left my school badge in the car.  I met the coach and another teacher at the door on my way out to retrieve my badge.  The coach told me I didn’t need to bother getting it.  He knew who I was.  I had subbed at this school enough that I was a familiar face to most if not the entire staff and student body.  For a second or two, I was stuck as to go badgeless or not to.  The teacher rescued me and told me with a big grin on her face, “Go ahead, I know you got to follow the rules, no problem.”

We both laughed because we both knew what was going on.  She understood without my explaining my badge need.  She teaches children who are on the autism spectrum like myself.  She understood full well why I was a stickler for rules.  I would have felt naked without the badge.  It felt good to have a humorous moment with others about my autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

I came back with my badge with my picture that really doesn’t look like me since my hair has gone from dyed brown to natural gray.  Obsessively heeding the rules can be a pain sometimes, but it is one of my traits I call an asset rather than a liability.  After all, it gets me to work on time and keeps me out of trouble.  It also keeps me in good standing with my 81-year-old Mom on the home front.

 

 

Ancient in their Eyes

I was subbing for a special education aide at an elementary school.  I was somewhat a familiar face to the students since it was my sixth visit to the class.  I knew almost all the students by name which is no small thing for me.  I have a bad habit of names going in one ear and out the other instead of sticking between my ears.
Two of the boys, in particular, acted so enthused to see me again.  The entire school day they treated me as if I was some celebrity.  I am not used to male admiration.  The last male admirer I can recall was a fella named John who was in my first-grade class.  Now that was, give or take, a half-dollar’s worth of years ago.  I thought to myself that too bad both of these two boys were born in this century instead of the 1950’s.
They both asked me a ton of questions.  I felt like I was a guest on the Dr. Phil show.  One of them asked what year I came into this world.  I answered truthfully and was rewarded with them both informing me I was old.  I said, “Hey, guys, I’m not ancient.  I was subbing at the same elementary school I attended when I was your age just the other day and the building is still standing.”
The teacher got on to them for even asking the question as well as their not-so-tactful response.  They both apologized.  I couldn’t be mad at them.  I’m pretty much immune to it since they aren’t the first, and won’t be the last, of students to ask me the age-old question. I’ve come to expect I am ancient in their eyes.
A week later, I was at another school subbing in a school gym where I had a different experience.  Out of the blue, without any encouragement from me, a boy came up and said to me, “You look nice today”.  I asked him to repeat it since I wanted to be sure I heard him right.  His comment made my day.  Well, with kids and their observations and questions, I have to take the sour with the SWEET.

Trust

 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

This verse was not a hard one for me to memorize.  It is short and to the point.  A wise saying to keep in one’s heart.  I admit, though, this proverb is much easier for me to recite than it is to live it.  But if I don’t live it, it doesn’t do me much good to recite it.

My day job is a substitute teacher’s aide.  Sometimes my assignment takes me to gym classes.  Besides tying shoes, I am often asked by a student to hold something for them until they are finished playing a game or until after class.  The student puts it in my hands with complete trust.  They may sweat through gym class because the coach is giving them a workout, but not because they fear I will lose what they have entrusted me with.  They don’t fear I will claim ownership and not give it back to them.  That’s how it should be between me and the Lord with items on my plate.  I should hand whatever it may be over to Jesus just like a student hands over a valuable.

I can’t keep storms from popping up in my life no more than I can control the weather.  If it were up to me, our daily forecast would be sunny, clear skies, 70 temps, and a nice breeze.  It doesn’t work that way with the weather and it sure doesn’t in life.  There’s always a life storm, big or small, brewing up somewhere.

I do have a choice about how I respond to stormy weather.  The option of taking matters into my own hands, wading through it myself, is as effective as my singing the rhyme, “Rain, rain, go away…” and the rain obliges.  The other option is Proverbs 3:5.

A good start to any lemon tossed at me is a talk with Jesus.  That’s not all there is to it though.  It is waiting and acting on the Lord’s guidance or instruction as I make my way through the storm day by day.  He knows where I need to be on any given day, who I may need to meet, and what words I need to say.  It may be a short rain shower or it may be stormy weather for a long spell.

One of the opportunities to live this proverb was late in 2016 when I realized that Autism wasn’t something that children had or someone else’s kid had or an adult had who acted a little strange at times.  I learned the word applied to me too and it was the “it” behind why I have long felt I was the lone cow in the pasture.  Knowing there is an “it behind it and what “it” is, is of tremendous help, but it doesn’t cure or change it.  It doesn’t stop a meltdown volcano from erupting.  It doesn’t make it easier to socially interact without the exhaustion afterward.  It doesn’t make things easier that are a snap for others.  The only thing to do to is to heed the proverb.  That in good times and bad times of living with my companion, I trust in Him and not try to figure out my Autism.

The sun will come out.  I haven’t been in a storm that it didn’t.  It didn’t always end as I had wished for in my dreams.  It just ended for the best.  How do I know I got the best outcome?  That’s where trusting the Lord knows better than my own understanding comes into play.

Motor Deficit

When I discovered I had Asperger’s, I got a lot of answers to the “Why” questions.    Such as why I had more than my fair share of childhood bruises and skinned up knees.  A common autism trait is a lack of motor skills.

I learned in my research that there are gross and fine motor skills.  I come up short on both.  Gross has to do with movement and coordination of the arms, legs, and other large body parts and movements.  Actions such as such as running, crawling, swimming, etc.  I don’t know about crawling or when I learned to walk since I was way too young to remember and my Mom doesn’t remember either.  As for running, the P.E. coach could usually count on me to finish last.  I remember taking swimming lessons and I was not at the head of the class.  I did learn to swim but it took me longer.

Gross has to do with movement and coordination of the arms, legs, and other large body parts and movements.  Actions such as such as running, crawling, swimming, etc.  I don’t know about crawling or when I learned to walk since I was way too young to remember and my Mom doesn’t remember either.  As for running, the P.E. coach could usually count on me to finish last.  I remember taking swimming lessons and I was not at the head of the class.  I did learn to swim but it took me longer.

Motor skills come in handy behind the wheel.  My learning to drive probably gave my Mom some of the gray hairs on her head before I finally got my driver’s license at 18.  My Dad wasn’t involved much since he lacked what I lack too:  patience.  I do remember him being in the car with me on my first time behind the wheel.  It was on a country road several miles safely away from the highway.  I was going so slow that the cows just watched and our dog didn’t bother chasing us.

Fine motor skills have to do with smaller movements that occur in the wrists, hands, fingers, and the feet and toes. They participate in smaller actions such as picking up objects between the thumb and finger, writing carefully, and even blinking.  In my elementary school years, I wore loafers with no strings attached to avoid tying my shoes.  I learned to tie my shoes before I learned how to master another challenge of blowing my nose.  My handwriting still reminds me of my doctor’s.  As for blinking, I don’t think about it until I am at the eye doctor when she tells me NOT to blink.  Then, I’ll commence to blinking like crazy.

Just recently while subbing for a special education class, I took a couple of the boys to lunch.  One of them asked me to peel his banana.  Bananas are on my “never eat” list and so I have limited experience of peeling them.  I could not crack that thing open with my fingers.  Believe me I tried!  One of the other boys volunteered and cracked it right open.  He had a certain kind of trick using one of his thumbs.  An 8-year-old teaching a 58-year-old how to peel a banana.  It’s a good thing I don’t have a deficit of a sense of humor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Dear Cube

I can click on it as if it was a pen.  I can glide on it as if it was a joystick.  I can flip on it as if it were a light switch.  I can roll on it as if it were a combination lock.  I can rub on it as if it were a rubber ducky.  It is my fidget cube.

It is the newest gadget to my growing herd of gadgets.  Some people on the spectrum collect stamps, rock, calendars, etc.; I collect gadgets.  One of my favorite stores is the utopia of gadget merchandise:  “As Seen on TV”.  Most of their products I haven’t seen on TV but that’s beside the point.  Some gadgets are practical and some are strictly for fun.  My newest gadget is a fidget cube that is both a toy and a practical tool for my autistic need to fidget to focus.

My first sighting of this cube was a Facebook (FB) ad.  I don’t usually pay attention to ads on (FB) any more than I do on the TV tube, but this ad caught my eye because it claimed to be helpful to those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism.  Since I’m on the spectrum and I do fidget, I clicked on the picture to learn more about this cube.  I got hooked, lined, and sinkered into ordering one from Amazon.  I was dismayed that it took an entire month before I’d get my hands on one.  It was like back in the day when I waited for Santa.

The cube is selling like hot cakes along with its cousin, the fidget spinner.  My grandniece introduced me to the spinner and she wouldn’t sell it to me. HA! So I had to continue to wait for the cube.

Its ad claimed a total of six sensory tools on all its six sides: an on/off- switch resembling a light switch, gears, a rolling ball, a small joystick, a spinning disc, a rubbing pad, and depressible buttons.  All of these fidgeting options on one cube!  Since it can easily fit in my pocket, I can twiddle with the cube without public knowledge.

I have had the cube a few months now.  It has lived up to its billing in the FB ad.  I keep it with me pretty much all the time except I don’t take it to bed with me.  I take it to school with me and fidget as needed in my pocket.  It helps keep me cool, calm and collected when in the midst of chaos such as in the school gym/playground where 30-something or more sets of lungs or going off.

When I go for walks or jog in place, I take it along and click on its buttons creating a rhythm to step or jog to.  Or, use it to count steps as I’m walking or jogging.  While I am at a desk in writing mode, I will fiddle with the cube when needing a “brain break.”

I never thought I’d be attached to a cube but that’s the kick about life.  It has its surprises.  Sometimes those surprises come in small packages.  With living on the autism spectrum, I’m open-minded to any gadget or app that can lighten the sensory load.  With all the options on the cube, I just may give up my other fidgeting activities such as stretching a rubber band, playing with a paper clip or biting my fingernails.

 

 

 

Spectrum Challenges

Below are some of my challenges I have lived with but didn’t know what was behind them until learning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) wasn’t something only someone else had.  I found out I was on the spectrum near the end of 2016.  This challenging list doesn’t apply to all with ASD because when you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met only one.

Rules are not mere suggestions to me.  I welcome and need them.  In an unstructured environment, I feel as uneasy as a polar bear would on a beach.

Routine is almost as essential as air.  I guess it has to do with feeling safe and secure in the world.  I do change my routine occasionally, but if it is beyond my control, a change in routine can put me in meltdown country.

Stuck with no means of a graceful escape to hearing music that is pushing all my buttons.  I don’t dare complain to the one playing the music, much less scream or cry because it would draw unwanted attention.  I must, as I often have to do, pretend I’m just fine while boiling underneath.

It takes me longer to respond to someone.  I need time to process what has been said in order to come up with a response.  More often than not, I ask for a repeat to give me a few more seconds even though I may have heard them the first time.

I love hardball conversations about any one of my limited interests.  Social chit-chat is hard for me to sit through.  I often manage by drifting into daydream land if I can’t make a graceful exit.

It is stressful for me to be as busy as a bee or to be bored out of my skull.  I love a schedule with the consistent rhythm of one thing after another instead of things happening all at once or nothing happening at all. 

Physically and mentally, I’m years passed the half-century mark.  Emotionally, though, I am about the same age as the elementary students I work with. I’m reminded of that when I’m behind the steering wheel stuck in traffic.  Even though it isn’t the steering wheel’s fault, it is what I take it out on.

I don’t like it being pointed out in a group I am the quiet one.  I’ve been a quiet person for more or less fifty years and so it isn’t news to me.  

Timekeeping to me is crucial.  If it is going to be around noon that someone will show up, I’d rather they say “noon-ish”; please not say noon if one won’t be there before or on the dot.

Highly sensitive!  Such as when a check-out cashier says she’s not open.  I will beat myself for not noticing the sign that she was closed.

Groups are my nightmares.  I always seem to be the square peg in the group of round pegs.  I don’t know if I’m more afraid of being spoken to or not at all.  

I don’t write about my ASD to complain or seek sympathy; I write to offer empathy to those on the spectrum and to provide knowledge and understanding for those who aren’t.

I have a choice about reading about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or talking about it or writing about it.  I don’t have a choice about living with it.

 

 

Jesus and the Rule-Abiding Ruler

As a substitute teacher’s aide in my hometown school district, I know the word “rules” is an unpopular word with probably a majority of the student body.  How many times have I seen a kid’s eyes roll up when reminded of a rule they were not adhering to?  More than I could possibly count.  I wonder sometimes if you told the kids to run down the hallway as fast as they could and shout as loud as they could instead of the typical line of “walk in straight line with a bubble (aka mouth closed)”, what would they do?  I reckon most of them would go ahead and run and shout anyway; that is, after they got over the shock of being told to go against the long established hallway rules.

I don’t shun rules.  Quite the contrary!  I need them!  I crave them!  A common trait on the autism spectrum is “strict adherence to the rules”.  If I am in an environment where there are no rules or it is assumed I should know them without being told, my anxiety level goes up.  I have a hard time understanding those who act as if the rules don’t apply to them.  Such as someone ahead of me in an express line of 15 items or less who has a cart full.

I know that some rules can be harsh and unfair, but without rules, chaos would reign and that would be bad.  Rules have their place in our lives, but even I, a rule abider, realizes there are times when rules come second.  Love and compassion should lead the way.

Rules vs. compassion remind me of a story about Jesus and a synagogue ruler.  On a Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for 18 years. She was bent all over and could not get up. When Jesus saw her, he had compassion on her.  He called her forward and said to her that she was now free from her infirmity. Then he put his hands on her and she immediately straightened up and praised God

You would think all those who saw this miraculous healing would have been cheering this woman who was no longer crippled.  Some were but not the synagogue ruler.  It wasn’t in the rulebook that one could be healed on the Sabbath.  That was the sticking point.  It was against the rules to do anything on the Sabbath, including healing, according to the synagogue ruler.  The ruler said to the people that there were six days of work.  If you want to the healed, come on those days, not the Sabbath.

The Lord did not keep silent and let the ruler have the last word.  He declared those crying foul were hypocrites.  He reminded them that they untie their oxen or donkey from the stall and lead it to water.  If that was okay, then why not the woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for 18 long years be set free on the Sabbath day?  The synagogue ruler did not have a comeback answer.

When Jesus said all this, his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things Jesus was doing.  You could say that between Jesus and the synagogue ruler, Jesus won the round that time.

The Sabbath day is a day of rest and worship.  Jesus demonstrated it isn’t a day of rest from us being about our Heavenly Father’s business of loving Him and our neighbors and showing that love with acts of kindness and compassion.  There’s not a bad day for loving your fellow man.