My Take on the Spinner

I remember the “must-have toys” back in my day were the hula hoop, mood rings, and the slinky, to name a few.  I remember the cabbage patch doll rage when my nieces and nephew were in school.  Then, there is the Pokemon phase which as far as I know hasn’t faded yet.

It seems a new toy fad has appeared.  Amazingly, with all the super-tech toys on the store shelves, the new “must-have” toy is a simple one.   All it can do is “spin”.  Beats me as to why a spinning toy has spun so many fans.

It is so popular it has its own Wikipedia page.  According to the page, the spinner is a type of stress-relieving toy. A basic fidget spinner consists of a bearing in the center of a design made from any of a variety of materials including brass, stainless steel, titanium, copper, and plastic.  It has been advertised as helping people who have trouble with focusing or fidgeting (such as those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, or Anxiety Disorder) by acting as a release mechanism for nervous energy or psychological stress. Experts were divided on this claim, with some supporting it while others disputed its scientific basis and argued the toy may actually be more distracting.

It can be debated as to whether it lives up to its stress-relieving application, but there’s no doubt the spinner is an eyesore to school staff.  I work in that environment as a substitute teacher’s aide.  Teachers don’t mind their students having such, but do object to having to compete with a spinner for their attention.

I am a member of two groups it is advertised as supposedly aiming to help.  I have both Autism and Anxiety Disorder.  I first bought a fidget cube, the spinner’s cousin, to see if the cube would help me with focusing and fidgeting.  Since it cost me more to have it mailed than its price, it was a small investment.  I was delighted the cube lived up to its billing.  I fidget away with it while at home.  I keep the cube in my pocket at work and fidget as needed.  Since it is easy to hide, I can fidget away with no one catching me in the act.

It is a common Autism trait to be more attached to things instead of people.  Well, I have become attached to my cube like I am attached to my favorite pillow and faded jeans.  After becoming attached to the cube, I had the urge to purchase a spinner too.  I reckon “fidget toys” is a new one to add to my list of obsessive interests.

As of this writing, I have had a spinner for two weeks.  It has earned a place on my list of favorite things.  I take it with when I go walking at the park, or fidget with it while I am jogging in place in my room or while staring at my computer screen with a case of writer’s block.

As far as the cube and spinner being distractions, that’s not a problem for me.  My Autism strength is being routine-oriented.  There isn’t a toy invented that will distract me from my chores or get in the way of following my daily routine.  I’m a “work first, play later” person.

In conclusion, I’m a fidget spinner fan.  It’s only because I have an uncontrollable need to fidget that I bought it.  The spinner isn’t for everybody.  I showed my spinner to a handful of students I work with who are on the spectrum and judging from their reactions, they gave it a thumbs down.  Some find it an annoyance or a distraction, but it is a soothing treasure for me.

 

 

 

A Crowded Nightmare

The nightmare happened on a day near the end of the school year for a 6th-grade boy with autism. There was something different going on at school that day. A break from their regular routine to attend a gym competition. For him, any change in routine, good or bad, can be another nightmare.

The competition was among the older grades. I was taking part by helping the coach take score. I noticed him coming in with panic written all over his face. He looked around as if he had stepped out of a car and found himself in a far away place. His world had been thrown off kilter. I felt empathy because I had been in a similar boat many times.  Routine is essential to me too.  I just have coping skills he doesn’t have.  I don’t think it was just the crowd, but the hustle and bustle of basketball shooting, frisbee throwing, and relay racing. There were whistles blowing and kids roaring with boos and applause.

The teacher aide recognized he was in sensory overload. She had him sit down with some of his classmates who were taking all the commotion in stride.  In no less than a minute, he got up and stepped out on the gym floor spinning in circles. He made an indescribable sound but a familiar one to those in his inner circle. This is his own unique distress call when he is potentially in meltdown country.  When he almost ran into a student who wasn’t steady on her feet, the teacher brought him back to the sidelines. He sat there for maybe five minutes. That was as long as he could take before getting back up and spinning once again on the floor.

This time the aide brought him back but she sat down on the floor with him. She gently rubbed his arms and hands to soothe and reassure him it was okay. Her idea worked and he calmed down enough to remain seated.

Although he could pass for a high school football player, he is a gentle soul. Even in meltdowns if he physically hurts anybody, it is himself.  After the last contest, she had no problem whatsoever getting him to go back to the classroom. He was the first one in line as his class walked back.  He was more than ready to return to the familiar place and resume the routine. His crowded nightmare, at least the one that day, was over.

I Want To See

The four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John gives us a narrative of the life of Jesus when He walked on this Earth among mankind.  One of the things that gives me comfort and encouragement are the stories where Jesus showed compassion on people who in the eyes of society did not deserve such.

Jesus didn’t limit his precious time on this Earth only to those who were in step with society.  Such as He visited the home of an unpopular chief tax collector named Zaccheus.  He had a conversation at a water well with a Samaritan woman who had a sordid past.  He allowed a woman described as one who lived a sinful life to pour perfume on his feet.

In Luke 18:35-43, there’s a story of Jesus showing compassion on someone who was among society’s forgotten.  Jesus was near the city of Jericho where among the people was a blind beggar sitting on the way side.  The blind man heard the commotion of the multitude and asked what was going on.  He was told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.  He recognized the name.  Even though he was disabled and an outcast, he had heard about Jesus, His teachings, and miraculous healing power. 

The blind man cried out, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me”.  He was hoping that Jesus might be willing to heal him too.  It didn’t hurt to ask!  Those around him were not encouraging him.  Instead, they were doing their level best to shut him up.  I guess they thought Jesus had no time for blind beggars any more than they did.  They probably would have preferred the blind man had left so he could be out of sight and out of mind.  Maybe he made them uncomfortable because of his disability.  Those with disabilities in today’s world could identify all too well with the blind beggar in this story.

The blind man ignored the pleas for him to keep his mouth shut.  In fact, he just got louder with his plea of “Thou son of David, have mercy on me”.

Jesus heard the pleas.  He could have looked the other way and continued on his journey to Jericho.  Instead, he stopped and beheld the man who couldn’t see him.  Jesus commanded him to be brought forward and when he came near, Jesus asked him what did the beggar want.  It had to have been obvious he was a blind man.  But Jesus wanted the man to tell him in his own words what he wanted.  Just as Jesus wants us to come to him in prayer with our troubles even though He already knows all about them.  The man’s response was short and to the point:  Lord, that I may receive my sight”.  He simply wanted to see.

It touches my heart that Jesus didn’t tell the man, “Your blindness isn’t my problem.  It’s your problem.”  Jesus didn’t just utter words about loving thy neighbor; He lived those words.  He taught us our neighbor isn’t only those who looks, acts, and talks like us, but those who don’t as well.  It isn’t just loving those who are physically and mentally healthy, but those who aren’t.

Jesus granted his request telling him, “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee”.  The man’s sight was instantly restored.  He glorified God and so did the people who witnessed another one of Jesus’s miracles.

The man’s faith did make all the difference.  If he had listened to the crowd who urged him to shut up, he would have gone away still a blind man.  He took it on faith that what He had heard about Jesus being God’s son was the truth.  He believed Jesus had the power to heal him and stubbornly refused to let anyone stop him from calling out to Jesus for mercy.  

On my job as a substitute teacher’s aide, I have the privilege of helping students who are outside of the student body mainstream.  Some of them have Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or are blind, deaf, or depend on a wheelchair to get around.  I also have the fortune of working with kids who are living on the same Autism spectrum as myself.  I can’t cure them of their disability any more than I can tell my constant companion of autism to go away.

But I can help them with their classwork, clap at their accomplishments, hug them when they want one, and encourage them to play on the playground.  I can see them and let them know I do.  Just like Jesus saw the blind beggar instead of looking the other way.

 

A Damsel’s Answered Prayer

The name “Rhoda” may not be the first female name you’d think of if someone asked you to name a female character in the Bible.  She didn’t receive much Bible coverage since she is only mentioned once in the 12th chapter of Acts.  This chapter is primarily about Apostle Peter and his miraculous escape from prison.  Rhoda had a supporting role in the story.  She just answered a knock at the gate and reported what she saw.  That was the easy part.  The hard part was handling the doubt and skepticism from those around her.

Peter had been put in prison by King Herod who had James the brother of John killed with the sword (12:2). Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Herod had 16 of his soldiers to guard one man, Peter.  Church members prayed for God to rescue Peter from the hands of Herod.  An angel appeared to Peter and broke the chains off his hands.  Peter walked out of prison passing all the guards without any interference from them.  Peter went to the house of Mary the mother of John, surname Mark.

This is where the damsel, Rhoda, comes into the story.  She was one of those inside Mary’s house who were praying for Peter.  She perhaps was probably fairly young since a damsel was a young unmarried woman.  Peter knocked at the outside gate’s door.  Rhoda heard the knock and went outside.  Peter must have spoken because it says in verse 14: And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.  

Bless her heart, Rhoda was so excited that she forgot all about letting Peter in and runs into the house to tell them their prayers had been answered.  According to verse 15 of this chapter, what she got in return for her good news was being told she was mad.  Perhaps because of her age, they didn’t take her seriously – a child seen but not heard.  Or, too, although they were praying for Peter’s deliverance, their faith was weak.  Maybe feeling a sense of hopelessness since they had only recently lost James who died by the sword.

I do relate to their doubts.  Sometimes I pray about something but without the faith that I should.  That the outcome is already written on the wall, so to speak, and there isn’t much of anything that can be done to change the expected dire outcome.  The church members were perhaps expecting the worst news that Peter would meet a similar fate as James.

Rhoda stood up to this skepticism by insisting that Peter was outside.  She refused to back down even though they didn’t believe her.  When she wouldn’t back down, they still shrugged it off with saying she had seen an angel.

Have you ever tried to convince someone of something you took on faith to be the truth and was met with disbelief?

I’ve told a number of people about how I learned I was living on the Autism Spectrum and how I believe the Lord brought it all about.  I don’t believe the who, where, when, and how was a matter of coincidence.  When it came down to it, the Lord gave me my diagnosis when He saw fit to give it to me in the way that He did.  Some folks take me at my word and are supportive but I have met some skeptics.  It can be discouraging to receive a less than supportive response when it is about something you are so enthused about as Rhoda was about Peter.

Rhoda did not have to wait long for vindication.  Peter continued knocking outside and when they opened the door, they found out Rhoda wasn’t mad after all and that Peter wasn’t an angel.  It doesn’t say whether Rhoda said something like, “I told you so”, or not.  She sure had a right to since they had accused her of being crazy.

This young woman set the example of praying with faith.  She wasn’t praying for Peter just for the ritual of doing so.  She believed her prayer for Peter went beyond the house ceiling.  She was thrilled to see Peter but I don’t think she was as shocked of Peter’s return as the other people who didn’t take Rhoda’s word for it.  They didn’t believe until they saw Peter with their own eyes.  Although they prayed for Peter’s survival, they had some serious doubt that they would ever see Peter again.

When telling others about the Lord working in our lives, sometimes we’ll be met with skepticism.  Perhaps even from people in our inner circle.  Rhoda, after all, wasn’t in the midst of enemies but with fellow believers.  We must stand firm in what we believe to be an answered prayer or a conviction on our hearts to do whatever even when others tell us we are crazy.

Such as some might have thought Noah was crazy when he was building an ark, Daniel facing a lion’s den for defying King’s orders by praying to God, and Abraham going on a journey to a promised land even though he did not know where he was going.  We know the outcome of these Bible stories.  The ark withstood the flood, the lions didn’t touch Daniel, and if you look on a globe or world map, you’ll find a country named Israel.

 

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.