Archive for May 2018

The Photos you Don’t Need   Leave a comment

I have a strange recommendation: print, keep, scrapbook with and otherwise save some of the photos you don’t like and don’t want.

I scrapbook, so these thoughts apply directly to those who also do so, but if you prefer to upload to Shutterfly and make a book, or to just print and drop in a box, consider this.

You probably select photos to work with based on their excellence: composition, color and print quality, were the kids smiling? do they help tell the story? are they of an occasion important enough to save? that stuff.  Most people select photos based on some kind of criteria, and nobody wants to use a photo that looks messy, has red-eye, or doesn’t fit into the overall plan for the page.

That’s understandable.

But if you only use the best photos, you will miss something good.

How do I know? I looked back through an album of mine from eight years ago. In the process, I discovered there was a six month period of our lives for which I only had one page. There were a couple of photos of the snowman the kids made in a spring snowstorm and there were several of my youngest son’s 6th birthday.  All well and good, except I thought to myself, where was the rest of our life?  What on earth happened, or didn’t happen, that I did not bother to record it?

Life had been so full that I had not looked at old pictures for years.  So I took the time to go through every file I could find that might have pictures from that six months.  I came out of that session with about 25 more pictures.

Oh, those red Cars slip ons that he used to wear every day!  I had forgotten all about them.  We went hiking out there?  Yes.  Oh, that was the day we couldn’t find the jackets and had to go back for the stuffed animal we left behind.  My children are eight years older now, and I am here to tell you, they were darn cute back then.  I found myself wondering why on earth I did not print these photographs.

I think it was because they just weren’t good enough.  They weren’t perfect enough.  But these are the images of the moments in which my life happened, the messy, glorious life I really had with my family.

Go ahead and print the goofy pictures of your family setting up the pop-up camper for the first time, including the one with dad’s back side as he’s bent over the trailer hitch.  Go ahead and print the ones where the kids aren’t looking at the camera or are poking each other or are rolling their eyes.  Go ahead and print the ones that don’t fit the theme.

You won’t regret it later.

 

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Posted May 24, 2018 by swanatbagend in humor, parenting

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An Aspie Never Stops Being Naive   Leave a comment

This post was published on The Mighty recently, as well.

 

 

I thought I’d outgrow the personal weakness. I thought that I understood the tendency, and knowledge is power, right? So, I was sure I could fix it. I could stop being naïve.

However, I have come to the conclusion that while I have learned to be attentive to situations in life and to get wise counsel from people I trust to help me understand the complexities of a situation, self-awareness alone cannot transform me.

As an Aspie, I’ll always be naïve. Even as a self-aware Aspie I’m naïve, because I always take things literally.

Even knowing there are often situations that can’t be taken literally, my instinctual reaction is to take things literally. Whether they are directions on a flyer that comes with a product, spoken words given by an authority figure, a joke — it doesn’t matter. I don’t get the nuances a neurotypical person would get.

A funny example is an early and sleep deprived one, so maybe I’m off the hook there. I was at scout camp and a couple cabins were driving the counselors up a wall by staying awake late at night giggling and singing goofy songs. After several nights, they threatened us by telling us they’d wake us up before dawn, make us take a hike and then see how much we liked being without sleep.

They really did it. It was pitch black and we were to get up and get ready for a hike. I was so completely out of it, I didn’t understand what was going on and had to ask again for instructions. These were given, probably with the thought of “how foolish could this child be,” with step-by-step directions of what to do, which presumably included that I should dress myself. I was certain, in the sleep induced haze of four in the morning, that the counselor said to get my underwear. Only when I was sleepily milling around in the crowd of girls did I realize no one else was carrying underwear with her. At least I had put my clothes on before going outside.

The good side of taking things literally is that I am a straightforward, truthful person who expects the honest best from others. I look for the truth and I tell it like it is.

Sometimes though, I wish I weren’t so conscientious and trusting. I remember a period of about eight months in which I waited for two different people to get back to me to arrange a time for our families to get together, because they had said they would. Part of that was just me being too tired to pursue it myself, but most of it was me believing what they said. Both people had told me they weren’t sure when they could meet and they would get back to me when they knew.

At that point, I was mid-40s, old enough to have been around the block a few times. I was also old enough to have it explained to me more than once that people will say things they do not truly mean. Intellectually I understand. But when it comes down to the actual, personal situation, if I’m interacting with someone who seems sincere, it’s very difficult for me to accept, even months later, that the person was just talk.

What about sarcasm’s effect on me? Only if it’s really obvious. Often, I don’t get it and I am not sure how to respond to what you say.

Practical jokes? Please, don’t even try one of those on me. I promise it will not go over well.

Even with the big stuff, I’m still naïve. My husband worked for 12 years at an employee-owned company. He loved the work and the people he worked with. Clients asked for him to manage their projects. He was respected, an ideal employee. He had received a signing bonus to take the job in 2005, so I guess this made me think the company was so invested in him they would never let him go. Neither one of us saw it coming, so maybe Aspies aren’t the only naïve ones. Everything I observed about his situation at work was valid. But in my naiveté I did not understand these observations were not eternal guarantees.

That’s what we all want, isn’t it? Eternal guarantees? I am a person who believes, hopes and trusts other people to be faithful, loyal and true.

I’m not certain the hope I have is a bad thing. It’s embarrassing at times. It makes me look foolish, which I hate. However, I’d rather be me. I’d rather take things at face value. I’d rather believe you than not. I believe that if we believe each other, it makes the world a better place.

Posted May 22, 2018 by swanatbagend in autism, relationships

How Churches can Welcome Those on the Autism Spectrum   Leave a comment

This blog was published on The Mighty last week and I’m sharing it here as well.

 

Here is how churches can welcome those on the autism spectrum.

1. Provide training about autism for church leadership and volunteers.

Include information about autism: what it is and what challenges people on the autism spectrum face when socializing in large (and small) gatherings. Let the staff, small group leaders, and Sunday school teachers know that a person with autism may not look different, but they may act differently than a typical person. This training could be during a Sunday school hour or a half hour session as a component of a larger training. The key thing to convey is no matter how different someone on the autism spectrum may seem to be or how unexpected some of their behaviors may be, love and respect for the individual with autism and an acceptance of that person is what matters most. With an increasing number of children and adults who are diagnosed on the spectrum, chances are they will be visiting your churches. It makes complete sense for the church to be prepared to welcome them.

2. Be the one who initiates.

Individuals within the church need to initiate and develop relationships with person on the autism spectrum. They also need to understand that to fully include someone with autism may require accommodations. Don’t assume individuals with autism will blaze their own trails into the church as a whole, a Bible study or small group. You will need to be the one to make the effort (as you would with any new visitor to your church). Some people with autism may have a hard time remembering names and faces, especially in a large group setting, which might be overwhelming, such as a chaotic church vestibule. When you see the person at church, greet him or her, and don’t be offended if it takes a while for him to remember your name. Don’t be offended if people on the spectrum seem stiff and unsure; they might be doing their best to cope with sensory overload and trying not to have a meltdown.

3. Focus on authentic relationships.

Once the initial contact has been established on Sunday morning, focus on authentic friendships with the person with ASD. Follow up with by checking in and asking about some detail that may have been shared during a previous visit. Many people on the spectrum have special interests and may love to talk about those — make time to listen. Whether your follow up is next week at the next meeting, whether it is Sunday morning, whether it is by phone or text in a few weeks, it doesn’t matter. Just be faithful to follow up.

4. Invest time in cultivating friendships.

Do something practical to show your interest and care. After a few meetings, invite the person to join you for a dinner in your home or a get-together outside of church. If a specific need has been mentioned that you could possibly help with, offer that help. If such an invitation seems to make your friend uncomfortable, keep focusing on building an authentic relationship until the trust is established to spend time hanging out outside of church.

When people feel included in a group, they tend to feel more comfortable — it is no different for people on the autism spectrum. All people should feel they belong in their church family. The church will only benefit from the gifts of those on the autism spectrum. They have gifts and talents to share, wisdom and insights to offer.

Honestly, it only takes one person to begin the transformation of your church into a place of welcome for those who are different. You can start this by providing awareness training and creating an ongoing plan for the church and its members to be hospitable and accepting.

Posted May 22, 2018 by swanatbagend in autism, the church

What is Born Again and Why is it so Scary?   Leave a comment

Why is “born again” so scary?  In some circles, it’s the thing to be, but in others, it’s anathema.

I didn’t grow up comfortably with this expression, and there are certain risks to be taken when defining it.  The phrase has gotten a bad rap because of televangelists, bigots and hateful people.  Words that have been tarnished by misuse may be disliked, but that doesn’t mean they have lost their power.

Jesus used this phrase to explain a change the Spirit makes happen.

It is about accepting something you don’t understand and can’t control.  The wind blows where it wishes.  You don’t know where it comes from or where it is going, but you hear it and you decide you are going with it.

Being born again is what God starts doing in you when you acknowledge that you are not aligned with him, but that you want to be.

Born again is aligning yourself with his reality.  It is acknowledging that you are not with him and not where he is, and telling him that you want that to be different.

Born again simply starts with acknowledgment.  It’s what the son said to the prodigal father, who never stopped loving the son and longing for the day when he would come back home: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

The father immediately brings the son in, clothes him in the best robe, applies the jewels, slips the sandals on, and starts the preparations for the biggest feast ever.  There’s no ritual washing.  There’s no list of promises the son must make to be allowed admittance.  As far as I can tell, this gracious father doesn’t even take time to reply to the son’s apology!

Notice the prodigal nature of the love that the father has.  Imagine what power the love of that father has in the life of the son.  Imagine what power the love of that father has in your life.

Born again is seeing what will happen.

 

 

 

Posted May 15, 2018 by swanatbagend in reality, reflections

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From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime   Leave a comment

From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime by Elizabeth Hinton is a book that’s hard to read, but one that you will want to read if you want to understand a big portion of the reasons why there are so many African Americans incarcerated in our country.  As you may know, the United States as more people incarcerated per capita than any other country on earth.

The basic concept is that due to the ways the war on poverty was implemented, government leaders thought it wasn’t working, and due to the unrest of the 60s and early 70s, they then leaned harder on trying to stop crime.  But due to their own biases they misunderstood the causes of crime and in trying to stop crime, ended up inflaming the problem.  The predictions that were then made of further crime waves drove prison construction, police department mobilization and a larger penal system.  And here we are today….It’s more complicated than that, as you can read, but in some ways as simple as the racial stereotypes held by the leaders who created the policies and made the choices that have led to where we are today.

As I said, the book is painful to read.  Nonetheless I recommend it to any student of where our culture is today and the racial divides we still face.  The author’s detailed scholarship is commendable and pretty difficult to refute, with the caveat that those who don’t want to believe the evidence may continue to place the blame for the violence of the 60s and 70s where it was placed at the time. But for many of us, perhaps the book will turn us to a different path, and enable us to see that we want to move forward to dismantle the vast prison that much of America has turned into.

Posted May 8, 2018 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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Stranger Things   Leave a comment

I read in a news magazine that Netflix streaming has taken over the media world.  I also learned that I wasn’t the only person binge watching Stranger Things.

I think I know why it is so gripping.

Other shows about aliens feature a creature from outside the world.  But Stranger Things is terrifying because the evil awful thing is here, in this world.  It’s there, just on the other side, and we know it could take us in.  I think this is our greatest fear as individuals and probably as a culture as well.

And why can we not vanquish this monster with a shotgun and some shells?  I admire Will Byers’ courage.  But as viewers know, it didn’t work.  He got sucked into the Upside Down.

I found myself thinking at the moment when Mike, Nancy and Jonathan set it on fire, that it can’t be killed on the up side.  You have to go where it dwells.

At the end of season one, catch the reference to David and Goliath as Will’s friend Lucas fires a rock at the monster.  I was hoping that would somehow be exactly what it needed to get it killed.  Like how the aliens in Signs were injured by water, maybe this one could be vanquished by a rock?  Nope, it was only a temporary blow.  Eleven realized at that point that as much as she would like a new life with Mike’s family, she was the only one who could take the thing down and remove it from this world and protect her first and only friends.

We need a messiah who can enter the Upside Down and slay our foe–someone who while of this world, is also not of this world.

Posted May 1, 2018 by swanatbagend in reality

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