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I’ve been holding my cellphone in a kung-fu death grip for the last 12 working days of the past weeks. We will log 30 total days. I drive downtown with my eldest son, the one diagnosed on the spectrum so many years ago, to drop him off at The Goodwill for a job-study. I was staying downtown, certain that the 20 minute drive from home would render him helpless if he had an autism meltdown or lost it over a bee in the building.

The shovel ready jobs of Obama are alive and well next to our destination. Four times daily we have to navigate across the ripped up street, around heavy construction equipment, jumping new water pipes waiting to be dropped and hooked in the trenches. Oh, and the cars along the one open lane really should consider stopping at the cross walk. If they did, the drivers wouldn’t get the fist pump motion from my son relaying in unspoken words what an “IDIOT” they are.

Can’t quite stop holding his hand. Still, so many years later, I hold his hand to cross the street. Sounds ridiculous? Not really – beats him sprinting in panic and getting creamed by one of those “IDIOTS”. Hand in mine, the opposite one in a cell phone death grip. God help us autism parents over the everyday stress we live with. God. Help. Us.

This is part of the process. The inadequate process of employing a bright young man given a disability in one quick shot in the leg. He’s riding the crest of the coming population, or should I say legion of young autistic adults who too will find their helpless parents clutching their phones within an inch of crushing it in half.

My son sees himself as an artist, we do too. But even artists need to work. So, we tell him he’s a working artist. The day he received his first paycheck (a paid study at least) he began to understand that even though bagging children books can be mind-numbingly boring, there is a sense of pride in a job well done.

I’ve read the articles that claim parents with autism in the home suffer from PTSD. I think it’s true – and that our children suffer even more so every day by virtue of the condition. Seems the only people who understand this kind of Autism are the few “friends” I’ve met on Facebook. Slow to get involved with the vehicle of communication most are choosing, I find it invaluable for information sharing of the subjects most important to me.

Of late, the tide of Autism Awareness is giving way to Autism Action. The process of doing this whole gig – shouldering the responsibility of this specific generation has to have an ending. My good friends, who too are in the trenches, are too making the shift. We are collectively embittered by the situation and have waited years for the disclosure that we, as a society, are being damaged and broken for the profit of the corporations.

As I always try to find it, there is hope. Recently, Mr. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. made a vow to my – wait scratch “my”, OUR community that his life work will be to disclose the simple truth that our government has known vaccines, and their components, are at the root of the Autism Epidemic. He has a book made up and is not afraid of the ramifications if the government doesn’t follow through.

Never did I imagine my life ending up this way. But it is a life, and it’s worth living. I can always buy a new phone.

God help us. ~ Wendy Frye

“To my mind this is like the Nazi death camps.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. spoken to the audience at Autism One, 2013.

Decided

A decision made is only as good as the intention. Well, for this family, our priorities have shifted (again) to care and support our two children – one adult on the autism spectrum and his younger brother. Our younger son? Well, he’s one of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Our intention, distilled and all whittled down to the nub, is to clinically de-stress. De-stress, with a capital “D”. Autism creates a level of unholy stress unlike many different disabilities. Seizures, tantrums, anger, anxiety, and all the suffering is just like an acute case of ‘roid-rage. Not fun, not pretty, and sadly not so uncommon anymore.

We’ve been asked too many times over long set of years if and when he will get a job, or if he will ever live on his own. Most well intentioned inquires, but some delivered via a nasty comments with a condescending voice. Again, all are good questions – for any parent with young teenagers. Our family, and parenting choices, seem to be running parallel with one major difference. The absolute minimum of stress. Our sons will chase their dreams, especially the eldest, without undue stress.

Since late last Fall, around the time of the full moon of September, major changes have happened in our home. We’ve pared down our lives to live more simply and with purpose. Retiring from a toxic and competitive work environment, weeding out relationships that just don’t work and simply living has made it clear, stress is unnecessary, and just plain stupid.

Our eldest son, he suffers with anxiety by just being in this world. What we do know? He doesn’t HAVE to get a college diploma to create his art. No. He. Doesn’t. He wants a part-time job now. We explained that it is a way to be more independent – and that appeals to him. Lesson here: no one wins if he has to be subjected to the battle for college entrance. We concur. The college can win, for now. Our courses have become direct, home-school college. It’s been awesome.

The youngest? He is concentrating on school. As a fourth year German student, we’ve made sure to budget for the class trip to Germany next year. The anticipation is killing him, and motivating him to further his educational goals. He’s the one to watch, Mr. Dark Horse is who he is.

My husband is measuring his career to retirement. While he wishes it was any day now, it’s not too far off. And now, we dare to dream. We dream of moving to a vibrant, culturally enriched metropolis to further feed our adult son with the things that motivate his creative desires. Even our youngest makes mention of being close by and growing our family with his relationships. Wow, that is one of the finest compliments of my life to date.

The bottom line? Well, as humans, were we really designed to handle so much unnatural stress on or bodies and brains? Did the maker see us in his minds eye toiling over numbers, sales and devices making ourselves sick? Was it decreed someplace, other than in our own minds, that we have to settle for “good enough” yet still be unfulfilled? Is it against the law to toss those things that stand in our way of happiness? Is it a flagrant foul to grow a pair and do what you like in this world? No. It is a matter of getting out of your own way.

In the end, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, you can keep your things, your bigger home, your rut in the rat race – go ahead, knock yourselves out. Because I cannot recall ever seeing a U-Haul van behind a funeral Hearse.

Breathe deep, live well and remain intact.~ Wendy Frye

“Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity.” ~ Elvis Presley

Feast

“I’m going grocery shopping, do you need more of your usual?” I asked my 17 year old son. “Oh GOD, no!”. My head snapped around, fast, eyes laser focused and left brow higher than Mr. Spock.

It all started the other day. A book came out of his backpack. An alternative guide to prescription medicine. It was four years new, checked out only one other time. I stopped breathing for a minute as he opened it up. Reading to me he decided to change a few things and manage his health a little differently.

Trying not to fall 6 feet to the floor, I stumbled into the kitchen. “So, what are you thinking?” He’s thinking, I can tell. This is my son who is a deep reader, deeper thinker who possesses more than a few brain cells to make thoughtful conclusions on most subjects sans his nutrient intake.

See, his older brother diagnosed on the autism spectrum almost 16 years ago, has been a constant recipient of biomedical interventions to improve his health and further his development. Vaccine injured, immune system blown, morbid allergy presentation – oh ya, it was an odyssey for all of us.

Despite the controversial spectacle in his own home, younger son controlled his world by rejecting any and all advice from his parents. He had control, we came to realize this. Dining on chicken nuggets and frozen fries, every day, 365 days, year over year – lets just say his health deteriorated.

He was past exhausted. Emaciated, with chronic heartburn, and assorted other symptoms – I insisted, he relented, and it was off to my integrative medical specialist. His tests showed something really wrong. Prescriptions, specialists, procedures and a really big hospital bill later proved to the young intellectual, unequivocally that he needed to change is evil ways.

He, not me, his father or brother – even the Bichons, who happen to eat better than he does, could change his thinking. Our son just needed to purchase the car to drive in his own change.

This morning, after coming downstairs, my super snazzy teal coffee pot I recently purchased was full of brewed green tea. Imported from the middle of China herself. Delicious! The counter was littered with yogurt cups, supplement bottles and a juice glass from breakfast.

“Mom.” “I read that the magnesium spray you make really can help me assimilate……….”

Welcome to the table my son. ~ Wendy Frye

“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” ~ Jonathan Swift

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Encircled

Growing up, in a family not designed to structure potential, my earliest years were ones of insecurities, self preservation and a desperate drive to just survive. This is not an uncommon theme, sadly. And now, while it doesn’t even matter at this current stage of life – I’ve seen others with the same root stock – they tend not to grow or simply wilt on the vine without knowing passion, or what life is really about.

Bittersweet fates sent me the wonderful man I married in my early 20’s and we, together, are building a life (sweetness!). A life that includes two beautiful sons, the eldest diagnosed early on the Autism Spectrum (the little bitter). Without adequate time for my early childhood wounds to knit close, my husband and I stood facing the longest haul possible – supporting our Autistic son through his earliest years, and ultimately, the end of his life. While some people with smaller minds and hearts might find this too arduous a task, we believe this is what carves our character, gives meaning to our days and fulfills the very definition of why we are put in this world and given the gift of two exceptional children.

In the years when our oldest was being diagnosed, it was not as common a situation as today. We had to look up the definition of Autism. We had to mourn. We had to get furious that this happened to our beautiful, beloved son. We had to breathe. We had to believe. We did all that and are still doing more and more.

The toughest moments were early conversations with family – and the disconnect between belief systems. No one can describe the closeness of an Autism family acting together as a team to recover their child (body and mind) from the edge of the abyss – unless your in the same vein. Transcending the early cheerleader role, trying to persuade the obtuse, I’ve laid down my sword. Cutting the cord with the doubters, closed minded and the naysayers, we move along.

Now in my middle years, looking behind me, that suit I used to wear doesn’t fit anymore. The one that was spun at the hand of others weaving tapestry of weakness, insecurity and anxiety. We, our little tight-knit family, are not afraid anymore. We don’t really have an opinion about anyone else’s that doesn’t support our mind-set, to celebrate small successes every day.

No, I won’t pray to St. Rita – knowing Autism has healed me. Autism has grown me. Autism has given me a reason to give all I have to my children. Autism is what motivates, and knowing Autism has made me who I am.

I am an Autism Mother. ~ Wendy Frye

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~ e.e. Cummings

Slip

Having a young child with special needs tends to slow a family down. It takes time and bravery to pick and choose appropriate activities that can actually be accomplished, as well as enjoyable. Between therapies, school, doctor appointments, processes and procedures – there just comes a time when it is almost critical to recreate as a family.

Recreational activities, you know – the real ones most families enjoy at their leisure, usually after breakfast lasting ’til before dinner. Likely culprits include sledding, skiing, biking, or simply taking a walk. For families like mine, recreation used to fall under “Too Complicated To Conceive”, especially when our eldest, the one diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, was very young.

Our family sled has seen only 5 minutes of use. The Cross Country skis? Mothballed under the porch. Camping equipment, utilized for less than 24 hours. Multiple bikes have been sold at garage sales, never knowing the pavement after Christmas morning. The horse, tack and saddle were sold after an anaphylaxis reaction at the barn. Considering our track record, it is justifiably deflating.

Well, when our disability services caseworker suggested joining the local, new and nearby YMCA, let’s just say I tried not to laugh out loud for very long. It was a sincere appeal, passes provided with the hope of a little family fun. Okay, I surrendered, again.

For this, in the middle of winter, we tried to prepare. Anticipating every item necessary, for we were going to be swimming inside when it’s 20 below outside. Lugging in a preposterous amount of gear, we waddled ourselves to the pool area. THANKFULLY, a family dressing room provided an adequate battle ground to prepare for poolside war.

WOW! Not just one pool, but two, complete with a spiral SLIDE! Maybe this won’t be too bad. I thought about getting comfortable ( actually – as comfortable as possible in a bathing suit, out in public, wearing the palest version of pale!). Husband took one child, I took the other and we split up. We figured we needed even odds if we were going to kill, blind or maim one or both of the children. I know, I know ~ but you’d be pessimistic too!

Hauling my eldest son to the top of the ladder, the plan was to jump in and go big. To the top! The top of the spiral water slide! My son on the spectrum was, well, suffice to say he was a little bit apprehensive. Me, I have a “dare-the-devil” gene in me, somewhere. Taking him down, like a wrestler, to sit on my lap was my only choice. There was no turning back to try going back down the stairs like a wussy.

Masking his terrorized screams with my screaming laughter at the sheer delight of going SOOOOO fast – we made it to the bottom! Awesome, we did it! I pulled him out of the water and was greeted with a big, watery smile! My son, he too loved it! “Let’s do it again!” we would say in unison!

After two many more trips down, even taking my youngest with us once (Dad at the bottom of the slide for potential damage control) we seemingly (and suddenly) hit our limit. While having more fun than is legal, we may have pushed the eldest a little too long. Exiting the pool, turning to the left, he lost his dinner in the lap pool.

There was no disguising it, he had done the unthinkable. “Will everyone please exit the lap pool immediately for maintenance.” was heard THREE TIMES over the intercom. The signs were placed by the walkway stating the two hour closure to shock the pool. Sullenly, we made our way back to the dressing room and ultimately home.

Poor kid, he was young, overwhelmed, over-stimulated, and unable to control his reaction. Worst parents in the world over here. Considering the trauma, we thought for sure it was going to be another wasted investment for an activity we couldn’t manage. But we were wrong. Excitedly, and not too late after, came the request to return to the pool. Well then, knowing our limits now, calculating the amount of time for proper digestion prior to arrival, we headed back to the scene of the crime. And executed several more trips down the slide, laughing like hyenas and cackling like fools. We, as a family of four, finally found recreation.

“Let’s GO!” ~ Wendy Frye

Thrice

Why choose to go on and on and on when three little words will do?

Such as:

* I Thank You
* I Trust You
* I Believe You
* I Understand You
* I Forgive You
* Please Forgive Me
* I Am Sorry
* You Are Right
* I Am Wrong
* Let Me Help
* Count On Me
* Go For It
* Good For You
* You Did It
* Proud of You
* I Love You
* Pray For Me
* God Bless You

Consider the power in each statement, visualize the bridge that will be built, the rift repaired, or a sentimental moment that will be an all life memory in the making. All in just three little words. Come on, just give it a whirl!

“All My Best!” ~ Wendy Frye

Mincemeat – reposted!

We have a rule in our house: We are the nicest to each other because we should be.

From time to time I reach down, pull out my worn out soap-box, step up and preach to my children about the people out “there” in the world we live in. The people you meet who would willingly punch you in the throat to get ahead. “Let those persons have at it” I tell them, in the end you won’t want to know them anyway. While choosing how you interact with other people, remember to always consider your own family first. We will always be stuck with each other, get used to it, so be nice. I then require them to re-commit to the “team”. The family “team” who WILL ACT CIVILLY, TREAT EACH OTHER WITH RESPECT, AND REMEMBER TO USE THEIR MANNERS WITH EACH OTHER! “What?!!” “Why are we having this same conversation again……MOM!” My teen-aged boys cry out in unison. “Well, let me go down my current list of reasons why in sequential order.”

– Telling your autistic (but not even close to helpless) brother that the magenta colored golf shirt he picked out for our vacation to San Francisco will make him look “gay”, is unacceptable. Gay people wear purple and straight people wear purple. Don’t be judgey of anyone.

– Snapping at each other (semi-forcefully) while folding laundry over which channel to watch on the television is complete lunacy. On that perfect day the window was open and the neighbors heard you bickering like holler monkeys. Not cool.

– Punishing your parents for wanting to take you to lunch after shopping as a family JUST because you couldn’t agree on a restaurant after 25 minutes is unacceptable. It’s called deferring to each other from time to time, gentleman. Go look it up.

– Launching air squadrons when either of you enter the kitchen just to protect your soda, ice cream or (insert here) from the other one this summer will not continue. And the Nerf gun your Dad brought home? I buried it in my garden.

– Remember, the dogs are family too. If you let them out, you wait for them to come back in. Standing on the deck, again bellowing like a holler monkey, wearing only boxer shorts and a t-shirt is not okay. You are hurting their feelings yelling at them in that tone – and use patience!
Sometimes they need a little privacy too.

Lastly, in general, the snapper-fish answers to anyone who asks a question will end. Automatically responding “no” is lame. Please try harder in the future to craft your answers and use your words, please. As punishment, each takes a turn going all day without referring to themselves in first person. Think about that, all day without starting a sentence with the word “I”. The mental fatigue will be epic. But you will be fine. “Are we good now?”. “YES MOTHER!”

I retired my soapbox for now – a little wary……..knowing full well that the potential to be submarined by my two children and just as insolent husband is lurking around any corner. Seriously, is turnabout always fair play? Maybe, maybe not.

Oh man, I am doomed. ~ Wendy Frye

“Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom.” Walter Benjamin

Wiz

One absolutely spectacular benefit working within the banking industry is a certain pretend holiday, Columbus Day. Oh yeah, falling on a Monday in October while the kids are back in school, husbands at work….Columbus Day HAS to be the best, employer paid holiday EVER known in the United Sates of America.

A couple of years ago, while employed with a local credit union, another Columbus Day came along. The time was ripe. My son on the Spectrum had shown me twice the venue he wanted to visit. His younger brother, an absolute super-hero, was good with the idea. So, we sprang it on him. Booked an overnight flight to Vegas (Baby!) to visit the unknown-to-most Pinball Hall of Fame!

You know the song, Pinball Wizard. Well, the guy with late onset autism, he relates. The self proclaimed “gamer” regressed, technologically speaking, into loving pinball. So hey, just try finding an operating machine thats not in a dive bar or other establishment that discourages a 16 year old young man from living his passion. Not easy, any day of the week. But try we did. So with his research and discovery of the “Hall” lie the path that will lead us to pinball Nirvana.

Om. (Clang Clang!)

Within fifteen minutes of our arrival to Vegas, we were surrounded by two hundred plus pinball machines. All workable and playable, spanning from the oldest to the latest, WOW! Can you say sensory overload? “MOM!” “I need a quarter!” was the last I heard from him for the eight hour shift.

It really was my idea of idyllic, a wonderful way to spend a weekend with my son. Besides the “Hall” we went to the art showing at the Bellagio, ate crappy pizza, had dinner for breakfast and pillaged the arcade at our hotel resort.

Returning home exhausted at 2:00 in the morning, I drug it to work the next day and managed to play off that I hadn’t slept in 24 hours. Arriving home, ready to collapse, my eldest son yells for my attention from the basement. He’d found it, a new Nirvana – the Coin Operated Museum in San Francisco!

“When can we go!” ~ James Frye

“If some people didn’t tell you, you’d never know they’d been away on a vacation.” ~ Kin Hubbard

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Stereotyped

Per Wikipedia: “Stimming” – A repetitive body movement, such as hand flapping. The term is shorthand for self-stimulation. Repetitive movement, or stereotypy, is often referred to as stimming under the hypothesis that it has a function related to sensory input.

Just simply try to imagine an even more uninformed and ignorant world. A world wherein society is made up of all walks of peoples who are even less accustomed to an ever-emerging population. The population of individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

Our son was only one in ten thousand. In a city of only 200,000 it was a rare day to see another family out and about with their child on the Spectrum.

Our beautiful son, diagnosed so many years ago, yes, he too “stims’. When he was a toddler, he usually did visual stimulation. Looking at light/dark contrasts over and over to beef up his visual pathway. Later, he would hop, skip and yodel. And yes, it is very distracting for the unaccustomed.

Newer to Facebook, I can boost a new family who too are impacted by Autism. I have other moms, dads, groups, interested parties, and adult friends with Autism. These people are priceless when it comes to understanding this new world, populated by one in eighty eight persons on the Spectrum.

One particular friend rallied around a sincerely provocative idea. Parents and therapists utilizing ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapies and behavior interventions should conduct those sessions in public, say Target or Costco. Consider it an Autism field trip. Let societies ears ring with the deafening screaming and witness the erratic behaviors Autism Families share behind their front doors.

Personally speaking, we get out as often as possible. Quick trips here and there. Classes, adventures, and the like – usually its me and my son alone. He’s typically on point, not exactly engaging, but aware of his surroundings. Not exactly polite, but not as rude as he can be. It’s been very fulfilling for me to spend quality, caring time with him. The people we meet along the way, pretty understanding – maybe with more people affected the mainstream is getting it. Oops, I need to slow down here. There was one day not long ago…..a real game changer for our family.

I simply took my then 18 year old adult son on the Spectrum to Walmart (I know, never again) and left him to test video games while I picked up a few groceries. Massive visual stimulation! Sensing the expiration of time out he will tolerate, I backtracked to the video department. Oh, there he is, I thought – he’s walking my way. Good mom senses here! Wait a minute. Whoa. Why are there 6 employees, keeping their distance, following my son like the Presidents secret agents? I was instantly made aware why – he was stimmin while skipping/walking/yodeling over his path back to me. I had to laugh. No more are we embarrassed. Why? He’s doing what he naturally does – just being himself.

Just be you, James Frye, just be you…. ~ Mom

” You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.” ~ John Lennon

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Fertile

I conceptualize the new year cycle that starts today. Today, I condition the seeds for planting in my garden. The very miracle of life from the God given spark within the tiny, miraculous encapsulation that simply assures succession of its species. A preconceived cycle of life, nourishing my family, making my time spent a higher quality – as only hard work will do.

The calendar mocks January. Snow on the ground. Cold wind in the air. In the Pacific Northwest of the United States the seasons are as vibrant as any seasonal calendar picture for purchase in December. But oh man, my palms itch to move enriched soil around my garden patch, to smell the fragrance of spring, and anticipate the fruits from the earth.

My kitchen table is being taken over by little seed pots, secured with plastic covers. The smell of the outdoors is a lovely fragrance permeating our home. Each little sprout promises loving, complete nutrition spiced by sustainable hope that only the first season of the year can whisper.

Delicious anticipation strengthens the project. The time it takes from seed to plant to harvest to preservation extends the pleasure. The wonderment knowing the most high lends a hand to this miraculous process. Delightfully complete fulfillment – all in a garden.

“My garden is my church.” ~ Wendy Frye

“I think this is what hooks one to gardening: it is the closest one can come to being present at creation.” ~ Phyllis Theroux

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