Breaking Bad Ass

We like to have a beer or other adult beverage while watching the Seattle Seahawks play football. With our son on the autism spectrum since he was three, an adult now, there stands a hard line between beer and wine – and hard alcohol.

“Vodka!” He screams at the top of his lungs….”Yes, Vodka.” We, his dutiful but worn out parents confess. “It makes a delicious alternative when mixed with lemonade vs. a heavy beer.” We TRY to explain.

“It will lead to DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!” He vehemently proclaims. Daring to hope he understands and will choose to be rational like he usually is……we headed down to watch the game. With the vodka drinks.

Ever the comedian, and dramatic as all get out, our “not so sold” adult son hears us from his room yelling at the television, cheering on Russell Wilson the the team after a very solid play. The stadium in Seattle is rocking and everyone is knocking. Except our son.

“Thats IT!” “You are fighting and it’s because of the VODKA!”

We yell upstairs to him that we really are not fighting….we are cheering on our team. No go. “I’M CALLING 911 NOW!” Oh shit. He does have his cell phone fully charged, in his room, on the night stand at all times.

We rush up the stairs. In full boxer short glory he’s taken the “God Forsaken Poison!” from the fridge (sitting next to the apple beer) and threw it out the back door almost to the neighbors yard.

“I’m DIALING!”

“NOW!”

Mind you, we suburban dwellers, affected by the virtual tragedy of autism, i.e. underemployed, lifetime caretakers, double duty chefs, and on and on. Deserve. A. Drink. Especially at this very moment. So, in his room, hand poised to press send on his cell he smirks…..

Yes, I called him a rat bastard. Yes, I meant it. No, I’m a horrible mother sometimes. Yes, he had us. Yes, he knew it.

Yes, we dumped the bottle.

Yes, we had an apple beer instead.

This morning I approached my adult son on the spectrum. “Wanna go to the casino?”

Oh boy…..the new frontier.

“WHERE’S MY CELL PHONE!!!!!!”

(snicker) ~ Wendy Frye

“Spend some time this weekend on home improvement; improve your attitude toward your family.” ~ Bo Bennett

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

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

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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Leverage

Three little words in our home are equal in power to any weapon of mass destruction. The biggest and oldest of our two Bichon Frise, Annie-Annie, not only understands what we say, she buys into the power of persuasion when it comes to her Daddy.

Weekend mornings, she lays in wait, listening for any of the three, harmless little words. “Go.” “Walk.” or “Leash”.

Sometimes, when the Bichons are outside, my husband will whip open the slider and simply raise the leash like a flag – a beacon of hope that Annie has not been forgotten. Other times, the two will have a elongated stare down. The subliminal hope in a thought that she will get to strut and brag with her beloved daddy down the street.

Then, those mornings, when the moment seems right. I whisper a key word under my breath. Ever vigilant, she typically looks at us in disbelief. Of course, I cannot say with all certainty that my husband is ready for a little jaunt, however, there is no turning back the clock to the moment before the “mistaken” utterance. “Oops! Sorry Hon.” I mock wearing a devilish, sideways smile.

“Well then, I better get my shoes, and you better get your leash.” ~ Dan Frye

“Peeves do not make very good pets.” ~ Bo Bennett

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Passed

To look forward to the opportunities to be chronicled starting with the initiation of a new year, it seems sensible to look back – first. I had forgotten and needed to re-learn how to measure success a long, long time ago. While recovering a child on the autism spectrum, the days, weeks, months, and years all fly by. Terrified we would miss the “finish date”, that notion where critical brain development is truncated by age – which signaled the end of the road. Even with a son who is now an adult on the spectrum, there is still that little “bit-o-panic” that nips at the heinie….a silent clock that ticks only in the back of the mind.

Tick.

Tock.

But wait!

Stop!

Stand still. Reminisce, go back through pictures (painful or not), now review/backtrack the calendar. Where were we then? Where were we while trying to figure it all out in the haze of life jacked up in physician appointments, therapies, special education, familial scorn, awkward glances, outright ridicule, asshole “friends”, working too much for shallow souled people and places, plus the other assorted diatribe that really didn’t matter. It sure piled up.

Now breathe.

Quantify the big and little changes from the last year (and prior years). Sweep off to uncover the foundation that has already been built to work from. Give credit, recognize true supports, cut superficiality and relationships that compete for any energy that’s less than positive. Stop trying to payoff neglect or abuse – their is no tender available. Quit competing, this is not a race. This is a life.

Now move!

Expand your sense of excitement. Consider the endless possibilities. Practice flexibility. Embrace a true career calling. Release your abilities. To relish the freedom…..

All in a New Year! ~ Wendy Frye

“To achieve, you need thought. You have to know what you are doing and that’s real power.” ~ Ayn Rand

Eve

Oh ya, my youngest son, he thinks he’s so clever. Every year on Christmas Eve we open a present together in the morning to get the holidays rolling. Even as a teenager, my youngest son shakes, stalks, snoops and generally regresses into that gorgeous little pain in the ass toddler he once was.

While wrapping presents in my room, he makes 27 “necessary” trips through to the bathroom, in just as many minutes…hoping to get a glimpse of any gift left out. Over the last two weeks he’s been considering just what gift he would open. Upon disclosing his choice, I snickered. He was certain it was a vinyl album. I asked him why he thought that. Well, the dimensions, lack of bounce upon the shake, and the general size of the box certainly gave it away.

This morning, the youngest rolled us all out early to get the preliminary-holiday-one-gift-unwrapping STARTED! We waited for the eldest sons response to his choice ….it was a hit! The Men Without Hats Silver Collection – we’ve all been singing along to the “Safety Dance” – oh come on, you remember their 5 minutes of fame back in the ’80’s don’t you? I don’t know where he gets this stuff.

Now. Comes. The. Moment. He. Has. Prepared. For. All. Month. In one fail swoop the wrap, bows and sides of that box threw up its contents. Wait for it……wait……WOW~! It was a sweater. A nice, sensible sweater in black. Son deflates in northeast corner of home. Parents roar, brother laughs and heads down to serenade us with techno-pop hits no one remembers. Younger son is granted a do-over. Life is good.

Happy Holidays! ~ Wendy Frye

“I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending.” ~ Fred Rogers

Muster

The gate-keeper claimed 30 years of experience in disability services while he eyed our son. Our son, who just happens to be a very talented collage of a person on the autism spectrum and a recent high school graduate.

After we were asked 15 times over 5 minutes in 15 different ways imaginable IF we paid our application fee. Then we were told by the gate-keeper that this particular gentleman possessed two friends. These alleged friends just happen to be a father and son, of whom are both doctors no less. And that these two “highly pedigreed friends” (cough, cough out the side of his face) just happen to have young grandson/son in common, who happens to be Autistic.

And we are supposed to care? Well, yes in general, we care very, very much – but we did not care at all for the insertion of this particular fact while in a meeting regarding our sons secondary education needs. The 5 x 5 office space was already too cramped and eye contact was going to get pretty limited. Right. About. Now.

“Well, my friend and his son, both who are DOCTORS, do NOT believe that vaccines cause Autism.” The gate-keeper proclaims to his ever deflating potential student.

He draws a loud breath and continues….”We will require a 3 hour reading and writing assessment.” For art classes – even labs. Awesome. Didn’t we cover our Achilles heel well enough over the 15 years of education, therapies, assessments, awards, grades, passing standardized testing, web-site, art submissions earning honors, even the high school ceramics teacher staying on one more year before retiring all because of the massively unique talent this particular college applicant possesses?

“But, if you haven’t paid that application fee, I fail to understand how he is already in our system.” Gate-keeper stated. “Because he earned that 4.0 grade when he attended a running start college class while in high school in industrial arts (yes, while in special education). AND, I understand it was a fairly complicated class.” Came my snarky retort. None of us in our family circle were confused anymore – our son was being assessed, not admitted, by a person with so much experience, BUT without even a tiny clue regarding Autism. Oh right! His pals were doctors, right!?! And, discussing vaccines during this meeting was critical and germaine to our sons college success, but of course! W. T. F.

While leaving we deliberately and mis-leadingly scheduled “the assessment test” and flagrantly walked past admissions without paying our application fee. But we were not defeated. Oh no, not us, not now and possibly never again. Because, as his parents, we knew there was no conceivable way we were going to subject this fine young man, who possesses the heart of a lion, to a situation in which he was going to fail. This is a person who understands everything, yet his disability lies in communication. He has adapted admirably to his disability within the creation of his own art. This art supports his need to communicate with the world what it is like to be a person with Autism.

During the drive home we cooled him down, explained that he needs only a certain set of skills in which to create his graphic art, and he was going to learn and expand those skills. Ended up he was somewhat relieved, knowing that he would not have to endure any class in which he was not highly interested in, just to earn a diploma. He’s paid enough dues. So we’ve looked around and soon found a better and more meaningful path for him.

Incubating his new skills, refining old ideas and thoughts that he so desperately wants to communicate with us all, The Astronaut is learning his new language in graphic arts. Assisted by his family and a soon to be elevated non-profit, this trip continues…….

“Go James!” ~ Your Mother, Wendy Frye

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” ~ David Brinkley

http://www.jamesfryeartist.com

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YOU ARE

My son, the one on the spectrum, isn’t feeling himself today. I’m home with him, sorting through old papers and such, and happened upon a couple of age worn poems written by my youngest. WOW, I honor my youngest. Please enjoy his works with me, all sloppy and teary as I am now….

YOU ARE

I think you are friendly.
I wonder if you are a super hero.
I hear you laugh.
I see you smile.
I want you to be happy.
You are great.

I pretend you fly.
I feel you give a mamas little baby.
You touch me.
I worry that you cry.
You cry water.
You are smart.

You understand James.
You say nice things (some times).
I dream that you play football.
You try to make us happy.
You hope we grow up.
You are wonders.

YOU ARE great, HAPPY FATHERS DAY!
love, Jon 🙂

by Jon ~ aged 8 years old

WENDY

Daughter of Kent and Sandra
Sister of Melissa and Paula
MOTHER of Jon and James
Lover of my family
Maker of crafts
Dreamer of James and Jon to gragat (graduate)
Fear of Heights
Player of big Kahuna Reef
Giver of kisses and smiles
Watcher of unwrapped and survivor
Listener of rock and roll

Love, Jon

by Jon ~ aged 9 years old

You are becoming a fine young man, Jon ~ Love Mom

“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” ~ Charles Swindoll