December 2010

Three Words for 2011

by Tim on December 26, 2010

Last year, I did three words for 2010. The premise is simple. Choose three words that you can refer back to again and again to focus yourself on goals important to you in the coming year. It’s both an alternative to New Year’s resolutions that no one keeps anyway and a simplified, easy-to-recall means of reminding yourself what’s most important to you in your life.

Here’s my explanation from last year.

I don’t think that there are many rules about how to do this. I would argue that they shouldn’t be words that are already fundamental to your everyday life to the point where I’d call them givens. So for me, I don’t think making ‘father’ or ‘husband’ one of my words would get me farther along the path. (I’d better be doing those already!)

I’d also suggest not making the three words into a phrase like, “Get stuff done.” The best ones I’ve seen are when people bring together three separate words that may not be that related to each other, each word describing a specific goal or facet of a goal. And don’t be an overachiever and develop different three-word sets for different parts of your life. Just three words for your entire life.

Examples I saw:

“Debt, Family, No” (develop a plan to get out of debt, spend more time with family and less with work, learn how to say no to people)

“Gifts, Awareness, Ownership” (try to see the gifts each person has regardless of anything else, be aware of all the possibilities happening around me, take ownership of my life and not blame things I can’t control)

“Sandman, Grace, Cayenne” (sleep more – the Sandman brings good dreams, show myself and others more grace and kindness, and spice up life some)

This past year, mine were: proclaim, connect, and bamboo. (See more explanation here.)

Our first half of 2010 had a lot of twists and turns, few of which were good. To say it was a rough seven-month span is an understatement. But it really was a tale of two years. ‘Bamboo’ turned out to be the most valuable – perhaps the most prescient – in this crazy year. I had to marshall so much of my energy and focus on these challenges that ‘proclaim’ and ‘connect’ didn’t happen as well as I’d hoped. But I learned to cut myself some slack there, as the Bamboo Way requires.

From last year:

Bamboo is – among other things – an important symbol in Zen Buddhism. It is very strong, flexible, supple, and resilient. It will bend under tremendous weight but not break and still be able to snap back to upright when the weight is gone. It responds exactly as it needs to under pressure, bending neither too much nor too little. It is the opposite of tension and rigidity. It has a profound ability to flex and adapt even to vast changes.

I wanted to find a simple word that for me captured the foundations for physical health, emotional health, and attitude. I think in order to be like bamboo you have to find ways to bring yourself more into balance, take care of yourself so your body can respond to things in the right way, practice a lifestyle that fosters calm, flexibility, and ease in the midst of great challenge and adversity, be open to opportunities and gifts that come from being a parent, and nurture a positive attitude about life.

After The Great Burnout, I had what I’ll call a ‘bamboo moment’, a realization that I had to make some changes in order to return to a more centered place. I bent, but I did not break. And now I feel like that resiliency I wasn’t even sure I had has brought me back to a place of growing strength. It’s still hard, but I feel as strong as I have in a long, long time.

And now it’s time for three new words for 2011. I think I already know what they are, but I stlll have a few more days to ponder them.

So, what are your three words for 2011?

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All I want for Christmas (again) is…

by Tim on December 24, 2010

I’ve again been thinking about what is becoming a yearly question – “All I want for Christmas is ____.” (I still have my two front teeth!) 2010 has been a tale of two years, with the first half being one I’d rather forget and the second a road back to a much better place. As seems to often be the case, I’ve not been sure what I want beyond the usual health, good things for my family, and life to be well for my friends.

I went back and read what I wrote last year and discovered that as time passes, some wishes remain constant. Maybe we come back to them again and again so they can sink deeper and deeper roots into our souls. Maybe we just need to reorient our compasses periodically. Maybe there’s no need to analyze it at all. Regardless, below is my post from last year. I found it still means a lot to me, and hopefully it will for you too.

May the peace of this season be with you all!


December 24, 2009

As I write this, there are a couple of hours left on Christmas Eve. I can’t believe the holiday season is drawing to an end. It’s hard to figure out where it all went.

I wrote a while back about my struggle to fill in the sentence, “All I want for Christmas is ______.” I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I’ve realized how much my thoughts have centered on some shaky belief that if we could just get over one more hurdle or if I could just complete one more thing on my to-do list or if we could just overcome one more challenge then things would be OK. Not surprisingly, as soon as any of those one things happens, it doesn’t feel like enough – it never does – because there’s always something else to worry about to replace it. This isn’t the way to find peace. Hopefully I keep remembering that.

All I’ve been wanting for Christmas this month is the ability to make my peace with where things are – to say that for now what is right here in this moment is enough. That everything I need is right around me. That I don’t need me or the J-Man or Mary or Dale Jr. to be anyone other than who we are.

But really that’s my choice. No one has to – or can – give it to me. It’s a choice I can make every day. Simply having the day off today to hang out with the family, do a few things around the house, and otherwise take it easy and play with the kids has made me realize that all I want for Christmas is already here.

Plenty of days will still be challenging, frustrating, and exhausting. Plenty more will be exciting, joyful, and wondrous. And some of those days will be all of the above. But I hope to keep remembering that every day starts and ends the same way.

I wake up every day the father of the two most wonderful and perfect children anyone could ever hope for and married to my high school sweetheart and soulmate. And I end each day the same way. All I could ever want is right here all around me. And from there, anything is possible.

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Why Do I Run?

by Tim on December 17, 2010

I’ve blogged much less in recent months because after The Great Burnout I’ve had to be really intentional about doing the kinds of things I need to do to keep moving in a much better direction. During The Great Burnout, I may or may not have been down to a matter of weeks until I completely came undone – though in hindsight I was going down a pretty bad road – but I know now that I was headed that way sooner than later.

The realization of this wasn’t quite the kind of life-altering moment when a doctor comes up to you to inform you of your terminal condition or an officer coming to your door to tell you your loved one is dead. But during that week Mary and I took apart from the kids, I realized I had to make a choice about myself and my health.

So I decided to return to the sport of my youth – running. I used the Autism Run 5K in October to motivate me as this is the one event each year I love doing regardless of how out of shape I am. (In 2009, I walked it wearing a low back brace!) To me it’s an annual celebration of our autistic superstars, and this year I wanted to run that way. I started running 30-60 seconds at a time then walking 90 seconds, and I worked up from there. During those 10 weeks between coming home from that trip and the race, I struggled through two wretched knees, a belly that looked a few months pregnant, and a body in full rebellion. I had just picked it up off the floor, and my body didn’t care for this new life. I told it, tough shit, suck it up.

I kept running through wincing knee pain. My doctor said there was no damage, just guitar string-tight muscles and tendons everywhere. Good enough for me. I’m used to physical discomfort now in my life as a parent. Screw it, play hurt. I gave it two weeks off, but I put my body on notice that we were going to run this 5K. But yes I did have a lot of doubts about whether my rebelling body or my newfound spirit would win out.

I’ve chronicled that race and others in previous posts. For me, the Autism Run on October 9th was a huge success, a feeling that I was coming back out of that hole I’d let myself fall in. And I kept running. I’ve run regularly ever since for 4 1/2 months total now. I ran a 5K around Halloween and bettered my time from the Autism Run by over two minutes. That 10K for Operation Orange in mid-November was brutally hard. I overestimated my ability and got humbled by a challenging course, but I finished my first 10K in well over a decade. I thought about ending my ‘season’ then, but I wanted to find a race to end the year on a real high.

I recovered quickly from that 10K and opted for one more race this year. I entered a small, local 5K a couple of weeks ago. It was butt cold and cloudy, and I loved it. I’d been injury free for a while, and running was starting to feel freeing like it used to so many years ago. I’m not anywhere near as fast as I was then, but I have felt my body getting stronger every week. I’ve slimmed down 20 pounds and about 3 inches on my waist. I have more energy, and lots of things in me hurt less – physically and emotionally.

I knew that was going to be a good race. I was perhaps a bit too excited as my scorching first mile set me up to get pummeled by all the hills after it, but I faced all that down and finished in a very respectable 24:25. But there was one surprise in store for me after the race. I hung around mostly to catch my breath, get some free food and hot chocolate, and see if I won the raffle. When they posted the results sheet on the table, I had to check it three times before I believed what I saw.

I’d won my age group. And I have a medal on the bulletin board over my desk to prove it! Yeah, that was a good way to end the year.

Running now is something very different than it used to be for me. For a long time it was an obligation; it was the only sport I was remotely competent at. Then as I gained weight in my 20s, I ran to fight off the version of me I didn’t want to become. In my late 20s, I ran in hopes of completing a marathon, but I wasn’t ready. My body crashed and burned in a blaze of hip injuries. Looking back, I lacked the self-care, wisdom, awareness, and patience needed for such a goal. Now I wake up and realize that I’m 37, husband and father of two amazing kids – and I think I do pretty well at both – and I have nothing really to prove to anyone anymore. I’m drawing from the pure joy of running, and that’s making all the difference.

So what’s the answer to the question in the title of this post? I do run for obvious health reasons and because I like how this newer me feels. I do run because I feel like I have so much more untapped goodness in running to discover. But while out on a long run last week, I had a revelatory moment in which I discovered the reason why I’m running harder each week and aiming for goals I had stopped dreaming about years ago.

Others expect parents of special needs kids to be worn down, stressed, living on the edge. Truth is we often are. But what part of it is us accepting that role unquestioned? Is there a better way of being the kind of parents we want to be?

I’m arguing that there is. I seek to test an ideal of mine, a personal thesis statement about my life and others like you and me. I’m at best an average athlete even in my best shape in the past. I’m still 40 pounds heavier and a lot creakier than I was in my track days. There is little to indicate that I have much of a physical advantage in running period. My glory days of running, meager and short-lived as they were, were almost 20 years ago.

I’m coming to believe that parenting and autism actually have not been something that have worn me down like many seem to expect should be happening to me. Instead, all this has made me stronger, wiser, often more joyful, definitely more inspired, and more determined.

I tried for years to train for a marathon and failed every time. I think now I failed because I lacked something essential. I didn’t have my family, my life as a proud father, my inspiring kids, and our journey with autism yet. The more I thought about it the more I realized, I’m not weak and worn down now nor was I before. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’ve had to become so.

So I have this belief, and I plan to test it. I believe these adventures in my life have made me strong to the point that I can achieve running goals I’ve never been able to before, be a better dad and husband, advocate for autistic and all special needs children, and generally be more able to fulfill my day-to-day obligations – all at the same time.

I’ve already done something I’ve never done before – win my age group in an, albeit small, 5K. Just last week I ran 8 miles at one time for the first time in 10 years. Now my sights are set on a half-marathon in April and a full marathon in November. I haven’t run for one solid year ever. Who knows what I could do then?

Instead of the burned out shell I thought I was, I saw that what I needed was to haul my ass up off the ground and see myself for who I really am – a strong parent who believes that every part of my life can be made better by my family and our journey with autism.

So maybe I do have something to prove – take everyone who thinks we as parents of special needs kids can’t do anything but just struggle and survive and prove them wrong. For everyone else and for myself, I want to do this as a sort of creed. I believe the challenges we all face make us stronger, better able to appreciate life, and more aware of the courage and inspiration all around us and inside us. And I want to do it as a celebration of my family and yours.

Anyone wanna join me?

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No, Really, I’m Fine!

by Mary on December 7, 2010

Do you have a primary physician? Do you have an Advance Directive? These are just a couple of the questions that nurses seemed surprised about when I answered in the negative. I’m a pretty healthy person in general, and my OB-GYN does my yearly physical, and other than that I don’t go to the doctor. But let me begin at the beginning.

Last Sunday night was a bad night for me. I was running a fever, I was trying to throw up, and my tummy hurt like the dickens! It still hurt some the next morning, and there was no way I wanted to go through another night like that. Figuring it was the “post C-section gall bladder issue” you hear about, I checked the nearest Urgent Care’s website, and the wait time was minimal – about 20 minutes. So, off Tim and I went. Yeah, 3 hours later, the doctor finally saw me… and then sent me to the ER. By this time, I’d sent Tim home to relieve the babysitter, so I drove myself down to the hospital, and walked in to the ER after having walked a country-mile because there was no parking in the ER lot.

It was like a bad movie. There was the old guy sitting there in the NC State T-shirt and oxygen lines… and that was it, except for a sheet that kept slipping. There were old women who had played in the dirt with God being wheeled around by their only slightly less geriatric daughters. There had been a BUS WRECK for God’s sake. I counted 3 people who seemed to be having heart attacks – really, sitting there with chest pains. One guy looked like he might die at any moment (he only sat out there for an HOUR though!). And me. With some pain in my belly. Maybe a 4 out of 10 on the pain scale.

SIX HOURS LATER at 8PM… I was taken back to the Emergency Department, and after a doctor pushed on my tummy (me: stop that!) they hooked me up with some morphine. That is some good stuff, y’all! I could still tell there was pain underneath the highness, but I just didn’t care. After a few scans and a few hours, a surgeon came by to ask if I had a primary surgeon because they might need to do surgery. Who has a primary surgeon?

It turns out I have diverticulitis. I kept being told how young I am to have it (which, you know, always nice to be told you’re young), but since my mom has it and my little sister has it, I’m guessing it’s genetic.

Without really asking me anything else, I was put into the hospital for “2-3 days for IV antibiotics.” Pretty much I slept for the first 2 days. The first day I was IN the hospital though, the surgeon came by and started hedging his bets. “Oh, maybe a few days.” Then it was “maybe 3-5 days.” I ended up getting out of the hospital on Saturday! But thankfully, no surgery right now. But the antibiotics are strictly not-nursing friendly (no one asked me that question!), so Dale Jr is confused, and I am sad.

My parents came to the rescue and stayed at the house with Dale Jr while Tim ran the J-man back and forth to school, and tried to visit me in the off-times. I’m told I was pretty funny on morphine – I had a morphine pump the whole time I was there, and I used it!

Two good hospital stories for you:
1) When I’m on morphine, it affects my ability to feel certain muscle groups. Specifically, I would walk to the bathroom, and sit and wait for about 10 minutes to pee. Yeah, I’m just hanging out here in the bathroom, with the door open, just waiting until my body figures this out…

and why was the door open?
2) The second day I was there, I was walking to the bathroom when I rolled my IV pole over one of my IV lines. Because I was hyped up on morphine, and because using the Call Nurse button had been unsatisfactory so far, I figured I could just bend down, lift the wheel, pull out the line, and go along my way. However, my IV pole had not only the regular IV machine, but a morphine pump attached at the top… which made it top-heavy. It fell over on me, and wedged between the bed and the bathroom door, and I couldn’t get up! I started yelling for help (and my room was across the hallway from the nurses’ station) and when that didn’t work I managed to reach far enough to hit the Call Nurse button.

Them: May I help you?
Me: HELP! HELP! HELP!
Them: What do you need?
Me: (thinking “seriously people, someone screaming for help isn’t enough?!”) My pole fell over on me.
Them: What was that again?
Me: MY IV POLE FELL ON ME!

They sent in a nurse’s aid. She looked at me, crouched down on the floor, with an IV pole wedged over me… and asked if I had fallen. “No,” I said, “but I can’t get up because this pole fell on top of me!” She called for more help, and suddenly there were four nurses, and they pulled the pole off me. From then on, every time I got a new nurse, he/she would walk in and say, “Oh, you’re that patient…” And I never tried to make that IV pole go over any bump again, even the one between the room and bathroom floor.

I’m still on heavy-duty antibiotics, and they make me constantly lightheaded, but I’m not in any pain. The pain of trying to get an appointment with the gastroenterologist is getting to me though – they’ve been putting me through to voice mail, and then not calling me back for 2 days now.

So it looks like I have some unpleasant tests coming up soon, and may possibly eventually end up having surgery… but for now, I’m fine, really.

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