Sunday, November 24, 2013

Give Thanks

During the month of November, as a tribute to Thanksgiving, some of my friends have been posting daily statements of gratitude on Facebook. Earlier in the month, I had considered participating in that worthwhile activity, but I knew myself well enough to realize that I would forget to post at some point. More likely I would write something in a hurry that was less thoughtful, such as “I’m thankful Hostess Twinkies and cupcakes are back on the market,” that would make me seem rather shallow or insincere. Even though I have not made daily Facebook proclamations of things I appreciate, I find myself daily—and not just during the month of November—giving thanks for many things, both large and small. Sometimes something will suddenly catch my attention, making me realize how an improvement has made my life easier, and I give a quick prayer of thanks. Other times, I recognize how ongoing blessings have touched my life, and I feel grateful. Of course, most of my prayers focus upon Alex, and when God answers them or redirects our path, I feel thankful. With that in mind, here are my thirty thankful thoughts.

1. As I was folding laundry the other day, I was thankful that Alex outgrew his need to chew his socks and shirt collars for sensory stimulation. Not only are his clothes free of holes, I no longer accidently step on yucky gooey socks he has left behind.

2. This week when I took Alex to get his hair cut professionally for the first time in nearly twenty years, I was thankful that he cooperated nicely and that the stylist treated him kindly. After three bad experiences having his hair cut at the barbershop when he was a little boy, I started cutting Alex’s hair myself because it was easier. However, now I’m glad that he’s eager and willing to allow someone else to cut his hair.

3. I’m glad Alex has recently rediscovered the joy of reading. The other night he asked me if he could stay up longer to read; of course, I said yes.

4. Since Alex is on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, I’m thankful that more stores and restaurants carry foods that he can eat on his restricted diet. When we first started on the diet about fifteen years ago, choices were more limited, and reading labels carefully was necessary. Now foods are often clearly marked as gluten-free, making shopping easier.

5. I’m thankful that despite the restrictions of his diet, Alex has always been a good eater, willing to try new foods. As I’ve mentioned previously, the only foods he refuses to eat are mashed potatoes and popcorn, which makes him much less picky about foods than either of his parents. Luckily for Ed, Alex happily eats the carrots he doesn’t want.

6. Yes, I’m delighted that I can buy Hostess Twinkies and cupcakes again; when they come out with gluten-free and dairy-free versions that Alex can eat, I’ll be even more pleased. (Okay, that was shallow.)

7. As I was filling out annual paperwork for Alex’s disability services, I found myself frustrated in trying to decipher what information they wanted. However, I realized that we are blessed that he qualifies for services that make his life better and will be crucial for him in the future.

8. In reporting Alex’s limited personal financial assets for his paperwork, I recognized how fortunate we have been to have always had the financial resources to pay for whatever Alex needed over the years. Until he was legally an adult, we received no government benefits for his disability, and our insurance did not pay for any of his therapies. Nonetheless, we somehow always had enough money to pay for speech, visual, music, and biomedical therapies and anything else he needed.

9. Over the years, we have been blessed with various therapists who brought out the best in Alex and helped him overcome obstacles autism presented. We are truly grateful for Miss Susan, Miss Linda, Noel, Melissa, Seda, and Jennifer not only for the patience and kindness they have shown, but also for seeing potential in Alex and making him better.

10. I’m grateful that Alex, Ed, and I are healthy. Last week, as we were filling out medical forms for respite care, the case manager commented that Alex seemed to be quite healthy. Other than autism and the thrush infection we have been battling, Alex is remarkably healthy, as are Ed and I, which has made our lives much easier.

11. Finding doctors who are knowledgeable about autism isn’t easy, but we are thankful for the medical professionals who have helped us keep Alex healthy and happy. Dr. Trowbridge’s loving care until her retirement was truly a blessing, and now we appreciate Dr. Mike and Michelle for their expertise and for their compassion.

12. We are truly grateful for medications that help Alex deal with anxiety so that he can be happy and we can live peacefully, not constantly worried that he will erupt with aggression, as he did before he was on medication. This change has greatly impacted our lives in a positive way.

13. One of the small things: I’m grateful that gasoline prices no longer upset Alex. Trying to find routes around town that avoided gas stations was difficult, and hoping that he wouldn’t see the signs advertising the prices was often futile.

14. Every time I hear Alex flush the toilet, I’m thankful that he finally mastered toileting independently. While this may seem a small thing, for us, this is a major accomplishment that took ten years, many teaching approaches, and lots of laundry and carpet cleaning.

15. Every morning I wake up and thank God that Alex slept through the night peacefully. When he was younger, he often wandered the house in the middle of the night before we discovered the benefits of the supplement melatonin. More recently, he took up sleepwalking, which meant walking him back to bed. For the past several months, he stays put in his bed, which means peaceful nights for all three of us.

16. Whenever Alex asks for something nicely, I’m pleased that he’s learned the value of manners, specifically the importance of saying “please” and “thank you.”

17. Ed and I are thankful that our job schedules allow us to spend time with Alex to care for him. Because of our understanding supervisors, we have always been able for at least one of us to be home with him, which is, as Alex would say, “Good because it’s rare and special.” We know how blessed we are in this respect.

18. I’m grateful that my background as an English major and my experience as a teacher has helped me as I’ve researched methods to help Alex and as I’ve home schooled him. My training in college gave me critical reading skills and taught me how to assimilate new information quickly, which has been beneficial in doing autism research. Moreover, teaching a variety of students has given me many approaches to helping Alex learn.

19. Whenever I log onto my computer, I’m thankful for the Internet with its wealth of information on autism research and resources to consider for helping Alex.

20.  I’m also grateful that the Internet has allowed me to meet some amazing autism moms who have shared their lives and experiences. Besides the empathy these moms give freely, the wealth of knowledge they collectively share benefits all of our kids. I can’t imagine dealing with autism in isolation and know how fortunate I am to live in this modern age.

21. I’m thankful for mindless computer games like Candy Crush Saga and Bejeweled Blitz that prove to be great stress relievers to give me a break from being an autism mom. Okay, that was a little shallow, but it’s the truth.

22. This week when Alex asked if we could listen to Christmas music CD’s, I found myself thankful for the healing power of music. As I watched him smile, sway, and even dance (until he realized we were watching), I was pleased that music brings him so much joy and contentment.

23. The other night Ed commented about how nice it is to see Alex happy again. After months when Alex seemed to be only agitated or emotionally flat, we are delighted to see him enjoying life again. His laughter and smiles are a gift to us; when Alex is happy, so are we.

24. I’m thankful for Ed, who devotes himself to Alex as a father and also devotes himself to me and our marriage as we try to figure out what’s best for our family. I always know that he supports my decisions, but I appreciate that he is willing to listen as I think aloud about what choices we have. His unconditional love for Alex and me is one of the greatest blessings in my life.

25. I’m also thankful for our extended families for their love, support, and prayers through the years. While I would think that they would develop autism fatigue from listening to us, they continue to show caring and interest. God bless my beloved mother for patiently listening to my daily concerns, newest research, and multiple anecdotes, and for always having an opinion. Her strength has made me stronger.

26. My friends who have shown care and concern for Alex, Ed, and me through the years have helped more than they know. Their prayers and encouragement lifted me in the tough times, and they rejoiced with me during the good times. Moreover, when I was overwhelmed, they understood when I needed to talk or needed a hug. Again, Alex would say that they are “rare and special.”

27. I’m glad that I decided to write this list of blessings because right now I’m more aware than ever how fortunate I am. I’ve said that autism is the only difficult thing in my life, but perhaps it has been a blessing in disguise to make me see what a charmed life I’ve led. I know that dealing with the obstacles of autism has made me more patient and understanding, and I wouldn’t be the person I am had it not been for Alex.

28.  I’m thankful for Joel Osteen’s ministry that has developed my faith as I’ve listened to his Sunday sermons on television, read his daily devotions online, and read all of his inspirational books. His teachings help me on a daily basis as I remember that I’m “too blessed to be stressed,” “blessed by the favor of God,” and “a victor and not a victim.” His positive message of hope and God’s love inspire me daily to become a better person.

29. Every night when I listen to Alex’s bedtime prayers, I’m grateful that he has developed complete faith in God. He talks about God and Jesus as friends of his, and his belief in heaven and all that awaits gives him comfort. As his mother, I have comfort knowing that God loves Alex more than I do and will watch over him when I can’t.

30. With all of these blessings, I am most grateful for faith, hope, and love that have carried us along on this autism journey. While I don’t know what God has planned for us, I do know that He will give us the resources we need, as He always has. Most of all, I’m thankful God is always there. In the words of Alex’s favorite hymn, “In the Garden”: And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18


marjorie said...

amen to all that. happy thanksgiving, pam.

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks, Marjorie! Hope you and your family had a nice Thanksgiving. Happy Hanukkah, as well!