Tuesday, April 26, 2016

building my house

Lately it's been hard for me to get in touch with my Chrissyness.

In case you are not familiar with "ness", it's one of my favorite suffixes, ever, explained in the movie "You, Me & Dupree". Ok, so it's no "Shawshank Redemption" but it made me laugh and more importantly, made me feel. In the movie, the off the wall, unexpected hero Dupree is giving a motivational seminar where he shares: 

"Life may knock you down. Scratch that. It will knock you down. It'll kick you in the gut and knock you to the curb. But you can't let it rob you of your "ness." Now what's ness? It's your name plus ness."

But the truth is, we get the Ness knocked out of us all the time. Sometimes being a human is so hard. And our Ness is our everything. It's what makes us the wonderful and unique human we were meant to be! It's what makes us the fighter or lover or learner or friend or teacher that we are. We have an ability to completely underestimate our Ness--until it goes away. Then we feel the weight of that ache to feel like ourselves again. Oftentimes, our Ness escapes us and we don't even realize it at first.

While my Chrissyness has been MIA, I've been in close touch with my grumpiness. My tiredness. My angriness. My bitterness. My emptiness. And bad Ness loves to overstay their welcome.

My (desperately coveted) alone time has been to hide from the world, and hasn't left me feeling fully recharged.  And sometimes those kind of feelings just sneak right on in on you, in the middle of you just trying to live your life the best way you know how. 

It's easy to lose track of what's important. I lose track of who I want to be. How I want to do life. I want to be a Warrior. A capital M Mom, a writer, a friend and feeler who changes the world for my boys and anyone struggling with feeling different. But lately I've traded in my Warrior gigs to be a worrier. A worrier of the future, of the past, of the current, a worrier of my children, and my life.

Have you ever noticed how close Warrior and worrier are? Sometimes we just need to rearrange a couple of letters to reset our mind.

First, I had started to let go of some of my routines. The rituals we all rely on to make ourselves real. I usually wake up and drink lemon water with salt.

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I started doing this in January and I've only been sick once since. In previous years, I can usually depend on getting sick at least 3-4 times every Winter. There are a million benefits of this concoction and you can read all about HERE. And even if it's placebo effect- I'll take it. But lately, I just started thinking-What's the point? It takes too long. After I make it I then have to wash the knife aaaaaand the cutting board aaaaaaaand the juice squeezer thing. And for some reason all of that sounded endless and exhausting.

I try and treat my body well, because I expect it to do so many things for me. But when my Ness goes, I forgot that. Suddenly lemon water gets replaced with things like Skittles. At least the yellow ones are lemon flavored- right?

Usually on Monday through Friday I'm the best version of myself- on the weekend I like to take a break and eat whatever the heck I want. I work out five days a week for my brain. I eat healthy. But when you are a worrier, none of those things make much sense and take too much of a mental investment. Moaping and eating make way more sense. So instead, I ate some more sugar than usual. And skipped some workouts. And ate my feelings at night. 

My brain argued with my thoughts a lot. You need to go for a walk. Get outside. You will feel better. Don't eat that- you will feel worse. I argued back. Leave me alone. I need rest. I need to sit here and get lost in the television. I need some alone time. Worriers lie to themselves all the time. Whatever sounds easiest and best is what worrier suggests, because when you are using all that energy for worry, you don't have much energy left for the good stuff.

A couple of weeks ago I remembered- Wait- I want to be a Warrior. And although I couldn't fully remember why at the time, I still knew that was true. And to be a Warrior,  I have to take good care of me. It's really hard to make good choices when you are tired and sad and already on a bad choice making roll. So I started slow. One morning I woke up and squeezed my lemons for the first time in a couple of weeks. And it was a tiny bit exhausting and annoying. The first thing is always the hardest. And the second one too. Maybe even the third. But somewhere along the way, you lose track because you aren't keeping score anymore. That's how you know it's real. And then it all just got a little easier each day. I'm still working on choosing Warrior every day. I'm not perfect at it. I am however doing a great job for an imperfect human.

If you are lost, do one good thing. It may get you over the hump. Don't turn a bad moment into a forever.

I have a tendency to get lost in the output. The final creation. That's where my worth lies- when I can hold that perfect shiny project in my hands and watch the light flicker off it. I think, See here! Look at my shiny. Am I worthy now? Am I at least good enough? Do you love me? And if you say "No", I say I don't care about what you say, but I feel less inside. And if you say "Yes", well, I feel good for a second, but then I just don't believe you. So I am learning to enjoy the middle part more. To feel worthy from the love I pour into a single day, not the finished product at the end of a day or a month or a year. When you measure yourself by heart and intent, something little like drinking a little lemon juice makes a difference.

I want to share with you an excerpt from the book, "Chop Wood, Carry Water," by Joshua Medcalf. In it he shares the parable...

"...there once was a man named Kota who built some of the finest houses in all of Tokyo. His work became world famous due to his dedication to the process, his willingness to beat on his craft, and his relentless devotion to keep learning, even late into his career.

Eventually though, Kota grew tired of building homes for other people and he was ready to retire. He had been building homes for over thirty years, and he was ready to move on. He wanted to travel and spend lots of time with his grandkids.

One day, Kota approached his boss, and turned in his two-week notice.

His boss said, “Kota, we are forever indebted to you for the magnificent work you have done for our company, and we are so grateful you have worked for us for so long. We do have one favor to ask of you though. Could you please build one more house? It is a very important house, for a very important client, and everyone in the company agreed it needs your magic touch!”

Kota was frustrated. He would have to cancel two trips and postpone his new life, all for one house. He told his boss that he needed a day to think about it. After talking it over with his wife, he gave in and decided he would build one more house. But he told his boss, “This is the very last one!”

But while Kota had agreed with his head to build this last house, his heart was no longer in it. He had always been very hands-on through the entire building process, always selecting the finest materials by hand and making sure every detail was diligently tended to.

But this house was different.

He viewed it more as an obligation than an opportunity. He delegated much of the work, and consequently a lot of things started slipping through the cracks. The house would be up to code, but as it started to come together, it was obvious that it lacked the “wow” factor that Kota’s other homes were known for.

Kota knew in his heart that this was far from his best work, but he was over it and ready to move on to the next phase of his life. The next phase was much more appealing and important to him.

“He went back to his boss, telling him, “I did what you asked. Now I am asking, one last time, for your blessing to retire.”

His boss said, “Thank you Kota! We just have one more thing!”

Now Kota was beginning to get really upset because he thought they were going to ask him to build another house.

His boss reached into his desk and pulled out a very small black box with a red ribbon tied around it. He handed the box to Kota, and said, “We are so grateful for you, Kota. This gift is a token of our appreciation.”

Kota pulled the ribbon, opening the box to discover a set of shiny new keys. His boss smiled, “The house is yours! You deserve it!

Immediately, his heart sank. Unbeknownst to Kota, the whole time he had been building his own house. If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have cared so much more. He would have only used the finest materials, and he would have overseen every detail and given it his all like he had always done. But now, it was too late."

Author Joshua Medcalf states,  “The only thing that is truly significant about today, or any other day, is who you become in the process. Each of us are building our own house. Sometimes you might think you are building for your school, your family, your company, or your team, but you are always building your own house… I hope you build wisely.”

You can read more about Medcalf's life changing work HERE.

When doing for others, when working a job we don't love, or interacting with people that challenge you- it's easy to want to withhold our greatest gifts- because maybe they don't deserve them. But it's better for your head, your heart and soul- to do and be your best you, no matter who you are dealing with. They may not deserve it- but you do.

Greyson tried for years to attempt the monkey bars. Hand over hand he practiced while Dad held his legs and cheered him along. I watched kids without autism, kids whose brain and body don't have communication issues do it with ease. I wondered if it would ever happen for Grey.

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And it did, because Grey is always willing to do the hard work. His Ness is always there. Even when it looks like it isn't. He's hard working and brave and thrives in a world that often feels like a foreign country to his mind and his body. 

Hard work takes hard work. There's no way around it. Great things don't happen while your hiding in your room. Great things don't happen when you give up on yourself and treat your body like crap. Great things don't happen when you eat your feelings or feel consumed by worry. Great things happen when you are willing to do the hard work. When you are willing to sacrifice. When you are willing to get blisters on the palm of your hands from doing the monkey all morning long- or are willing to experience whatever worse case scenario your particular story brings you.

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Life. It's up to you to choose how you look at things. How you talk about things. What sorts of things you think about. What you do with your time. Life is not circumstances. Life is inside us, guiding our eyes and our hearts and our words and our minds.

Do you choose to see the mud, or do you choose to take the blue sky in whatever form it finds you? I guess that depends on whose house you are building.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

happiness in doses

What are you struggling with?

Maybe it's just life. Like all of it. Which is hard. Right? I mean even when it isn't- I know I sometimes make it hard. Sometimes emptying the dishwasher and making lunch first thing in the morning feels insurmountable. Mainly because I know as soon as it's done the chaos begins. The kids are up and no one wants to get dressed. The past couple of weeks Parker screams and kicks and fights off the clothes. My head grows big like a balloon and flies up into the air holding my anger and frustration in. I want to take a pin and pop my balloon head and scream.

But I don't. Usually. But that builds up.

Maybe you are struggling with your job. You can't yell at your job and force it to put its clothes on. People can really be inflexible, self-centered assholes sometimes. I don't get how some people are not hard wired to be kind or understanding or even polite.

Maybe it's your marriage. I've often said that marriage is harder than my hardest day of parenting. Not because he is bad or I am good, but because we are just really different. I'm expressive. He's not. I'm type A, he's not. I'm mostly introverted. He's mostly extroverted. Plus like 100 other things. This can leave us both feeling really misunderstood. Being misunderstood is the root of so much pain. I feel it. I see it in my sons. And that's hard, because you can not control other people. Grown ups or kids. And when someone doesn't understand you, you can't make them. You can make people DO things. You cannot however, make people FEEL things.

Only you. You can only make you do and feel things. So let's focus on that. YOU. ME. It's a start. Especially if life feels extra out of control. This has been my mantra this week: “Anything that happens to me today is in my best interest and it’s an opportunity to learn and grow.” Excerpt From: Medcalf, Joshua. Chop Wood Carry Water.

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Happiness. It's not available for days, but it is available in doses. So I soak them up when they come. I try like mad to create them when they don't.

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Whatever you are stuggling with, I wish I had a magic wand to take it away. I will say that lately, I've been struggling too.  I can't whip out a magic wand, but I can share with you some words. A quote by Willa Cather..."There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in a storm."

Off to grab us some umbrellas.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hiring: life

Can you imagine what it would be like if we had to have a job-like interview in order to be eligible for life? How would you answer the very important job interview questions?

Hello (your name). My name is God.Thanks so much for meeting with me today. Please, have a seat, get comfortable and let's get to work. I have an incredible opportunity to share with you today.We are looking for folks to be ALIVE. You will get your VERY own personalized life. Some of it, I'll come up with for you. Things I know you are good at. And also, things I know you aren't skilled at, but I want you to learn. And even some things you wish I hadn't chosen for you, but things that will help your life teach you lessons that will strengthen your character, make you love more and help you have the best life possible. 

Some things, I want you to come up with! Yes, you! Isn't that so exciting? I knew I was onto something when I added this feature. You get to pick how you spend much of your time. You can fill your life with things YOU enjoy. Everyone has different things that fill them with joy, so everyone will spend their time differently. Feel free to get creative with this one my child. You can choose what you eat, whether you exercise. You can even pick what you do for life! It's called a job, and YES! You get to pick yours! Luckily I've created millions of those, so you have many options. You can pick who you marry, if you chose to do that option. You can pick if you would like to be a mother or a father. There are many different methods that make this possible. 

You also get to pick your perspective. That's really just a fancy word for how you look at and feel about things. People who have done life before you have seemed to really enjoy having feelings. Not to tell you what to do or anything, but so far the people who do the BEST at life, are the ones who pick to have good feelings. The ones who choose to look at their own life selections and feel GOOD. There are also some folks who choose to have bad and angry feelings. I know- weird, right? I can't say I understand it, but - that's free will for ya! It makes me sad, because the people who elect to have the bad feelings-well, they blame me, or the life circumstances that I chose to help them grow, they sometimes even blame other things- like their job or their spouse. Crazy- right?! I mean, hello, you picked those things! If you don't like them, select different options! I made sure new options were always allowed. 

The thing that makes me most sad though, is that when they blame other people, things or circumstances, they use it to get out of accepting responsibility for their own feelings. They forget that they have the daily ability to learn anything! I love it when my people get excited about learning new things. But sometimes people just give up. And when that happens, it will never get better because then they will never know they are the ones who carry with them the power to change. (sigh)

Anyway, back to you! Does this life thing sound like something you would be interested in? 

What skills do you possess that would make you a good fit for life?

Based on our discussion, what do you think sounds the MOST exciting about life?

What sounds the hardest?

What will you do with your time being alive?

What perspective option are you going to select?

I love this one. Which character traits would you like to pick?

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Gosh, I'm not totally sure I would hire me for the job life. But when I stop and think about what an honor living is, I want my life even more. We all want something more when we have to work for it or when there is a threat that it will be taken away 

I mean the way I have a tendency to treat it like an obligation instead of a gift isn't in line with how I want to be. The way I get bogged down by the details and feel like the bad cancels out the good. Life isn't a score card. It's not a measurement of behaviors. It isn't a to do list.

It's watching a million shades of green leaves dance around on a tree. It's swinging whatever way feels good at the moment. It's making beauty out of the hard stuff. It's turning the daily mundane into a prayer of gratitude.

I frequently live in the past. I look at pictures and ache. I really had it then, I think. The kids were so little! I want them little like that for just a day. I was younger! My skin/hair/outlook whatever was just so much better. And one day I will look back at pictures of life from today and think - I had it all then! I was so young! The kids really were so little! 

So, today I pay attention to life. My real life. I think one thing that happy people do- is live in the absolute. The present. Reality. The moments we can see and feel and touch and smell.

Man oh man, do kids know how to do life...

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We are all creating our own life. And that's amazing- really. And it's an honor to have one. Yes, It's Hard work. Really stinking hard work. But God is in the details- no, not the Pinterest ones. In the hard small ones all day long. In the thankless ones. The boring ones. In the tiny little feels like going nowhere ones. They ARE going somewhere. They are your life.

I think about my boys. To go through a normal day, the boys need the brain power we would need for a hard job interview, the body and coordination power to run a marathon. The confidence and ability we would need to give a presentation to a large group. And they make it through. Phenomenal. I am in awe of how they do life.

And I use their strength to make my own life better. 

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

autism is...

After a long trip across Route 66, I vividly remember driving into Los Angeles for the very first time as an actual resident. The sun had just set and the sky was glowing deep blue and dark purple with midnight cloudy streaks. Millions of miles of taillights created a patterned pathway pointing me off the 405 to my new home. I was a 25 year old Midwest transplant; so scared, so giddy, and so incredibly hopeful.

That was a million and a half (and 17 years) ago. And this past week those two worlds collided as I made the trip from my now home of Fresno, California back to my old life in LA. It still existed without me. (Crazy). While driving on Wilshire Boulevard, the nostalgia was so thick it felt like fog.

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Oh man, was I ever scared to take my first road trip ALONE with my precious, WIGGLY, loud, often impatient boys. But I did it. We did it. And like I always say, the fear of the thing is always SO MUCH WORSE than the thing. In this case, the fear of the thing almost paralyzed me and stopped me from even doing it.

Don't let fear stop you from living out loud. It's ok to feel fear, but you MUST do it anyway. (sorry- I am talking to myself).

And here I am now, living the lessons, the challenges and the soul colors I always hoped I could paint with. And yet my life looks absolutely nothing like 25 year old me ever could have expected or even dreamt up into existence. I wonder, does anyones? I realize with clarity, all the steps I've taken, all the jobs I've had, all the people I have met have equipped for now. One thing I realize wholeheartedly, without a single neuron of doubt, that my greatest teacher in life has been autism. First with Greyson's and then with Parker's diagnosis. Autism is many, many things...

Autism is a scalpel. Cutting to layers of the world so deep you never even knew they existed. So deep it sometimes causes you to cry out in pain, asking God why? But that sharp scalpel reaches a depth where all that is left is the real stuff, the true stuff, the people and stuff that matters most to your quiet honest soul.

Autism is an editor. We all say we want our children to be happy. But that isn't true. We usually carry a parenthesis behind our wants. I want them to be happy (and smart) (and beautiful) (and play baseball) (and get married and have children). Why wouldn't we want all the things that we know can make life meaningful and enjoyable? But autism is an editor, striking all parenthesis from its path, editing my life in ways smarter and better than I ever could. Because really, the parenthesis don't mean shit. I know people who have and do all the parenthesis in the world, and yet, they are miserable. Autism helps you suddenly see your life with a clarity you didn't know existed. Because now I realize, I just want them to be happy, truly be happy in its most organic form. Screw the parenthesis.

Some scenes from our trip...

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They were big fans of window shopping. But just this one window. Mostly because these were on the inside...

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Magnolia Bakery. I never thought watching someone eat a cupcake could actually be BETTER than eating a cupcake myself. Being a parent gives you Super Powers: the ability to love their happiness so much it becomes your own.

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Apparently jumping on hotel beds is waaaaay more fun then jumping on our beds at home.

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Hermosa Beach, a place we used to call home.

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The ocean always brings out his flappy.

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To sit under the warm sun, to feel the sand on my feet was the greatest of therapy, for them and for me. A day free of school and ABA and Speech and obligation felt like medicine.

Autism is God, disguised as a homeless man. Some people walk by and judge. Some people look on with pity. Some just never ever get it, and they are missing out on the very essence of life. Some people stop, they look God in the eyes, they touch his hand without fear, they pay attention, they recognize the beauty and the pain and lessons he carries, and forever they are changed; left grateful, yet aching. It doesn't happen to everyone, but when it does, you know you've seen some otherworldly form of magic.

While in Los Angeles, I had the honor of viewing a special screening of a remarkable movie. I am so excited to share it with you.

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Po shares a meaningful glimpse into autism, and one that highlights both the agony and the joy. This is not a Hollywood glammed up version of autism that makes it look like a trip to Disney Land. It's the real deal- It's raw, thought-provoking, and most importantly, hopeful. This movie will break your heart in moments, it will make you think, it will make you cry, it will remind you that you are not alone in your struggles. Understanding is one of the greatest gifts we can share with someone else- the ability to say or show someone- I understand your struggle, I understand your pain, I understand your heart.

This movie understands your heart.

The talented souls that brought us Po understand autism personally, which you will find evident by the magic contained in the trailer. The father in the movie is played by Fresno native, Christopher Gorham. He has a son on the autism spectrum in real life, and you can feel his heart and soul through his acting. His eyes twinkle with a magic that goes far beyond any technical acting skills. He was born to play this role. Please grab tissues, please watch this trailer.

PO - official trailer from John Asher on Vimeo.

The movie, Po does not have an official release date. We need to share it with the world, so the movie folks understand there is a big demand and a lot of excitement for the film. Because that's true- yesterday alone this trailer had over 600 shares and reached over 86,000 people on our  Life with Greyson + Parker Facebook page. If you are so inclined, I would love for you to share this post and this movie trailer.

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Autism is a rainbow, an arch of colors formed in the sky in certain circumstances, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun's light by rain or other water in the atmosphere. It is science and God and beauty and magic that can't fully be explained by science. Each color so different, so beautiful and so necessary to make its whole complete. You can't understand its beauty unless you have seen one.

I'm so lucky I've seen one.

So much love (and understanding),


Sunday, April 3, 2016

more smiles than tears

Spring is springing in the Central Valley of California. Everyone is talking about allergies. The newscasters, the people in line at Starbucks, the person bagging your groceries. Myself included.

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Today I went for a run. Well, I call it a run but I'm really really slow, and if you saw me you would say-What is that lady doing? Is she walking? Dancing? I don't understand? But sometimes I need to get my heart rate up to get my anxiety out. It's the opposite of eating my feelings (which I did last night. With a pint of mint chip. And some Easter Candy. And some chocolate chip cookies. I'm going to stop listing the things now. It's making me hungry. And feel sick.)

From the moment I stepped foot out the door today, I saw Spring completely new. It wasn't a bit about pollen.

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Friend, there are tiny little preemie grapes growing all over our gorgeous vines!!! I wanted to call people and tell them, but I don't think people would really care. And then they wouldn't get as excited as me and I would be sad and confused. So I kept this joy inside. They weren't here just last week, and suddenly BABY GRAPES!!!!! I want to knit them tiny little booties or something. I talk to them. You are so cute!!! You are doing so good!!! I'M SO PROUD OF YOU. I know how darn hard it is to grow.

The more I jugged (not close to a run, not quite a jog even- and the sound my heavy feet make when they hit the pavement- jug,jug,jug), the more I saw. Purple and pink and bright yellow and white. More flowers, half open half not quite there yet.

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I understand- little buds. I'm usually the one five minutes late too.

Zyrtec or Allegra? We ask each other. But no one talks about the beauty of an earth waking up after a long winter slumber. I'm so sorry Mother Earth, your work is beautiful. Your earth is lovely.

One of my goals in life, is to be awake enough to realize when I am focusing on life's allergies and not life's flowers.

This weekend there were more smiles than screams and tears. Which there was also a lot of, but still LESS, so I call that winning.

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Greyson most often makes this face on the rides. It makes me laugh. I am clapping and waving and calling his name like an idiot...and he is looking at me like.... like -like I AM an idiot. I'm flying a toy helicopter lady, get over it.

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We were at a local fair called Big Hat Days. I don't know what that means, and we always forget to wear a hat, but whatever. They have rides and food so we have fun.

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Parker is not a fan of the rides, but he is a fan of the food.

I'm going to leave you with a good laugh. Greyson's school picture. These NEVER get old to me. I say the worse, the better.

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I'm going to use this image to pitch a new show called, Greyson Lost in the Woods. I think the network people will eat it up.

Go get your Monday my sweet Friend. Hope your week is better than Grey's school picture.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

bad into grateful

Today I am tired...

Tired of seeing Donald Trump on my television every 8 minutes.

I'm tired of growing the bangs I never wanted but bleach gave me out. It's been six months now, and they still only reach the bottom of my eyes. Yep, they were that short to begin with. I've felt ugly pretty much every day since then.

Tired of being so damned introspective in a world where the majority of people just so totally ARE NOT.  Most people just do what they do and don't know why, don't analyze why, don't care why. It makes me feel like I speak a foreign language in my homeland and I'm desperate.

I'm tired of my husband traveling for work.

I'm tired of my dogs barking like we are being attacked every damn time there is a dog on TV. Or walking by our house.

I'm tired of going to the grocery store without a list, or even a plan for meals...but I have to be in the mood to write that out and think that up. That's just more grown up than I'm feeling at this moment. I really think someone should just read this and bring me some dinner. I'll take your left overs. I'm not picky.

I'm tired of waking up at night, numerous times, afraid of some struggles we've had with Grey's schooling. I can manage those feelings during the day, but at night they grow big and have scary teeth and they wake me up. I'm tired of feeling so damned much. Sometimes I wish I could trade in my Type A tightly wound for super laid back.

And the good thing is, I'm fickle. And all these feelings will probably turn upside down and look different tomorrow.

Even now, I will try to rewrite my mind...

I am glad we live in a Democracy, and super glad that not only do we have a big huge TV, we also have a REMOTE, and I can change the channel any time.

I am grateful that I have any hair. There are people suffering from alopecia. Women who are undergoing chemotherapy and have no hair, and on top of that, are scared and sick.

I am grateful that I am so damned introspective. It makes me so empathetic. It makes me love people and life and all the meaning woven throughout our existence. It means I know myself well enough to know what brings me passion and what brings me pain, and I can tailor my life to that knowledge.

I am grateful that my husband has a well paying job that affords me to stay home with the best little boys on earth.

I am so happy I can go to the grocery store and buy food for my family. I can buy the boys their favorite snacks. I can make healthier meals instead of always getting take out. I can buy fresh fruit which is better than flowers because they are pretty and you can eat them.

And I'm so so so incredibly grateful, for the team each boy has to support their learning and growing and developing. Grateful for Teacher Tamar who took the time to fill out a form about Grey today. Thanks to her I know that he ate his lunch and worked on feelings. Thankful for our awesome, amazing ABA team of life changers. Grateful for the clinical director of our Home Behavior therapy. She goes to IEP's and even comes over on a Friday afternoon if we are putting a fire out. She gives the best no nonsense advice. Grateful for Teacher Amy our Speech Therapists. Not only does she teach my boys, she helps me when I'm confused. Which is a lot. We are so blessed with the services we have. We are even more blessed with the extra love they provide our family with.

As you can see, I have so much to be grateful for. Even the things I can trick myself into thinking are problems.

How would you rewrite your problems as blessings? Try it right now. You will be amazed by what you discover.

April is autism awareness month. And as usual, I have weird feelings about that. It feels like it's supposed to be a holiday, or celebration- for a disorder. And the people that get into it- and share about it --and read about it- are usually the people already affected by autism and already know this stuff. Sure, I could tell you that autism affects 1 in 68. I could tell you that autism is a social, communication and behavioral disorder neurological in form. So what? These facts won't change the world. So I want to reach the people who don't know anyone with autism. People who are not affected by it. What do I want to say to you?

I guess I just want to remind you that you are loved. Exactly the way you are, and you should be because you are awesome and somebody can't live without you in the world. There are things about you that make your life harder. Maybe you can't hear. Maybe you were abused growing up. Maybe you suffer from depression. Maybe your spouse is having an affair. Maybe you lost your job. Your hard life circumstances makes your life unique- but your painful story isn't your defining feature. It's not the most interesting thing about you. Hopefully you used your pain and grew and stretched and learned more about the world than you even knew was possible. If you are really lucky, you used your story to connect to others. The greatest gift we can give to others is to remind them- Me too. I feel that way too. I understand you.

We all deserve to be loved, exactly for who we are right this very moment in time. Not once we are skinny, or less crazy, or more patient or perfect. We deserve to exist in judgment free zones. We deserve to be understood. Being misunderstood is the root of so much pain. We deserve to have our story heard, listened to, appreciated. We simply deserve understanding, because when people understand our own story, they are often more accepting of their own.

To me, Autism awareness means learning to love and accept what is different about ourselves, so we can understand and love what is different about others. My sons level of different may be greater than yours or mine, but still they are just simply different. We all are.

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Believe me when I tell you that autism is the least interesting thing about my two precious boys. They are the same as many other kids. They love to swing, and play with trains, and are happiest outside. They love to get dirty and go swimming and cuddle with me in the morning. 

They are also different. Communicating is so hard for them! When they can't explain themselves, they can get really frustrated. Sometimes they just find life easier when they play by themselves. They are smart and brave and shine like the golden sunlight right before the sun sets. They make me believe in God and magic. They don't talk much, but when they do, it feels like my own personal rainbow. And like you, and we all deserve to be loved, exactly the way we are.

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Greyson and Parker, thank you for showing me the meaning of life.