Friday, March 21, 2008

a decidedly mixed reaction...

Meg and I have joked lately that we need to write a book of stories about toilet training boys in the autism spectrum. Here's a recent example:

To really understand this story, you have to know that we are working on several different goals with Patrick at the same time. Sure, we want him to learn to use the toilet on a more consistent basis for any substances that are ready to leave his system at the end of the digestive process. But, of course, we're also wanting him to work on things like pretend play -- where you treat an object "as if" it is something else. So we pretend that a banana is a phone, for example.

OK, so the other day Meg notices that he smells, and after cleaning him asks where the poop is. Patrick is reluctant to provide this information, but Meg eventually learns from our other son that the offending material is downstairs. So she takes Patrick downstairs to help clean this up, and he grabs this little rubbery/plastic rabbit that he's been sleeping with at night. When they get downstairs and Meg removes the little towel Jacob had put over the poop, Patrick looks at the poop, looks at Meg, throws the rabbit into the pile of poop and declares excitedly "the bunny jumped in the mud!"

Which can only evict a mixed reaction under the circumstances. Excitement about his developing pretend play skills, horror at the thought that he might try to recreate this little scenario, and laughter at the utter absurdity of it all.

Ah, the life of a parent...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

holy week

I met with a young man this week who struggles with anger. Not aggression directed at people, really, but he yells, screams, slams doors, throws things. His bewildered mother brought him to me wondering what on earth is wrong with her child.

I was struck, as I often am in these cases, by the sheer vulnerability of this child. How tears burst forward the minute he mentioned his father or his grades. How he tells me all about his anger, but how all I see in him is his pain.

I meet a bit later with his mother, and she is frustrated, overwhelmed by his daily outbursts. She worries that he is just like his abusive father, genetically doomed (in her view) to be selfish, demanding, mean, and petty. So she responds to his outbursts by telling him how wrong he is, by arguing with him, by punishing. And his therapist (who asked for the evaluation) works endlessly on "anger management" and sees little change in his behavior despite years of work together.


When I read the gospel story today, where Jesus washes Peter's feet, I thought of just how different that approach really is. The situation I described above is really one of parental avoidance, in a sense: avoidance of their child's anger, avoidance of emotional messiness, avoidance out of a fear that they will somehow be at fault. But the gospel today is a message of openness, of acceptance -- of facing the mess and dealing with it, of nurturing someone in their most private, most shameful, most difficult areas.

It is all well and good, I think, to understand that this is how God deals with us. But my hope is to take this lesson and recall that we are called to do the same. I think we are often trapped in a sense by our desire for calm, for order, for all the good things that make us feel like life is OK and we're doing our jobs as parents, partners, or spouses correctly. But the gospel calls us to look past this to see the person in front of us, hurting or ashamed or confused, and offer something more than a reminder of what they should be doing.

If we follow Christ's example, we welcome the messiness, welcome the fear, welcome the possibility that we have been in error -- because by doing so with compassion for ourselves and whomever we are dealing with, we bring about the potential for grace.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

brain damage?

One of the interesting quirks about the place where I work is that we "contract" with R, one of my fellow psychologist's wives, to do our billing, to follow up with insurance companies, and to pick up the mail. R is, coincidentally, the only truly irreplaceable member of our group. We often joked when we were asked to create our "emergency plan" (a HIPAA required plan for how we would respond as an agency if there were an emergency) that we would all join together to make a protective circle around R.

So anyway, K (the fellow psychologist I mentioned) and R went on a nice vacation this week. And because I am one of the only full time workers here, R asked if I would be interested in picking up the mail. Which I've done before and was fine with.

So today, even though I fully knew of all of the above, I walked into the office and checked to see what mail had come in. "Hmm," I said. "No mail yet. That's strange." And again, later, I checked the mailboxes. "Gee, R still hasn't picked up the mail. That's not like her..."

And then it hit me.

Now aside from some humorous musings about whether I injured more than my arm in my fall 7 weeks ago (or whether I might be suffering from an early-onset form of Alzheimer's), what strikes me about this experience is the process of going through the motions, of getting into routine, of failing to notice something that should have struck my attention.

Routines, it seems to me, simplify our lives, make them manageable. They are useful, even necessary. But they are not, it seems to me, sources of life, of joy, of insight -- at least not when they are done without mindfulness. It humbles me to think of how often I might lapse into such mindless routines, how much I may fail to notice, how many opportunities I might miss.

I pray to do so less.

Peace to you all.

Monday, March 17, 2008

thoughts on a Monday

Today did not start particularly well. That is, today started with fairly long bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, which kept me fairly miserable and in bed most of the morning. But by around noon, my stomach had calmed down enough that I thought it safe to try liquids. And a couple of short hours after finding that I could tolerate Pepto Bismol and some water, I was able to start eating from the BRAT diet (Bananas, Apple sauce, Rice, and Toast -- all of which seem to resist diarrhea).

In short, I've been feeling rather better this afternoon, thank you very much. And I had the great gift of a wonderful talk by phone with my dear friend, more cows. We touched base on our goals for this year, mine being the discovery of a Christian community.

I confided about my mistrust of doctrine, of tradition, of religious authorities -- about how this has made my journey problematic in some ways. She helped me to realize the degree to which I have been discarding the entirety of a religious tradition based on my concerns.

It is a very good thing to have friends who are wise.

Wyld has asked how things are with my arm. Since getting the External Fixator off last Wednesday, my hand has gained a little bit of strength and range of motion. I was supposed to start PT today, but what with the being sick...not so much. I'm looking forward to starting because I really want to get more strength and range of motion back -- though I've heard the actual process of stretching ligaments is not so fun.

Anyway, that's my day. Peace to you all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

...and it's off!

OK, so I had the doctor's visit earlier today. They did a set of x-rays, and the verdict was that the bones are about 85% healed. Which, apparently, is sufficient for them to remove the external fixator.

So they removed the various outside pieces that kept the pins in the correct position, and while he was doing so the good doctor filled me with some interesting pieces of trivia. Did I know that the military gives two of these to every Marine -- so that if their limb is broken in combat the field medic can "shoot" the pins into the bone and establish a temporary external fixator? (Answer: no, this I did not know). Did I know that they did so after figuring out that casts [the old method, apparently] just didn't work well in wet environments like Vietnam? (Again, this piece of trivia had somehow eluded me). Had I been aware that the soldiers having this particular practice performed on them likely didn't care because at that point they're probably pumped full of morphine? (I didn't know this one, but I would most certainly hope so!)

Then came the actual unscrewing of the pins. This is not performed very rapidly. There's no electric drill type of instrument. It's very hands-on with a metal tool that has a warning label that says "do NOT strike!" I'm not sure exactly why they felt it necessary to put that label on there, but I guess it's comforting in a way. Basically, it's just like a fancy screwdriver designed to provide enough torque so as to unscrew these bolts out of your bones.

I'm not exactly sure just how to describe how this feels. The first turn is mildly to moderately painful and there's an odd sensation that traveled down my arm towards my fingers. After that, it just feels kinda weird until the very end where they're pulling it out through the final layer of skin. At that point, it's coming into contact with more heavy concentrations of nerve cells, and it's briefly painful.

Breathe, they tell you at this point. Then they start work on the other three.

I was curious if there was any special treatment I needed to do once the pins were removed. Not really, they informed me. Keep cleaning it like you have been (with hydrogen peroxide once per day) so that it will heal from the inside out. Keep it clean and dry until it's all healed over in a couple of days or so.

Oh, and do about three weeks of physical therapy, about three times per week.

Anyway, I'm glad to be rid of the thing. I'm looking forward to getting some PT, getting more strength and range of motion back in my left wrist. I very much hope to golf yet this year.

Peace to you all.


OK, so today marks 6 weeks and one day since I broke/fractured my left arm. So long as the newest x-ray looks good, they're going to unscrew the four pins from my left arm and wrist later this morning.

While I'm awake.

My doctor assures me that it actually isn't that painful. But I've heard from some others that the process of removing the pins was their least favorite part of the whole process of having a broken arm.

I must admit to some trepidation here.

If y'all hear loud screams emanating vaguely from the direction of Nebraska this morning, that could very well be me.

Peace to you.