Category Archives: pets

Homecoming!

Unlike Marie who quickly made herself at home in my yard, many of us have a hard time “fitting in.” You don’t have to be on the spectrum to experience this.

I am habitually wary of most new surroundings or people until I eventually “settle in.” It doesn’t usually take that long, but it is long enough for those who don’t know me to find me a bit aloof until I compose myself.

Last week was Homecoming at the boys’ high school. Lan has casually mentioned the dances the last two years but this time he was intent on going.

Freshman year took all of our collective energy to survive.  Slowly, Lan began to thrive sophomore year. He made great gains, yet for those two years Lan was more of a spectator than a participant.

This year Lan’s participation in marching band has upped his confidence. He is no longer afraid of the upperclassmen since he now one of them. He wants to mingle and socialize more.

Our question for him was, “Are you mature enough to go to the dance?”

He quickly assured us he was.

The hubby and I had to think on it for a bit.

Bullying is no longer a worry, nonetheless, I’m remiss to put my child and his enthusiasm into any situation where he can be taken advantage of or become someone else’s entertainment.

Thankfully, big brother was also going. It was now or never. I’m sure Lan was forced to listen to fifteen minutes of dos and don’ts as my oldest drove them the short ride there.

I was nervous but Lan won’t learn how to interact in various social situations if we never give him the chance.

The older the kids become, the more I realize I can’t keep them in a safe bubble, as tempting as that may be. It would only do them a disservice and keep them from becoming all they can be.

Anxiously waiting, I finally heard the garage door go up and both boys came rushing in. I asked Lan if he was mature while he was there.

He gave me a sly grin and nodded. Then added, “Most of the time. I kinda of got a little crazy at the end.”

The oldest child/third parent quickly chimed in, “probably something to do with the dance circles he instigated.”

Dance circles? Do I even want to know?

Lan behaved himself well enough to satisfy big brother.

And I was very happy for him.

Lan has progressed beyond looking in from the outside to becoming an active participant in high school. He has overcome his fears and gained confidence in what he can do.

This year Lan feels like he belongs.

Isn’t that what most of us want? To belong somewhere?

Anyplace that is safe, familiar and you can take pride in evokes feelings of home.

Marie homecoming Godautismandme devotionalIt may not happen for us as quickly as it did for Marie, but it can happen.

When we allow faith to fill us instead of fear, we can be “home” no matter where we are.

The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the home of the just. Proverbs 3:33 NKJV

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Lucky!

The following is an abridged version of story I wrote about our cat “Lucky.” His full impact on us and our journey along the spectrum can’t fully be put into words. Lucky prompted Lan to initiate conversation. Lucky also taught him responsibility. I strongly recommend parents of any special needs children to consider a pet. Their contribution is often priceless. 

One Lucky Cat!

I don’t like cats. 

To my dismay, the children I was desperately trying to get ready for school abandoned their oatmeal to see the pretty kitty.

Annoyed, I began shooing it away with a broom, and trying to coax it off my deck. I glanced beyond the cat only to find both boys staring at me like I’m Cruella Deville.

I take a deep breath and bite my tongue. At this point in my life I’m mentally fried. Two kids under the age of four, a husband who travels all week and I’m running late for my new full-time job!

I grudgingly decide I can teach my kids a lesson in compassion. Besides, the last thing I need is for Cam to go marching into school and telling everyone I tried to kill a cat. From previous experience, I’m confident that would have been his translation of the morning’s events!

So… I grab a can of salmon and stick it outside the door. By this time it seems that the cat is gone. I’m grateful, yet annoyed I just wasted a can of salmon.

When we return that afternoon, the first thing both kids do is run toward the back door. No cat, but the food is gone. I’m thinking the cat has found its way home.

No such luck.

Over the next couple of months this cat increasingly comes to my house. It doesn’t just come, it lingers.

Reluctantly, I finally concede. How much trouble can one outdoor cat be?

I never get to find out.

I come downstairs one morning to find my husband standing in the kitchen holding the cat….and a litter box!

By the way, he doesn’t like cats either.

One huge vet bill later, I name the cat Lucky. It’s a bit of a stretch for a black cat, but it saves him from being named after a Ninja Turtle.

By now, you’re probably thinking what does this cat have to do with God, autism and me?

I learned God sometimes answers prayers in the most unexpected ways. It is around this time that my four year has prayed for his brother Lan to talk.

Lan would occasionally say a word here and there. Yet, once Lucky entrenched himself into our home, Lan became more talkative.

“Where’s the cat?” “Can I feed the cat?” “Lucky where are you?” 

Lucky Raphel 7-15-15 ripLucky helped draw Landon out of his shell.

He hasn’t been a perfect cat but he’s come close.

As the kids watched television, I was horrified one day to find Landon’s pillow wasn’t a pillow at all. It was the cat!

I started to fuss but then realized Lucky wasn’t trying to get away. He looked up at me with those big yellow eyes as if to say “it’s okay. I don’t mind.” He then he turned away from me and back to the kids.

His kids.

Lucky worked his way into my heart.

The world didn’t end when I found him snoozing on my “good” sofa. Or, when I woke to find him asleep beside me… in my bed!

Did I mention, I don’t like cats?

I don’t know that I’ll ever consider myself a “cat lover” but I certainly love this one.

God’s answers to our prayers aren’t always how we expect them. Blessings and miracles often arrive in disguise.

I almost chased away one of mine.

Not all angels have wings. Some have paws, of this I am sure.

Lan is now a teenager and talks up a storm.

I look back on it now and realize we didn’t do the cat a favor at all.

We were the lucky ones!

**Rest in Peace “Lucky” Raphael, you loved us well!

A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones. Proverbs 17:22 NKJV

Looking in From the Outside…

When Lan was younger, I often worried about him. Not merely about his development, but also his loneliness.

He and his brother shared common friends in elementary school. But as their friends grew older, their interests drifted toward those things middle school kids do. However, Lan’s interests remained with Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers or whatever he deemed cool at the time.

Lan’s longtime friends looked out for him in school for sure, but they didn’t “hang” with him.  Very few called to ask if he could come over or go places with them. This became more apparent as his older brother accepted invitations from kids while Lan remained at home.

I think we can all relate to being an “outsider.”

Maybe you’ve been the new guy on the job or moved cross country without knowing a soul. There may be times you don’t get the joke. Yet, most of us can eventually move from the outside in.

Being an outsider can hurt. It often lasts longer than expected. When Lan was first diagnosed with that vague “pervasive developmental disorder” I certainly felt alone.

Who could understand my wants and fears while watching other kids move along carefree?

God understood.

His child was viewed as an “outsider.” Jesus didn’t talk like everyone else. He saw things differently. He broke the rules. Even as part of a larger plan, I can’t believe any parent is “okay” watching their child suffer or hurt.

Not even God.

I don’t doubt God was with us even when it didn’t feel like it. I’ve learned feelings can be deceptive. I don’t allow them to smother my faith!

Yes, Lan and I were a bit melancholy that first year of high school. I was standing in faith that God would bless him with one “good friend” his freshman year. Despite my prayers, that didn’t happen.

I now realize that first year “alone” was a blessing in disguise. Or, more accurately, a lesson in disguise.

I initially feared Lan would be taken advantage of in high school. I didn’t want him blindly following others just to be included. Instead, that first year taught Lan he could live on the “outside” and still be okay.

I also learned that lesson.

My normal doesn’t have to mirror everyone else. We can deal with autism. Our lives may be a bit different from the “norm” but then again what is normal?

God was with us.

We were never really alone. We didn’t break under the pain. Crack?

Maybe.

However, we are still in one piece and Lan is lonely no more!

Lan spent yesterday at an arcade with his best friend. They met this school year in a visual arts class. They both have their quirks. They “get” each other. They have a shared love for “Hero Up!” and its superheroes. There is no need to “conform” when they are together.  DSC_2934 (3)

God is good like that. His timing is perfect.

So whatever you are going through, remember you don’t have to go it alone. God is the Father we can run to! Better yet, God carries us until we find the strength to walk again.

It is often the loneliest times that make us stronger.

And should you see someone peering in toward you, show a little love! Act on that urge to take the new guy out to lunch. Stop and say hello to the new neighbor. You don’t have to move out of your comfort zone.

Sometimes, all God really wants is for us to let someone into ours.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” Proverbs 18:24 NKJV

 

Face Forward!

“Don’t let something in the past trip you up!”

I read those words on a church sign driving home last night. Not scripture, but wise words nonetheless.

Sometimes we can allow a loss to make us lose sight of all we have gained.

At other times we would do well to change things up a bit and break away from the familiar and open ourselves up to something fresh and new.

Just because something was, doesn’t mean it always will be.

Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5 NKJV

In the past, I was plagued with fear. Much of that concerned Lan’s future. He always struggled in school. The constant struggle was something I’d become accustomed to.

This year, through hard work and lots of prayer, has been different.

Yet, I found some old mindsets could still creep in. Doubt. Uncertainty.

I could become fixated on old struggles of just scraping by to earn the required credits.

Freshman biology with the toughest teacher in the school was a struggle. It is still fresh in my mind.

When I met with his guidance counselor last week, I was informed that chemistry was designated as his science for next year when Lan will be a junior.

Instead of looking forward, I was momentarily caught in the anxiety of the past. Lan’s study habits and grades have vastly improved. Yet, chemistry is unforgiving. It is absolute. Abstract.

I asked, solemnly, “Is chemistry required to graduate?”

The counselor’s answer was “No.”

Freshman biology and the physical science Lan is currently taking will suffice for his “required” sciences. He can finish high school taking zoology and anatomy both of which will also help him with graphic design.

If I hadn’t asked, next year could have been very frustrating.

In the past, I wouldn’t have thought to ask if there was an alternative. I would have just accepted the status quo. And struggled.

“you do not have because you do not ask,” James 4:2 NKJV

Sometimes instead of allowing our experiences to make us wiser, we can allow them to encase us in fear. Fear paralyzes. It doesn’t allow us to look forward toward a positive future.  DSC_9566

Now, I’m motivated to explore opportunities as the nation slowly realizes there is a vast need for resources and alternatives in higher education.

One friend who is a university professor informed me there are individualized education programs for college students with special needs. Accommodations for people on the spectrum are increasing.

Instead of my “ideas” about the future, I am learning to trust God and allow Him to reveal His plan for Lan moment by moment.

This isn’t easy for me, but most things that are best for us are never easy. Or quickly revealed.

They require faith.

And in my case, the ability to leave past disappointments, struggles and preconceived notions behind me.

“Face forward.” That’s what Lan said to me last week. Not exactly scripture, but wise words nonetheless.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 NKJV

 

 

 

 

Do Dogs Go to Heaven?

We lost one of our furry family last night. To say it was traumatic is an understatement.

My oldest took it better. He volunteers at our local vet and has witnessed animals euthanized first hand. Lan, who inspired this blog, had no idea what had happened until it was all over.

Lan was out with a friend when my husband and I rushed Noel to the emergency vet. Hours later, we came home without her. He was asleep.

This morning he cried as we expected, just like us. But for Lan, the death of this dog is something more than the loss of a “pet.”

Taking care of our animals really helped Lan come out of his shell. It was his job to feed them. It was his responsibility to let Noel in and out in the morning. She enjoyed Lan’s tendency to over feed her all the while she was stealing the cat’s food!

Ten years later, we have tears. I explained it’s okay to hurt and cry. Lan asked if he could pray for Noel. I figured it certainly can’t hurt anything. He also asked if dogs go to heaven.

I don’t know.

Yet, I figure since God allowed her to take such good care of us, He would take good care of her. If there is a dog heaven, I’m pretty sure she is there.

Given a bit more time to think, Lan asked about our cat. He looked up something online and decided Lucky should live four more years.

He googled cancer after my poor explanation.

He proudly proclaimed that if Noel could talk she would have said “tell Cam and Lan I love them.”

And she would have.

Years before we gained our initial pet menagerie (three dogs and one cat in less than six months!) I didn’t want any animals. I was adamant. I had enough to do with two young kids and Lan’s diagnosis. My husband traveled seventy-five percent of the time.

Pets would just put more work on me.

Little did I know?

Yes, our animals did give me more work to do but we were blessed by the effect they had on Lan.

Lan was interested in his surroundings, wanted to interact more, felt pride in feeding and tending to his animals. He told people about them! That was a very big deal ten years ago!

I didn’t want pets but God knew what we needed.  last happy Noel picture

Lan talks fine now. Noel taught him about respect, love, compassion, death and loss.

Today he said we should “face forward.”

Not bad advice.

I will be ever grateful for our dear Noel and all she did for us. She was indeed very beautiful inside and out.

Sometimes God gives us what we ask for. Then at other times, He gives us just what we need. 

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever. Psalms 106:1 NKJV

Evolution!

God teaches me things in the strangest of ways.

Which brings me to cats.

I am not a “cat person.” Even though my house is home to one lucky indoor cat, named Lucky.

Seriously.

I feed the Aristocats on my side porch, “Rocky” and three kittens in exchange for not eating my birds, At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

“Rocky” is the meanest of three sisters that called my abode home last year. She hissed at us when we put their food out!

I wasn’t surprised when she left for the wild leaving her sisters behind. Out of the original four kittens that once called us “home” I just knew she would never stick around.

One year later, Rocky has kittens in my yard, Shows you how much I know!

Rocky was not an ideal mother. She abandoned the runt. She bullied her litter mate “Gracie.”

Eventually, Gracie tired of her sisters shenanigans and camped out on the porch in spite of her. Gracie even nursed Rocky’s abandoned kitten.

Rocky merely looked on, unimpressed!

I don’t think Rocky was feeling the whole parenthood thing. I think her newfound responsibilities were overwhelming.

We’re not quite sure just what happened but poor Gracie died. Yet, shortly thereafter I found Rocky nursing both her sister’s kitten and the kitten she abandoned!   DSC_2934 (3)

Rocky evolved into a good mother.  I’ve seen her licking unwilling kitties clean!

She matured and does what needs to be done.

Maybe Rocky didn’t understand her role before. Maybe grief for her sister stirred something in her. Regardless, her mothering skills improved.

I think this cat family found a place in my heart because I can relate to Rocky.

I’m not sure I always dealt with Lan’s diagnosis “correctly.” In the beginning, I didn’t have a clue.  But like, Rocky, I eventually got the hang of it.

I’m no longer weary and afraid. The uncertainty and my stress are much much less!

I’ve evolved. I understand my role better. I’m probably a bit more nurturing to my “kitten.”

Looking back, God did the same for me. God engineered my evolution so I can be the mother I need to be.

Some lessons God reveals when we take time to “see” them and “hear” Him.

This isn’t the first time God has used a cat to teach me how less than ideal situations can work out unexpectedly.

And I suspect it won’t be the last.

One Lucky Cat

Nearly ten years ago, as I was giving the boys breakfast and frantically trying to get them ready for school, a visitor came boldly calling at our door. At first, I thought I was hearing things (my mind was really frazzled back in those days) but lo and behold there really was a cat very loudly meowing at my back door.

My first thought was I don’t have time for this nonsense. I don’t like cats. At all. However, the kids I was desperately trying to get ready for school had abandoned their oatmeal to come look at the pretty kitty.

As short fused as I was, I’m sure I was in no mood to entertain a cat let alone try to figure out where it came from.  I started shooing it away, and yelling at it to get it back down the steps and off my deck. By now both boys are looking at me like I’m Cruella DeVille and Cam very pointedly says to me “Mommy, that’s mean.”

I take a deep breath and bite my tongue. After all I am trying to teach my kids compassion and the last thing I need is for them to go marching into their Christian pre-school and telling the whole world how I was trying to kill a cat that morning (that would have been Cam’s interpertation).

So… I find a can of salmon in the pantry, put it on a paper plate and stick it outside the back door. By this time the cat is gone or at the very least, I can’t see it. Good riddance, for sure, and I’m just a bit annoyed that I just wasted a perfectly good can of salmon.

When we return home the first thing both kids do is head for the back door. No cat, but the food is gone.  Grateful, I’m thinking it has found its way home.  We did a good deed (albeit reluctantly) and that is that.

No such luck. Over the next couple of months this cat would increasingly come to my house. It didn’t just come, it lingered.

I finally relented, but only after posting signs throughout the neighborhood.

Okay, we now have an outside cat. No harm in that. The kids are happy. I’m no longer viewed as “Cruella” and it shouldn’t take that much effort on my part.

Well, a few days later I come down the stairs and my darling husband is standing in the kitchen holding the cat….and a litter box! And by the way, he doesn’t like cats either.

One week and one vet bill later, I name the cat Lucky.  For some reason I decided it would be a good name so he isn’t stigmatized by his black coloring. The other is to save him from being named after a Ninja Turtle.

By now, you’re probably thinking what does this cat have to do with God and autism?

I have learned through my journey that God answers prayers in the most unexpected ways. It is around this time that my oldest son, still in pre-school prays for his brother to talk. This prayer wasn’t anything we prompted him to do. Cam thought this up all on his own.

Lan would say a few words here and there, but we really had to pull them out of him. However, once the cat was here to stay, Lan became enamored with him and started asking things like, “where’s the cat?” “Can I feed the cat?” “Lucky where are you?” Landon even started telling people he didn’t know about his cat.

I figure this cat must have been desperate for a home because he allowed a three-year old and a four-year old to pretty much drag him around as their real life “stuffed toy.” Lucky never once scratched or bit them.  He was actually more social than the two dogs we had. He was also smarter too.

Lucky helped draw Landon out of his shell. Consequently, Lucky worked his way into my heart. As the kids lay on the floor one night watching some Christmas special, I noticed Landon’s pillow wasn’t a pillow at all.

It was the cat!

I started to fuss but then realized Lucky wasn’t trying to get away. He looked up at me with those big yellow eyes as if to say “it’s okay. I don’t mind,” and then he turned away from me and back to the kids. His kids.

He hasn’t been a perfect cat but he’s probably come close.

From Lucky, I have learned the immense value of an afternoon nap and how it’s important to get one when you can. Lucky has shown me how to be flexible, eating the dog’s food when she eats all of his. He has proven that the world won’t come to an end when you sometimes break a few rules.

The world didn’t end when I walked in to find him snoozing on my “good” sofa.

Armageddon didn’t erupt when I woke to find him asleep beside me… in my bed!

Did I mention, I don’t like cats?

I don’t know that I’ll ever consider myself a “cat lover” but I certainly love this one.

I have seen God’s answers to our prayers aren’t always what we expect them to be. Our blessings and miracles often arrive in disguise. I almost closed the door on one of mine. Don’t you make the same mistake and miss out on an answer you’ve been waiting for.

Not all angels have wings. Some have paws, of this I am sure. I look back all these years later and readily admit I didn’t do the cat a favor.

I’m the lucky one!