Uncharismatic Me

My whole life I have liked making money.  I liked it as a kid doing extra chores.  I liked it as a college student so I could help pay my living expenses.

Making money means I get to make choices.  I get to decide what I am going to do with that money.  Sometimes I spend it, sometimes I save it, sometimes I give it away.  My choice.

Getting married and having kids has thrown a wrench into my perfect money decision process.  I am no longer the sole authority on how the money is spent and I will admit, it is a difficult pill for me to swallow.  Very difficult.

But on the whole, a lot of my time as an adult as been based on decisions that allowed me to either continue to bring in a paycheck or to improve the numbers on the paycheck.  I never meant for them to, but things kept popping up that needed money and I needed to be able to provide money.  My husband is in the same boat.  He works long hours and has made sacrifices to bring home a bigger paycheck.

So it is very strange and very liberating to be fundraising for autism.  I am working my little tail off to help Autism Speaks get donations.  I don’t have to decide what is done with the money.  They have that all figured out already.  I don’t have to feel guilty about how it is managed, because I never even see it or lay hands on it.

I always thought fundraising was something given by people and that the person asking for it was just a money hand-exchanger.  The truth is that I am really working for this.  I put in hours and effort and creativity and heart and body into this.  I am working hard.  And all of my rewards go to Autism Speaks.

I am just now understanding that volunteers are people who work but ask you to pay someone else instead of them.  That is huge.  I volunteered in my younger years, but it was always a one-night thing or a weekend thing or a fun thing.  Yes, this is fun and yes there are one-night events, but I am doing this and thinking about this and planning this every day.

I wish I was better at it.  I wish I was one of those charismatic people who have lots of friends and can walk into a room and people are falling over themselves to get on board.  The truth is that I have no friends.  I am shy and awkward and come off as standoffish because I am so shy.  I don’t know how to motivate people.  I am a loner.

So doing this whole autism advocacy thing is a HUGE leap into a new world for me.  This is not something I am good at or that comes easily for me.  I am making mistakes and have definitely been hurt a few times.

I am learning a lot of things.  I wish I could say I was learning how to advocate better, but what I am learning usually has nothing to do with that.  I am learning more about autism and how it fits into my life, Tyler’s life, and our family’s life.  I am learning how important it is to listen to people and see what is important to them.  I am learning how to give some of my money away again.  I am learning how to talk about things.  I am learning how to put the different parts of my life into perspective.  I am learning how to work really hard for something without being selfish about the rewards.  I am learning the joy of a sacrifice freely given.  When I receive a donation on my walk page or a purchase of my baby items that will go towards the Walk, I feel successful in a way that I don’t feel when I see a paycheck deposited into my bank account.

I am trying to do as much as I can to help autism awareness, but it is really doing more good for me than I am doing for it.  Maybe it is reshaping me into something that can be useful.  God knows I am not loaded up with useful the past few years.

I never thought that being a mother would bring me down this road.  That it would change so much of me.  I am glad that it has, because I desperately needed saving.

From my heart,

Rachel

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(c) Rachel Flinchum 9/10/2013

Keep On Keeping On

When I started advocating, I had an “ask everybody to get involved” attitude. Then I got burned a few times. A simple no is not the worst answer you can receive I found out.

So then I was confused and hesitated about talking to people. It was like standing in quicksand. Do you move? Do you stand still? Do you reach for the branch?

It is so rewarding though to go to meetings and hear people’s success stories. To see restaurants and companies getting on board with our amazing cause. It is inspiring and you walk away a little in shock at the awesomeness of the people you just shared a lunch with and definitely feeling like you are on firmer ground.

The longer you stay in the realm of advocating, the more connections you make. The more you learn how people navigate these waters.

It just takes the right words, the right timing, the right exchange. You also have to be willing to take the hard hits. The more than just a simple no response.

I am not quite there yet with knowing the right words, but I am growing and learning.

I plan to keep talking. I plan to keep believing. I plan to keep on keeping on.

My next step is to lead my team in the Arkansas Walk Now for Autism Speaks event on October 5th. One more month! To support me in my first Walk, my fundraising page is http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/arkansas/rflinchum. I am so honored to be able to help Autism Speaks by doing this Walk. They have been advocating for my son since before he was born. I am a lucky, lucky mom to have them.

From my heart,
Rachel

(C) Rachel Flinchum 9/3/2013

Okay. Let’s do that.

So about a week ago, I noticed I was entering Sadness on the Grief Cycle. I had no idea how much this would affect all the different aspects of my life. Before I could write 10,000 words a day. I could barely wait a day before blogging again. I was sewing and painting. I never wanted to sit down and read a book because I had too much stuff to do. I was getting settled into my exercise routine to prepare for the upcoming 5K for Autism Speaks.

Now…now I am so ridiculously unmotivated it is frightening. The lingering sadness I am experiencing is coloring everything I do. Even brushing my teeth seems futile. They are just going to be dirty the next time I eat something. Sigh.

Sometimes it is my mood, but more often it is just the lens through which I see everything. I am still happy about a lot of things. Tyler is doing really well in school so far. We just ordered our Team Ty-Ty t-shirts. The Walk Now for Autism Speaks is only a little more than a month away. I am doing a Vendor Show in three weeks which will hopefully raise more money for the Walk and help me sell some of my horde of made baby items.

But everything seems a little less colorful…a little washed out.

Especially my creativity. I open a New Post screen on my computer and just stare at the blank box. Nothing comes. I will sew for a few minutes and then just wander away from the sewing machine.

I look at my Walk Now for Autism Speaks Walk Fund, which isn’t growing anymore, and instead of brainstorming new ideas, I just get discouraged and close the app. And it is stupid that I am discouraged because I have exceeded my goal for the year and I am really proud of myself and the people who have supported me. But then I think about all the families struggling with non-verbal children and bullying (the parents get bullied too) and it just makes me sad.

The ONLY reason I even know I am on this repeating grief cycle is because I have read books on autism and families dealing with it. How many other parents are out there that are going through what I am going through right now, but they don’t understand why? You know, when I am talking about autism awareness and trying to raise support for it, I am not only picturing beautiful, gifted children who need our help. I am picturing the mothers as well. The ones who are confused, angry, sad, and broken. The ones going through what I have had to go through and am still going through. I can look into the eyes of a mother of an autistic child and see many things that I wish I could take away. There is pride, love, and fierceness, but there is also brokenness, betrayal felt, and exhaustion.

How can we keep the good things of this experience but remove the bad? Tyler is AMAZING. He is loving and kind and honest. Having Tyler as my son is a blessing and I love every part of him. Even his autism. I would have been devastated if my parents had tried to force me to be right-handed. I have no intention of curing or “fixing” Tyler’s autism. He is unique and we need his perspective and contributions. But raising him to function in our world should not be a traumatizing event. So he needs to do things differently or needs extra help. Okay. Let’s do that. I shouldn’t have to fight for it. I shouldn’t have to bleed for it. I shouldn’t have to be broken in the process.

I wish mothers lived in a world where their child, whoever they are, are accepted as who they are. Do they need time with a professional therapist to learn to talk? Okay. Let’s do that. Do they need to have a place they can go to when things overload? Okay. Let’s do that. Do they need to get a service dog to keep them from wandering off and hurting themselves? Okay. Let’s do that.

Why isn’t that the answer more often. Okay. Let’s do that. We need a Let’s do that World.

I need to get out of my sadness funk. Of course, that will just land me in another category. Sadness can be good. I usually use the time I am stuck here to put things into perspective. I build up some inner reserves and just let myself be still for awhile. Life doesn’t slow down though and right now Sadness is not working in my favor.

So time to move on to another Grief category. Okay. Let’s do that.

For more on the Grief Cycle categories and other information I have picked up along my journey, check out my book.

From my heart,

Rachel

(c) Rachel Flinchum 8/30/2013

Beauty That Will Change You

On Sunday, our family went to a car club gathering. I did a bad job of prepping Tyler. We were going to a park that had a lot of playgrounds, so I told Tyler about the playgrounds.

When we met up with everyone there wasn’t a playground in sight. Tyler became really upset. I had to hold him while he cried and Ash walked around in the trees.

Everyone felt bad and we moved to an area with playgrounds.

Then there were two playgrounds. One was for kids 5 and older. Of course Tyler wanted to play on that one. But it was too dangerous for him and Ash, so I made them go to the smaller one.

Tyler had a lot of reasons why this was not a good playground. He tried saying there were too many kids and then not enough kids. He tried claiming there were too many rocks. My favorite excuse was that playing on it would make him tired.

Eventually he started playing. And then he was upset when it was time to leave to go to dinner.

At the restaurant he was inconsolable. He wouldn’t stop crying. There he said the restaurant smelled and was hot.

We normally don’t take him to restaurants unless they are fast food places with playgrounds. Tyler doesn’t eat much and he won’t eat out. So the thought of him sitting there while everyone else eats is a little laughable.

I ate quickly and Tyler, Ash, and I ended up sitting in the car while everyone else finished their meals.

These were all my husband’s friends. I didn’t talk to any of them because I was interacting with Tyler the whole time. But even though I felt disconnected with everyone there, I got the sense that everyone felt bad that Tyler was having such a hard time but that no one was angry at us because of his behavior.

I can get very defensive of Tyler, but my defensive side wasn’t necessary. It was a blessing in the midst of a very difficult time for me.

It reinforces the idea that people are capable of great good and that my dream of a world that holds autistic children in great value can exist.

I hope that one day having an autistic child won’t put parents into a grief cycle. That it can be seen as a blessing and not a tragedy.

We are all born as uncut diamonds. Autistic children are the same. Their inner beauty is locked more tightly away than most. But if given the right tools, they are diamonds with phenomenal clarity and beauty.

It takes someone who knows how to shape the stone. Someone who knows what to remove and what to keep. It takes parents but also teachers and doctors and therapists and siblings and friends all lending their own efforts.

It is a lot of work and many times you are holding your breath because you don’t know the next step and these stones are hard to visualize. these stones can’t be cut in the normal way. They are made differently in their very core, but if you learn to let the stone shine the way it was meant to, it will be the most beautiful sight you have ever seen.

Beauty that you cannot hold in your hands without being changed. Beauty that makes you more beautiful as well.

You will cut your hands and bleed. You will lose some of yourself in the process because it will take that much of you. But what you get back will be better.

To support these beautiful diamonds, please consider going to http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/arkansas/rflinchum to help me raise awareness and funds for families struggling to reveal their child’s beauty.

Become an advocate for children. Become a supporter of overcoming hardship and of being different…not less.

From my heart,
Rachel

(C) Rachel Flinchum 8/27/2013

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My New Book

I am super excited. My new book is finished. I got a copy in the mail two days ago!

I know I put it on Amazon myself, but it was still crazy being able to find it on Amazon when I searched for it.

I loaded it up with pictures and poetry, but the bulk of the content is about figuring out how to get a better handle on life. It is about learning how to live again instead of just surviving.

It also has my most helpful info from my first book that includes some very important things that have helped me work with some of Tyler’s issues that come with his autism.

I even have the book listed on the Autism Speaks directory.

Please take a gander! If it looks interesting, order one. It came from my heart!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=is_box_?k=Rachel+flinchum

From my heart,
Rachel

(C) Rachel Flinchum 8/21/2013

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Five Foundations Needed

Having an autistic child puts parents on a repeating grief cycle. The child who progresses without degressing does not exist. We mourn the skills our children will lose. The child who can play in the wet grass after a rain does not exist and we mourn the loss of experiences shared. We are constantly reminded of this loss and therefore repeat our grief cycle for the rest of our lives.
I don’t know when I began my first cycle of grief, but I learned later I had been struggling with it for some time.
I have learned a new danger of this grief cycle.
Now that I am learning to live life again, I realize all my lessons have been learned through the lens of Acceptance.
I have entered Sadness and the foundation I spent so long building can no longer support me. I am going to have to relearn how to do everything with this new lens.
I mourn today. I mourn the fact that I get migraines. I mourn the loss of time that keeps me from doing anything fully. I mourn my poor excuse of autism advocacy. I mourn this new beginning I have to make.
My eyes are puffy, my throat is swollen and raw, my head feels like it is stuffed with 2 tons of cotton. My skin feels sunburnt. I mourn how hard it will be to make this a good day. I have failed so far.
The only option I have is to brace myself and start learning to live again in the midst of Sadness.
Sadness is going to be a hard one.

From my heart,
Rachel

(C) Rachel Flinchum 8/18/2013

Good Moments and New Beginnings

We went shopping for school clothes last night. We spent $300 and realized after we checked out that all of Tyler’s shirts were long-sleeved. Things were so crazy that I never thought to unfold the shirts when I grabbed them. The whole family was there, so Benny and I spent most of our time wrangling Tyler and Ash. Everything bought was for Tyler, except for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shirt that I bought to sleep in and some running shoes for me.

There are things that I can appreciate more because of Tyler’s autism. Some of these are things that I can see Ash doing that I will never take for granted. When we are out in public with Ash, if he gets within 10 feet of a stranger he is going to look them in the eye, wave, and say, “Hi!” And the startled person will almost always get a big smile on their face and say hi back. I love watching him do this. He is giving people a good moment and it warms my heart every time.

Ash also does not like to hold hands with an adult. He wants to run wild and free. Tyler is not so fond of this idea. As a result, I was able to capture a precious moment between the two boys last night as we were on our way to checkout.  If you look closely, you can see Tyler’s death grip on Ash.  No more running wild for my little Ashy-man tonight.  Luckily for us, Ash understands that Bo-Bo’s gotta stick together.  =)

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I am also loving my new running shoes. They helped me jog 5K in 47 minutes last night. A new record for time spent jogging and for distance. My ankles do not like this new development, but my feet thank me for investing in them. Before I was running in shoes that had no support. They were a small step up from flats because they wrapped around the top of foot so they wouldn’t fall off. Jogging in them sounded like a knee board being slapped broadside onto water. So while I hated to invest in new shoes, I am glad that I did. Investing in my jogging/running is important.

So a lot going on. We have the Walk Now for Autism Speaks and the 5K Run in 7 weeks. (My first 5K!) My youngest brother and I are doing both and the Team Ty-Ty Walk Team is 8 members strong. So we are raising support for Autism Speaks and I am getting back in shape. I feel like such a newbie to the advocacy scene…I guess because I am. I wish I knew ways to be more effective in both my fundraising and in generating autism awareness, but Rome was not built in a day.

Tyler starts his 4-year-old school year on Monday. Big step for him and for the family. Will it crash and burn or will it be just what Tyler needs? Probably somewhere in the middle and I am probably going to be doing a lot of breath-holding until the dust settles. And praying. I might sacrifice a chicken or two. He is going to look so precious and small when I drop him off on Monday. I can barely stand to think about it. But imagining him coming home and showing me school work and giving him the chance to make some friends is holding me together…barely.

I also have a big secret. Something I am very proud of and I hope you are able to take a minute to check it out. In about a week, you can find this on Amazon.com, but until then it is just here:

https://www.createspace.com/4402216

From my heart,

Rachel

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(c) Rachel Flinchum 8/16/2013