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Friday, April 26, 2013

Constant Vigilance!


We have had a nice long run where we sort of feel like we're speaking Lily's language and Lily is making herself better understood.  And so as each day goes by and we celebrate its meltdownlessness, we feel like, "I've got this HANDLED, yo." 

Someone, a psychologist I think, at a recent re-eval asked us if we could leave Lily alone in a room.  It felt really good to have to think about that.  A year ago possibly, or definitely two, I would have said without hesitation, "No."  For starters she had a tendency to treat our absence from the room as permission to have potty accidents, but also books got ripped, things got knocked over, spills happened...you get the idea.

Time and experience have slowly reshaped the various rooms that Lily spends time in into Lily-friendly/Lily-safe zones, where the things Lily can reach are things that either A)  Cannot be broken or spilled or ripped, B)  We don't care about, or C) She has never shown an interest in touching/picking up/exploring.  And as we became more and more comfortable with Lily's interactions with her surroundings, I think we (but definitely I) started getting a little complacent.  

There haven't been any problems, so why would there ever BE any problems?  I guess that's where my mind was.  I think if I reexamine the room objectively, the same thing happens 9 out of 10 times.  What happened?  I'm glad you asked.  Or maybe not "glad" exactly.

Leslie dropped Emma off at her chorus concert.  Her parents left to go save us seats.  This is in accordance with the Book of Lily.  Divide and conquer, create a safe space, introduce Lily such that she has to spend the absolute least amount of time 'waiting' as possible.  She's not a spectacular waiter.

Two thirds complete with the process, I started cleaning dishes and tidying up before the timer went off to get Lily on the potty and we walked out the door.  Lily busied herself in the family room watching a movie.  I wasn't paying attention, but Lily eventually made her way to the kitchen table and grabbed Emma's plastic drinking glass.  "Uh oh," you say, "I see where you're going with this."  No...no you don't.  Why do you keep interrupting me?

So the plastic drinking glass has a lid, and it's more or less spill proof.  Yes, it has a long plastic straw that allows water to escape, but it's just a dribble, and honestly, if it's upside down, the straw isn't under the water, and it doesn't spill at all.  So this picking up and drinking from Emma's cup?  Not really that big a deal...until I heard the sharp splintered cracking sound and I snapped my attention to where she was standing with the cups straw in her mouth, chewing.  

The straw is rigid plastic.  Broken, even shattered, it's probably not sharp enough to cut you, but she had bitten off a piece of the end and was crunching down on it, the pieces in her mouth, and what I REALLY feared in that moment was that she would swallow them.  

"Nononononono!" I crossed the floor and wedged my finger into her mouth, sweeping the shards out even as she continued to chew.  She was not careful with my fingers, and it wasn't super comfortable.  

I was pretty afraid at that point.  I was staring at her, concerned, as she smiled back oblivious to my worry.  I opened her mouth again and swept it.  I couldn't be sure that I'd gotten it all, and my brain elected at that moment to show scenes of an imagined ambulance ride to the emergency room.

She seemed okay, then she started to cough.  nononono...then stopped.  I stared at her, asking if she was okay, listening to her breathing, watching to see if her mouth moved to chew something.  And that was it.  She was fine.  

It was all fine.  But what I remembered then was the question, "Can you leave her alone in a room?"  What if I had?  I do leave her alone in rooms for short durations, long enough to brush my teeth in the morning, or change laundry before I go to work, but what if she'd been alone and chewed AND swallowed?  My mind doesn't allow me to pursue that scenario longer than it takes to feel the dread start to blossom.  It's just scary shit.

As "Lily friendly" as the house has become, it's a good reminder that she's still a sensory seeking kid without a spectacular handle on her personal safety.

Like Mad-Eye says, "Constant Vigilance!"



Friday, April 19, 2013

"Passing" Glances


When I was a kid growing up, I was taught that it was polite to make eye contact.  I guess the thinking was that it showed the person you were talking to that you were paying attention to them, not focused on other things.  I get that.  I see it with my oldest daughter.  I can usually tell what she's paying attention to by where her eyes are pointed.  "Look at me," I'll say to her, wresting her gaze away from the television long enough to see that she's listening to me.  I'll watch as her eyes slide surreptitiously around me, not out of discomfort, but out of desire to be away from the conversation and back to the TV.

I was also taught that avoidance of eye contact indicated someone was afraid to make that eye-to-eye "soul-connection" because they were lying to you.  I learned from movies and books that thieves and liars could be caught when a well-trained detective, focusing on their eyes and body language, experienced an ah-HAH! moment associated with the suspect's inability to meet his accusor's eyes.  In college I had a manager (cool guy, actually) who loudly extolled the virtues of eye contact, and the virtuelessness of those who couldn't or wouldn't make it.  I remember in particular one candidate for a retail sales position (we're talking minimum wage stuff here) that he immediately dismissed based entirely upon the "shiftiness" of his eyes.  "I don't trust someone who won't meet my eyes when I'm talking to him," he told me.

Overall, I was aware that it was expected of me...of anyone...to make eye contact.

Because....

...Politeness, attention, truthfulness, cultural conformance...those seem like important things, I think.

I don't have any particular difficulty looking people in the eyes, but when I was young I remember actively thinking about it while talking to someone.  Thinking about eye contact...focusing on maintaining it...while talking.  

My wife and I have had conversations about my "autistic" traits, and we talked about this one last night.  When I was growing up I looked at people's mouths.  I wasn't really aware that I was doing it until a classmate busted me for it.  I slowly realized that I defaulted to the mouth because I had an epiphany related to the impossibility of focusing on two eyes at once.  You can SEE both, but you can only truly focus on ONE.  THIS realization led me to shift my focus back and forth, rapid-fire from eye to eye in a ridiculous ping ponging literal interpretation of "You must make eye contact".  I didn't know which one to look at (focus on) so I looked at both.  

Have you ever talked to someone who is blind in one eye?  Or has a glass eye?  Or a lazy eye?  I feel like I'm being rude if I'm staring at the "wrong" eye,  like I'm focusing on the "bad" eye instead of looking at the good and they'll judge my attention akin to staring.  And it's not always clear initially (with someone who has lazy eye) which one is the "right" one to look at.  Is it being polite?

All of this was going on in the back of my mind any time I was conscious of it being an "appropriate" time to look someone in the eye (e.g. job interview).  I'm not kidding.  The focus thing, followed by the shifting from eye to eye thing, followed by the bridge of the nose (so I could see both eyes, though I truly was focused on neither), followed by an awareness that by looking at the bridge of the nose I wasn't looking at the eyes...followed by a realization that...I WASN'T PAYING ATTENTION TO THE PERSON TALKING TO ME!  To use the job interview example, I would be so focused on the eye contact thing and its importance that I would realize I was being called upon to answer a question and had no idea what that question might be.  Was I being attentive?

Last night I went to an Autism Acceptance presentation at my wife's work.  One of the presenters was an attorney who discussed the transition from childhood to adulthood, and setting up finances and trusts and so forth.  The other presenter was Rebecca Klaw, an advocate who does autism consulting for schools and attends IEP's (from her website:  "consultant, trainer and advocate for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families.").  Her presentation, "Transformation or Celebration," called upon her audience to examine the validity of a few well-held neurotypical societal ideals...like the importance of eye contact.   This reminded me I'd been meaning to write a post on this and I probably seemed a little rude because I immediately opened my iphone notes and jotted down a couple things I'd been thinking about before she dug any deeper into the eye contact thing.  But my wife didn't notice because she was busy making eye contact with Ms. Klaw.

She used the example of a client of hers who had approached her at a function or in the community to tell her about the progress her son was making, and she specifically pointed out that he was coming along nicely with his eye contact, informing her that he could hold eye contact for TEN SECONDS!  She then had everyone in the room pick a partner and told us that when she said "Start" she would measure ten seconds and we were to maintain eye contact with our partner for the full duration.  It was, of course, ridiculous, and an impossibly long-seeming amount of time.  I picked my wife and although staring into her eyes for 10 seconds was like gazing into paradise, had I picked ANYONE else in the room, it would have been painfully embarrassing and awkward.  Her point was well made. 

I thought...how arbitrary is it to set a durational goal on maintaining eye contact?



http://endlessorigami.com
Here's another example...Let's say I'm eating a banana.  Let's also say that I'm a young autistic man eating a banana in a public place.  I see a man across the way and I recognize him.  He waves and I wave back.  I eat my banana, staring into his eyes as I do so.  I can maintain that eye contact for ten seconds, because I've been working tirelessly at it.  For ten long seconds I slowly eat my banana, staring into that other man's eyes.  It's awkward, arbitrary, and riddled with hidden societal rule infractions that trump the cultural importance of eye contact but about which I am almost certainly ignorant.  Was I conforming to cultural norms?


How do you follow up the lesson on eye contact (a lesson you have doubtless drilled into your autistic child for months and months and months) with the even more obscure rules on sexual innuendo, open flirtation, or brazen staring?  How do you get THAT lesson across?  How many months?  And how important is it REALLY?

Even what we feel we "know" about the cultural appropriateness of maintaining eye contact only applies to our American culture...it's not the same in the Middle East, or Asia, to say nothing at all of those people who have moved to the US FROM those cultures, blurring the rules still more.  How am I conforming to cultural norms when those norms differ from person to person, culture to culture possibly within my own community?  How then do I teach THIS to my autistic child?

When I was a kid I wanted to be the kind of detective who could always catch a lie.  Alternatively, I wanted to be the sort of super criminal would could lie undetected.  If I were to lie undetected I knew that I primarily needed to focus on my body language, specifically my eye contact.  There are, no lie, grown-ass men who believe to this day that you can't possibly lie to them if you maintain eye contact throughout.  I remember focusing on maintaining eye contact through lies to friends (in jest) and really having no difficulty with it.  "But you looked me right in the eye!!!"  Yeah...I did.  I looked you right in the eye and lied to you.  And it was easy.  You cannot tell someone is a liar by looking into their eyes.  Can.  Not.  

The most ironic thing about this is that so many neurotypical people believe the best way to appear honest and open or have a lie pass undetected is to focus on maintaining eye contact.  This causes the strange side effect that the only time they truly FOCUS on maintaining eye contact is when they're also focused on making a lie believable.  In other words, you'll know they're lying because they'll pointedly NEVER break eye contact.  Does that prove trustworthiness?  

Eye contact is not that big a deal.  It's a neurotypical "bad habit".  I inwardly cringe to hear other parents proudly tell me how they're drilling their child on it.  For what?  Cultural appropriateness?  It's arbitrary.  Integrity?  It's a lie.  Attention?  Then you weren't paying attention.  Politeness?  I'm offended.  The truth is, eye contact, while often useful is NOT necessary and often inappropriate unless your end goal is to make your child appear to be someone he is not...someone "passing" for someone you wish he was.  

Stop making such a big deal out of it.

My friend, Bec, has an excellent post on eye contact called, "What's the Deal with Eye Contact?"  You should read it.  Really.  It's very informative, and comes standard with bolded topic sentences and 'bottom lines' that are actually AT the bottom.  In other words, her posts are more structured and easier to understand than my ramblings.  In the article she talks about some of the reasons why it might be important NOT to encourage your child to make eye contact and she talks about reasons why it might be difficult for your child.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Walk Update

fundraisingProbably I'm overdue to update the State of the Union "walk-wise".  As most of you already know we're walking again this year to benefit a local autism charity, ABOARD.  Our goal this year was to raise $2,500 for the charity, and to get a sponsorship for team tshirts.

We're at about $2,000 with about four weeks to go until walk day.  The site shows $1,700, with $175 in pledges, but we just dropped $200+ in checks off yesterday, and I know at least one person had their contribution mysteriously "vanish" into the inner machinery of Donor Pro's website (the donation was credited to the charity, but not the team...that's being resolved), so I know there's at least $300 in donations not in that $1,700.

We're just looking for $500 more to hit our goal. 

AND...AND!!!!

My mother-in-law somehow magicked her way into a t-shirt sponsorship from Bill Few Associates!  Which is great, because now I can focus on finishing the artwork and getting it to the printer.  Well, done!!

So...One last final* desperate plea...we only have $500 to go.  If you can...give, if you can't...cheer us on or share to folks who you think might be interested in donating to a charity that directly benefits autistic adults and children and their caregivers.

Click the link to the fundraiser, register, then sign up to be on our team "Just a Lil Walk"... Here.

If you have any questions, PLEASE send me an email at blogginglily@gmail.com, or contact me on facebook.

Thanks everyone!

*subject to change

Monday, April 15, 2013

What Acceptance Means to One Autistic Girl

I have an autistic Facebook friend who is doing a giveaway for the month of April on her Facebook page.  She called my attention to it.  I actually didn't even know that particular page existed.  I follow her blog, but this was unrelated.  She was giving away patterns she designs.  To enter the giveaway you had to write what "Acceptance" meant to you.

She messaged me about it, and I told her I wasn't sure I was comfortable injecting my two cents into a conversation among autistics about what "Acceptance" means.  In essence, my discomfort comes from not wanting to "butt into" the conversation.  Parents' voices often ring a bit too loudly and too self importantly in those sorts of conversations.  Who am I to say what acceptance means?  I'm accepted.  I don't have a valid frame of reference.  So I explained my reluctance.  She countered, "Why not ask Lily what it means to her instead?"

Why not?  Well, Lily's seven.  It's difficult to know what she knows and doesn't know.  When Emma was seven I don't think she could have told me what "acceptance" meant to her.  Why not though?  I preach, "presume competence"...why not practice it a little?

That night I was giving Lily a bath.  Lily was impatient to get in the tub, but it wasn't full yet.  I was sitting in front of her on the lip of the tub helping her get her clothes off.  

"Lily," I started, holding the cuffs of her pants as she stepped out of them, "what does acceptance mean to you?"

"Um," she replied unhelpfully.

"What does acceptance mean to you, Lily?" I tried again.

"Um," she repeated.

I asked her a couple more times, pulling her shirt over her head, stretching her socks out by their toes until they released from her feet to spring into my hand.  I tossed the clothing into the hallway, and held her hand while she stepped gingerly into the steaming tub.

I let the water run a bit more and she hunkered down to get closer to the warm suds, staring at her reflection in the polished chrome fixtures.

"What does acceptance mean to you, Lily?"

I used cupfuls of the warm water to wet her hair, damming her forehead unsuccessfully against the splashing water with my free hand to keep it from running into her eyes.

"Independence," she sputtered.

I froze, the cup in mid dip.

"Independence?" I asked, not quite sure I'd heard her right.

"Independence," she repeated.

I cocked my head quizzically.  This was my answer.  At face value I could certainly tell my friend that my daughter had said that acceptance meant independence to her.  It was a wise answer, maybe a better one than the others I'd seen.  I could extrapolate from it.  It meant not needing help with things.  It meant being able to do things for herself without others interfering or getting in the way, or forcing her to do therapy to tailor her way to their way.  It was a good answer, even if I was still hesitant to accept it at face value (how's that for irony?).

Did Lily understand acceptance?  Christ, I'm not sure even I completely get it most of the time.  I was very intrigued.

"Lily, what does independence mean?"

As I lathered her hair with shampoo, she began scripting a song she listens to on one of her favorite DVD's.  It's Emma's dance recital DVD from a year ago.  She calls it "Purple Recital" because the DVD cover has purple lettering and a purple graphic.  She loves listening to the music and watching the girls dance.  One of the songs the girls (it is not Emma's group) dance to is the song she began to script,
"I've got no strings so I have fun,
I'm not tied up to anyone."
It's "I've Got No Strings" from Pinocchio.  That was her response to me when I asked her what independence meant.  There is no rote memorization that goes with that association.  There is no..."oh she only associates it with independence because Pinocchio talks about it in the movie before they sing that song"...because she doesn't know the song from Pinocchio, having never watched it; she only knows it from this dance recital video.   

I am reminded poignantly of the amount of "hand-over-hand" this kid gets during the course of any given day, and of how frustrating it must be to have to move your hands when someone else is pulling your strings.

There's no cynic's knife I can use to pare away the concept that Lily knows what independence means...maybe even what acceptance means.

SO interesting.  Presume competence.  

I'm usually pretty careful with how I phrase my titles...but this post isn't one parent's interpretation of what his autistic daughter thinks...this is straight from the girl herself.



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Attention! May I have your attention please!

At this time I'd like to call your attention to the little button on the upper right hand corner of this Lil blog.  By now you've probably already seen the links and shares on Facebook, but if you aren't on Facebook, or if you're not as focused on the autism blogging community as many of my readers are, you MAY not have seen that Babble posted its list of the 30 Top Autism Blogs in honor of April's 'Autism Awareness Month'.



What's Babble?  (In their own words), "Launched in December 2006, Babble already has a National Magazine Award nomination for Best Overall Website (opposite Slate.com) and a Folio magazine award for Best Online Magazine (beating out everyone but Time.com). Time magazine named it one of the Top 50 websites of 2010. Babble was acquired by The Walt Disney Company in November, 2011. 

Oh...and the reason I'm bringing this all up is because ...I'm ON it!!  Me.  Little Jimmy Walter!!!  And when the author of the article it was in linked me to it on Facebook, I was reading through it thinking to myself..."okay, that's sort of cruel...I'm not even on this list, way to rub it in my face" until I finally spotted myself!  My problem was I started from the end, where, if we're being honest, I probably belong if at all...but instead...I was all the way up near the tippy top!  THE TIPPY FUCKING TOP!!!

I consider this to be awesome.  I deflect a lot of praise and absorb too much criticism (like many people, I think), but this feels good to me.  This makes me feel proud.

It's a list that has many of my favorite bloggers on it and I'm honored to be among them.

Thank you Babble!

(We now resume our slice of life parenting posts already in progress)


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Raising Herself


One of our long-term goals for Lily is to get her to the point where she's feeding herself. Complicating this issue is how little she is.  She's very underweight, and so one of the biggest hurdles Lily's self-feeding has to overcome is us and our unwillingness to push her toward self reliance.  Every calorie counts, and we've always felt that we couldn't afford to let her frustrations at mealtimes  sabotage her getting fed.  So how can Lily ever learn to feed herself, if we're constantly feeding her?  We know it's an issue, it just takes a back seat to what we consider a larger issue, which is getting her fed.  We'll get there.

This is all preamble to my morning with her yesterday.  I was feeding her cereal, Lucky Charms to be exact, and although Lily finds them to be just as magically delicious as the next kid, I think she gets tired of the same taste over and over again, and shuts down after a dozen or so bites.  Lily shutting down the next bite essentially amounts to 1)  ducking her head, 2)  closing her mouth, and 3)  a rattlesnake-quick karate chop of the spoon as it scribes its determined arc toward her mouth, which in turn pisses me off because I get milk and marshmallows all over myself and the floor and the stress level starts to ratchet up as I deflect/distract/redirect in an effort to that all-important calorie-count up to something I think is "reasonable" for a growing girl her size.

We've been a little bit spoiled lately, because Lily's eating has been really good.  She's sat nicely and accepted our efforts to feed her with utensils or by hand, and has strung together several months of relatively low stress mealtimes (with some exceptions, of course).

It's funny how many of the successful bargaining/redirecting strategies we forget when we have a long string of victories/successes, because no matter what I tried, Lily was not having that damned "next" spoonful of Lucky Charms.  She was pretty "adamant".  I really wanted to avoid a meltdown, and I'd decided I was going to back off and give her some time and space when she said to me, "Pause it."

This perplexed me.  "Pause it?  Pause what, Lily?"  We were watching something.  I don't remember what, Backyardigans or a DVD of her big sister's dance recital...something she enjoys.  

"Pause the TV," she replied.

I stopped what I was doing and looked at her, and then looked at the remote sitting next to me at the table.  

"Alright," I said.  I pointed the remote at the television and paused it before replacing it on the table. 

"First you eat, then I unpause the TV," she recited to me.

I smirked a little at that, and repeated it back to her.  I brought the spoon again to her lips.  This time she opened her mouth.

"NOW you get TV," she said.

I laughed outloud, repeated her statement back to her, and unpaused the television.  It reminded me of the scene from The Simpson's where Homer ordered Bart to go to his room and spank himself because he was too lazy to do it himself.  

She remembers.  God, I'm glad this kid is around to raise herself.

When she's not disciplining herself, she steals my phone and takes selfies


Monday, April 1, 2013

I Went to See A Man About A Donkey

We took the kids to church on Sunday.  It's not a habit (for Lily and I) because I need some warning or 'psyche up' time in order to mentally prepare myself to go and absorb religion and watch Lily and try to minimize the collateral disruption (although honestly, Lily's been really good at church lately), and I know that bothers Leslie and, to a lesser extent Emma, because the whole family "can't" be together.  This is shades of the theater post all over again, right?  We include Lily and some idiot makes some comment and then...no.  No, this isn't like that.  This is more about the problems *I* have in church rather than those that jackasses around Lily has.

I think part of the problem I have with going to church is that the person leading the service is just some guy. I think that the clergy, like any trade/career/calling, has people who answer its call who are just not that great at their jobs. I had brilliant chemistry professors in college who were just unable to connect with students; they were awful teachers. I've had doctors who just didn't seem that "into" medicine. I've had social workers working on Lily's 'case' who just can't be troubled to show up for meetings.  Sometimes we're just not cut out to do the job we trained to do.

My point in the rest of this post is mainly humor, but I find a lot of the time going to church just makes me mad instead of feeling like I'm communing with God, because I'm frustrated with the priest/deacon/whomever's inability to make me really want to THINK about God, and I get caught up in all the minutia that seem so ridiculous to me...the sing-songy chanting, the rote responses that I no longer can follow along with because they changed them (why the change?  I don't understand)...the ceremonial wiping of this or genuflecting to that...the message itself seems lost (at least to me) in the pomp of the delivery. And I don't mean to condemn organized religion, because I think it does people a lot of good...but it is hard for me to take seriously, and often just frustrates me.

We attended Easter Mass yesterday, and the priest/deacon...I don't know...I wasn't feeling it. For starters, and this is petty, he kept intoning the word "Tomb" like it was capitalized. It was filled with overly dramatic inflection. "When Peter got to the Too-umb..." like that.  Every time he said it. It was the only word he said like that.  He reminded me of the priest from the Simpson's who is more or less a caricature of every self important clergyman.  I'm not suggesting this guy was self important.  He seemed pretty nice, but his voice sounded like that.  And I get that this is a really big deal.  Their messiah was REBORN!!!  But it was sort of comically ridiculous and hard for me to take seriously.

Then the reading was about the yeast of malice and wickedness and how we have to clear the larder of all the lumps of leaven because a little leaven leavens the whole lump...and the whole passage about the yeast of malice sounded very much like a Tick episode to me.

From the gospel (Corinthians 5:6 - 5:8)
6 It’s not good for you to brag. Don’t you know that a little yeast spreads through the whole batch of dough? 7 Remove the old yeast of sin so that you may be a new batch of dough, since you don’t actually have the yeast of sin.  Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 So we must not celebrate our festival with the old yeast of sin or with the yeast of vice and wickedness. Instead, we must celebrate it with the bread of purity and truth that has no yeast.

From the Tick

"Yes, evil comes in many forms, whether it be a man-eating cow or Joseph Stalin, but you can't let the package hide the pudding! Evil is just plain bad! You don't cotton to it. You gotta smack it in the nose with the rolled-up newspaper of goodness! Bad dog! Bad dog!"

"Everybody was a baby once, Arthur. Oh, sure, maybe not today, or even yesterday. But once. Babies, chum: tiny, dimpled, fleshy mirrors of our us-ness, that we parents hurl into the future, like leathery footballs of hope. And you've got to get a good spiral on that baby, or evil will make an interception."


See what I mean?  The bread of purity and truth?  The rolled up newspaper of goodness?  Leathery footballs of hope?  You could plug any of those into a Tick episode and it works.  It...it just amused me too much and I had nobody to share it with.  

So then it was time for the homily and the priest/deacon (I think it was the deacon, but I'm not sure) tied this story of "Clover" the donkey into his message...and was explaining how the reading made him think of the story of this farmer and his donkey.  And here is the story as best as I can recall it:

There was once a farmer who had a donkey.  He loved the donkey very much and so he named it Clover (it was unclear to me at the time why him loving the donkey meant that he named it Clover...)  One day while Clover was out in the field, he stumbled into a well and fell all the way to the bottom.  The farmer tried everything he could to pull poor Clover out.  He tried to lift him up, but he just couldn't do it by himself, so he decided to do the only thing he could do:  bury it alive.  (I'm not kidding...the deacon's story essentially hinges on us understanding that there was only one solution to the problem of the donkey down the well...to bury it alive)

So clearly the only thing that can be done is to bury
that damned donkey alive.

So the farmer made his decision and started to fill the well with shovelfuls of dirt.  Clover was crying from down in the well (my eyebrows are bunched together at this point trying to understand how this story ties into ANYTHING let alone the yeast of malice and the bread of purity, but also feeling a little uncomfortable at the torture this poor donkey is undergoing at the hand of his beloved master he wise farmer).  Clovers cries got weaker and weaker and eventually the farmer noticed that he could no longer hear anything from the well.  

He kept filling it though, until out of the corner of his eye he noticed movement, and when he looked he was astonished to see Clover standing upon the pile of dirt that had been filling the well (no more astonished than we were, however, that the farmer somehow failed to notice this throughout the hours of toil doubtless spent filling the well with dirty.)  The farmer threw more dirt into the well and saw that Clover would simply step on the dirt that he was throwing into the well in order to stand a little higher (At this point I whispered to my sister, "so the farmer shot him")...and with a few more scoops, he jumped from the well.  (Apparently he was completely unharmed in the fall).

At this point the deacon went on to explain what I thought was the very cool idea of using the dirt that others cast on us as a base to stand on, that there will NEVER be a shortage of dirt coming your way, and you can either be buried by it or use it to stand taller...I liked that part.  But I couldn't appreciate it fully because he'd fucked up the story so thoroughly that it was beyond ridiculous.  It was SO poorly told I went ahead and looked up, "donkey down a well" and came up with the story here..."The Donkey Story".

The essential differences are this:  1)  the donkey is very old, 2)  the well needs to be covered up, 3)  neighbors help.  

The message is the same...shake off the dirt people cast on you, and use it to stand taller...but his inability to relay the story properly wrecked the whole thing for me.  It was the whole issue I have with church made clear in a simple story...the message is amazing...the delivery is ridiculous.  

And again, I don't mean to condemn organized religion, but it's not like these guys come with references.  You usually don't get the opportunity to select your faith based on how eloquent its officiants are.  And obviously that's NOT the important part to someone OF the faith.  To someone of the faith...you overlook the shortcomings of the delivery and see through to the meaning behind it, the meaning you are looking to reinforce.  But to someone like me, who struggles with some of the church's teachings...or perhaps with people's interpretations of the church's teachings...it's extremely important that the guy LEADING 10,000 parishioners NOT be a moron.

Again...I don't think he was a moron.  I just don't think he was a very good story teller, and it made it hard for me to want to hear the message through the static.

Leslie wasn't paying attention to me when they started flailing holy water into the congregation, so I wasn't able to tell her my annual, "It burns!  It burns!"  When she turned around to me I scolded her.  This too was comical, but it wasn't the deacons fault, apparently some of the congregation were just there to get their holy water fix or something, because there were a dozen or so people retreating steadily in front of the deacon as he flailed water this way and that, and it looked like nothing so much as him whipping them and driving them from the church.  When he had passed, my nephew didn't get hit by any droplets so I said, "Here," and wiped some off my face and onto him and he crossed himself.  

At that point, or shortly thereafter, Lily started getting a little edgy.  She was awesome the whole day, but it's a little much for her to be contained for the entirety of a church service, and Lily responds to "Shhhh, Lily we have to be quiet," with "I NO LIKE QUIET!"...repeated shushes are NOT recommended.  

So I took her out into the lobby and fed her Cheez-its.  It was better for her, and if I'm being honest...better for me.