No, you’re not crazy.

Well, maybe you are.  But since care giving puts a whuppin’ on body, heart and mind over time there’s no surprise that our lives reflect the damage.

I’m currently reading Being Mortal but Atul Gawande.  The author is a surgeon who also writes outstanding prose that invites the lay person to look at medical issues and medical professionals to look at the human impact of their work.

Yesterday, I read his description of an adult daughter caring for her father,

Taking care of a debilitated, elderly person in our medicalized era is an overwhelming combination of the technological and the custodial… The burdens for today’s caregiver have actually increased from what they would have been a century ago.  Shelley had become a round-the-clock concierge/chauffeur/schedule manager/medication-and-technology troubleshooter, in addition to cook/maid/attendant, not to mention income earner.  Last minute cancellations by health aides and changes in medical appointments played havoc with her performance at work, and everything played havoc with her emotions at home… 

She felt her sanity slipping.

Misery (or is it madness?) loves company, and I was reminded of what I wrote in the intro to Raising A Child With Autism,

Maybe you are an amateur trying to be caregiver, therapist, clinician, advocate, mommy, daddy and everything else to a loved one living with autism. You feel like a lone idiot with a leaky hose when the job needs a landscape company.

So if you’re out there feeling depressed, or enraged, or exhausted, or or or or… just repeat after Dr. Sheldon Cooper:

sheldon not crazy

Book tour – you can help!

April is Autism Awareness Month.  I’ll be out presenting the book in hopes that it reaches families in need of encouragement.

Zandbroz Book Signing<- Saturday, April 8th is a book signing in downtown Sioux Falls, SD.  The owner of the variety store, who created this great poster, has a family member with special needs.

The day before that , Friday, April 7, award winning Christian author Norma Gail will feature her interview with me on her blog.  She’s also cared for family members with special needs.

StMartins Lake Minnetonka

As covered by the Laker & Pioneer News.

Coming up toward the end of the month, I’ll be speaking at St. Martin’s By-The-Lake Episcopal Church on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota.  I’ll have the chance to preach at two services as well as offer a forum in between them. –>

 

How can you help?  On line reviews, even a few sentences of reaction, can raise the profile of the book and help others take a look.  If you found Raising a Child With Autism meaningful in some way, please share a review:

On Amazon.com (if you didn’t get the book via Amazon, please be sure to state in your review how you received it, such as “It came as a gift from a friend.”)

and/or

At Goodreads.

Thanks in advance for your support.  The hope is to reach families that need some encouragement in the midst of care giving.  And as one reviewer said, it goes beyond autism:

This is a most amazing book. The writing is phenomenal. Each chapter is divided into three parts, and each connected to “gardening or growing something”. This book is like a meditation and it does not just relate to raising a child with autism, it can apply to any difficulty, one might be going through. It even relates to just life itself. I have given this book to many people and all have loved it. The depth of this small book will amaze you.

Because it stinks…

air freshener

Image found here.

…caregivers have some capacity to freshen the stinkiness in others’ lives (and thereby in our own).

I think that our experiences can give us compassion for others’ struggles, even those not tied to care giving.

Here’s a positive review of our book, which notes that it can reach into situations that are not just like ours:

This is a most amazing book. The writing is phenomenal. Each chapter is divided into three parts, and each connected to “gardening or growing something”. This book is like a meditation and it does not just relate to raising a child with autism, it can apply to any difficulty, one might be going through. It even relates to just life itself. I have given this book to many people and all have loved it. The depth of this small book will amaze you.

I think we can fight off pity parties (OK, sometimes) by getting out of ourselves and helping others with different challenges.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

 

Not Fabio but he’ll do

FlowersStorm_avoncovers_first_web-200x327

After all my work to get in shape, this cover was rejected.  Dang, wish I’d a thunk up that title, though!

The cover design credit for Raising a Child with Autism goes to Elaina Lee, who worked with our publisher on the concept.

Our initial suggestion was that the cover be more cartoonish and humorous – maybe a confused guy holding a leaky hose over a withered plant.  Our working title was Blooming Idiots, intended to reflect the on-the-job, trial and error (lots of error) learning  that comes through care giving.

But our publisher had a wise insight as release date drew near: Can you imagine a Facebook status or tweet something like, “Just read a #book about #autism called Blooming Idiots” ? People are going to think you wrote a book that calls people with autism idiots.

Darn it, we liked that title.  But the publisher was spot on.  Sampling the title around to potential readers indicated that it provoked a negative reaction, as if we were using the R word.

So, we tried to go artsy and suggested stuff like Our Family Garden.  But that made it sound like a book about, well, gardening.

Finally, the publisher decided to go with a straightforward approach, and Raising a Child With Autism went on the cover.

That didn’t lend itself to our original cartoon concept, so the cover art team went with a sweet image of weathered, older hands and tender toddler hands holding some earth with a sprouting plant.

We had problems with it.   One was that it was too gentle.  Our hands and Joey’s hands didn’t always work cooperatively.  Care giving verged on combat much of the time.  Plus part of our story is how Melissa and I labored together as a couple, and the cover concept featured just old guy hands and no mommy presence.  The artists went back and tried to capture that, but the result was too busy and would have cluttered the cover.

book-coverSo Elaina Lee creatively and rightly shifted the focus to the child, and that’s the cover you see.  No, that’s not Joey.  He would never wear a hat because of his sensory issues.  He is seldom that still and focused.  And as we share in at least one chapter of the book, he can be pretty hard on plants.

But he does smile, he does delight in simple things and our reward as care givers comes through those kinds of realities.  So there’s a sweetness in the cover that rightly draws the caregivers toward the person in their care, and the hope and joy found in new life blooming.

Interested in your thoughts on the cover.  What does it say to you?   And how would you symbolize your experience of care giving?

Party. Where you are.

This week features the Happy Holiday Progressive Blog Party at CareGiving.com.

The internet provides one way for tied up, tied down caregivers to “get out” and find fellowship, fun and support in the wider world.  The blog party will help you find a variety of caregivers in different situations who share their companionship and insight via the internet.

There are prizes to be won, including a copy of our book.

If you’ve not been here before, welcome!  We’ve been blogging since August 11, 2012.  Quite the memories scrolling back through the years.  Hope to add some with you, from right where you are!

No Trick

Don’t know what the publisher had in mind but today (Halloween) is the release date of our book.

If you go to the Amazon.com page, you can see the front and back covers of the book and even peek inside.  It’s available in paperback and Kindle formats.

If you shop on Amazon on some regular basis, check out AmazonSmile.  You can set up so that a portion of anything you buy on Amazon is donated to a worthy group of your choosing.

If you are so inclined, you can identify SD Achieve (aka LifeScape), which is the organization that provides wonderful service to our son, Joey.

Thank you!  More care giving antics to be blogged soon…

 

Hope this helps… [UPDATED]

book-cover

Blogging’s been sparse here down the home stretch of distilling some of our insights into book form.  See?  I’m so worn out that I’m mixing metaphors.

Anyway, here it is, available for preorder at Amazon.com.

UPDATE:  Some of you might be asking, “Hey, what happened to Blooming Idiots?  THIS IS THE SAME BOOK.  My editors had a late insight – a good one – that there could be a perception problem.  Can you imagine a Tweet something like “I just read a #book about #autism called Blooming Idiots” ?  The implication would be that people with special needs are idiots – precisely the opposite of the book’s message. 

We tried some artsy titles, but they made it sound like a gardening manual.  So we went literal, just laid it on the line.  Wise move, which is why one has editors.

Also, some have asked about formats.  It will be available in paperback and in a Kindle version.  At the Amazon page, there should be a show all formats link.  If that doesn’t work, try clicking the link version of author name (Timothy Fountain).  That should show the choices.

We pray that it will reach and help family caregivers, especially those just stepping onto the ground we’ve been walking these last couple of decades.

And hopefully we’ll be back to blogging and sharing more thoughts.  Thank you all for being part of this.

 

Getting louder

Our son’s been louder the last few nights.  I think the longer daylight of Northern Plains summer messes with him.  He sits up trying to watch movies but his agitation comes out in manically thumping his chest with an open hand.  We say soothing things, he stops for a few seconds, then fills the house with echoing thuds again.

We’re getting closer to our own echo.  The kinds of things we blog about here are coming out as a book in August,

When autism became part of our family, our amateur status as caregivers felt like our trial and error efforts at gardening.  Outcomes were seldom what we hoped.  But with love, spiritual insight and some humor drawn from our yard work we found inspiration and encouragement to raise our special needs son. We hope that Blooming Idiots shares this in ways helpful to other caregivers. The title comes from this thought: “Caregivers are Blooming Idiots who tend and nurture while being sliced and diced by thorns. Beauty grows no other way.”

Author Carol Grace Stratton recently interviewed Tim about the book and his outlet as a writer.  Hope you’ll go check it out.

Did we say outlet?  Let’s say it louder.  OUTLET.  Caregivers need outlets.  We need ways to refresh ourselves by using gifts and talents that are not absorbed into care giving.  We need to exercise bits of who we are that make us feel more joyfully alive.

Now, we’ve heard all that before.  “You have to do something for you.  You have to take care of yourself to take care of others.” And that makes us loud as we scream, “With what time, energy, space or money?  We don’t have any of it left to enjoy.”

Which means you have to let the voice – the divine voice that can be so faint in the midst of all the havoc – get louder than the other demands to remind you that you have great value.  Your care giving work is not a punishment for real or imagined sins.  You are not a bad person for sometimes resenting it or needed to step away from it or not doing it just right all the time.  You have permission to rest, refresh and take pleasure.

We hope and pray that pleasant time will come your way this day.

#BloomingIdiots

Because the world needs another hashtag.

Blooming Idiots is the title of our little book of stories, insights and encouragement for caregivers.  It is due for release this August from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.  If you’re in or around the upper Midwest, we’ll be exhibiting at the South Dakota Festival of Books on September 24th.

While our experience is caring for a son with autism, we’ve had some positive feedback from folks in a number of care giving situations who’ve read the draft.  Even a parent of a neurotypical (fancy word for “normal”) teenager found it helpful.

We hope you’ll find it helpful, too.  More details as the release draws near.

Meanwhile, we’ll keep sharing some tales and reflections here at the blog, as well as short takes via our Facebook page and Twitter.  Stuff like this…

A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them. Liberty Hyde Bailey

… that reminds us of hard working caregivers like you.  And us, sometimes.

Care giving blog party!

caregiving.com will sponsor a blog party this coming week.  (December 6th is special to us – it’s the Feast of St. Nicholas, a bit of a caregiver in his own right.  Melissa and I met at church named for him and our son’s middle name is Nicholas.)

Anyway, a progressive party is where you go visiting from place to place (appetizers at Joe’s house, main course at Wendy’s, dessert at… well, you get the idea).  It’s a way to mix and mingle.

In this case, it is a chance to visit care giving blogs, give and get some encouragement, win free stuff (well, free to the winner – blog hosts will be donating the prizes!)

More this Sunday – see you then!