Thursday, August 29, 2013

my kid has the autism

First thing to note... this is not an autism blog.  This will never be an autism blog.  This blog is about life.  My life, the life of those around me, the things that are enjoyed the most, like movies and music and fellowship and so on... just wanted to make that point, lest you think that from here forward, all I'm going to do is write about autism.  I'm not.  I'll refer to it, but it won't be the dominating factor in this blogsite... nor in our lives.  Cause its not an end. Its a different path.  That's all.

My son, Campbell Isaiah, is autistic. 

And he's still pretty freakin' awesome.

You see, I only knew two things about autism.  That autism existed, and that if you were high-functioning, that means you had Asperger's, a form of autism.  That's it.

I know lots of kids with autism.  I know lots of parents who have autism.  And I knew that Campbell had something going on with him.

Rather than re-hash how we got to this point, you can just read this...

Bottom line, could Campbell have autism?  No.  No way.  I mean, we did everything right, right? 

We have regulated his diet from pretty much the beginning... he didn't breastfeed, so we did formula... his system didn't like the formula we gave him (Enfamil and then Gerber Baby--nothing wrong with those products, he just didn't agree with them).  So we started making our own, using goat's milk and some nutrients we had researched and liked.  As he got older, we began to regulate his diet.... when he started eating solid foods, it was nothing but straight up fruits and veggies.

Rutabaga... carrots... peas... squash... beets... blueberries... bananas... apples... nectarines... pears... mangos... peaches... you name it, he'll eat it.  Just peel, steam, blend and feed.  We dropped the blending part, and just cut up into small chunks after a few months.  The only thing we have found that he just is broccoli... he took it off the fork, and without even trying it, dropped it onto the floor.  That's his way of saying, "Nope."

On the bulletin board at the clinic
But we everything right!  We took caution and care to make sure he wasn't getting anything he wasn't supposed to... and yet, here we are.  So... you're telling me that any kid can get autism, really... hmm.

We began getting both speech and occupational therapy with him at our home.  A couple of chicks would come here, work with him in playing and speaking, and again, they recommended an autism screening.  The Mitchell's Place was the first one that everyone referred us to, but after calling, the couldn't get us in until October.

We certainly couldn't wait that long... so after doing a ton of research, The Lovely Steph Leann then got us an appointment with the University of Alabama Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic... and we braced ourselves for what we knew would probably happen.

For about three hours, we were interviewed by one of the psychologists.  They asked all kinds of questions like, "Does he do this..." and "How does he react when..." and "Have you noticed him doing..." and stuff like that.  I wanted to answer positively on everything, but just couldn't.  We had to be honest.  And the longer it went on, we knew.

Another lady played with him the entire time, doing specific activities and games with him to gauge his motor and play skills.  She pulled out certain toys to see how he problem solved, and blew bubbles all over the room to see his reaction.  And both she and the psychologist made lots and lots of notes.

They left us, and came back a 1/2 hour later, and simply said:

Campbell has Autism.


We knew it, but there's something about having someone official say something so official.

He has autism.

Boom again.

Turns out, there is something called an autism spectrum... its like a line, and the higher you go, the better you are.  He ranked somewhere in the middle, at a 56.  His motor skills ranked high--in the 16 month old range.  His expressive and reactive?  He's at a 5mo level.  He has the same kind of expressive reactions to us that he had in April of 2012. 

He has autism.

We talked for a while about the things we have done, and what the future holds.  The next few days came, and went... nothing really changed for Campbell or us.  We kept on doing what we were doing... same food, same play activities and so on.

She told us, "I've seen children that were higher on the spectrum plateau in a few years and never get better.  I've seen children much lower on the spectrum grow up and have productive, wonderful lives.  Take it year by year."

Saturday night, we did our little share of grieving... I watched him.  I watched him move around the room and all the things the psychologist had said rushed back to me... the signs.  The symptoms.  What he would do, what he wouldn't do.  And it was true.  If these were the signs, then yes

He has autism.

A day or two more, thoughts filled my mind... this wasn't supposed to happen... remember, we did all the preventative measures.  We didn't even vaccinate (that's another story for another day)!  I mean, Campbell was supposed to grow up... play with Buzz Lightyear and Lightnin McQueen... take tennis lessons... become a teenager... drive... graduate high school, work at Starbucks, go to college (go Trojans!), find a nice girl, date... grow old!

And now? (in my most panicked voice) He's got The Autisma!  He's broked!  Now he'll be a drooling goob living with us when he's 45 years old, sucking all of our resources and finances because we continually have to get him care, because he can't even bathe himself!!!!!


We know this isn't all true.  But it all ran through my mind.  That's what Fear does.  Fear takes the worst case scenarios, usually far fetched, and turns them into the most likely scenarios. 

So we had to Punch Fear in the Face.  Pray about it, push back those anxieties, and start to look ahead.

But a few days ago, something huge occurred to me... back 10, 15, 20 years ago, The Autism was a fun-life death sentence.  Meaning, if your child was autistic, you had limited resources, limited options, and I'm guessing a vast majority of diagnosed kids didn't get the help, training, therapy and opportunities they deserved and needed, leaving only a small number that went on to have those awesome lives.

This was taken about 4 minutes ago.  He spends so much
time trying to get my attention, its hard to get things...
but just now, trying to get a good picture, I couldn't keep
him around me... little turd.
Nowadays, I think that's completely reversed.  I would think a huge majority of autistic children now have those resources in abundance, therapy available, and many, many more options than ever.  I'm not saying all children have this chance, but I think those who don't are not in the majority, but in a much smaller minority. 

I voiced this theory with Melissa, our occupational therapist, and she wholeheartedly agreed.  She said simply, "All the guarantees that he had for opportunities to be successful... he still has them.  Its just a different path he'll be on."  We were very encouraged that we not only caught it early, but we also started doing some of the things needed months ago. 

So here we are... we take it week by week, month by month, year by year... actually, like most parents will, with their own children. 

We are indeed taking year by year.  But we are optimistic that Campbell Isaiah has a great future ahead of him. 

He has autism.

And he's pretty fantastic.

Boom goes the autistic dynamite.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

the journey begins with a grin

We have an autistic child.  The psychologist said so.  And I'll share that, much more of that, in a day or so.  Tonight, however, I just wanted to share this...

We grieved this evening. Not for long.  Not much.  A little. We grieve over all the things our son likely won't be, while we learn to accept who he is now. 

I met up with some new friends this afternoon... and then The Lovely Steph Leann and I met some old friends for dinner... and all the while, I thought of our Campbell...

And tonight, when we got home, I sat down and reality began to finally set in.  He's autistic.  We now have a diagnosed special needs child. 

I saw on the couch, and a tear came down one cheek.  Then a tear came down the other.  The Lovely Steph Leann came and sat beside me, putting her head on my shoulder, while Campbell went around the room, playing with this toy and that, not letting himself spend too much time on any one thing.

I wiped a few tears, I heard The Lovely Steph Leann sniffle and wipe her eyes. 

And then, as if on cue, Campbell came up to me.  He put his hands on my knees, his signal for "I want up".  I pulled the lever for the recliner, and the pedestal rose, bring him up as well.  He crawled into my lap, and as he did, he grinned.  This wonderful, beautiful, gap toothed, innocent grin.

He grinned at us.  At me.

The Lovely Steph Leann said, "Ha... he's saying 'No Mommy, I want to love on Daddy, not you!'"

I paused, and smiled, wiping another tear, saying, "No, I don't think so.  I think he is saying 'Don't cry Mommy and Daddy.  I'm cool.  I'm going to be fine.  Just you wait and see.'" 

And with that grin, this is where our journey, the part that now has a label on it, officially begins.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

learning the a-word

Tomorrow, I will get up at 430 in the morning.  I will take care of breakfast for The Lovely Steph Leann and the likely sleeping Campbell Isaiah.  I will cook his breakfast, probably of two eggs, and maybe a banana, maybe some avocado or blueberries.  He also has some baby vitamins he takes, so there's that.

He'll wake up, and I'll take him and feed him while The Lovely Steph Leann gets ready.  Then, around 645 in the morning, we'll pile in the car and head out... headed to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, about 45 minutes from The Cabana, our home here in Birmingham.

Our son, Campbell Isaiah, probably about 16 months
when this was taken...
Tuscaloosa... the home of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.. according to many people, also the home of 7, maybe 8 national titles.  According to most, its the home of 14 national football titles.  According to the diehard Roll Tiders, the home of 277 national football titles--some of them have been awarded strictly because Bear Bryant lived.  Such is.

We won't be headed to a football game though... I will say, I've seen two football games at Alabama from the student section, and its unbelievably cool...

The Lovely Steph Leann, a graduate of the UofA will surely have lots of tales to tell as we drive through, including that of wrecking her bicycle--The Purple Passion--in front of an incredibly hunky Jay Barker.

But no, again, we aren't looking for memories and stories.

No, tomorrow morning we are taking Campbell to a clinic on campus to be screened.  An evaluation.  For autism.  The A-word has made its way to our immediately family.

The kid is over 20 months old... he'll be 21mo in about a week or more, on September 1st, but he's currently tracking at a communication level of a 9 or 10 month old, if that.  What does that mean?  That means, take an infant 1/2 of Campbell's age, put them side by side, and they will communication the same way.

Campbell doesn't talk.  Not a peep.  He may or may not have said the word "Eat!" a few weeks back, though I am thinking that was a reoccurring sounds of "eet!  eet!  eet!" and so on. He squeals a lot, makes motorboating sounds, drools like a fountain, and sometimes will toss up a "ka" or a "ba" sound... nothing that resembles "dada" or "mama", though.

Many parents, well intentioned, have told us, "Oh my kid didn't talk until (fill in age here), so you probably don't have anything to worry about!"... but its beyond talking.  He doesn't communicate.  He doesn't point to things he knows or recognizes.  He doesn't tell us what he wants, other than the seemingly obvious "hungry" and "tired" signs... even then, it can be a bit confusing. 

We noticed early on, maybe around 8 or 9 months, that he wouldn't look at you when you held him and talked to him. He would look everywhere but at your face.  He didn't start walking until well after a year old, and then wouldn't come to you when called. 

We decided to get his hearing checked... it turned out fine, but kinda of the cusp of fine and not so fine... they recommended he see a specialist for his developmental issues.  We did that, and learned about his delays.  And more than one specialist and/or doctor has recommended he been screened for autism.

So... tomorrow we go.  I don't imagine we'll know anything in a day, we might have to go back.  But they will do a psychological evaluation on him--don't ask me how they do this for toddlers-- and that will go a long way to determined our next steps.

The Lovely Steph Leann isn't really scared, as she has long thought that there are issues.  Me? I'm a little scared of the whole thing.  So, we shall see...

I'll be doing an update to this post soon, perhaps over the weekend, perhaps next week... whatever journey we are on, we are just beginning with Campbell...

Thanks for reading my rambleness...

Monday, August 19, 2013

i am the stupid park guest

I'm not one to play a whole lot of video games.  In fact, we've had a Wii for about four or five years, and the number of times I have played it in the last two years is, maybe once. Maybe twice.  My history with video games actually goes all the way back to 1989, when my mom and dad bought me a real, genuine Nintendo 8 bit system, with the Duck Hunt gun and game, AND... check this out, AND the Power Pad.  Like, the mat that you plug in, and run on for the game World Class Track Meet.  It had four games--the 100 yard dash, the hurdles, the relay, and the Olympics, where you can combine all three games for a big score.  Was there something else?  I don't remember.

Don't know what the Power Pad is?  It looks like this picture... it was awesome. Anyway, there was a way to position your heels right behind the circles, and then quickly tap your feet on the circles... if you did it just right, there was no stopping you.  Don't believe me?  My 100 yard record is 5.61 seconds.  I remember that number, even though I haven't actually played on a Nintendo Power Pad in at least 12 years, and haven't set that record in about 20.  The other side of it had some sort of set up for a Dance Aerobics game, but that was lame-oh.

Aside from that game, I played a heavy rotation of Super Mario Brothers (1 & 3, because 2 was dumb), Tecmo Bowl (Bo Jackson was unstoppable), CastleVania (I never got past level 4), Contra (Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B Start), Rygar (I never understood the game, and never got anywhere), Paperboy (I liked breaking virtual windows), Mike Tyson's Punchout (I beat him once.  One.Single.Time), Tetris (I played so much, I saw it in my sleep), Top Gun (the first level ruled), Marble Madness (that game was so hardcore) and of course, the original The Legend of Zelda.

But as the game systems and technology grew, my interest in them waned.  Well, let me rephrase that.. they got smarter, I didn't.  I skipped the Super Nintendo, and by the time the Game Cube rolled around, the controllers were all fancy with 287 buttons each, and it was just too complicated. 

We bought a Nintendo Wii some years ago, and I spent 100s of hours on Star Wars Legos, and a bit of time on Toy Story Mania... but that's about it.  Just no time for such things. 

A screen shot of Forest Frontiers, after some heavy work
The game that I really like, though, when I have time to waste, is Roller Coaster Tycoon.  There might be a video game system for it, but I have the PC version... I borrowed--and forgot to give back--the original game disc from my brother in law, Tyler... I had no instructions, no clue how to do anything, and when the first game, "Forest Frontiers" popped up, I had to wing it. 

Essentially, it opens up with a big patch of a land and a park gate.  You are then to build an amusement park.  You have an opening set of rides and attractions, a handful of coasters, a few drink and snack bars and so on.  And, you are given a budget.  I tried to do the Dave Ramsey thing and build it debt free, but that's pretty fruitless.  You also have to build walkways or renovate existing walkways, and with each ride you build, it costs you money, but you have to build an entrance and an exit.  On some levels you can buy more land, some you have to clear trees and landscaping to build more, and if you want more than the initial rides and attractions, then you have to allocate money to "marketing and research";  meaning every little while, another coaster, ride or stand will be available to you to use. 

Each level gets a wee bit harder, and each one will have different objectives... some will say "Have 900 guests in your park by the end of Year 3" (each "year" lasts like, 15 minutes or something) or "Maintain a Park Rating of 850 by Year 2", and sometimes you have a brand new patch of land to work with, build your park and open with, and other times you have to start right in on an existing park, already filled with guests. 

Its a fun game, and an addicting one too.  Every time I go to Walt Disney World, I find myself thinking about Roller Coaster Tycoon, and what I can do different.  You can even hire "security guards", "mechanics" to fix rides (which I always name Larry, Gary, Barry, Terry and so on) and "janitors" to clean up (which I always name Jill, Bill, Gil, Will and so on).  Because to make an amusement park, you also have to have guests... and the guests in Roller Coaster Tycoon are... well... stupid.

In the game, or at least in the initial version of the game (there are now multiple sequels, as well as expansion packs for each, etc), the only differentiating characteristic of each guest is the color of their shirt.  Their faces, skin, size are exactly alike.  Each guest is given a number, and they all had different amounts of money in their pocket to spend, as well as various levels of stamina when it comes to hard rides and such.

But they are all stupid.  Case in point... build a coaster.  A nice roller coaster, and let it build in popularity and make you lots of money.  Eventually, that coaster will break down more and more often, making it more trouble than its worth... so you can do one of two things:  You can "close" the ride, which means all your guests in line and on the ride will exit, make their way onto your pathway and go to other rides, then you can delete your coaster. 


You can just delete it.  When you do that, everyone in the ride queue turns around and walks out.  However, the people on the ride suddenly drop to the grass below.  Some will find the path, disappear amongst the hundreds, and keep going.  Others?  Well, this is the stupid part. The others will start wandering aimlessly.  And when I say, aimlessly, I mean AIM-LESS-LEE... they scatter like a flock of startled birds... you have little "tweezers" that you can pick each guest up and place them on the path, but if there are dozens of them, its hard to pick them all up... invariably, you lose some.

You'll think you have all of them, and then suddenly you hear a beep-beep-beep notification, telling you that "Guest 194 is lost".  You do a click, and the screen will pan all the way across your park to find one or more poor souls just wandering back and forth, through the grass.  Click on them, usually they'll have a mad look on their face.  Lost.

And occasionally, you'll have everything laid out, pathways correct, connected to other pathways, and you'll still get a beep-beep-beep notification that tells you something like "Guest 491 is lost".  How are you lost, chief? I mean, seriously... you are wandering around the Carousel!  The path to the exit is two squares in front of you, genius!  Even when the path is clearly marked, Guest 491 is furious its not laid out for him completely.

Sounds like someone I know.  Namely, me. 

I am the stupid park guest. 

When everything is going swimmingly, then suddenly, something is deleted, I fall to the grass.  Most of the time, I just start wandering off in my own world.  No sense of where I'm going, but hoping I'll know where "there" is when I get there. 

I am the stupid park guest.  The path many times (re: most of the time) is very clearly marked.  And I ignore it.  I pout until I get my way, until its made even more clear... only then will I move. 

I am the stupid park guest.  Usually with less money.  And while I scoff at Guest 93 for paying my price of $9 for a drink, I then leave and spend my last bit of cash on something dumb when I should be saving up.

I am the stupid park guest.  Like the guests you can pick up and drop into the water just to watch them drown, I drown in my own fears, insecurities and general dorkfacedness. 

I am the stupid park guest.  Even when things are set forth, right in front of me, sometimes I just stop and puke on the sidewalk.  Or turn in the wrong direction anyway.  I get mad.  I get confused.  And I realize I am must be like everyone else.  No uniqueness.  No individuality.  Nothing that sets me apart. 

I am the stupid park guest.

Thankfully... I've got someone else holding the Holy Tweezers that picks me out of the mess, out of the wilderness and from the lost grass and places me back on the pathway.  Be real... you've never heard the term "Holy Tweezers" until now, right?  See, this is why I'm here.

We don't have to be stupid park guests.  We don't have to wander aimlessly.  And we don't have to wait for the Holy Tweezers to get us... we can make that move on our own. 

(thanks to Katie Porath, a friend in the START Experiment, for the inspiration for this post...)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

average to audacious (with a layover at awesome)

I want the next year of my life to matter.  To be... well, not just Awesome.  But Audacious.

I mentioned this earlier, but I am involved in a project called The Start Experiment".  This dude named Jon Acuff, who wrote the book "Quitter" (an excellent book about finding your passions while still dealing with your own life) also wrote a book called "START"... and this book is about achieving those passions, ie, STARTing those passions in your life. 

My goals for that day.  I accomplished all of them, thank you.
Got an email that asked me if I wanted to go on a 24 day adventure.  Of course I said "YES!", so a week or so later, I began getting daily emails with small challenges... challenges like "What are your fears?" and "What are your goals?" and "What can you do to get to those goals" and so on... the beauty of it, though, were there about 1500 people nationwide that did the same thing.  We are all in a closed group on Facebook called "The START Experiment."

I've met a dozen of like-minded people like me, people who had dreams and visions and passions and ambitions and really were unsure how to START... but through the 24 days, we all kinda got a clue.   In fact, the redesign of this website was an absolute, direct result of the START Experiment.

So then, the 24 days are over... and we were given a chance to go to "Round 2", being called "AUDACIOUS"

"Audacious" is a word that sometimes has a negative connotation... in fact, the dictionary gives the definition as:

  1. Showing a willingness to take bold risks: "an audacious takeover".
  2. Showing an impudent lack of respect: "an audacious remark".
bold - daring - hardy - impudent - brave - venturesome

The problem is, we look at that 2nd definition, especially when saying, "Can you believe the audacity of that person?!"  But the first?  All about risk.  All about stepping out.  All about saying "Hey Dreams, hey Passions, hey Visions... what up, holmes?  What you got for me?"

It's also challenged me to take a good, long look at my fears.  One of the daily tasks was to simply write down my fears.  Not type them, but write them down.  I would much rather type... in high school, I got up to 70 words per minute, and probably average out now around 55 or 60 comfortably.  Its easy to type.  But writing?  It just takes longer, and I have to go slow, because otherwise you can't read what I write... somewhat messy writing because of my speed, but also because I use an Ultra Fine Sharpie as a writing tool. I'm a Sharpie fiend, so get used to it.
Challenged to write down my fears on paper, I did

So I wrote my fears down.   It wasn't easy.  But it was cool.  It was self-reflective, and cool... something that I don't think I would have ever done without START. 

And if the Facebook groups during the first 24 days were great... that's nothing to the sense of community being set forth now. There are at least a dozen subgroups, most centered on a common them--"authors" or "bloggers" or "internet entrepreneurs" or "business owners" or "SouthEast", which I am all a part of... I've also joined a small group called "START Corner", where myself about and 10 other people are just kinda... well, hanging out and sharing. 

In the weeks since this has started, I've been blown away by the lives that are changing... testimonies to the power of Christ working in addictions... working in overcoming fears from overbearing parents to stepping out on faith in ministries... new projects that are being started from the ground up or re-started in a long dormant project that final gets some attention.

My Facebook feed is filled with men and women discussing new projects, discussing how they are being transformed and encouraged... and yes, I'm in the midst.  I'm being encouraged daily, though my slight OCD tendencies pop up when I see that red and white number on my phone alerting me of notifications... I want to check it immediately.

Anyway, this has also given me the jumpstart for many upcoming posts, including my next one on Friday, which I'll simply title "The Great Thirty Eight".  Hope you join me!

Lets not be average.

Lets be more than awesome

Lets be Audacious.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

if sin can bleed... thoughts on rocky IV part 2

So yesterday, I wrote a little piece after watching Rocky IV, because... well, its my site and I can talk about whatever.  I just thank you for reading...

This is my spiritual take on Rocky IV.  I wrote this in 2002, after a Bible Study, where a girl named Fish taught.  She used this movie as an example, butchering the concept, the names and the dialogue.  So I wrote the following... part of it might be a little redundant, as some of the same thoughts I wrote then I also carry similar opinions on now, but I hope you get my drift...

Anyway... I called it a Rocky Christian Life
One the best the worst the best the most interesting
Cold War'esque opening shots ever
Rocky IV is such a guilty pleasure. Seriously... the movie itself is incredibly cheesy, the plotline is a little thin, the death of icon Apollo Creed, while tragic, was almost deserved. Come on, did he really think he could beat Drago? I mean, Drago probably put an even bigger smack down on him simply because Creed entered to James Brown's "Livin' in America".

Very stereotypical and formulated. Rocky loses his best friend to the big bad Russian Ivan Drago, and then challenges Drago to fight. Do you realize that Ivan Drago has only six lines of intelligible dialogue the entire 112 minutes? (I cannot be defeated... You will lose... I must break you... If he dies he dies... Until the end... and You're dead) We absolutely can't get away from the standard driving fast in the hot sports car at night while Survivor song plays, because this gives us flashbacks to previous Rocky movies so in case you didn't see I-III, you can catch up. Adrian's "You can't win!!!" standard speech. I hated her.
Sidebar: Incidentally, if you only see a single Rocky, catch part III, just for the Clubber Lang/Mr. T. scenario. It doesn't take itself as seriously as I and II which gives that cliffhanger ending (like there is more to come), but doesn’t start down that ridiculous road that over-the-top IV takes you on, which leads to the disaster crap that is Part V.
Sidebar, written today, not in 2002... the song "There's No Easy Way Out", which plays while Rocky speeds through the night... for whatever reason, I always attributed this song to the band "Survivor", as they did "Eye of the Tiger" and "Burning Heart", so why not this one, right?  Its actually a dude named Robert Tepper, and if you look at his Wiki page, you'll see he's done several songs for TV and film, including the theme from the Sly classic "Cobra".  Two things--first, Tepper released his first few albums in the mid-80s, his 3rd in 1996 and his 4th in 2012.  Lots of time between.  Secondly, "Cobra" is important to note because its the film that Sly Stallone did... INSTEAD of Beverly Hills Cop, which was written specifically for Sly.  We see how that worked.  Some dude named Eddie Murphy did BH Cop, I've heard it worked out okay.
Okay, sorry, back to 2002, and "Rocky IV" talk...
Sly Stallone with his Nighthawks beard... wait... what?  Lando Calrissian
AND Rocky Balboa are in this film?!?!  How did I not know this?!?!
One of my favorite parts of IV is when Rocky and Drago finally meet. Leading up to this, you see Ivan Drago doing all these highly technological workout routines, with heart monitors, steroids, in 1985-state-of-the-art bowflex soloflex leg iron pump arm twist weight control thing deal pumper muscle builder machines. And Rocky? He's grown this "Nighthawks"-like beard, he's dragging logs, he's punching walls, he's running up a mountain through the four feet of snow, he's chopping wood, he's pulling Paulie and Adrian (is she actually needed in these? When she changed her mind right before the fight and flew to Russia, I would have had the KGB shoot her plane down... would've made a great subplot) in a wooden card. Russian technology versus good ol' American spirit and heart.

So, in the fight, Drago is pounding away at Rocky, tearing him up. Rocky is doing his dance moves that Apollo Creed taught him in III, when he was going up against Clubber Lang, and of course, demolition man Ivan is just punching away. But suddenly, out of nowhere, Rocky slams his fist into Drago's head... and... and... oh my gosh! He's cut the Russian open! He's cut the Russian open! And there it is... the once invincible Russian is bleeding from a cut to his eye. In the immortal words of Ah-nold in the immortal classic Predator... "If it bleeds... we can kill it".

Have you ever had habitual sins? Just stuff that keeps rearing its ugly head over and over? No matter how many times you go to the cross with it, intending on leaving it there, somehow another you lay everything else down and end up sneaking that sin into your back pocket. When you walk away, it’s with you. You know the routine... you sin, you ask forgiveness and a short time later, you sin the exact same thing. Sometimes in the exact same manner. Be it gossip, lust, anger, pride, jealousy... whatever.

There are so many tried methods of breaking free... journals, books, speakers, conferences, people you consider more godly than thou, lessons, magazines, whatever... some simple, some complicated, of how to break free of that sin.

I think a problem for me is on the road we call God's Will, I tend to stop when I screw up. Instead of accepting God's grace, reveling in the freedom, I stand in my own depravity, guilt ridden, overwhelmed with anger at myself for betraying God. Over and over, yourself you judge, dreading the consequences of your actions. As a friend of mine once said, "When God says 'Arise and go', I say back 'Wait, don't you understand what I've done?'"

So instead of pressing on, driven by a pursuit of Him, I just stop. And that big bad Russian Ivan Drago pounds away at me, uncaring. "If you die... you die". Satan looks at me square in the face, and says, "I must break you". And the slaughter begins. What to do? Do I succumb to the Adrians of the world, and believe the "YOU CAN'T WIN!!" myth, what the secular society tells me everyday?

Or do I keep going? Do I keep training? Training, not by those crazy worldly machines... but by the simplistic methods of prayer, devotion, mediation, study of His Word... and mind you, I'm not training to "be ready to be used by God", I'm training to "be ready when God decides He's going to use me to fight".

"Apollo was like a son to me. I raised him. And when he died, a part of me died too. But now you’re the one... you're the one who has to make sure his death didn’t go for nothing. You're the one. Do it. Do it!"--Duke, Apollo's former coach, who is training Rocky in the cabin in Siberia.

"Christ was a son to me. I raised him. And when he died, your bondage died too. But now, you’re the one. You’re the one who I desire to make his death not in vain. You’re the one. Do it. Do it!" God, talking to you and me, challenging us to move forward.

Suddenly, we realize that Christ didn't die just to give us grace when we sin, he died more so to give us Freedom to not sin. Let me say that again, because that is such a huge statement to make...

Christ died not for grace for sinning, but for Freedom of not sinning.

Isn't that just slap you in the mouth and grab a biscuit amazing? Blows me away just to think about that... let that soak in today. There is daylight at the end of the tunnel, I promise.

When you realize this information, that we don't have to be trapped by sin, that Satan's power over us is nothing, suddenly we can fight back. We can start throwing punches instead of taking them.  

Oh my gosh! He's cut Satan open! He's cut Satan open! Satan is bleeding from a cut above his eye!

Remember... Sin. If it bleeds, you can kill it.

If I can change... you can change... we all can change!!!!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

if I can change: thoughts on rocky IV part 1

Usually I don't spend two posts discussing a movie... but I have a lot to say about this one...

Let's be clear about something... "Rocky IV" is not a good film.  Its just not.  Its poorly acted, the premise is ridiculous and the "Change" speech from Rocky at the climax is overdramatic and preposterous.  And yet, here I am at 1104pm on a Monday night, unable to look away at the wonderful craptastica before me.

I won't even go into the plot of this movie, other than to say that Ivan Drago, the Russian, challenges the American, Apollo Creed, to a fight, kills him in the ring, then is challenged by Rocky Balboa to a fight, in Russia, on Christmas Day.  Or some silliness like that.

Anyway, here are a few random thoughts I had while watching tonight...

So, Apollo and James Brown are close enough that JB will perform at Apollo's match... yet JB can't show up for the funeral?  Sketchy.

Rocky didn't stop the fight.  Rocky, a seasoned fighter, someone who knows the immediate results of such injuries and beatings that Ivan Drago is laying upon Apollo, hesitates not once, but TWICE... first, between rounds, when Apollo begs him to not interfere.  Okay, I get it, your bestie wants to keep going.  But when Ivan is pounding Apollo's face to a bloody pulp, Rocky should have thrown in the towel.  More is not made of the fact Rocky watched as Apollo Creed essentially was beaten to death. 

By the way, Apollo Creed had no business in this fight.  None.  He was an old fighter who basically bullied his way into the fight against a dude who was bigger, stronger, and coming from Mother Russia, had been taught to hit people and not show emotion.  Ivan Drago didn't kill Apollo Creed.  Apollo Creed killed Apollo Creed.

"You can't win!" is Adrian's cry to Rocky.  When she showed up in Russia, I would have told her to take her doubting tail home.  Biggest fight of my life upon me, my life possibly in danger, I don't need her kind of negativity.  Worst wife ever.

David Hasselhoff didn't need to be on the Berlin Wall.  Survivor did.  They sang the soundtrack that ended the Cold War.

Speaking of Survivor, sometimes late at night, when I have a lot on my mind, I like driving around really fast, blaring "Burning Heart" and thinking about my life.  Usually the last three movies worth of my life, anyway.

If I could go back in time, I'd punch my 9 year old self in the gut for thinking Brigette Nielson was pretty.   Back then, she was a looker.  But I'd show my young self a picture of her with Flava Flav from 2007. "See!  See little d$!  This is what happens!"  Of course, I'd have nightmares from then on, which I guess in a paradoxical way would be giving me nightmares now.  Perhaps its best that I don't time travel.

Bottom left front of Paulie's awkward robot.  I do believe there was a CD player there.  In 1984.  Never noticed it.  Maybe while I'm back in time horrifying my young self, I'll point this out to lil me, and explain. 

Finally, I'd like to give you the oldest email in my inbox, something I held onto until I could share it.  It was written by my friend Scott Latta, submitted to me on July 3rd, 2007, and it was his description of the true legacy of Rocky IV.  He says:

In high school, I was this close to writing an essay titled, "If I can change: How 'Rocky IV' did more for US/Russian relations than the Reagan Administration." There's an inside joke among fans of "Rocky IV" that the fourth installment in Sylvester Stallone's epic series was what actually put an end to the Cold War (That, and "'Rocky V" never happened), and the truth is, "Rocky IV" is so ripe with Cold War innuendo that's it's hard to believe the Reagan Administration didn't at least watch the movie at some point during the affair. Take for instance: The Russian Express, Ivan Drago ("Death from above"), comes to America and promptly challenges Apollo Creed, American icon, who ends up getting killed in the fight after a showboat entrance to the ring in Las Vegas where he dons a Founding Fathers wig and dances to James Brown's "Living in America" (An atmosphere not unlike Valleydale's "Celebrate America" Sunday).  (d$'s note... looking back, I only now at this very moment understand and appreciate how freakin' funny that last line is...) 

Rocky then challenges Drago in Russia, on Christmas, for no money, in an East vs. West fight that ends with the Russian crowd changing their evil Communist ways and one of the most heartfelt, teary, and unintelligible speeches ever given by the Italian Stallion. Along the way we see the evil Russian take steroids and get to experience the fake accent of Brigitte Nielsen ("You think that you are so veddy good, and that we, are so veddy bad."), who was actually married to Sly Stallone during production. All in all, a tour de force of American cinema.

Tomorrow... a little spiritual application, how Ivan Drago is like the sin in your life, and how you, YOU are the one now... no, I'm not kidding.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

campbell & the poopy patty

Not sure if my kid has a fascination with poop itself, or he just happens to be tiny enough that if he can put his hands on it (or in this case, in it), then its fair game... maybe a little of both. 

My days usually end at work in mid-day, and after work, I leave the store, head up the mountain and over to my in-laws house to retrieve Campbell.  They keep him several days a week while I and The Lovely Steph Leann are at our respective jobs, but once I'm done serving caffeine and wonder to the masses, I go pick him up.  That gives Boy Wonder and myself the afternoon... sometimes we play, sometimes we go to the park, sometimes he plays on his own and I do what I need to do (write, blog, clean, veg, the list goes on)

And sometimes, like any other baby, he needs changing.

And this is a story that I will refer to, much to his horror, when he brings home his prom date in 2028...

Sometimes Campbell fills his diapers and you know it.  He has a funny expression on his face, he might strain a little, he might make a grunty sound, and you know its on.  Other times, he makes not a peep.  If you watch him closely, you might see him pause in his action for a brief 10 or 15 seconds, then immediately go back to what he was doing, be it attempting a breakout to the kitchen, scaling Mount Pricey Chair or just eating the wall (or playing with his toys, if you want to talk rarities)...

If its the latter, you may not know it.  Until you do.  When the smell wafts in your direction.  And in this instance, that's how I knew.

"Campbell..." I turned from what I was doing to look at him.  "Did you... (sniff)... yeah, you did... let's get you changed."

I scale the Great Wall of Campbell (the barricades around our house set up to prevent him from entering the kitchen, climbing the stairs, getting tangled up in the computer cords, having the tv fall on his head and running to freedom to the front door) and grab the needed diaper, then pick up the box of wipes.  Its also noticeably light, which only causes me slight concern at the time, yet will come back to me in a few mere moments, as you, dear Coffee Reader, will discover, as I unfurl my tale of woe and poop.

As a dad, you learn small skills that you never thought about when you were childless... like how to scoop up your child in such a way that your arms nor hands put any pressure on his little bottom--this is mostly because you don't want to cause any more "Squish" than necessary, but maybe slightly because you don't want any "Squish" to squish out on your arms.   I scooped him up in such a way, and laid him down on our rug. 

On the rug, you say?!  Not a big deal, I do it all the time... lay him down, hold up legs and soiled bottom with my left hand, remove soiled diaper and wipey wipey with my right hand, put down new diaper, attach, rebutton or snap, right as rain. 

That's how it normally works, anyway.

I lay down the little monkey, remove the sticky strips to get the diaper off of him, and turn to my right to grab a wipe.  Since there aren't many, I have to use one hand to open the top and get them to stick through that little opening in the top--annoying, but doable.  I turn back and realize that in that 3 second time period, he has reached down with his own hand, snatched the diaper out of from under him and tossed it aside.

In the span of the next 4 seconds, a few things happen all at once...

...his bottom has a few speckles of residue, but not bad.  I continue to hold up his legs and bum, keeping it from getting on the rug.
...his old diaper is off to the right.  I glance at it and see there is very little in the diaper, and think to myself "wow, that was a lot of smell for just a little bit of junk... hmm... this is easy..."
...I look at him, cause he's a cute kid, and notice his hands are dirty.  Not dirty like, dirty, but dirty like chocolate.  Waaiiit... that's not chocolate...
...I then look up around his head... four inches from his head is a large... well, a poopy patty.  A genuine, chunky, somewhat flat poopy patty, sitting there on our living room rug.

Campbell snatched the diaper out from under himself... the poopy patty fell out, possibly rolled to a stop a few inches from his head, the diaper tossed to the side, and somehow had managed to get both hands in the mess.

The next few seconds are vitally important.  Why?  Because anything and everything goes in Campbell's mouth... including his hands, no matter how dirty.  And he's got poop on his butt AND there is a large hunk of crap actually resting ON the rug.  And I've only got a few wipes.

Immediately, I grab the poopy patty with a wipe and put in on the dirty diaper.  Glancing at the rug, no stain, so I breath a quick sigh of relief... I yank out a wipe and wipe up his bottom quickly, watching his hands, hoping he won't decide to chew his fingers... bottom clean, I set him down, then go after his hands... understand, Campbell doesn't like being held down at all, so holding him to wipe his hands does not bode well for Sir Doodie Pants here... he flails his hands but I finally get them wiped down, inspecting every finger on each hand to make sure. 

I scan the area quickly around him, pick up a few little Gunk Nuggets and put them in the dirty diaper... now, bum clean, poopy patty up, nuggets gone, hands wiped, I finally can get his own diaper on him. 

Thirty seconds later, its like nothing ever happened for him... he's off rattling his rattle, pushing his toy doggy around and making motorboat sounds for no reason other than he likes the sound of his own voice--like his dad, natch--and I pick up the pieces. 

I'm sure you have your own crap stories, and I'm sure some of yours will make mine look more sanitary than a doctor's plate of instruments at an appendectomy... but it was still worth a share.

A day in the life.  Never too exciting, but somehow, just not as boring as you'd like.

Thanks for reading.