All posts by Jules Nelson

"But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19 KJV If ever there was a verse that could describe me? This verse would be it. I grew up in a large family of 5 brothers and 1 sister. Add in an honorary sister and brother, who joined our family before I was born and you have a wonderful childhood. I watch everything that goes on around me and think constantly. Until now, I have lovingly told these cherished memories and thoughts to only the closest of friends. I love my God... I love my family.. I love my friends.. and I love to laugh!

..eye catching

Yesterday was Easter.. and we headed out into nature to recharge..

Our family parties were done … the Easter baskets opened.. and my daughter headed back to her campus.

And.. well?

And the sun was shining. We didn’t really need any OTHER invitation.

As we entered the woods, we were reminded that Spring really hasn’t arrived yet.

The landscape was beautiful. Rolling hills… sloping roads… lazy rivers…

So beautiful!!

But nature is still sleeping here. So everything is brown. So many different shades of brown… but still just brown.

And SO cold!

Then?

Then every once in a while, we would go over a hill.. or around a bend… and something would catch my eye.

There amongst the dead leaves and the cold wind? There would be the brightest green moss growing.

I know.. I know…

Moss isn’t really that pretty.. and it isn’t SUPPOSED to be growing on the sides of trees and rocks.

But the bright green of that moss against the shades of the sleeping nature around it? It was so startling. It caught my attention every time.

That moss?

That moss reminds me of people who show happiness and positively impact the world around them .. every day.

Not just showing their green color when the sun is shining and the warmth is all around. But glowing a bright green when the winds are cold enough to make your nose hurt and cause your lungs to burn. Glowing green when nothing else is even growing.. when there feels like there is no hope of hope.

So today I wonder?

Am I showing a bright green color of hope and love against the dull colors of today?

There are always “dull” things going on around us..

..extra bills… health concerns… raising kids.. car issues… and messes to clean up..

..not to mention world troubles…

…but amongst those shades of “brown”…?

Among the lifeless colors… am I shining some green into the world? Am I handing out genuine smiles.. holding open doors… sharing my resources with the world around me… lending a hand where I can…? Am I looking for hope?

Am I offering to share the small amount of hope that I hold in my hands?

Because that is what I want.. I want my love and my hope to shine brightly against my surroundings.

What color are you today?

…blank page…

img_1690So often, lately.. I have sat down to my computer to write.. and I simply stare at the blank page.

It’s not that I haven’t had a lot to say…

..and it’s not that I haven’t experienced enough to keep my mind racing…

…but sometimes? Sometimes even writers are too tired to write.

Spring time is Musical season in my house. As soon as the musical is chosen, my life is overtaken by set designs, character lists, auditions… and then rehearsals every day (it seems like), choreography, set build days on the weekends, painting the set, costume designs, costume runs, sewing costumes and searching for props…

.. and that doesn’t include encouraging the cast and crew to learn their lines and blocking.. and to be the best that they can be.

This year I added a full time job to my list of jobs. Even with the help of our amazing Music Director and all the parent volunteers? There were days that I worked from 8 am to 11:30 pm.

Yes.. I have been tired.

Recently someone asked me why I do it. If I get so tired? Then why keep my extra jobs?

Well?

Quite simply it is the kids.

Some of these kids come into the theatre with a lot to say.. a lot of experiences to talk about.. but they are staring at a blank page..

… not knowing how to express themselves..

I love to watch the musical come to life and to see the kids’ talent shine on our stage..

..but the MOST amazing thing?

The most amazing is watching these young people relax into themselves and learn to let themselves shine. They have the opportunity to help with building the set, working with lights, painting the set, designing costumes, organizing the backstage area.. some choose to step forward and take on a leadership role.. or help with choreography..

Endless opportunities..img_1501

.. and they rarely disappoint..

Ok.. ok… there is a week (ish) that we get a little worried (alright.. a LOT worried) that we will pull it together in time.. That we will have all the costumes and the props we need. That we will learn the sequence of lines in a tough scene… or that the choreography will be fluid…

.. but there is always that moment…

…the moment my veteran performer nails a tough character role… and blows us away..

… the moment you get chills from the emotion a student pours into their solo..

… the moment you forget the kids are acting because they are so genuinely in character…

.. and (of course) the moment the quietest person on your cast says their first line on stage with confidence …

… and they EXIT that stage with another page written in their own story. They exit with more confidence than they started.. more high fives… (too many bottlecaps.. more than likely).. hopefully a new skill… and a lot of memories.

I always remember the blank pages we started the season with.

Those blank pages?? They keep me going.. the writer in me is too curious to see what will be written next.. too hopeful of what will come … too amazed to look away…

Those blank pages will keep me coming back each season.

This …

Every once in a while something comes along to remind me of the start of our journey we call “Autism”…

This….

http://on.today.com/2opmM7q

As a parent of a kid with special needs.. you have to go through a grieving process.. You have to give up your expectations for your child.. you have to give up those dreams you had FOR them… and it’s hard…

Really hard….

..and then you create new dreams. Ones that feel like you are giving up on them at first…

… but it’s really hard…

People often tell me how strong I am… but.. there isn’t really a choice. I move forward and we push for every goal..

.. and it’s been hard..

…but it was worth it all..

At 19? My son is amazing and I see the dreams he has.. and I see a future that will be good.

…but it’s still hard.. and I remember feeling where this mom is at in the video… and the memory makes my heart hurt.. wondering what My boy would be like if Autism hadn’t altered the course of his life.

.. but for me?

.. for me, I began to think that maybe Autism was supposed to alter mine.

Wherever my son goes?

He spreads happiness and hope through his smiles and his struggles…

… and he doesn’t miss the dreams I had for him at all…

…because you see?

He has his own…

..the game of life..

.. this Christmas Eve I had the pleasure of playing the game of Life with my nieces and nephews…

..now…?

Most of these nieces and nephews were well below the suggested age bracket of “8 and up” that was printed on the box…

But they all wanted to play… so we opened the box… and put the board together.

… when I pointed out the starting place on the board.. one of my nephews looked at it with doubt.. and said that it looked more like the end of the game…

HA ha…

I think more than one person would say that starting a career or starting college would be the end of their life.. or at least the end of all things “fun”…

.. as I tried to get them all focused on setting up the game to play… they were FAR more interested in filling their cars full of kids … or visiting their uncle Tim in Jail.. or picking out their houses.. and definitely running over their little people…

.. finally I gave up trying to show them the rules and just watched them play.. I watched them drive their cars backwards on the roads.. ha .. that is IF they stayed on the roads at all..

As I watched them play?

I couldn’t help but think how they represented the world around us.

Not everyone wants to follow the rules of Life..

.. and some people don’t get the option of starting at the beginning.. OR following the road exactly..

Some of us start OUT doing things according to the rules.. traveling the roads in the directions we are supposed to.. ONLY to find a detour (or two) that takes us off the main stream road..

…special needs

…widowed

… job changes

… house fire

The point is?

The point is.. that there is no “perfect” road through life. No rules that apply to every person..

Who was I to tell them that my game “rules” were more fun than the “rules” they were playing by… ??

…so I laughed.. and pointed out to my nephew that it didn’t matter if he was driving backwards on the road.. but that Jesus wouldn’t want him to run over his kids…

… He looked down at the game pieces and scowled..

“Those aren’t my kids.. that’s my wife.”

I silently vowed to never loan him my keys as I helped his poor wife back in his car.

.. ‘‘twas the day…

…”Twas the day after Christmas

.. and all through the house

… were the clutter of memories

… as Mom sat on the couch

Ok .. ok.. I promise I won’t do my whole post in rhyme..

…but as I sit here this morning.. I feel much like Mary as I “store up these memories and ponder them in my heart”.

As with everyone this season, I think we spent a little too much.. ate a little too much..

But this season I also slowed down a little..

For the first time in who knows how long..? I didn’t send out Christmas cards.

We made Christmas cookies.. but not enough to share with the whole community around us..

And my house is clean .. but not immaculate…

As we spent time all over the state with family this weekend, I thought about the talks I had with my mom-in-law.. the laughter that I shared with my nieces and nephews.. the memories I cherished with my daughter.. and all the moments in between..

…and just like Jesus’s mom?

I am hoarding all the memories in my heart to think about later..

What memories are you saving in your heart ??

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.us/111/luk.2.19.niv

The obvious issue…

img_8646-1Last week, we drove to the frozen Northern coast of Michigan to see my daughter perform on stage.

…and yes… with it being December? There was snow… a lot of snow.

Yes… the beautiful upper peninsula of Michigan was very white.

Joking around with my son, I pointed to Lake Superior (with its chunks of ice) and asked him, “Hey Buddy… should we go swimming?”

He looked out the window at the huge waves and the snowy beach … “No.. no .. no.. wait a minute,” he told me, obviously appalled at my lack of good choices. “We CAN’T go swimming.”

Trying not to laugh at his tone, I asked seriously, “Why not?”

Annoyed, my son stated, “There are FISH in there.”

As if the FISH were the OBVIOUS reason we could NOT go swimming in Lake Superior in the middle of December.

After we all burst out laughing, I told him that it was “too cold” to go swimming anyway.

He looked at me for a second, then said, “Yeah, it’s too cold.” … like EVERYONE knew it was too cold.

It makes me laugh to see the world through my son’s eyes…

…but it also makes me think.

You see?

My son has Autism .. and he sees the whole world differently than I do. And it fascinates me. The things that I see as obvious? He looks past them. The things that I look past? He finds them fascinating…. and very important.

As a result, he makes me look at the world differently.. every day.

My son is a senior in high school this year. Which means that next year we will be heading down a different road. An unknown.. untraveled road …for us.

… and I admit… it looks a little bit like that windy beach… high waves crashing down on the sand.. limited visibility of the horizon???

Yeah… I have some worries.

My son wants to go to college. There are colleges for students with Autism… and there is even one in Michigan.

Even so…

.. there are still unknowns.. there always will be unknowns with mood disorders…

But… where I look at obvious worries and stop?

.. where I see obvious worries… my son looks beyond .. He sees the “cold weather” and the “waves” as a given… and looks beyond to the things that worry him.

So what I figure?

…if we have gotten through 18 1/2 years of wind and obstacles on this journey through life?

… Then maybe.. just maybe… we can help each get past the obvious issues.. I can help him past the fish and he can help me see past the cold…

…and we will make it through this new adventure together…

..and it will be beautiful….

 

 

Left behind..

Today I was flipping through the 100’s of photos I took last week.. and I found one I hadn’t intended to take.

The accidental picture of my shadow on the pavement amused me at first..

Partly because my first novel is titled “Shadows” … and it’s based on my belief that we are often affected by the “things” left behind by others in our lives.. the “shadows” that are left behind..

As I flipped through the rest of the pictures from that parade?

I started to see that picture in a different light..

So many of my pictures were intentional. I was capturing memories of my son as he rode in the back of a truck with a top hat .. talking to an angel of a girl. I intentionally took photos of the international students as they carried their flags in the parade. I tried to capture the joy on the faces of those kids around me as they enjoyed that day.

THEN? Then in the middle of these amazing photos.. is a random picture of the ground (and my shadow) .. that I had not intended on capturing.

How often is that the way life is?

Today I INTENDED to comfort a girl who was nervous about a presentation…

Today I INTENDED on being a good influence on a young man who struggles to trust people..

Today I INTENDED to encourage a little guy who hates math.. because he doesn’t understand it..

Today I INTENDED to impress on my son, the importance of good behavior in all places.. even the halls of school.

…but what about the other impressions I leave with people ..

…the impressions I hadn’t intended to give them?

My last few weeks have been jam packed and as I go into the last few weeks of theater season? They aren’t about to get any calmer..

… I always worry that in my times of stress, I will leave behind an impression.. (or a photograph of time…) that I hadn’t intended to give…

As a result?

When I feel emotions in me start to rise? Anger, frustration, impatience, .. or tears…? I take a deep breath … and decide on an intentional impression…

… and I hope that it’s the “photograph” of myself that sticks with someone..

.. and hope that it’s enough…

What are you leaving behind today?

..from the sidelines..

This week has been jam packed for me.

Ok .. this month has been jam packed for me.

Starting a new job… jumping into high school musical season.. trying to meet writing goals.. paperwork.. phone calls..

…Not to mention keeping the laundry up…

Soon enough?

Yup.. I’m exhausted and behind schedule..

But tonight I took a couple hours and just wore my “Mom” hat… I just sat on the sidelines of the action…. and watched..

Our high school does an annual Powderpuff football game.. and as is the tradition? Yup .. the boys dressed up as cheerleaders.

This year my son dressed up with them. And he cheered with them.

As most of you know.. my son has Autism .. and a splash of mood disorder.

But have I told you how this community has embraced my son. Embraced him and encouraged him. They challenge him to succeed and cheer on his successes…

… and my son has soared here..

Tonight?

Tonight my son did not need me. He did not want me to stand next to him. He did not NEED to hold my hand.

I did not need to stand in the trenches… the trenches of fighting battles within ourselves to move forward.

Tonight I was able to step back and watch my son from the sidelines. I was able to watch his confidence. I was able to see his joy and his independence. And his laughter…

In a world where the internet says how bad the world is?

I see a world where a senior class nominated my son for Homecoming court. Nominated my son.. a classmate who struggles to succeed every day.

I see a world where a senior class goes out of their way to make my son feel welcome on the Powderpuff field.

I see a world where a group of students will pause in the hall to talk with my son as he waits for his mom (who was running late)…

I see a world where my son felt safe enough to grow into an amazing young man..

…a world where my son has loved to go to school every day.. even though it was difficult for him to concentrate there. ..

Tonight as I took a break from my hectic schedule? I let the joy and peace from my son’s soul seep into me..

I don’t know how to thank so many people for the impact they have had on our family and most importantly on my son. They are ALL my heroes.

But I do know that today I enjoyed seeing my son be so Independent.. I enjoyed not being in the trenches of Autism…

As for my son… I’ll always be right here.. cheering him on from the sidelines..

Adventures..

Last night I took my son on an adventure. Honestly? It was the first adventure I had been on in awhile.

It wasn’t extravagant.

Actually.. it was the simplest of adventures. But it was amazing.

If I had to list the ONE thing that I thought was the least known about me? It would be how adventurous I am. I love to explore. I love to learn knew things, meet new people, explore new places..

In another time? I would have been a pioneer. Searching out new lands..

But as a parent of a child with special needs? (Ha.. actually? Just being a parent in general…) Parenting is an adventure in itself..

So for awhile? I didn’t have time for adventures.

But this week.. my soul called out for an adventure. I have been wanting to see the sunset on the big lake again.. over Lake Michigan. Something I hadn’t seen for a long time.

And I wanted something I thought my son would enjoy…

So I packed my camera.. and some extra clothes… some food for a picnic.. and we set out for the beach as soon as my crazy schedule allowed.

With a few unexpected delays.. and a 45 min delay in traffic… we arrived.. a little hungry .. and a little stressed..

But with the feel of the sand on my feet..

..and the breeze from the lake on my face..

.. the waves crashing against the shore..

.. I was relaxed within a few minutes..

And surprisingly…so was my boy…

We ate our picnic in silence as we watched the waves .. and he was completely calm.. like a peace had washed over him.

Then? Then, I talked him into taking off his socks and shoes and putting his feet in the water.. He was tentative at first.. worried it would be cold. But then he did something amazing .. he started to dance.

Often with Autism, simple things can seem overwhelming.. the beach can be too hot.. too loud.. too overwhelming…

As a parent of a child with Autism? I struggle with the balance between keeping him successful.. and challenging him to try new things. My adventure side always wants him to try new things.. but my realistic side? Well? I know realistically too many new adventures would stress him out..

But as the sun set last night? I watched a happy .. relaxed … giggling boy dance on the shoreline… jump waves with me.. asking me to take pictures..

If I had been cautious last night? If I had ignored my need for an adventure?

I would have missed seeing that happy, peaceful boy come out to play…

So with tears in my eyes I enjoyed those moments.. and these small hours will remain in my heart for a long time..

.. and I took a few more pictures..

…selfish…

When we go to camp with my family? Chances are some small animal will be captured within the first day..

That animal?

Whether it’s a frog or a toad.. a snake.. or once even a lizard… That poor animal will be handled from one kid to the next.. making each kid enormously happy.. and making the animal enormously stressed.

Fortunately most animals take the stress well and just learn to carry on.. and well? .. I’m sure they will hide better when they hear the pitter-patter of little feet.

In some ways I know how the toad in this photo feels…

I love to make people happy.. especially my family .. especially the little ones. So by taking the little Blessings in my life for fun rides.. walks.. to make sand castles… to hunt for small defenseless animals … and to make snacks.. ? Tell stories around the campfire…?

It feels good.. I love to see them happy. In fact?

In fact it seems selfish of me NOT to do little things to make them happy.. It seems so selfish not to use my time to make the lives of other people better and happier places. So I have always avoided being selfish..

And I am always happy with my choices..

But at times?

At times I think I know how that toad feels.. over handled.. tired.. desperately in need of a shower..

Just recently I have been learning that there is a difference between being selfish with your time..

…and taking time to care for yourself..

You see.. if I have to choose between doing something for my kids and doing something for myself..? I will pick my kids.. and squeeze reading for pleasure in between bedtime and 1 am.

But I often do too much .. for too many people.. and I just end up feeling tired.. and overhandled.. just like the toad..

Last weekend we went camping for the last time this summer. As everyone planned a kayak trip down river, my niece came to ask me if I wanted to go.

In the past? I would always Loan my kayak to someone else.. because after all..

it IS my kayak.. I could use it another time.

As I started to offer it to someone else, my niece scolded me. And said frankly.. ” You KNOW you want to go kayaking.”

You know what?

I really DID want to go kayaking.

So I loaded up my kayak.. and we went kayaking..

This was the laziest, slowest kayak trip I have ever been on.. I got to take 300 pictures (no exaggeration there).. my nieces and nephew decided on trying to kayak the “gondola” way.. we got stuck a few times..

We got a little sunburned as our 1 hour trip turned in to 2 hours.. or 3…

We laughed.. we sang songs (loudly and beautifully)… we counted how many times the gondolas tipped over… and we let the peace flow into our souls..

What about you? What have you done lately to take care of yourself?

**No animals were hurt in the making of this blog…