Life in Autismland

My ninth son, Jude Christopher, is three years old and mildly  autistic.  He says only one word and he says it repeatedly and very well; “No”.  He likes to spend most of the time alone, he gets angry often and for no easily discernible cause, and his fits of rage are as unpredictable as they are uncontrollable.  He needs very little sleep.  It is a challenge for any parent and no easier if you’ve raised 10 other “normal” children.

His Mother does not like that I tell people he is autistic.  She likes to say that he is ‘on the spectrum’.  I find this is the way moms and professionals dull the diagnosis.  It is true that not all autistic kids are the same, and at three years of age, he doesn’t suffer from some of the same burdens others do.  She prays for a miracle but takes him to therapy twice a week and hopes to have him in a tailored program soon.  I pray for a miracle but am prepared for a different life for and with him.

IMG_20140728_194822 (1)

Neither Doctors nor parents really understand autism.  It is particularly difficult to understand because those who suffer from it usually have great difficulty communicating.  Many do not communicate at all.  They cannot explain what they do understand and don’t, what is hurting them or bothering them, what they need or want.  Human touch is often bothersome.  Ordinary acts of kindness or intimacy might be irritating.  Vocal or physical outbursts may … Read the rest

Worse Than Rape or Murder

Winston was 68 years old, 5’6”, slightly hunched, with pale skin and a rapid fire manner of delivery.  I first met him when he was transferred to Marion from Butner Medical Center after having surprised (and disappointed) many people in the Bureau of Prisons by surviving his third round of cancer.

He was not the type of person to suffer fools, and would respond to any inquiry about him or his past by asking a series of questions designed to determine, in his mind, whether the subject of his interrogation was worth spending time with.  As he would later explain to me, after 20 years in federal prison, he didn’t think he had time to waste on inmates who placed no value on time simply because it was in such supply.

Winston was the founder and CEO of a hugely successful property and casualty insurance company in Illinois.  He built his madoff100614_2_560company by specializing in hard to insure properties and businesses and collecting what was then an enormous amount of data about his clients so he could both better design policies and help them to reduce losses.  The combination of his insuring higher-risk (and thus, higher premium paying), clients and diligent underwriting made him wealthy by the time he was 40.  

As often happens to successful men, he grew bored and decided to tackle new challenges.  Some state laws at the time prohibited companies like his from competing across multiple jurisdictions.  There were also other laws in the state of Read the rest

Winston was 68 years old, 5’6”, slightly hunched, with pale skin and a rapid fire manner of delivery.  I first met him when he was transferred to Marion from Butner Medical Center after having surprised (and disappointed) many people in the Bureau of Prisons by surviving his third round of cancer.

He was not the type of person to suffer fools, and would respond to any inquiry about him or his past by asking a series of questions designed to determine, in his mind, whether the subject of his interrogation was worth spending time with.  As he would later explain to me, after 20 years in federal prison, he didn’t think he had time to waste on inmates who placed no value on time simply because it was in such supply.

Winston was the founder and CEO of a hugely successful property and casualty insurance company in Illinois.  He built his madoff100614_2_560company by specializing in hard to insure properties and businesses and collecting what was then an enormous amount of data about his clients so he could both better design policies and help them to reduce losses.  The combination of his insuring higher-risk (and thus, higher premium paying), clients and diligent underwriting made him wealthy by the time he was 40.  

As often happens to successful men, he grew bored and decided to tackle new challenges.  Some state laws at the time prohibited companies like his from competing across multiple jurisdictions.  There were also other laws in the state of Read the rest

3200 Calories a Day

Four years ago, I lost 50 pounds in four months.  It was pretty easy; eat little and run often.  I ran 2 to 3 miles a day and took up

tennis.  Eventually, I got tired of being skinny.  I started lifting weights seriously.  However, the diet available to me didn’t provide much in the way of protein.  I managed to put on about 10 pounds in 18 months without changing pant sizes.

My circumstances are different now, and so I wanted to experiment with a dramatic reversal of what I did for several years.  I all but eliminated my cardio, running no more than one mile at a time, and that only occasionally, just so I wouldn’t get out of breath walking up the stairs.  I also reduced the frequency of my workouts, from 5-6 a week to 3 to 4, and dramatically changed my approach.  Instead of 60 to 90 minute sessions, I do about 45 minutes.  Instead of 3 minute rests between sets, I do no more than 60 seconds, and I do 4 sets of 6-8 reps rather than 3 of 10 to 12.

I abandoned any attempt at restricting what I ate or drink, except to limit my intake between noon and 8pm.  This is called “intermittent fasting“.  I also leaned heavily towards paleo, usually eating meals consisting of meat and green vegetables.  I didn’t always stop eating at 8pm, I didn’t always stick with the paleo diet, and I ate breakfast on … Read the rest

Four years ago, I lost 50 pounds in four months.  It was pretty easy; eat little and run often.  I ran 2 to 3 miles a day and took up

tennis.  Eventually, I got tired of being skinny.  I started lifting weights seriously.  However, the diet available to me didn’t provide much in the way of protein.  I managed to put on about 10 pounds in 18 months without changing pant sizes.

My circumstances are different now, and so I wanted to experiment with a dramatic reversal of what I did for several years.  I all but eliminated my cardio, running no more than one mile at a time, and that only occasionally, just so I wouldn’t get out of breath walking up the stairs.  I also reduced the frequency of my workouts, from 5-6 a week to 3 to 4, and dramatically changed my approach.  Instead of 60 to 90 minute sessions, I do about 45 minutes.  Instead of 3 minute rests between sets, I do no more than 60 seconds, and I do 4 sets of 6-8 reps rather than 3 of 10 to 12.

I abandoned any attempt at restricting what I ate or drink, except to limit my intake between noon and 8pm.  This is called “intermittent fasting“.  I also leaned heavily towards paleo, usually eating meals consisting of meat and green vegetables.  I didn’t always stop eating at 8pm, I didn’t always stick with the paleo diet, and I ate breakfast on … Read the rest

Fear of Failure is Fear of Living

I love the diversity of personalities that make up a big family, and life, for that matter. #2 is much more like his Mother than he is

me. This morning I mentioned off-handedly that I’d ordered something online from China. A business expense.  A look of slight alarm passed over his face. I preemptively explained that I’d done some research on this particular item, the seller, and was reasonably sure it would work out.

He replied with great gravity, “What do you think the chances are you’ll be disappointed?” Ha! What a great question! I got a good laugh at that and said, “Well, I guess I would say about 30%, although it’d be tough to justify that. I’m quite a bit more sure of being satisfied, although I would say the chances are fair that I won’t be. But I have a plan if that’s the case, so I’m not too worried about it either way”.  I then briefly explained my Plan B.

He didn’t say anything. The look on his face showed his doubt. So like his Mom! So I said, “I don’t mind risks…I’m prepared for some disappointment, but also delight in achieving something, discovering something new, or learning something, or perhaps just as satisfying, proving my judgment to be accurate. That’s pride, of course, but enjoyable.  I learn something, perhaps even more, from my mistakes”.

At that moment his Mother entered the room and, hearing at least some part of the discussion, said, “Yeah, but I … Read the rest

I love the diversity of personalities that make up a big family, and life, for that matter. #2 is much more like his Mother than he is

me. This morning I mentioned off-handedly that I’d ordered something online from China. A business expense.  A look of slight alarm passed over his face. I preemptively explained that I’d done some research on this particular item, the seller, and was reasonably sure it would work out.

He replied with great gravity, “What do you think the chances are you’ll be disappointed?” Ha! What a great question! I got a good laugh at that and said, “Well, I guess I would say about 30%, although it’d be tough to justify that. I’m quite a bit more sure of being satisfied, although I would say the chances are fair that I won’t be. But I have a plan if that’s the case, so I’m not too worried about it either way”.  I then briefly explained my Plan B.

He didn’t say anything. The look on his face showed his doubt. So like his Mom! So I said, “I don’t mind risks…I’m prepared for some disappointment, but also delight in achieving something, discovering something new, or learning something, or perhaps just as satisfying, proving my judgment to be accurate. That’s pride, of course, but enjoyable.  I learn something, perhaps even more, from my mistakes”.

At that moment his Mother entered the room and, hearing at least some part of the discussion, said, “Yeah, but I … Read the rest

Let My People Go

I am either 1/64 or 1/128th or 1/256th American Indian, depending upon which genealogy records you believe and various other

assumptions one might make about the reliability of the white man’s records at a time when denying the purity of an Indian’s blood was a profitable endeavor.    Six generations ago there was a Cassman who tangled with the central government, fought business enemies, fathered a bunch of children, made some bad decisions, drank too much, and….well, ended up dead in a hollowed out tree in central Indiana in a snowstorm.

A quote from the Indiana Historical Magazine:

Such facts as are known of him do not honor him in his distinction as the first recorded land owner in this county. He had the Indian thirst for whisky, and had neither the thrift nor industry to develop his land and become a factor of civilization. Examination of documents, however, seems to reveal the more complex picture of a bewildered Indian trying to cope with official red tape, unresponsive agents, and Jacksonian policies in handling Indian affairs. Cassman was hampered by his poverty, lack of education and business acumen; by the white man’s prejudice, greed, and impatience to possess the land; and especially by his own frequent intemperance. Cassman obtained whiskey at stores kept by white men who then hypocritically condemned his use of it.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, that explains things”.  Perhaps.  My father and his father and his father all seemed to be hardworking, law-abiding, humble Midwestern folk who … Read the rest