Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lesson 145: U Find Who UR Friends R

U OK?  
Y  I M fine

That Readers, is an example of a text message between myself and a friend.  Just a quick little note to let me know she hadn't heard from me and was concerned.  That is what friends do.  They show concern.

I was reminded of how many friends I have this weekend due to back to back charity events:  The 11th Annual Erie Walk for Autism and Prayers for Peyton, a benefit for my cousin.   People turned out in droves to show their support by donating time and money of course, but the true strength was their bodies in numbers.

I don't want this post to be about the number of walkers or tickets sold.  Nor do I feel the need to post the dollar amounts that were raised.  We can safely say "a lot" for both events.  What we do need to focus on is the support one gains through people--our friends and family--some we know and most we don't.  They are card carrying members of our Human Nation and they show up.  They show up because they care.

Eloise is thrilled the licensing worked for this song because it is one of my favorites.  Find Out Who Your Friends Are is on Tim McGraw's Greatest Hits Collection.  Singing with him are his buddies Kenny Chesney and Tracy Lawrence.  The latter two are reasons I DON'T like country music.  Too twangy for my taste.  But hey, any friends of Tim's are friends of mine.  If you are a fan, you can tell which lines are Tim's because they sound the sweetest.

According to the song lyrics, friends are the people who are:
gonna drop everything, run out and crank up their car,
hit the gas, get there fast,
not stop and think "What's in it for me?"
Or think, "It's way too far,"
They just show on up,
With their big old hearts.

The events drew quite a crowd because autism and cancer are two of life's challenges that touch almost someone in some way or another.  Is there someone with autism in your family?  How about on your street? Have you ever been sick?  Are you a survivor or held the hand of someone who was?  You have been touched by both, probably more times than you care to admit.

Take a look at this new visual for cancer ribbons:

There are not enough colors on the spectrum to represent them all, so poor lung cancer has to be clear and other ribbons have more than one color.  

You can see ribbons everywhere.  My sister Kenyan Karen has one on her Honda Pilot.  I had one, but I teach in schools remember, and the teenagers like to swipe them.  Even my dad has joined in the game.  He isn't much for showing up at charity events, but just this simple gesture shows that he cares:
 Ribbons on the side of his beer refrigerator in the Garagemahal.

The top one is for autism.  Glad it made it over the Pittsburgh Steelers (guess they needed one after last season), and the Harborcreek Fire Department.

Thankful as I am for my friends, as shown in the photo movie, still Eloise writes tonight with a heavy heart.  We've been walking for autism for 11 straight years and cancer for the last 30.  We send money for research, wear t-shirts, and we walk all through the night in some events like Light Up the Night; but what progress have we really made?  The report card for Awareness reads A Plus.  A report card for number of needed ribbons to represent forms of cancer:  F.  And for Identification of Children With Autism:  E.F.  (Epic Failure).

There are a million different organizations for autism and cancer.  You can pick any one of these to find out the latest statistics and information:

These organizations are without a doubt, filled with people who care.  People who want answers.  Those who understand the desperation one feels when a loved one is suffering with cancer or with autism.  

I keep abreast of the the bottom log on the totem pole of organizations I just made for you.  Autism Speaks.  They have a loud voice and like their logo suggests, It's time YOU listen.  According to a recent post on their website, here are some things that researchers are looking at:
2010 symposium also generated a list of ten chemicals considered highly likely to contribute to autism and other NDDs. These chemicals, already widely distributed in the environment, show evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.
They are:
1. Lead
2. Methylmercury
3. PCBs
4. Organophosphate pesticides
5. Organochlorine pesticides
6. Phthalates
7. Bisphenol A
8. Automotive exhaust
9. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
10. Brominated flame retardants

*NDD's mean neurological developmental disorders.  I wish there were 12 because I'd call them the dirty dozen.  There are only ten.  I wish I could think of a swear word that started with a t.  If you think of something clever, email me privately.

I'm no genius.  I went to a state college.  I stink at math.  But I do have a brain and I am not afraid to use it.  I can at least do a dot-to-dot and follow the numbers.  When I connect these, aren't these the same bad boys the cancer snuffing researchers are after, too?

A Cancer Pocket.  I was told once that I live in a cancer pocket by a local doctor.  "What in the hell does that mean?"  I wanted to scream.  But instead I politely asked, "Could you please clarify?"  The good doctor told me that the great lakes farming region that we live in has a high incidence of cancer.  I also live in a factory town by a large body of water.  Coastal areas also have a higher incidence of both cancer and autism.  You see that some of the words you can read are pesticides and exhaust.  We drink these, breathe these, absorb these into our bodies.  Everyone.

Mercury and metals like aluminum are a component of childhood vaccinations.  Yes, I mentioned the V word.  I heard some of you click the red X and that is fine.  It's a hot topic even within my own family.  Vaccinations are proven to work.  I know that.  We've eradicated diseases that killed and crippled thousands of children. That is a victory.  But if you look closely into vaccine history, we've gone overboard in the amount of required vaccinations and children are receiving more vaccinations than ever before.  The rise of autism since 1989 and the change in the vaccination schedule are synonymous.  I watched two of my own children have seizures after a vaccination series and had adverse reactions myself as a baby.

I recently found this pinterest pin and it made me think.  Does it make you think as well?  I am not familiar with the organization listed under the statements.  I do not support them or disagree.  I'm just saying it makes one think.  1 in 88.  That's more than just "better diagnosis."

I'll step down from my blogworld soap box tonight, and put my poisoned pen down.  I mean no harm--I am urging a real call to arms.  Cancers and autism on the rise---do the math---it does not add up.  Genetics alone do not account for all of it.  Just a part.  I readily admit my part when I toss my double helix in the ring.  Now it is time for others to do the same:  drug manufacturers, industrial plants, and farmers.

We can't find a cure without finding the cause.  People are working on it, so in the mean time, Eloise recommends the following:

  • Keep reading.  
  • Question everything.
  • Check twice.
  • Step back. 
  • Look at the big picture.
  • Connect the dots.
  • Dig deep.
  • Eat clean.
  • Help someone.
  • Lend support.
  • Love one another.
  • Pray.
  • Be a friend.
Here endeth the lesson for the weekend:  Support your friends in their times of need.  They will do the same for you when you become needy.  Thank you everyone for a weekend of renewed hope in mankind.  

Love from The Lamp Post,

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lesson 144: Gross

Gross.  That is what a dozen, dozen is.  A gross.  You know what else is gross?  I dozen, dozen autistic kids.  I love them, and that is not meant as a slam.  But it is gross that it is still happening.  More are being diagnosed every day.  The epidemic is not stopping.  The above youtube post, made just last year states the old statistic, 1 out of every 150 kids will be diagnosed with autism.  The recently released statistic is now this:


To put it in perspective, think of it this way:

  • When Natalie & Erik were diagnosed 12 years ago, the doctors told us that autism was purely genetic and it appeared in 1 out of ever 10,000 children.  So in people terms, this would be one child out of the county schools in Erie County.
  • Shortly after they were diagnosed, a new statistic for the "new autism" was released:  1 out of every 500.  For you locals, that is one kid in Rolling Ridge Elementary.
  • By the time Natalie and Erik were school age, the statistic was this:  1 out of 250.  So again for the Lamp Post locals, one child out of Clark School.
  • Two years ago, the updated statistics were:  1 out of 150.  Local Yocals, that means one kid out of ever graduating class in my hometown.
  • Last year, the statistic was re figured to be:  1 out of 99.  In HC, you'd have a kid plus another cut in half out of every graduation year.
  • And now this:  1 out of 88.  Two from every class.
I guess were just getting so much better at diagnosing autism, aren't we?  Yep.  We missed these kids before.  We missed the tics, the screaming, the public tantrums, the weird routines, the OCD, and the fact that most can't communicate effectively.  They were just labeled something else before we became all the wiser.  Untrue.

The statistics for the Life Skills and Emotional Support classrooms are still holding steady.  None have disappeared from any of those places. We've ADDED autism classrooms. The numbers are increasing.

If you watch the above video, Bianca's Daddy is correct in his index card appeal to the viewers:  More kids will be diagnosed with autism than AIDS, Juvenile Diabetes, and Cancer COMBINED!

Remember science class?  Did you pay attention?  If not, let Eloise refresh your memory.  There are 23 human chromosomes.  They look like this:
Once in awhile, something goes wrong with them---an abnormality.  Then a body produces someone born with Downs Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, or even something as mild as Color Blindness.  A genetic abnormality.  Accepted.  But you cannot have a genetic epidemic.  Otherwise we'd have Down Syndrome surging at epidemic proportions.  

Yes, genetics come into play.  Obviously so for my family.  Believe me, if you are a relative and you are reading this blog, know that you have been discussed. Sorry.  We've got to look at this thing from every angle.  Kenyan and I have many a time said, "Maybe Natalie's just weird like.........."   You can fill in the blank.  

But genetics alone are not enough.  They are the foundation, but how the environment plays a hand is the key.  From the foods we eat to the air we breathe to the water we drink to things we inject into our bodies.  All those environmental factors come into play with our genetics.  They mess with them.  They twist them up, and sometimes the result is a twisted up child born to this world. And that is gross.

I am thankful this post fell to 144.  A dozen dozen.  A gross.  A square number.  

This is a bit of a stretch, but somewhat related.  You know what else 144 is?  The number of career touchdown passes by Quarterback Warren Moon when he played in the Canadian football league.  Can you even believe you can find stuff like that on Wikipedia?  It was a good excuse to sneak in this MOON picture I took tonight.  Check out the craters from my amateur lens.  I took that from my own camera, right in my own back yard just an hour ago.  I had to find some way to share it.  So cool!

But you know what is even cooler?  The square root, of 144.  It's 12.  Like District 12 in the Hunger Games.  It's the hope.

Twelve is the square root of 144.  It is the number of months in a year, and the number of doughnuts in your *Mighty Fine box (for the locals, the rest of you readers insert Krispy Kreme at the asterisk).  But 12 is also known as the Kissing Number.  According to wikipedia, this is what a kissing number is:

Kissing number problem

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Kissing number)
In geometry, a kissing number is defined as the number of non-overlapping unit spheres that touch another given unit sphere. For a lattice packing the kissing number is the same for every sphere, but for an arbitrary sphere packing the kissing number may vary from one sphere to another.

And it looks like this:

It kind of looks like a daisy, doesn't it, Readers?  Daisies are my favorite flower.  I think this is a good sign--a sign of hope..
I need to kiss Natalie and Erik tomorrow.  Kiss them and tell them that Kenyan and I, like Bianca's Daddy in 
the video, will fight for them.  Always.  I'll get a picture of the kisses at the Autism Walk tomorrow and put it on the next
blog post for you.  Check back later this weekend.

Saturday, April 28th, is our Erie Walk for Autism.  My family hoofs it out to the Peninsula every year.  April around here is iffy.  It can bring anything from 75 and sunny to 51 and sideways rain.  The weatherman says this about tomorrow:


Mostly cloudy and chilly
Mostly cloudy and chilly

High: 44

Winds: NNE 6 mph
Gusting to 12 mph
Mostly cloudy and chilly High: 44
I heard the collective groan from all of the walkers.  It's OK.  I groaned too, AND I have to haul an autistic kid along who does not like the wind.  But I'll come out, as will thousands of others to show support for families and children suffering from this baffling condition.  We can take an hour or two to brave the wind and rain.  Our momentary suffering cannot compare to the daily frustrations that these kids face.  We show up for them.

To close this post, I will do so with a Marine Prayer.  What do you know?  The bravest and most dedicated fighters in our country have adopted Psalm 144 as their prayer, taken directly from the Holy Bible.  Thanks, David.    I think it is perfect, and exactly what Kenyan and I plan to do.  Fight on.  In advance, we thank you for your continued support in the way of kind words, donations, and taking the time to include our children into your lives.  Here it is:

Marine Prayer - Psalm 144:1

Please check back later this weekend for a photo story of pictures from the walk, as well as another call to action about a sister-issue this weekend:  CANCER.
Thanks for reading,

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lesson 143: Connected

Earth Day.   We celebrate it on April 22nd.  Do the math, Readers:  Earth Day.  Plus.  Eloise.   I bet you were expecting this weekend's post to look something like this:

I'm a self-professed tree-hugger, so maybe you were expecting this:

I did climb a tree in my yard once, to save it from a chainsaw.  But nope--no tree hugging rallies held at The Lamp Post this weekend.

Eloise's earthy photography.  That must be it.  Her sunrises:

Her unenhanced skies:

Her search for the heavens:

No, no, and no.  All from this week, but no, that is not the direction I am headed today.

How about Ellen's art?  Would that work its way into the blog world?  

Kind of.  I can hardly go a week without showing you something she painted.  This is a line from one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories, The Lorax.  "What do you want me to paint you this weekend?" Ellen asked on Friday night.  "Me, but skinny," I replied.  She frowned and didn't move.  "Ok," I relented.  "How about something earthy.  It's Earth Day on Sunday."  She marched up the 14 steps to her bedroom easel and made this.  But, no, Ellen's art is not this weekend's topic of conversation (but I still found a way to worm it in).

You know my love for music, so maybe you were predicting this:
Earth Day does rock, but no, this is not this weekend's theme.  It's about this:

Touch.  My new favorite TV show.  It's about connections.  We all interrelate.  I guess a good graphic would be something like this:

According to the voice-over at the beginning of the show, there are 6,919,377,000 people living on our tiny planet, and only a few can see the connections.  I think I am one of them.  

You can see the trailer to the Fox TV show on the post below this one.  Blogger updated its format this weekend, and with any "improvement" comes technological grief.  I could not get the video and my pictures to show on the same post.  Time for a teenager to help me.  Thank goodness I have a nice pool of them at the ready because I am a teacher.  Please keep reading to the post below and watch the trailer if you are not yet hooked on this series.  Keifer Sutherland stars in it.  He's a great actor, so you should give it a whirl for that reason alone.  Thursday nights, after Idol.  Be there, or be square...or maybe hexagonal?  Read on.

The writers of this TV show raise these questions:  What if fate is a formula?  (No help here.  I never took physics.).  What if coincidence is a calculation?  (Major bummer.  I am mentally retarded in math.).  What if our lives are part of a pattern?  (Or is it a path:  Jeremiah, 29:11).   

The brilliant writing team wants us to believe that 
Every Thought.
Every Breath.
Every Action.
How cool would that be?  

The theme that the series centers around, is that children with autism have the ability to see those connections.  And although they lack the skills to effectively communicate what they see to the rest of us, they try to get their message across in nontraditional ways.  The writers want us to believe that these special people have the ability to see mathematical connections, hidden in plain sight.  They are everywhere.  We just have to know where to look.  And believe me, as the parent of an autistic almost fourteen year old, I've been looking.  Heck, if I have to deal with all this baggage Natalie carries around, I may as well have something cool to tell you all about.  Glad I didn't have to look too far.

Remember this?:

This was Natalie's circle pattern she was writing over and over and over again for more than a week.  I finally determined that it was a money worksheet she must have been working on in school.  Here are my notations for an explanation in case you missed the post:

  After the recent Touch episode, I've been intrigued with her circles within circles.  See them under the words 5 nickels?  Jake, the boy with autism on the show, kept putting colored blocks in a similar pattern.  This was later recognized as a picture representation of a hexagonal number.  Here is what one really looks like:

From what I could piece together in my pea-sized math brain is that a hexagonal number is a triangular number, but every other one.  The article I read said that the digital root (?!?!) of a hexagonal number is either 1, 3, 6, or 9.  I thought that was cool because they are all numbers I like.  They work together, like in my birthday, 3-3.  You can multiply them to get 9 or add them together to get 6.  Way cool.  Beyond that, the article had fractions and parenthesis and letters in place of numbers and I broke out in hives just looking at it.  If you are math inclined, you'll have to check it out for yourselves.

Who knows?  Maybe Natalie's got this all figured out.  I showed her this picture to see how she'd respond, and she said in her monotone voice, "Stop sign."  Crap.  She's got my math ability.  A stop sign has 8 sides, not 6.  Maybe not.

Another numbers theme the show mentions is the Fibonnaci sequence.  The  numbers are in this pattern (from wikipedia):

In mathematics, the Fibonacci numbers or Fibonacci series or Fibonacci sequence are the numbers in the following integer sequence:
0,\;1,\;1,\;2,\;3,\;5,\;8,\;13,\;21,\;34,\;55,\;89,\;144,\; \ldots\;

The pattern is found in nature in these ways:
A Fibonacci spiral created by drawing circular arcs connecting the opposite corners of squares in the Fibonacci tiling; this one uses squares of sizes 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, and 34. See golden spiral.

As in the perfect proportion that DiVinci' painted in his Mona Lisa:

And here in the center of daisy:

And here in the snail shell:

Now check out Sam's artwork that was sent home from preschool, BEFORE the Touch episode aired, mind you:

So there you have it, Readers.  We've figured it all out here at the Lamp Post.  Too bad one of the scientists doesn't speak and the other is too busy jumping off the arm of the couch into a pile of pillows pretending he's John Cena, the WWE wrestler. 

Maybe my Leonardette will paint us all something to help us.  She made this the other week.  Maybe there is a pattern to Ellen's petals.  This was a gift to Kenyan Karen for Easter.  It's a safe bet that right now she has Eric in front of that thing counting the petals.

I don't know much, but I do believe this:  there is much more to our world than we can ever begin to understand. There are messages in front of us, hiding in plain sight, just waiting for the right person to come along and discover them.

We are all connected on this tiny planet.  Don't ever forget that.


Lesson 143: Connected--Touch Trailer

Here it is.  Don't miss the show if you haven't watched it yet.  You can check out old episodes on the Fox TV website if you are interested.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lesson 142: 33 Gifts

It seems for the last two weeks I've been bombarded with requests for support:  the autism walk, the Humane Society, the missions at church, the United Way, the Boy Scouts, the Fraternal Order of Police, jeans day at work.... the list goes on and on and on.  You know what they say about overexposure.  You become calloused over time.  Immune.  You glance at the return address and toss the envelope without opening it.  Just another solicitation for a donation.  And then, someone gave me this book:

The original title was 29 Gifts by Cami Walker, but I changed it Eloise style to 33 Gifts, because I thought 33 was a better number.  It is a book about the power of giving.  The premise behind the book isn't new.  I've read many a book similar in the last decade.  It is about the the effect giving can have on a person and the world around you for the positive.  What most held my attention with this book is the personal story of the author.  Ms. Walker was stricken with MS just months after she was first married while only in her 30's.  It is one of those stories of life taking one on a detour.  

I read a lot about MS (multiple sclerosis) while I was researching autism.  It came up often in that umbrella definition of neurological disorders that autism is found under.  I found that those with type B blood are more likely to get it.  Even though I am not a type B, nor does anyone in my family have MS, I found the reading interesting.  It is a nasty disease and if you know anyone who is living with it, I urge you to read this book to better understand some of the pain and frustration a person suffering with this must go through. 

Cami Walker found ease in pain and gain in mobility by following the advice of a spiritual leader.  Ms. Walker was to consciously "give" something to someone for 29 straight days.  The book is a chronicle of her giving experiences and how it all changed her for the better.  

 The book is written largely from the point of view of a liberally religious person.  Cami Walker is a Californian and belonged to the Church of Scientology.  I must admit I don't know much about the theology behind the Scientologists, nor have I spent time researching it.  Although I agree with some of her thinking, I am a devout Christian in my beliefs, I do not hold true with all of her points in the book.  However, the basic premise of giving is what Jesus has taught us to do.  That is the main message that is carried throughout, and I tried to focus on the similarities of our beliefs rather than our differences.

Luke 6: 38   Give, and it will be given to you.   .......  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
For this reason, Eloise says it is worth the read.

According to Cami Walker's spiritual leader, the giving cycle needs to last 29 days, based on an African tradition that really wasn't clear in the book, nor did I take the time to research further.  Something or other about building energy.  My powerhouse here at the Lamp Post generates energy fine enough.

Cami Walker began her giving experiences when she was bedridden from the disease and addicted to painkillers.  The future looked bleak for this once vibrant, newly married, 30something.  When Walker writes about giving, her gifts were not all about money.  She also gave the intangible gifts of time and encouragement--the best gifts of all.  

She writes of an experience of bringing a homeless man a warm cup of coffee, and also of giving someone a letter of gratitude.  You can find out more about her experiences by logging on to her website  You can record your own acts of giving blog style on her website or just keep track of what you do for someone or something on a calendar.   She insists that it is important not to break the chain of giving, and if you do miss a day, you should start the 29 day cycle from the start.  Something Californian about "energy flow."  

Cami Walker encourages everyone to start today, with or without purchasing her book.  I started five days ago, so this blog is my fifth gift in my 33 day cycle.  Number 5.  My gift to you.  If you buck up the additional four days in your giving cycle, Jesus will be happy because I did it for him.  It was 33 years that he walked the earth.    There are also 33 vertebrae in the human spine, which was God designed so that was no accident.  The sum of the numbers of the word AMEN when written in alphabet code (A=1, B=2, Z=26) equals 33.  (Don't believe me?  Try it.  Go get your pencil.  ....I'll wait.......See.  I told you so).  And if those things aren't enough, it is also the secret number on my Rolling Rock bottles.  Divine indeed.

This blog is my gift to my readers, who were always just intended to be my family and friends.  My cousins from Cleveland to Coudersport.  My uncle out in Oregon and my friends from Philly to Fort Mill.  I now have far surpassed my original expectations with over 20,000 hits on the Lamp Post to date.  I never want to appear proud, haughty, or know it all-ish.  I'm just a jerk like all the rest of us, looking for ways to walk the straight and narrow path.  I am merely a teacher using my gift of story telling to tell you of lessons I learned in my own experiences. 

This weekend, Eloise will share her gift of storytelling through writing with you today.  I got a Sam story. He lost his first tooth--in a hotel pool, nonetheless.  

If you recall, Sam is afraid of lots of things; fireworks, coyotes, thunderstorms, the dark, and MOTHS.  Yes, moths.  Don't ask me why, but he screams like Little Miss Muffet every time he sees one.  It must the be the stealth element of surprise those little suckers have on him.  Sam was not happy when he made the connection that a mothlike woman would be visiting him to put a coin under his pillow in exchange for his tooth.  
  After some convincing, Sam eventually did go to sleep that night with his wrestling action figures poised and at the ready at the head of his cot.  He awoke a happy boy to find a dollar bill under his pillow because the coin was too heavy to fly two hours away from home. No, Sam did not receive all those dollars in the photo below from the tooth fairy.  Just one.  If the tooth fairy carried that much cash I'd be using the blade of my ice skate to knock my own tooth out like Tom Hanks did in the movie Cast Away. 

The hotel was our Easter Retreat.  A one day get away by suggestion from my fellow blogger-classmate-runner-friend Heather.  Thank you, Heather. Sam was especially happy because there were kids in the hotel to play with.  He found some friends and didn't leave their side during our short time together Easter weekend.  Known only to us as Fred and Adida from Somewhere, PA; they were MY gifts that weekend.  They kept Sam busy.  See below.

Dining together.
Playing pool.
Playing IN the pool.

Happy sisters because Sam had someone else other than them to bother.
So not only will Eloise give you the gift of a story today, but also a recipe.  It's a good one.  The recipe I am about to give you is called Skinny Water.  Here is how you make it:
  • Fill a pitcher of water
  • Float about a dozen or so mint leaves on top
  • Cut two lemons into round slices and put them in
  • Cut half a cucumber into nice neat circles and have them take a dip
  • Add a splash of Type O hemoglobin for an extra kick

Yes, I did it again.  Cut my same finger in the exact same place, making the exact same recipe I was making when I cut it the first time two weeks ago.  Live and learn, you say?  Obviously not.  Don't you all know that teachers are often the worst students?

The drop of blood added to my drink that is supposed to "flush the toxins from my system" reminded that me we all bleed red.  No matter the color of our skin, the country we live in, or the type of religion we practice, we all bleed red.  Although we are different types:  I'm O positive, Ellen is A, someone out there may be B (and need to research its connection to MS); there is a sameness in all of us.  We all bleed red.

We all need help at one time or another because we are all human.  And if your human nation can band together to be the helpers when called upon, as well as the grateful recipients when we are too weak to help ourselves, this world would be a better place.

To summarize in my teacher way (the key point is always bolded):  give what you can, whenever you can, for the Lord loves a cheerful giver.  

Those aren't my words.  I borrowed them from Paul and Timothy.  They put them in the second letter of Corinthians, chapter 9, verse 7 if you want to check it out for yourself.  

Enjoy gift Number Five,