Defeating Odds

In 2011, my middle son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  It was just as the DSM-V was eliminating “Asperger’s Syndrome”.  He was 9 at the time and struggling socially.  Just getting through a single day at school was a challenge.  He didn’t have any friends and teachers were unable to reach him.  However, he was gifted in Language Arts and surpassed his peers.  I made the difficult decision to home-school him while we learned to navigate the new waters that we were in.

Those days were some of the most painful, as a parent.  Meltdowns were sometimes hourly.  Nothing seemed to calm or soothe him.  His education suffered and I was genuinely concerned for his future.  His grades were straight “F’s”.  We were able to meet with a therapist, Kasi, who would help to dramatically change our lives for the better.  Initial appointments were quiet as they worked to build a trust and bond.   As the communication strengthened, he started to feel understood.  The more that he felt understood, the more he started to connect social dots.  Meltdowns were coming less and less.  Confidence started to flow.  He was able to return to regular school within a matter of a year.  His amazing therapist gave him the tools that he needed to self-advocate.

Here we are 6 years later and he is a shadow of his former self.  Meltdowns have been completely eradicated.  Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time he even came close.  The work he did with Kasi paid off.  Her gentle guidance helped him re-discover his voice.  Today, he is on the honor roll, accepted into advanced classes for high school next year, discharged from his therapies, in some after school social clubs, working as a teacher’s aide, and thriving in ways that we didn’t think were possible.  We didn’t try to shelter him from his fears, we just showed him how to overcome them.  In turn, he didn’t just defeat the odds, he has shattered them and left them in his dust.

I wish that I could take some credit for that but I’m grateful that I can’t.  He worked hard for where he is.  He fought for all of his accomplishments.  He struggled and learned from those struggles.  We cannot always overcome every obstacle but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t  try.  He did not let anything define him – he defined himself.  He didn’t know where all of his hard work would get him until he did it.   He just knew that giving up was not an option.


*Nicole Mann is an Administrative Assistant at Agape for Youth, Inc.





The “Other” Category



A little over four months ago I was given the opportunity to join the Agape team as the Licensing and Training Coordinator. As I sat in the office with Bruce and Rodger hearing about all the aspects of the job that I would be required to do, they finished with saying, but it is not an inclusive list of your duties and there is a “other” category that is open ended. Coming from a 9am-5pm office job where I wore a headset to be on the phone with clients 8 hours per day, I was excited for the adventures that would come with joining the Agape family.  On the other hand, I was nervous. I had been with my previous employer for 4 years and I had just finished becoming a licensed foster parent. Who knew where that journey in life was going to lead.  However the more I reflected on the possibilities and happiness that would come from switching career paths, the more excited I became. So, I took the leap and joined the Agape Family.  What I didn’t fully realize was those “other” duties would become my favorite part of my job.

What makes Agape so great is the things we do with our foster parents and families.  I joined the team a little before Halloween when the fun of the holidays was just beginning. Being in the office when donations would arrive and sorting through books, clothes and gifts always made for fun afternoons full of laughter and comradery between coworkers. When the time came for our family night and Christmas Carnival, it made for what I call “controlled ciaos”- kids running around having fun, not really knowing which kid is where but enough volunteers to make sure everyone is safe. Everyday there is always something that has landed in the “other duties” category.  This past week however took my “other duties” to the next level. I got the opportunity to deliver and build a crib for a teenage mother coming into one of our foster homes. I took a couple hours out of my day to go to one of our foster homes and had an amazing afternoon. I was able to talk with the foster mother and learn about her journey and her life while we worked together building a crib and rearranging her spare room for a youth who was in route to her house.  It was one of those afternoons that remind you what Agape is all about.

You never know what hand you are going to be dealt sometimes. Changing career paths was scary and made me extremely nervous, but it was one of the best moves I could have done. I am so happy to be a part of the Agape team and even more excited when those “other duties” present themselves.  So I challenge you, when those “other duties” in life pop up, try and make the most of it because sometimes the most fulfilling part of your day comes during those times when you do some things in that “other” category.


*Jamie Fisher is the Licensing & Training Coordinator at Agape for Youth, Inc.  and has her own blog at Fishers Foster Tree


…..And the Adventures Continue!

In the past, I used to share a lot, I mean A LOT!!!…. Personally, I shared about me, my family and our lives. So much at times, I believe my daughter would call me out about my ‘oversharing’. I had convinced myself that this was me… “Mr. Transparent”, “Mr. Open Book”, with a “what you see is what you get” mentality in relating to those in my circle of “friends”.

As my wife Sandie has said….just when we think all is good…” life happens” and it gets even better, and when we think life can’t get any worse…” life happens” and what we thought was the absolute worst of times, somehow definitely looks better than what we experienced next.

In my walk through the extremes of the pendulums of “life happens” experiences, one piece of knowledge I acquired is that of discerning between “friends” and acquaintances, and that I needed to respond differently to each in my relationship with them. I believe there are times we experience such a desire for “friends”, we create a relationship we believe to be one with ‘depth’ when it truly was a relationship of ‘surface’. Have you ever experienced someone close to you be nearly destroyed emotionally, and even spiritually as a result of them sharing personally with an another (they believed was a “friend”), only to have this person share this personal information with others with the sole motive to injure that person. I believe the devastation experienced is without question one of the worst things I could imagine going through.

There are certainly a number of attributes and behaviors that define friendship yet one of the best was shared years ago by Charlie McMahon, Lead Catalyst at SouthBrook Christian Church. Charlie shared a great message about what defines friendships and relationships. His reference was for us to consider who those “friends” closest to us and whether or not that have ‘refrigerator rights’ in our home… know those “friends” who are always welcome in our homes and yes….can open our ‘frig’ anytime they desire. It’s one of his messages I remember to this day!

What is your definition of true a “friend”, or friends and how have you built upon and strengthened your relationships and your commitment to them?

A little over two years ago, my best friend, and yes I ‘am referring to my wife Sandie, and I made an ‘adventure’ commitment that has forever changed our lives.

As part of this pact we made, each month, we ‘committed’, sometimes individually, or collectively to plan a getaway for the two of us. It could be anything from a day to a weekend trip, with the only rule being we could not stay at the same place twice during a given year. This has led to both memory building opportunities and life changing experiences. We have had times of being hopelessly lost, to how the heck did we luck out and we get here” times in our travels. We have also expanded upon these monthly adventures inviting “friends” to share them with us which has built some of the greatest relationships of “depth” either of us could have imagined.

My wish for each you the building of, and the keeping of “deep friendships, amazing journeys, and oh yes, a good number of ‘refrigerator’ rights”!

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