Tiger Lee is seriously autistic. During his first few years of life, he rarely stopped screaming, fought against bathing, couldn't stand to be put in his car seat ....
Last night I stayed with the Lee family near Salem, Oregon. After reading Linda's book online that morning, I was distinctly nervous about what I would find. A screaming child, exhausted parents, a resentful brother? Instead I found a happy, hospitable family.
I asked Linda how this transformation had come about. She explained that once Tiger was finally diagnosed, she had got online and researched tirelessly to find out how to make their lives more tolerable. 'I was desperate', she admits. And who wouldn't be? Her researches led to changes in Tiger's diet which had made an enormous difference.
Now her mission in life is to help other families affected by autism, primarily by educating physicians so they can make an early diagnosis of the disorder. She hasn't let a lack of relevant skills hold her back from setting up a website (see Help Autism Now), producing a book, an educational pamphlet for physicians, a TV commercial and an information film. (The book can be read online - see Jason's Story.)
'And there's so much more I want to do', she said, 'there just aren't enough hours in the day.' I can relate to that.
'Paul has got a good metaphor for it.' She turned to her husband. 'The plate of food?' he said. 'Yes, it's like you have this plate with a pile of food on it. You keep trying to fit more food on, but it's already full, so when you put more on over here, food falls off over there. There's a limit to how much you can fit on.'
'But I still keep trying to pile more food on anyway', Linda said. 'Hmmm, me too,' I agreed, thinking of the book, the speeches, the documentary, the Pacific...' so where can I get a BIGGER PLATE?!'
(Paul, Jason and Linda Lee - Tiger had gone to bed by the time we got around to photos)
I dropped in at the Pacific Cornetta offices near Portland, Oregon, yesterday, to meet Bill the marketing guy. The company had already sent me some of their insulated mugs and thermos flasks to replace the ones that got swept overboard on the Atlantic. I'd chosen sensible, outdoorsy looking ones in stainless steel and camouflage.
But surrounded yesterday by shelf-fuls of pretty, jazzy, colourful patterns I gave in to girliness, and when they offered me the pick of the product range I went for bright jewel colours and fun patterns. My favourite is a purple sparkly mug, like a constellation of stars in an indigo sky. In mid-Pacific, it will brighten up my day.
Today I passed a quirky old-fashioned fun park, buried deep in the redwoods - Confusion Hill.
But for me, today was remarkably unconfusing. (Or de-confusing?)
It's easy, in the general flurry of activity, for me to lose sight of what matters. As I drove today I was listening to a recording of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which was reminding me of some home truths.
Confusion Hill made me think of what he says about paradigm shifts - looking at the world in a different way. It was a paradigm shift that got me out of my old life as a management consultant and into this new life as an ocean rower.
Now I could do with another paradigm shift to take me on to the next level. But I'm not quite sure how you can deliberately provoke one. I seem to recall that last time it was quite a confused and stressful time that finally created the shift. As somebody said, no phoenix can arise from no ashes. You often hear of people who make dramatic personal progress as a result of a health scare, or the loss of a loved one, or a miraculous escape from death.
But is it really necessary to burn the old to bring in the new? Does it have to be that traumatic or can it be more incremental?
For Google Earthers, if you zoom in on Cave Junction, OR, my motel is the big grey-roofed building by the T-junction on the main road, just SE of Google's pointer. If it was a current photo you'd see the BlandsMobile parked in the car park outside a room with a big blue 'Disabled' badge on the door - they gave me that room because it's near enough to Reception to pick up wi-fi, and not because of the hip. I hope.