Monday, February 24, 2020

Life is Not Like the TV Show—The Good Doctor

Life is not like the TV show, The Good Doctor, at least not for my two autistic boys.

For those of you who haven’t seen the show, The Good Doctor is about Shaun Murphy, a young autistic surgeon, played by Freddie Highmore, who has savant syndrome, relocates from a quiet country life to join the surgical unit at the prestigious San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital -- a move strongly supported by his mentor, Dr. Aaron Glassman. Having survived a troubled childhood, Shaun is alone in the world and unable to personally connect with those around him, but he finds his niche using his extraordinary medical skill and intuition to save lives and challenge the skepticism of his colleagues.

Yeah, right! I truly hope that life is like that for other autistic kids, but it isn’t our world. My oldest son has an almost savant-like mechanical, electronic ability. He has been obsessed with cars since he was two. He sees things in 3-D and can figure out how most things work easily. In elementary school, he was doing math that his teachers couldn’t do, but in middle school they decided he was dumb and would only give him picture math (one apple + one apple = ?).

That same philosophy has continued on through school and now to his work. Too intelligent for a day program gluing macaroni and paper, they have tried to place him in an automotive setting in the community. After volunteering for a number of years, he was hired at an automotive repair garage…as a janitor with the promise that they would hire him to change oil. Finally, his job coach company hired a job coach with mechanic abilities and certification. He was supposed to work with my son one-on-one to make sure nothing went wrong. After months of employment, the job coach said to the owner of the shop, “Look, when are you going to let him change oil?”

The answer was, “Never.”

At the time, I wasn’t told any more than that and so my son changed jobs. (With not much more success.) He still hasn’t been given an opportunity to demonstrate what he can actually do.

So, then comes along my other son, also autistic. His school experience was much the same—negative. He has a love of animals, particularly dogs. He wanted to go into the Animal Science program at Salt Lake Community College his senior year. His autism cluster teacher told him he wasn’t smart enough. He couldn’t learn the anatomy. He couldn’t do the math. He couldn’t do it. Period. I spoke with the doctor teaching the program, and he told me kids of all abilities are welcome in his class. I got the district involved, but even the vice principal was negative about my son taking the course. He also told us his cluster teacher refused to help him if he did it anyway. Seriously? What kind of teacher doesn't want their students to succeed?

What you must understand is that people with autism may have difficulties focusing on things, but when they are interested, they are extremely capable. They tend to hyper-focus and are almost obsessed with the subject.

Without special treatment in the Animal Science course, my youngest son passed with straight As and special certifications.

He has been working for an animal hospital for five years as a boarding technician for minimum wage. He has worked there longer than any other employee except one. Recently, we met with his Vocational Rehabilitation counselor to ask again that he be allowed to take on new tasks. We were told that the hospital was a business and are there to make money. They will not risk their business on someone with autism. (At least that’s what their office manager told Voc Rehab.)

I realized at that moment, neither of my children were going to be given the opportunity to prove themselves. I cried for a week. I laughed and scoffed at The Good Doctor. I considered life cruel and wondered why I worked so hard for my boys. Then, I got angry.

I refuse to give up. We have fought so many battles. This is just one more. There has to be companies out there that consider their employees more important than their bottom line; not that I’m asking them to let my son repair a car on his own or my other son to perform surgery on someone’s dog without the proper training, but they are both more capable than the world as defined them.

Life may not be like The Good Doctor for us, but nothing is stopping us from changing our little corner of the world.

Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Humor, Suspense...and Dogs!
Fly into a good book at:

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Terror of the Missing Roo

We’ve all experienced that moment of sheer fear in our lives.  One of those times for me was during a very difficult, stressful period when my brother unexpectedly died at the age of forty-nine and left me in charge to handle my family’s estate, including a twenty acre farm. (A momentous, disastrous obligation that lasted five years.)

My boys were only two and six at the time.  The minute we would get to the farm on the weekends, some sort of beacon went up letting everyone know that we had arrived.  We were there to sort through things and make decisions, but people poured in trying to snap up what they could. I was elected to deal with them.

On one particular day, rain drizzled down and reflected my gray, dark, cold, gloomy mood.  I didn’t want to do this.  I didn’t want my brother gone.  I asked my two nieces (ages nine and ten) to keep an eye on my boys while I handled the buyers.  I didn’t know what I was doing.  What did I know about the price of farm equipment?  But these men were after what they wanted, badgering me and prodding me to sell and arguing amongst themselves over who got what.  My heart ached.  I wanted to be responsible, but I felt like curling up in the fetal position and weeping.

Every decision was difficult, but finding homes for my brother’s animals, and especially his three dogs, weighed heaviest on my mind.  As much as I wanted to and loved them, we already had three dogs and just couldn’t take on more, especially work dogs—a Blue Heeler and an Australian Cattle dog. His third dog was a sweet Schnauzer named Smokey.  Everyone wanted to adopt him.

As I passed by my nieces, I noticed my youngest wasn’t with them.

“Where’s Roo?” I asked.

The girl’s looked at each other and shrugged.

My heart dropped into the boiling acid suddenly spurting in the pit of my stomach.  I frantically scanned the area to no avail.  Racing to the house, I informed everyone to begin searching.  We combed the house, the barns, the sheds, the shops, the milk barn, the stockyard, the pens and the fields.  No Roo.

How far could a two-year-old get?  Him in his little cowboy hat, boots and leather vest.  Him who adored his uncle, emulated him, and would only take off his cowboy hat when my brother did. The rain soaked through my clothes and skin and chilled my bones.  What was the cold rain doing to my baby?  Was he calling for me and I wasn’t there? A gut-wrenching moment ensued. Tears pooled in the corner of my eyes, and I shook uncontrollably. Images of what could have happened flashed in my mind, and I could barely hold back the scream trying to escape my lips.   Where could he be?

And then my husband noticed that one of our dogs was also missing—Asta, our Wire-haired Fox Terrier.  I raced down the quarter-mile muddy road leading to the farm and eventually found a visible paw print.  Farther along, I found a tiny cowboy boot print meandering behind the paw prints.  They continued down the road and up the hill to a wooden bridge covering a canal.  My heart nearly exploded in my chest.  No, there wasn’t water in the canal at this time of year, but with all the rain, there were fairly deep puddles in the bottom.  The fall alone could have left him…dead. Bile rose to my throat.

I crossed the bridge, looking down both ways as far as I could see.  No dog. No precious little boy.  I picked up their trail farther down the dirt road.  The tracks continued toward the city street and houses.  Despite the chill in my bones, sweat poured from my head, and I had to keep wiping my eyes.  I held my breath as I looked up and down the street with busy cars moving in both directions. No dog. No Roo.

All that I had been burdened with and felt so responsible for meant nothing compared to the thought of losing my son. I wanted those minutes back.  I wanted him in my arms.

A woman approached me.  “Are you looking for something?”

“Yes, yes, our son, our dog.  Our two-year-old must have followed our dog off the farm.  Have you seen them?”

“I’ve called the police,” she said, glaring at me like I was the worst mother on the planet.

“Fine.  Are they all right? Where are they?”  My mind whirled with all the implications, but I didn’t care.  I just wanted them to be safe.

A police car rolled up and the woman rushed over to him, frowning and pointing at my husband and me.  The woman headed up the street, but the police officer detained us, asking all kinds of questions.  Who can remember what he asked?  I wanted to scream, “Give me my son.”  But, I didn’t want the police officer to think I was unstable.

Yes, I admitted to myself, I am a horrible, awful mother.  Just please let me see my son and dog alive.

And then there came our tri-colored dog, trotting out of one of the box houses up the street.  Behind him came a little boy in a cowboy hat, vest and boots.  He ran toward me with his arms out, calling, “Assa, walk.”

I dropped to my knees, sobbing, grateful and exhausted. The woman told us she had seen them wandering down the middle of the street with cars coming and had taken them home. I’m so thankful that Heavenly Father watched over them and were taken in by someone who took good care of them until they were found.
Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Humor, Suspense…and Dogs!
Fly into a good book at:

Friday, October 11, 2019

Being Stalked

I’m no celebrity.  And at this time, I wasn’t even an author.

My mother was one of those firm believers that you should be nice to everyone because everyone is fighting their own battles.  I still believe this, but these days, I’m a lot more cautious.  I met Jon Dahl in high school.  He was a year older than me and dressed like your average nerd, safety-pinned glasses, plastic pencil holder in his shirt pocket, and all.

He didn’t have friends so I befriended him.  He became too friendly.  I managed to avoid him through high school, but college turned out differently.  He took every class that I did.  Instead of facing the teacher, he turned his chair around and stared at me the entire class. He followed me down the halls, yelling my name.  If I tried to comment in class, Jon was there making some flippant remark in return.  I became a bundle of nerves. I even had other male students I didn’t even know threaten him to leave me alone.

Even my professors had become uncomfortable with the situation and couldn’t help but question me whether I was all right.  What could I say?  I feared every corner I rounded.  I’d become a chin-trembling, pigeon-toed, stumbling wreck of a person with thoughts of dropping out of college rather than face the humiliation and uncertainness of what Jon Dahl would do next.

It didn’t end. Jon continued to stalk me.

One day, I arrived at campus and noticed my classmates glancing up at me from the school newspaper, whispering, grinning, pointing, and even a few embarrassed looks.  I had no idea what was going on but continued on to class, wondering with my stomach in knots as usual. I immediately noticed Jon’s absence and gave a sigh of relief.  Could the paper have said he’d dropped out?

I wish.

With timid hands and a red face, one of my classmates slid the school paper in my direction.  There on page two the headline read, “My Wife, Cindy” by Jon Dahl.  I sunk in my seat, my heart hitching in my chest and sobs trapping in my throat.  I peeked beyond the paper to everyone staring at me.  I might as well have been naked standing before the class.  I shriveled in my seat but my body wanted to flee out the door.

I can’t begin to remember, nor do I want to remember, all of the horrible statements Jon made about me in the paper.  The day continued with everyone staring at me because they knew Jon meant me.  I couldn’t believe a college newspaper would print such…such garbage.  Yes, there’s such a thing as freedom of the press, but what did someone’s misguided fantasies have to do with life on campus, world events, or the truth?

I couldn’t take it any longer.  I’d been beaten down and wanted the emotional pain to end.  I would drop out.  I didn’t care what my future held.  My friends begged me not to leave and for several days, Jon didn’t come to class, giving me a much needed reprieve.  When he did reappear, he had a black eye.  He didn’t turn around and face me in class.  Someone had physically threatened him.  I felt a sense of pride that someone had stood up for me, but also guilt that it had come to such a level.

Not long after, Jon was expelled for hacking the college computer.  Life became easier, and I continued my education.  I didn’t become a total introvert, and I still have a tendency to befriend everyone.  I guess my mother’s teachings will never leave me.  Sometimes, I’m lucky and make a good friend and sometimes I get used.  In fact, John wasn’t my last experience with a stalker.  But, that’s another story.

Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Humor, Suspense...and Dogs! 
Fly into a good book at:

Copyright: Novic / 123RF Stock Photo

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Stabbing

A number of years ago, a friend of mine got diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction (CFIDS) and his liver was severely attacked. Since I had ended up in the hospital with an enlarged liver and spleen and CFIDS as well, Tom suggested I have a liver biopsy.

I scheduled an appointment with his doctor, and the doctor scheduled the test. The staff clarified the procedure, explained the liver has no feeling and therefore we could just use a local anesthetic, and then they showed me the instrument used to take out a small core of the liver. It was similar to an apple corer, but only 2-3 cm in diameter and much longer.

I laid on the cold surgical table, anxious but not too concerned. After all, it was a procedure, not surgery.

“Are we ready?” the doctor asked.

The nurse nodded and handed him the tool. He raised it in his fist and plunged it hard into my chest just below the breast bone. With a quick intake of breath, my eyes flew open and so did my mouth. I couldn’t speak. My body stiffened, and I clutched the sheet in both hands at my sides. Choking out a sob, I stared at the doctor.

For a moment, I was transformed to a dark alley with a mugger thrusting a knife into my chest. So this is what it is like to be stabbed. Blood must be gushing from the wound. Pain radiated from my chest outward. The violence of the stabbing left me paralyzed.

“You…you…stabbed me,” I said, letting out a strained whimper.

“Doctor, she’s gone into shock,” the nurse stated.

Ya think? My heart hammered uncontrollably in my chest. I felt about to fall off the table with dizziness. I couldn’t catch my breath. Of course, I knew I wasn’t in that alley, and I couldn’t see any blood pouring from my body. But, the shock of the doctor thrusting that instrument into my chest, threw me into shock, not to mention, agony. Who said organs have no pain sensors?

The doctor looked at me in confusion. “That didn’t hurt.”

I wanted to belt him right in the mouth. “Yes, it did.”

“The liver has no nervous system.”

“Give me a knife and I’ll prove it,” I said.

I don’t remember much of what happened after that. I’m assuming the nurse gave me something through my I.V. to calm me down. To this day, you’ll never convince me that organs can’t feel pain…joy…or any other emotion. If you’ve lived long at all, you know the heart can definitely feel pain. Believe me, so can your other organs.

Symptoms, then are in reality nothing but the cry from suffering organs. ~Jean-Martin Charcot, translated from French

No man is a good doctor who has never been sick himself. ~Chinese Proverb

Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Humor, Suspense...and Dogs!
Fly into a good book at:
Copyright: andresr / 123RF Stock Photo

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I’m Not Superstitious! (Knock on Wood.)

We were at an antique mall in West Valley City when this sterling silver dragonfly brooch with an amber stone caught my eye. The reason happened to be my love of dragonflies because I hardly ever wear jewelry and especially not a brooch.

I commented on how beautiful it was and the clerk told me the price. Way too much for me to spend on something I would never wear. My friend and I left, and I had this funny feeling I was forgetting something. We stood by the car as I checked all my paraphernalia. Suddenly, the brooch came to mind.

I laughed. “I’m thinking about that dragonfly.”  I hesitantly opened the car door. “Let’s go.”

“Why don’t you get it?” my friend said.

“What would I do with it?” I wet my lips.

“You don’t have to wear it.”

“If I buy it, I’m wearing it.”

If I buy it… What a ridiculous thought. We climbed in the car and started to leave the parking lot. I had this horrible feeling I was making a huge mistake in leaving the dragonfly behind.

“Wait!” I cried, my hand fluttering to my lips.

My friend pulled up to the door. “Buy it. You haven’t bought anything all day.”

I rushed back in the store, terrified that someone might have bought it before I could get back to it. The dragonfly sat pleasantly in the center of the locked display case. I swallowed hard and pulled out my credit card. Wrapped in tissue, I carried the brooch out to the car and got it. I felt such relief. It belonged to me.

We headed to the next antique mall on our outing. I couldn’t stop thinking about the dragonfly. I carefully unwrapped and admired it until we got to our next destination.

“Put it on,” my friend suggested.

“Where else I am going to wear something like this?”  I fastened the pin securely and we headed inside.

As my friend bought some antique cookie cutters, the owner stared at the dragonfly.

“Isn’t that lovely,” she said.

“Thank you,” I said, beaming. “I just bought it.” Yet, I felt a tightening in my chest as a reached up to check on it fastened to my coat.

We continued to talk about it until my friend’s purchase was final and then we left for the next antique mall. It had been a wonderful day. I felt giddy as we were finally headed home. I looked down and the brooch had flown the coop!

 My friend pulled over and we ripped the car a part looking for it. We headed back to every mall, looked down every aisle, checked with every clerk. Nothing! It was gone! In just a few short hours, I had fallen in love with a brooch and lost it. This was so unlike me. I couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t calm my beating heart. I left my name and number with everyone in hopes of getting it back. I spent each day in agony.

One month went by…

Two months went by...

I gave up hope.

One day, I headed for the door to run a few errands and the phone rang. Reluctantly, I came back to the desk to answer. “Hello?”

“Hello. Is this Cindy?” a woman asked.


“I think I’ve found your dragonfly brooch. I work at Vine Street Antiques.”

“Where did you find it?” I asked in amazement.

“In the parking lot.”

After two months? Freaky! I immediately drove to the shop, not believing it could possibly be my brooch. She handed me my dirty dragonfly with a flattened pin on the back. Yeah, it had been driven over a few times, but it was alive. Extraordinary! I thanked her profusely and ended up taking it to a jeweler for repair. With a sigh of relief, I brought it home.

Since “fly into a good book” is my tagline, I decided to wear the brooch to an annual writers’ conference. I clipped the new pin securely in place and headed out of my room to the elevator to head down for the first day of meetings and fun. Low and behold, the dragonfly flew off my jacket and right down the narrow space between the floor and the elevator. I swear it flew! It didn’t drop down as I walked over the opening. It flew off about two feet in front of me to reach the narrow opening between floors.

Shakily, I rode the elevator down to the main floor and told the desk clerk what had happened. I knew there was little chance of getting the brooch back. I was beginning to wonder why it kept calling to me that first day when it didn’t really want to stay with me. About two hours later, a maintenance worker brought me the dragonfly. He had found it on a ledge between floors! It was dinged and bent up but still intact. Totally amazing!

The maintenance worker pinned it on me and all of the people at the conference cheered. I nervously wore it for the rest of the day, checking it constantly to see if it was still there. When I got back to my room I packed it away in my luggage for the rest of the conference.

The next time I wore it was for a book signing. It managed not to fly away this time. I came home, put my clothes in the laundry, and started the wash. The next time I saw my dragonfly, it was flying around the clothes dryer…in two pieces!

I’ve never had this much frustration with any piece of jewelry in my life!

I took it to the jeweler…again…and had it repaired. It has remained in my jewelry box ever since. I can’t get rid of it. I can’t wear it. I feel completely attached to the brooch but also frightened of it.

You can’t tell me there isn’t history behind this antique dragonfly brooch. I am not superstitious but, if only dragonflies could talk…

Sometimes I wonder if I should keep it trapped in my jewelry door or whether I should let it fly.

Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Humor, Suspense...and Dogs!
Fly into a good book at:  

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