Recognizing World Autism Awareness Day

 

autism awareness

Sorry for not having a blog post up in a while guys, I’ve been very busy with school, work, and other projects I’ve been working on, so I’ve been dedicating a lot more time to those other projects.  Fortunately, today gives me perfect motivation to write a new blog post.  Today is National Autism Awareness Day.  Though the whole month of April is considered National Autism Awareness Month, April 2 is Awareness Day (which understandably falls on the second day instead of falling on April Fools Day, good call).  To be honest, even though I’ve been diagnosed to be on the spectrum myself, there was very little I knew about the month until I found out what today was and therefore looked into it a little more.

In this research, I found out that apparently people that follow autism awareness wears blue today.  I haven’t quite been able to figure out why of all colors it’s blue, but nevertheless, it warms my heart to know that efforts are made to be more aware of the people who are on the autism spectrum and efforts are made to pay better attention to the struggles autistic people go through in their day-to-day lives.  World Autism Awareness Day is primarily meant to be a day where people are encouraged to spread awareness of autism and motivate actions to be taken to make the lives of autistic people (children in particular) a little easier every day.

Creating a better understanding and awareness of autism is something I’ve been going for with this blog for the past couple months, and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback where people have told me that thanks to my posts, they have a better understanding when it comes to autism and the people that have autism as a part of them.  Though culturally, today may be the official ‘awareness’ day, I want to continue writing blog posts that will help increase that awareness all year round, because I don’t believe there’s any point in time where one has to stop trying to help other people understand.

So for those of you who still have a lot to learn about autism, I’d encourage you to do a little more research.  Read past blog posts of mine or find other sources.  Our culture encourages us to have more awareness and understanding of different people groups, and the autism community is no exception.  Patience is key to being a blessing to those on the spectrum.  People with autism have the tendency to think and process things very differently than ‘neurotypical’ people, which is definitely one way when patience needs to be practiced, so start with that.

For more information about World Autism Awareness Day, click here.

Autism’s Role In… Social Interaction

I was homeschooled growing up, so most of the social settings I was involved in was church or youth group (which is more or less the same thing, just with different age demographics).  After getting my high school diploma, I had the opportunity to get involved in other different social settings like my first job, then eventually college, and get exposed to a lot of people from different walks of life and different cultures and mindsets.  While my exposure to others on the spectrum started before college, I had the opportunity by the time I went to college to meet a lot of other people on the spectrum.  I’m positive I’ve said this before in previous posts, not one autistic person is exactly the same as another.  All autistic people have different personalities, mindsets, and strengths and weaknesses.  There may be some similarities in terms of weaknesses and even strengths, but no two people are exactly the same, as is the case with pretty much anyone else in general for that matter.

So what can it typically be like for autistic people in a social setting?  If they’re different, what different kinds of scenarios are there for people on the spectrum in public?  There are many different kinds, but to keep this short, I’ll list several that I’ve observed, including my own personal experience:

1. There are autistic people who are completely anti-social.  They prefer the company of themselves instead of interacting with other people.  Interacting with other people can be considered intimidating to them and they feel more comfortable alone, staying within the borders of their minds to brainstorm and sometimes even talk to themselves.  If they have no choice but to be in public, they will stay away from large groups and stand to the side to keep to themselves and let their minds take them wherever they want to go.

2. There are autistic people who actually want to interact with others, be heard, and talk about things they are very interested in.  The third thing there is one of the truest of them all.  They want to talk to people about things they’re passionate about and interested in, but that’s about as far they’ll go.  They can sit with someone and have an almost one-sided conversation by continuing to talk about what they’re passionate about with very few breaks in between to allow the other person to talk.  As I’ve said in previous articles, autistic people hold their passions and obsessions very near and dear to them, and they want to share it with others, sometimes unaware that others are simply not interested.  I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to let the person talk and try to listen as best I can, and then when I’m ready to move on, I can politely inform the person that I’d like to talk to someone else or move on to a different subject.  If done politely and calmly, this usually works.

3. There are autistic people who want to be part of a group or talk to other people but they feel uncomfortable when placed in that setting because if no one is talking about something the person is familiar with, then it can be hard to be engaged in the conversation.  There’s also the possibility of the person feeling left out because very little attention is payed to him.  This can lead to the person feeling awkward and deciding to move on, feeling ignored and not valued.  While this can type of scenario can absolutely be relevant for other kinds of people, autistic people can tend to feel the weight of that much more significantly and will tend to think a lot afterwards about how much people may or may not value them.

So those are some concepts for you guys to think about.  One more thing to mention is that I’d say that when you meet autistic people in public, they can surprise you, intrigue you, maybe even wear you out a little bit (even have the tendency to do that), or maybe you won’t even notice them at all because they’d rather stand to the side.  Personally for me, when it comes to going out with friends, I’ve always preferred just going out with one friend because it feels good to give special attention to one friend without all the distractions of other people, even if I really like them too, and it’s easier to find my words and follow conversations.  In groups a lot of times, there’s the tendency for someone to get left out, and I don’t like the thought of being responsible for that nor do I like to find myself in that position myself.  I love to talk, and I love to meet new people and form relationships, but as you’ve learned a little bit of just a second ago, I’m pretty particular about how I go about it.  There’s no single way that all people on the spectrum approach people or conversations in public, and for people who are higher functioning, you probably won’t even realize that the person is autistic on some level until later, but regardless, I hope that listing these things helps increase  your awareness and helps you think of ways to manage these scenarios when they come.

Announcement For A New Series: Autism’s Role In…

For a few months now, I’ve written article upon article about what it’s like for me to live on the autism spectrum and how I relate to others on the spectrum that deals with some of the same issues.  Now I’m launching a new series called Autism’s Role In….  This series is meant to explain what it’s like for autistic people to interact or engage in different aspects of our culture and society and how culture and society affects them back based on my own research and my own personal experiences.

Politics, social settings, entertainment, religion, and social media are some of the topics I’ll be exploring in this series.  One of the challenges of creating a series like this though is the fact that autistic people are all different.  As I’m sure you already know, it’s not like people on the spectrum are all clones of one person with the same personalty, thought process, and mannerisms.  Most autistic people all have different ways of approaching certain aspects of our culture, but those ways are usually very unique and tend to make ‘neurotypical’ people do a double-take.  This is part of how it can be difficult and even frustrating for people not on the spectrum to relate and connect with those who are, so learning the perspective of autistic people in different areas such as politics, social media, etc is key for ‘neurotypical’ people to better grasp and understand where autistic people are coming from, even if they may not be able to understand fully or even agree.

Next week, I will post the first part of the series, starting with simple everyday encounters, then move on into more complex territory (yes, along the way you may get to learn a thing or two about my own political views).  My hope is that these articles can be read and understood by people with or without autism and that they will benefit from learning what I have to say.

Living With Autism Part 10: A New Hope

Pardon my nerd reference for the title, but I felt it was fitting for this article.  So this is the tenth part in the Living With Autism series and some might say at this point that I’m just trying really hard to milk the cow and squeeze as many drops out of this topic as possible.  With the tenth part now up, and the fact that I had written some other autism-related articles on the side, what more can I possibly talk about regarding the subject and how I relate to it?

The answer is: a lot.  More than you would probably be able to imagine.  That’s why I’m currently writing a book to chronicle what I’ve talked about on this blog so far as well as add whole new aspects so that other people who don’t read my blog can get a picture too.  So what can I talk about in this article?

Remember the movie Good Will Hunting?  A well-made, well-written story about a twenty-year old orphan boy named Will who’s incredibly intelligent and has wisdom beyond his years, but is held back from doing anything really significant to make a life for himself beyond hanging out with his friends at the bar and working as a janitor in a prestigious university.  He is sent by one of the university’s professors to visit a psychology professor named Sean (played by the late and brilliant Robin Williams) for counseling and to get help in order to defeat his fear and make something of his life.  Eventually, after several sessions, Sean asks Will what he wants to do with his life, but he doesn’t know, despite everything he’s capable of.

Lately I’ve been having issues with figuring out what I myself want to do.  I recently visited an advisor over at the community college I’m attending because I couldn’t make peace with the fact that I wanted to slowly back out of the college and just select classes that could benefit my writing career.  My advisor, having involvement in the disability services there, was well aware of my place on the spectrum and still believed that I can work towards a transfer degree to get involved in the English department in a university.  Despite my problems with math, my advisor believed I can do it if I seek out the help I need, I just need to work harder.

As someone on the autism spectrum with the inability to learn certain things the same way as others, I have to work harder than some other people to succeed in certain things like math.  The advisor picked up on the fact that I was overthinking things a lot.  I was afraid that if I consistently rely on tutors to help me through another math class, I would frustrate the tutors because they would feel like their help isn’t getting to me, which is something my advisor believed was unnecessary for me to worry about and wanted to meet with me again so that we can discuss further how I should move forward after this semester.

While I do plan on proceeding to meet with my advisor to discuss what I should do, I’ve been praying to see what God wants me to do, but I hope the point is made here.  While autistic people are all different in what their strengths and weaknesses are, one thing is for certain: there is always something that they can work towards to make a reality in their lives, even if that means they have to work harder or get as much assistance as they can from outside sources.  Right now in my life, I severely lack inward motivation.  It takes a lot of outward motivation to push me forward and get certain things done, and I realize that needs to change. Everyone needs some outward motivation from time to time, but in the end it comes down to me making the decisions with what I want for my life.  In order for me to have the life that I have vision for and have a beneficial career, it means doing things and taking classes that I don’t want to do, but being autistic is not a good excuse for me to explain why I won’t do what I need to do in order to go far in life.

In conclusion, it’s not easy for anyone who’s autistic.  People on the spectrum have a unique ability to learn things earlier and quicker than others, but there are also things that come much easier to others than they do to autistic people and that’s where things get a little tricky, but no matter what, there’s always something that autistic people are capable of, and if it means doing less-than-desirable things like math classes or other classes involving topics where there’s zero interest in order to achieve that goal, it just means having to work harder and get extra assistance.  There’s always hope for people on the spectrum to get the help they need and do great things.

Note: Over the next couple of weeks, I will be focusing on writing satirical posts in the same vein as my post Autistic Guy Goes To Sunday Morning Mass For the First Time until I can think of a new way to continue writing about autism in a new format that branches out into different aspects I haven’t covered yet.

 

Living With Autism Part 9: Why Autism?

Every writer that pursues a particular topic to write about has to answer the question: why do you write what you write?

As I’ve been writing these articles about my life with autism and about the knowledge I have about the autism spectrum, I’ve been commended for being very open, transparent, and honest in my views and where I come from and people have told me that my articles have helped them gain a better understanding of autism and the people on that spectrum, including people who have autistic children.  Combine the feedback, my personal experiences, and my passion for writing, and it’s looking pretty obvious that writing about autism is something I seem to have a talent at doing.  So why do I personally feel passionate for writing about autism?

Personal experience as a high-functioning autistic is obviously a factor.  I have that personal experience under my belt as someone with Aspergers, so my articles are about autism by someone who is autistic on a certain level, therefore I have a fair understanding of what I’m actually talking about when I write.

Beyond that, I think people who are on the autism spectrum are very fascinating people.  A lot of assumptions are made that all autistic people are the same, but I can tell you that that’s not true at all, and I’m sure you already know it.  The population that’s on the spectrum is very diverse in its own ways, and I think its very fascinating and intriguing to observe and interact with people on the spectrum and learn how they’re different from each other.  Autism represents a group of unique people that think and process things differently, and though they have their weaknesses in certain areas of everyday life that comes naturally to a lot of people, they also have some amazing strengths and tend to learn things earlier than expected.  They introduce a certain dynamic in our culture that makes it different.

What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool?  You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.”  – Temple Grandin

Because of this fascination in the lives of people on the spectrum, I feel passionate to take what I’ve learned from both my own personal experiences and the information I get from doing research and write articles so that people will have an increased awareness and understanding. I believe that the lives of autistic people can become easier and more fair if others understand better how they think, feel, and function so that they can interact with them and not expect from them the same norms that they expect from others.  People can also learn how to take better care of people on the spectrum if their children are autistic or if they’re associated with autistic people.  Whatever I can do to help make the world a better place for people on the spectrum and make them feel accepted and understood is a real pleasure to me, and I hope that by continuing to write these articles, I can help someone, whether it’s an autistic person or a person that’s associated with autistic people.

Living With Autism Part 8: Dating Relationships

autism in love

 

What?  Oh you had to know that I was going to get to this subject eventually!  It’s a very fun subject.  There’s a lot that you can find about the link between romance and people on the autism spectrum when you look it up, but a lot of these articles are written by people who are not on the spectrum and can only speak from their own research or personal experience with other autistic people.  Why is this?

This is because romance is perceived as something that many autistic people simply don’t understand.  Some may want it, but it’s intimidating to them.  For anyone, being in a relationship means being self-sacrificial and having to put the other person’s interests above your own, which is something that autistic people are normally not fully willing to do at first.  Because of heavy concentration on their own interests, it takes concentrated effort to be interested in what the other person enjoys or is engaged in.

It’s also hard for autistic people to read facial expressions correctly and discern the feelings of another person.  One of the obstacles of an autistic person is that they normally can’t tell exactly what the other person is thinking or how he’s feeling, which can lead to anxiety if misinterpreted.  Also, if an autistic person doesn’t understand how the other person is feeling, this tends to come off as rude to the other person.

I’ve only ever been in one relationship in my life which lasted for six months before she broke it off, but it was long enough for me to be able to speak from personal experience as a high-functioning autistic dating someone who was not on the spectrum.  I was constantly concerned that my girlfriend was just going through the motions rather than having genuine feelings for me, and it didn’t usually matter what she said or did that could counteract how I felt, I always felt unsure.  In the end it turned out that at least some of that was because she was drifting away until she finally broke it off altogether, but I can’t blame her entirely.  It wasn’t until a couple months later afterwards that I was diagnosed and a month or two after that when I got the results in, so I know there was some miscommunication.  The best I was able to tell her during the relationship was that I had a form of ADD, which honestly isn’t very informative and it didn’t explain some of my issues that came off as more autistic.

Now, I want to make sure to mention that the concept of two autistic people in a relationship together is out there.  While it has been perceived as a very difficult thing to do, it’s not impossible.  While one of the largest struggles two autistic people in a relationship can have is possessing some of the same social or relational problems, working on strategies together that can make it work helps the relationship flourish and personally I think it’s a beautiful thing when two autistic people make a marital relationship work.  Whether the next person I date is autistic or not, my plan is to do some things differently, and I think these tips below can help people who are on the spectrum and would like to be in a relationship one day.

Map out a schedule – As weird as that may sound, getting a schedule made detailing the times you and your partner get to go out or simply even talk on the phone every week is an excellent strategy for granting the relationship stability for the autistic partner involved or for both partners should both be autistic.  One of the most common traits in people on the spectrum is that they’re obsessed with having a schedule and making sure everything is done at a very particular time, otherwise they can become confused or anxious.  I myself am not as obsessed with time in that way as others on the spectrum are, but I do believe that balance in time is required in order to make relationships work.  If you have a schedule written out for every time you meet each week, it not only puts the autistic person at ease, it gives both partners the space and time needed away from each other so that the relationship can continue to feel fresh and not overbearing or exhausting.

Learn from each other where you draw the line – Being that I identify myself as a disciple of Christ, I believe that sex is saved for marriage, so I’m not even going to go there in this article, but what about other forms of physical touch or even the affectionate things we can say to each other?  Autistic people are a mixed bag when it comes to physical affection.  Some are absolutely not okay with it at all and it takes a lot of time and patience to get them to relax and others are actually a little too physically affectionate.  I personally don’t mind physical touch even if I may act a little rigid once in a while when I’m hugged by some, but in fact it’s one of the things that makes me feel loved.  It’s one of my ‘love languages’ if you will. However, I was very mindful about whether or not it was okay with my partner in my first relationship and I always made sure to ask before I went ahead and held her hand or something.  I also tended to hold back a lot from saying affectionate or loving things to her because I was afraid of what the reaction might be.  This is something that should be discussed among the two partners and decided what they’re comfortable with and what they’re not comfortable with so that they feel respected and honored.  I know for a fact that this especially meaningful to the person on the spectrum because it makes the person feel more comfortable hanging around his partner.

Relationships for anyone regardless of how they’re wired is definitely a tightrope, but if done right, it’s a tightrope worth walking and romantic relationships are possible for people on the autism spectrum, with enough patience and planning to get them through.

 

 

Living With Autism Part 7: Concerning Religion

autism_tree_of_life_charm_bracelet_one_charm

 

It took almost a half an hour of research to get started on this post after I brought up the ‘new post’ page.  Over the last few days, I’ve gotten more interested in the relationship between religion and autism, and what religion is like for people on the autism spectrum.  A study done in 2011 (you can see the hard-to-follow statistics of in full here) showed that people with high-functioning autism are less likely to belong to an organized religion than people who are neuro-typical, and are more likely to create their own independent religious belief system.  The study also showed that high-functioning individuals had higher rates of non-belief identities like atheism and agnosticism than those who were neuro-typical.

While I understand that scientific studies can only go so far in statistics within populations and particular groups, there’s one thing the people behind these studies consider that makes sense. Autistic people typically possess intellectual strengths such as ’emphasis on logic’, and believing what they see.  In other words, having a very black and white point of view is a common trait that a lot of autistic people have.  I’ve considered myself to be ‘grayer’ in the past, but I’ll admit that in some cases I can absolutely be very black and white.

I’m a pastor’s son.  I practically grew up in the church and have attended an overwhelming number of churches in just the first twenty years of my life.  I clearly remember the time when my mom sat me down and helped me accept Jesus into my heart.  At the time, I was around nine or ten and I did it because it’s what I knew.  I grew up being told that God is real and to believe in Him and to have Him in my heart.  My mom made a daily morning routine for me to follow and one of the things on the list said to ‘do devotions’.  Doing devotions was the one thing on the routine that I sometimes did not do.  I can’t exactly explain the reason why, but there were periods of time when I didn’t read the Bible and pray in the morning and when my mom would ask me if I did devotions, I would lie to her and say that I did (yeah she knows about this, the woman always figures out the truth.  Always).

When I look back on the ‘Christian’ side of my childhood, I realize that I was going through the motions a lot of the time.  Because it was all real to my parents, it was real to me, because I looked up to them and believed what they told me, and yet there were still moments of rebellion, like when I wouldn’t do my devotions for whatever reason even when it was expected of me.  As a fun fact though, my mom just recently told me that apparently I was able to cite the names of the kings of Israel in order to a point.  I was fascinated with the facts, but the spiritual significance seemed to elude me.  To this day when it comes to my ‘devotional time’ life, the longest streak I have reading the Bible consistently would be a week.  Beyond that, my devotional time is very inconsistent and isn’t an ‘every day’ thing.  I struggle with feeling much of a connection at church, and, this is nothing the worship team is doing wrong, the songs that are sung there just don’t inspire very much joy in me or creates any intimacy with God (the My Typical Worship Service Experience post gives details on that).

Whether autistic or not, every person reaches a point early in his life where he needs to learn not to copy and paste the belief system of his parents and ‘find his own faith’.  Usually when a person goes on his own journey to find his faith and finds it, there’s a lot of peace the person can find because he’s established himself more as a unique individual with his own set of beliefs and though he may have questions or struggles at times, the person grows pretty comfortable in his own skin.  That’s not the case with me.  Every time I think I have reached a point where I’ve settled on a faith or set of beliefs, I still constantly question.  Last year on June 8, I went to my then-youth pastor and asked him to help me recommit my life to Christ and claimed that I was ready to fully accept the whole concept.  Afterwards, I managed to read the Bible and pray every day for at least a week and a half, tithed once, and got baptized, but afterwards I slowly resumed my usual routine and consistency (or lack thereof).

Now, I believe in God and I love Him.  I love God as much as I can, and I believe that He has worked in my life in more ways than one because I believe that some of the ways I’ve grown and the experiences I’ve had can’t possibly be because of mere chance or coincidence.  What I believe I’ve done (and am still doing) is that I’ve begun to form my own independent belief system that separates itself from modern Christianity in a lot of ways.  I believe in God, and I believe that the Bible is true, but that doesn’t mean that I have issues with believing in something that I can’t see on a fairly regular basis.  I’ve never seen God, therefore it’s hard for me to have a relationship with Him.  How can I have a relationship with someone that I can’t see?  I can see humans, therefore having relationships with humans isn’t a problem at all.  I want a relationship with God and I believe I need it, but it’s challenging for me to get attached, and its been that way all my life.  My youngest brother Hudson gets up to an alarm at 5:30 every morning so that he can have time to read his Bible and pray to God before he starts his day.  At his age and younger, I was reading my Bible inconsistently and lying to my Mom’s face whenever she’d ask me if I did my devotions.

Faith has always been so complex to me with all its shapes, sizes, and colors, and all the different approaches that people make with it has frustrated me so much that I feel unmotivated to get associated with ‘organized Christianity’.  I yearn for simplicity in my faith because of the cut and dry, black and white point of view that I have and am most comfortable with.

 

More About At the End Of the Day

Well guys, for the first time in forever (yes, I used a Frozen reference), I’m posting a second article on the same day.  With the second draft of my book At the End Of the Day completed and currently being proofread and edited by a ‘vicious’ proofreader friend of mine, I am finally coming out and discussing some of what to expect from this book.  My intention is for this book to have an ebook release on Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing, and I’m hoping and praying that this book will see a Summer 2016 release.

To start off, I’ll admit that I’ve attempted to write a good handful of books in the past.  Some got their rough drafts completed, were half-heartedly edited a little bit, then never looked at again.  Some just got their rough drafts done and that was that, and others didn’t even get their rough drafts done and were never looked at again.  Yep, the life of a writer is not an easy one.  Many ideas that pop into my head and sound like storytelling gold typically don’t end up on paper the way I thought they would and as result, they end up facing the axe and I go back to the drawing board.

I can promise you this though: At the End Of the Day is different.  I came up with the premise and started the rough draft while I was still living with family friends for a while.  The premise came to me when I was taking a free online fiction writing class and it challenged me to come up with the characters and premise (admittedly I never actually finished the class though).  I started writing the draft, and was drawn into the world and the characters that I created, and what made this book more meaningful then the rest is that I made it far more relatable to me and my own life, which helped me come up with ideas to drive the story along.  Also, I mentioned above that I just recently completed the second draft.  With the exception of one short story I wrote a few years ago, never in my history of writing books have I ever even started the second draft of a novella/novel.  It was always so intimidating to do that, but I’m happy to say that this time I did it, and it’s something for me to be proud of.

So, here is the summary of the book, the kind you would find on the back of a book or the sleeve:

Henry Sanders is a young “unique” man that keeps himself far apart from the real world to stay comfortable in his own.  He braves his parents’ fights and he keeps to himself without any friends to push him any direction.  He loves sitting in the park obsessively studying the bridge over the river, and he writes in a notebook that he takes with him everywhere.  When a girl that he met once a long time ago suddenly comes back into his life and he’s sent to stay with his uncle and his abusive cousin for a while during the summer, Henry is forced to make decisions that will influence the people around him and his own broken self-esteem.

Ultimately I really wanted this book to focus on the mindset and psychology of a single individual as he goes through trial after trial.  What I believe makes Henry great is that he’s like me in so many different ways.  The way he thinks and processes things and some of his own experiences were things that I myself have thought and experienced, which made the book a lot easier to write because I found myself rooting for the character.  Keep in mind that this book is purely fiction in the end, and while some of the experiences Henry goes through are also my own, a lot of the others are either exaggerated or things I didn’t go through at all.  It’s a great mix of real life and fiction to create a compelling and down-to-earth story.

Something that I need to point out however is that while I identify myself as a disciple of Christ and I hope this book can glorify God in some form or another, this book is not for Christian audiences specifically.  I wrote this book with the intention of it being able to connect with a broader audience.  Therefore, the world depicted in the book is not sugar-coated and is not family-friendly.  While I make sure to keep the content on a PG-13 level and try not to go too over-the-top, I have no problem delving into some pretty heavy themes in order to get the message of the book across.  Henry has some qualities that a lot of you would probably admire and respect, but he goes through trials that some people may find difficult to read about, and Henry lives within a sad atmosphere where a lot of it is due to those trials.  The world is ugly.  The world is not completely comprised of Christians walking around doing everything right and not saying anything dirty or wrong (I will say right now that Henry is not a Christian, in fact he’s a self-proclaimed agnostic but he has his own moral system).  So with that being said, I would say to be careful about letting younglings read this book.

However, I’m also not afraid to mention God or make references to the Bible and church either.  God does get mentioned in the book and there are some interesting spiritual themes sprinkled throughout the book that I believe Christians will appreciate but will also not be a complete turn-off for nonbelievers reading the book.  My hope is that Christians will be able to read and understand or learn where I’m coming from with the material.  Most importantly, despite the dark material depicted in this book, I’m happy to say that this book also offers hope, even in the darkest of circumstances, and the ending will at least leave you feeling satisfied but also, I hope, challenged.  I can’t wait for you guys to get to read this book later on down the road.  Just be patient and I will keep you guys up to date!