Sunday, January 31, 2016

Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Autism

As I have explained in previous blog posts, I find medical research related to autism fascinating and spend a great deal of time reading articles and books, hoping to find ways to help Alex. The Great Plains Laboratory, which has run various tests on Alex to determine metabolic issues, often points me in the right direction through their sharing of interesting medical articles on their Facebook page. This week they posted links to two articles that caught my attention because these research studies focused upon vitamin B12 deficiency, something that I believe is linked to symptoms Alex shows.

One of these articles, “B12 deficiency a concern for long-term care,” was published online this month on January 19, 2016, in Science Daily. [To read this article, please click here.] Reporting on a study done by the University of Waterloo, scientists discovered that people living in long-care homes in Ontario often tested as vitamin B12 deficient. Specifically, 14% had B12 deficiency at the time they were admitted to the facilities, and 38% showed only slightly better levels of B12. After a year, another 4% developed a B12 deficiency. However, those who took B12 supplements had better B12 levels. As this article notes, B12 deficiency can be prevented by taking supplements or eating foods such as meat, dairy, or fortified cereals.

However, as this article states, untreated B12 deficiency can lead to anemia and neurological issues, such as unsteady gait, and even paralysis. Moreover, low levels of B12 have been linked to osteoporosis, lethargy, and mental conditions, such as depression, dementia, and increased confusion. Perhaps physical and mental declines simply attributed to old age may have a nutritional cause––B12 deficiency. Consequently, the research team concluded that people living in long-term care facilities should have yearly blood tests to determine their B12 levels, especially since B12 deficiencies are quite treatable, which means serious consequences can be prevented.

In another article published online this month in Science Daily, studies show that people with autism and schizophrenia also have vitamin B12 deficiencies. This article entitled “Brain levels of vitamin B12 decrease with age and are prematurely low in people with autism and schizophrenia” summarizes research done by Dr. Richard Deth, professor of pharmacology at Nova Southeastern University. [To read this article, please click here.] After studying brain tissue from deceased donors who were otherwise healthy, his team found that children with autism under the age of ten had brain B12 levels three times lower than those of their typical peers. The levels of the children with autism were similar to healthy adults in their 50’s, which indicates that people with autism have a premature decrease in their levels of vitamin B12. Like the study in Ontario, they also discovered that B12 levels were lower in elderly people, which researchers attribute to normal aging.

This research also discovered that the brain levels of B12 were much different than those found in the blood, where B12 is typically tested. Dr. Deth also points out the significance of their findings, stating, “The large deficits of brain B12 from individuals with autism and schizophrenia could help explain why patients suffering from these disorders experience neurological and neuropsychiatric symptoms.” Consequently, he believes that further research needs to be done regarding treating these symptoms with antioxidants, such as glutathione, and methylcobalamin, a form of B12 that supports brain development.

These research studies on vitamin B12 hold special interest for me for various reasons. First, I began reading research about methylcobalamin injections being used for children with autism more than a dozen years ago. After the studies indicated no harmful effects and some positive results, I presented this information to Alex’s doctor, who agreed that trying this treatment was a good idea. After determining proper dosage levels, she prescribed twice a week subcutaneous injections of methylcobalamin, which we ordered from a compounding pharmacy. Her nurse trained me how to give the injections, and Alex was a trouper about the shots, never complaining when I gave them to him. After only a few weeks of these injections, Alex began to toilet independently for the first time in his life; he was nearly thirteen years old. This was an answer to years of prayers and wondering if he would ever be toilet trained. I truly believe that the B12 shots healed nerve damage so that he could finally feel the urge to go to the bathroom, and he has been able to stay clean and dry around the clock ever since then. Consequently, for us the healing from these B12 injections was miraculous. When his doctor retired, we were no longer able to continue this therapy, which subsequent doctors did not think was necessary any longer.

Prior to having his wisdom teeth removed under general anesthesia in November 2014, Alex had blood tests run to check his overall health. Although his psychiatric nurse practitioner also runs blood tests every six months to check his wellness, these were the first tests that indicated Alex is slightly anemic. His family practitioner at the time recommended that he take a low dose of iron supplement to see if this would help the anemia. When he was tested six months later, his levels had remained basically the same, so I asked her if we could try a few months of methylcobalamin injections, as we had done when he was younger. She agreed to a trial run of a few months of the shots; however, when we tested him again, we had to find another doctor because she left town for another job.

In December, we met with a new doctor and explained the interventions we had done with iron and the B12 shots to address the slight anemia. This doctor decided to stop both treatments, even though Alex’s levels had improved slightly, and to have Alex do some different testing in three months. One of the tests he is running is a B12 level, and we will be curious to see what those results show. Of course, if his blood levels are different from his brain, as Dr. Deth’s studies indicate, these tests may not be that useful. In the meantime, I have been giving Alex a B vitamin complex supplement, hoping to stave off any negative side effects from a potential B12 deficiency.

My main concern is that Alex has inherited pernicious anemia, an autoimmune condition in which the body lacks intrinsic factor, preventing the digestive system from properly absorbing vitamin B12. My father was diagnosed with pernicious anemia when he was in his 60’s, and his father and grandfather had pernicious anemia, as well. Although the condition is treatable with monthly B12 injections, my dad has lingering effects of the condition because it was not diagnosed soon enough. Namely, the vitamin B12 deficiency caused nerve damage in the form of peripheral neuropathy, or impaired sense of feeling in his hands and feet as well as impairing his sense of smell.

Armed with this new knowledge and research, I will be even more vigilant in pursuing the cause of Alex’s anemia with his new doctor because I do believe that B12 deficiency may be the cause. The good news is that this condition can easily be treated with supplements, but we want to prevent any further damage to his neurological system and potentially heal damage that may have already been done. As Alex’s mom/legal health care representative/advocate, I will keep praying for God’s healing and pursuing ways to make him better and healthier so that he can reach his full potential and enjoy life as a happy and healthy young man.

“O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You restored my health.” Psalm 30:2

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Asked and Answered

This week some of my friends posted a list of questions on Facebook that parents could ask their kids to see what they think of them along with the candid answers that their kids gave. Curious to see how well Alex knows his dad and me, I decided to ask him some of these questions. Of course, his problems with pronouns made this a little more challenging, as I had to explain who was “I” and who was “you” by substituting our names. Once he figured out whom I meant, he came up with some pretty good answers. Moreover, I found it interesting that he seemed to take this questionnaire so seriously, answering some questions quickly and confidently, and giving others careful thought, with his chin in his hand as he earnestly pondered the best answers.

What is something I always say to you?  “Thank you” This is true. I thank people all the time, which is probably how I won the “Best Mannered Teacher” award from the local cotillion society twice. I also constantly remind Alex, “Tell [person’s name] thank you,” which may be another reason he chose this response.

What makes me happy? “Going to restaurants” Again, this is true. Anything that involves food and my not having to cook makes me happy. Also, knowing that Alex also likes going to restaurants makes me happy, too.

What makes me sad? “Arguing” What an insightful answer! I hate conflict of any kind and will do anything to avoid an argument. Alex also knows that he will get nowhere arguing with me because as he once noted, “She never changes her mind!”

How do I make you laugh?  After quite a bit of thought, he couldn’t think of any specific funny things that I do, but he did tell me that I am “90 percent funny.” I’ll take that A- in humor.

What is my favorite thing to do? “Watch NASCAR” Yes, the boy knows me well.

What do I do when you’re not around? “Watch TV” Again, the boy knows me well.

What am I really good at? Without hesitation, he answered, “Sudoku.” That would be one of the last things I would have thought of, but he’s impressed with my ability to solve those silly number puzzles he finds fascinating.

What am I not very good at? Again, without hesitation, he responded, “Math.” He knows my limitations well, especially since I frequently ask him to solve number problems for me (except for Sudoku, of course).

What is my favorite food? “Chicken” I’m not sure where he came up with that one, as I could take or leave chicken. Maybe he confused it with my real favorite, chocolate. Both begin with “ch,” after all.

What do you enjoy doing with me? “Visiting Nanny (my mom) and watching Jeopardy” The only thing better than watching Jeopardy with me is the three of us watching Jeopardy together because we are a force to be reckoned with when we put together our various trivia knowledge.

After going through these questions to see what he knew about me, I posed the same questions for him about his dad. This was actually easier because we didn’t have the pesky pronoun issues with “you” and “I.”

He told me that his dad always says “Good night” to him, which is true. This probably makes an impression on him because they always hug good night, too.

Alex said that going to basketball games makes his dad happy, which is also true. On the other hand, he had trouble explaining what makes his dad sad and could only tell me “Ouch.” I guess he meant getting hurt makes his dad sad. I think this was on his mind because Ed recently had minor surgery that required stitches, and Alex seemed concerned about how that was healing.

As with me, he had trouble verbalizing what his dad does that makes him laugh, but he did give him a solid “95 percent funny” rating. I’m not quite sure what Ed does that merits a better grade in humor than I get. I think it has something to do with their ganging up on me and teasing me, which Alex finds even funnier than Ed does.

For Ed’s favorite thing to do, Alex named watching basketball, which is accurate, and he said that Ed “watches movies” when he’s not around, which is also true.

When asked what his dad is really good at, Alex immediately said “math.” I guess this is good since he thinks this is my weakness. When asked about something his dad is not very good at, he thought for a long time and couldn’t come up with anything. Apparently, his dad has no weaknesses in Alex’s eyes.

Alex also named shrimp as Ed’s favorite food, and he said that the activity that he enjoys doing most with his dad is “going places,” and he specifically named going to basketball games, carrying along the basketball theme found in earlier questions.

I think it’s interesting that Alex identifies so strongly with his dad, sharing interests, strengths, and even favorite foods. They do have very similar personalities, so I suppose it’s really not surprising that they like many of the same things.

If Alex had asked me the same ten questions, this is what I would have said about him.

What is something I always say to you? “What would be good?’ “Wait and see.”

What makes me happy? going places, Epsom salt baths, food, music

What makes me sad? waiting, not being able to drive a car

How do I make you laugh? saying funny things, imitating Bob Dylan's and other people's voices

What is my favorite thing to do? going places, especially restaurants and basketball games, reading, listening to music, eating

What do I do when you’re not around? read, watch TV, do Google searches on the iPad

What am I really good at? math, reading, memorizing

What am I not very good at? tasks requiring fine motor skills (e.g. writing)

What is my favorite food? shrimp—the only food that rates 100 percent!

What do you enjoy doing with me? going places (restaurants, basketball games, concerts), watching TV (especially Jeopardy), visiting Nanny, saying bedtime prayers

After we had chatted about these questions and our answers, Alex wanted me to write down the questions for him. Then he galloped away (literally—this is what he does when he’s happy, all six foot of his lanky body) with the list in his hand to his bedroom, probably to review our conversation in his mind. As I did the same (without the galloping, of course), I thought about how fortunate we are that Alex, unlike many people with autism, can speak and express his ideas. Moreover, he has emerged from the isolation that autism can impose, which means he takes an interest in other people and notices the things they like to do. So, what makes me happy? Alex makes me happy, especially because he is probably the happiest person I know. To watch him enjoy life, whether it’s eating shrimp or watching Jeopardy or going to basketball games, is a blessing I never take for granted.

“…Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Savant Syndrome

Knowing my fascination with autism research, my mom sent me a link to an online article from The Atlantic published yesterday that I found extremely interesting. In “The Mysterious Link Between Autism and Extraordinary Abilities,” writer Linda Marsa eloquently summarizes research regarding autism savants and potential causes for this phenomenon. [To read this article, please click here.] According to psychiatrist Darold Treffert, savant syndrome “refers to people who have a combination of significant cognitive difficulties, often stemming from autism, and profound skills––‘islands of genius.’” While savant syndrome was first described in medical literature as early as the late 1700’s, only recently has new research begun to find reasons for this rather rare condition.

A study in 1978 concluded that only ten percent of people with autism were also savants. However, new research indicates that one in three people with autism may also be classified as having savant syndrome, due to their exceptional abilities in certain areas. Typically, these savant skills include unique talents in art, music, and mathematics, along with extraordinary abilities to memorize. In addition, some people with autism demonstrate “splinter skills,” such as the ability to calculate complex math problems mentally without paper and pencil.

In the movie Rain Man, autistic savant Raymond Babbitt [who was loosely based upon Kim Peek, a man with autism who has savant skills] demonstrates the savant skill of calendar calculating, where he can name the day of the week when given any date. Another example of savant syndrome in autism may be found in the giftedness of Stephen Wiltshire, a man with autism who is called the “human camera” because he can draw intricate landscapes from memory [His amazing work can be found in You Tube videos.] after only seeing them once.

As this article points out, people with autism may be thought to have lower cognitive function, but perhaps the method of testing commonly used does not properly measure their actual abilities. Specifically, standardized intelligence testing includes verbal instructions, social interactions, and cultural references, all of which may be difficult for people with autism. Consequently, the perception of many people with autism as having “significant cognitive difficulties” may be incorrect. After all, standardized testing has limitations.

Although the cause of savant syndrome has not yet been definitively established, one theory is that injury to the left hemisphere of the brain before birth or during infancy triggers the right hemisphere to compensate for the loss, allowing unusual abilities to develop. Specifically, renowned autism researcher and psychologist, the late Dr. Bernard Rimland, also the father of a son with autism, noted that savant skills are typically found in the right hemisphere of the brain while communication skills, which are often weak in people with autism, are found in the left hemisphere.

This phenomenon of brain compensation has been found in people who have had strokes, neurodegenerative diseases, or traumatic brain injuries. For example, some people who have had brain injuries due to accidents have suddenly developed talents in art and music or newly found abilities to learn foreign languages. Similarly, people who are blind often develop their auditory skills to compensate for their loss of vision.

Perhaps the most compelling research on the connection between autism and savant syndrome has been done by Laurent Mottron, a psychiatrist at the University of Montreal. In brain imaging studies, his team noted that people with autism who had average IQ scores were 40% faster at solving complex logic problems than typical people. He believes that their analytic skills may explain their superiority at manipulating numbers. In addition, these studies showed that people with autism have enhanced perceptual abilities; specifically, they can mentally manipulate 3-D shapes, discern patterns, and spot details others might miss. He states, “People with autism are natural specialists––when they dig in, they quickly become expert.”

In 2012, further analysis of Dr. Mottron’s imaging studies noted that people with autism have enhanced activity in brain regions associated with visual skills, such as object recognition, visual processing and imagery, and the ability to distinguish between two similar objects. Consequently, “These results suggest that enhanced reliance on visual perception has a central role in autistic cognition,” states Dr. Mottron. Moreover, he believes that the enhanced perception found in people with autism helps them develop their logic skills, which makes them able to solve puzzles based upon logic.

Dr. Mottron’s research also indicates that this increased perception helps some people with autism acquire three abilities associated with savants: perfect pitch, synesthesia, which is a phenomenon where people associate hearing sounds with visualizing colors, and the precocious reading ability of young children known as hyperlexia. Dr. Mottron’s team explains the development of these savant skills as the “functional re-dedication of perceptual brain regions to higher-order cognitive functioning.” Hence, the brain areas dealing with perception develop so that that they can do tasks that involve higher-level thinking, such as performing music or reading.

Essentially, Dr. Mottron’s research indicates that people with autism have brains that are more flexible because they use different neural pathways to perform tasks. Mottron theorizes that the enhanced perceptive skills found in people with autism combined with knowledge and the development of expertise lead to savant skills. Essentially, the right hemisphere of the brain overcompensates for what may be lacking in the left hemisphere. Certainly, this research indicates that people with autism should never be underestimated in their abilities. Even though they may not perform well on standardized intelligence testing, their brains clearly function remarkably well.

This research on savant skills holds particular interest for me because Alex possesses savant skills in mathematics, and he was diagnosed with hyperlexia just after he turned four years old. As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, Alex has a phenomenal memory for anything number-related, such as dates, times, and statistics. He spent one summer learning the digits of pi and was able to recite nearly 1500 digits of this irrational number without making any errors. He tells us that he is able to visualize the digits in his head, which also makes him able to do mathematical calculations mentally. In addition, we know that he taught himself how to read at least by the age of three, and we suspect that he was reading as early as age two. However, because he had limited speech at that age, we weren’t certain that he was reading all the books he was perusing, including my college psychology textbooks that he liked to pull off the bookshelf and study for long periods of time.

In addition, Alex has a keen eye for small details that most people would overlook, noticing minor changes in signs, for example. For that reason, he is an excellent proofreader who easily catches mistakes in writing and possesses outstanding spelling ability, probably because he can also see the words in his mind. Although standardized testing has suggested that his intelligence is below average, we know how smart he is. Moreover, we know that God has given him a good mind that may not function like most, but He has also provided Alex with exceptional gifts, including perceptive abilities, excellent memory, and tenacity that will carry him far in life. We just need to give him time to develop his potential, and I have no doubt that he will.

“In His grace, God has give us different gifts for doing certain things well…” Romans 12:6

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Making Choices

Last week we encountered a situation where at first we thought Alex was having a setback, but after some analysis, we realized that he was actually showing signs of progress. On Tuesday while working with his behavioral therapist, he became agitated, and we tried to get to the root of his anxiety by asking him questions. This seemed to aggravate him more, as he became increasingly obsessive about what he was going to do on Thursday evening. Probably trying to escape the probing questions of two concerned females, he kept leaving the room and had to be coaxed back so that we could figure out his problem to help ease his clearly troubled mind. All the various calming techniques we’ve taught him didn’t seem to be working, and he was frustrated.

Finally, I resorted to my English teacher mode and helped Alex break down the internal conflicts that seemed to be troubling him. While he was looking forward to Thursday evening, he realized that he had two choices that really appealed to him: watching the new season of American Idol on television or going to a Valparaiso University women’s basketball game. Even though he was eagerly anticipating both events, that created conflict for him because he could not do both at the same time. He had to make a decision between two equally appealing options.

Of course, I thought I had the ideal solution: we could tape American Idol while we were at the basketball game, and he could watch the recorded show later. However, my suggestion didn’t seem to solve the dilemma because he then became upset about when he would be able to watch the taped show. It would be too late to watch it Thursday evening after the game, and he didn’t want to wait until Friday. He found himself in one of those situations where he was simply going to have to make a decision, and he didn’t like it.

While I was concerned that his increased anxiety and OCD over a fairly simple problem indicated a setback, I realized that we had put him in a new situation. For many years, we rarely took Alex places because he became overwhelmed and didn’t behave appropriately. In the past few years, he has learned to deal with sensory overload and has developed appropriate coping and social skills so that he can go to restaurants and concerts and sporting events. Being able to go to a college basketball game has become an option for him in the past year, something that wasn’t on the table before.

In addition, we rarely asked Alex to make decisions. Ed and I made choices for him in his best interests, and he went along with our judgments, trusting us. We chose for him because he was too immature to weigh his options and because he never really seemed to have opinions on some things. When we did offer options, he would earnestly ask, “Which would be good?” If we told him both choices were good, he would sometimes become agitated and demand to know what the better choice was. To avoid a meltdown, we just avoided the choices issue by telling him what we were going to do.

As Alex has matured and made progress in his ability to cope with a variety of situations, we have encouraged him to think for himself, which has meant that he has had to consider the pros and cons and to make decisions. For example, we give him two choices of restaurants on Saturday evenings, and he usually can easily decide the one where he wants to eat. Occasionally, he will revert to his, “Which one would be good?” question, and we then guide him to ask one of us which restaurant we would like, teaching him the courtesy of allowing another person to get his or her choice.

Throughout his life, Ed and I have structured Alex’s days so that he has the routine he craves, and now we know that we must allow him the freedom to make his own decisions. This newly found freedom was the source of his anxiety on Tuesday. However, with the guidance of his behavioral therapist and me, he was finally able to calm down, weigh his options, and make a decision. He wanted to forgo the basketball game, stay home, and watch American Idol. After all, as he reminded us, there was another basketball game scheduled for Saturday afternoon, and we could go to that one.

As I watched American Idol with him on Thursday evening, he clearly had made the right decision because he was enthralled watching the contestants sing and even singing along to familiar songs. His choice was further confirmed after we found out that our basketball team had lost Thursday night. Moreover, he thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s basketball game, which our team won handily. In fact, he probably enjoyed the game even more since it was the only one he attended this week, making it more special for him.

Yesterday afternoon, he came to me with another decision to make as he discovered that next month the last V.U. men’s basketball home game is scheduled at the same time as the Daytona 500 race that kicks off the NASCAR season. This time, I reigned in my micromanaging mother tendencies and allowed him to weigh his options without insisting that he tape one sports event or the other. I simply told him that I would be staying home to watch the race and that his dad would be going to the basketball game; he could do whatever he wanted. After thinking for a few minutes, he calmly decided that he wanted to watch the NASCAR race. Even though he seemed content with the decision he had made on his own, I reminded him if he changed his mind in the meantime, that would be fine. However, I’m betting that he sticks with his decision.

As parents, we want our children to be independent and make their own decisions. However, we may forget how hard it can be for our children to make those choices at first because we have always either told them what to do or guided them when they did need to choose. Because it has taken longer for Alex to begin his independence, we are just now seeing the struggle of breaking away from us so that he can enjoy the freedom of being a young man while also accepting the responsibilities of the choices he makes on his own. Although his choices this week between a television show and a basketball game were not terribly important, they gave him practice for more pressing decisions in life. Now we just have to step back and let him begin to take control so that he can become all that he is capable of becoming, and we know that God will guide him along the way.

“You will succeed in whatever you choose to do, and light will shine on the road ahead of you.” Job 22:28

Sunday, January 3, 2016


As 2015 came to a close this past week, many people made New Year’s resolutions for 2016. This concept of promising to do better in the future engages many people, even though statistics show that most do not follow through on their good intentions. In a Forbes article entitled “Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It,” writer Dan Diamond quotes statistics from a University of Scranton study that shows more than 40% of Americans make resolutions, but only 8% are successful in keeping them. [To read this article, please click here.]

According to Time, the “Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year’s Resolutions” include the following: lose weight and get fit, quit smoking, learn something new, eat healthier and diet, get out of debt and save money, spend more time with family, travel to new places, be less stressed, volunteer, and drink less. While all of these seem to be noble goals, apparently sticking with them is no easy task for most people.

From Dan Diamond’s perspective, the problem with New Year’s resolutions is not with the people who make them and fail to keep them but with how they make the resolutions. He offers four tips to making resolutions that can be followed more successfully. The first, “Keep It Simple,” recommends making fewer smaller goals that can be reasonably achieved. His second suggestion, “Make It Tangible,” involves setting goals that are specific and measurable. For example, instead of promising to eat healthier, a person could vow not to eat “potato chips, fries, or ice cream for six weeks.” For the third tip, he offers “Make It Obvious,” which means sharing resolutions with family and friends and perhaps even social media to hold oneself accountable for the planned self-improvements. Finally, he recommends “Keep Believing You Can Do It,” emphasizing the importance of positive thinking and the need to believe in the ability to achieve the goals.

With all of this information in mind, I came up with three resolutions for 2016, despite my inner protests that I have enough to do with just being an autism mom and that I don’t need to put any more on an already full plate of obligations. However, I also know that I’m still a work in progress and can always make improvements. Of course, I avoided all of the top ten list of failed resolutions, some of which don’t apply to me in the first place. Instead, I focused on the scripture from I Corinthians 13:13: “Three things will last forever––faith, hope, and love––“ to make meaningful resolutions for myself.

First, for faith, I will read my daily devotionals on a daily basis. That seems pretty simple and pretty obvious, but often the busyness of many days causes me to forget or put off reading what I need to know on a daily basis. Catching up on weekends by reading six or seven devotionals just doesn’t seem to have the same impact, and even worse is when I get so far behind in my reading that I am quickly scanning a month’s worth of devotionals more with the motivation of just getting done than with actually getting something out of the reading. Since putting my devotional book on the nightstand beside my bed with the intention of reading before I go to sleep hasn’t worked, I will read my devotionals in the morning, my best time of day mentally, before I check the more trivial information of weather and Facebook updates on my iPad Mini. Interestingly, today’s devotional scripture from Psalm 5:3 confirmed the wisdom of this decision for me: “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”

Next for hope, I will certainly continue to hope that Alex will continue to get better. In the meantime, as I try to wait patiently, I will keep busy with things I need to do so that I don’t obsess with worry about him. As an organized person, I rely upon the lists I make of things to do. Recently, I’ve started writing my to-do lists on my Notes app on my iPad Mini, and I feel satisfaction as I erase each item after I complete each task. However, I also felt frustration whenever I couldn’t complete all the items on my list, and those left behind seemed to taunt me. This week, I decided that instead of to-do lists, I would create “ta-da” lists in which I write down each task I accomplished, celebrating what I did instead of bemoaning what I didn’t get done. For example, the other day I was delighted to complete a list that included doing four loads of laundry, taking care of Alex’s needs (including helping him order books from Amazon with gift cards he’d received for Christmas), cooking a nice meal, and getting my schoolwork done, to name just a few items from my “ta-da” list. By this simple shift in methods, I feel more hopeful each day about what I can accomplish instead of feeling overwhelmed by all I think I should be doing.

Finally, for love—“the greatest of these”––I resolve to make time every day for the people I love and for doing things I love, both of which bring me joy. Yesterday, Ed, Alex, and I went to a university basketball game, and this time spent as a family outing—something we haven’t always been able to do––was precious to us. Watching Alex enjoy himself, even his delight at watching a silly commercial on the scoreboard in which donuts jump into a box, makes Ed and me thankful and happy. (I think those donuts jumping into my mouth would make me pretty happy, too, to be honest.)

In an article in Oprah’s O Magazine entitled “The Very Best Resolution You Can Make This Year,” writer Brene’ Brown emphasizes the need for adults to take time off and play. [To read this article, please click here.] She explains that “time spent without purpose,” as described by researcher Stuart Brown, MD, is crucial to human development, specifically creativity and innovation. Off the top of my head, I thought of simple things I enjoy but don’t always make time to do, including the following: shopping for yarn, watching Partridge Family videos on You Tube, and playing the piano. Sadly, Alex hates shopping with me when I look at yarn; in fact, he would rather do anything than go to Michael’s with me, so this would be a solitary play activity for me. However, he does like watching You Tube with me, and he has expanded his eclectic tastes in music from his father’s beloved Bob Dylan videos to my love of 70’s and 80’s pop music. Soon, I’m sure, he’ll be singing along with David Cassidy and the ever-catchy “I Think I Love You.” Finally, I need to get over my lack of confidence in my limited piano playing skills and let my fingers hit the wrong keys even when I’m not home alone. Fortunately, my guys are patient with my errant notes and even seem to like to listen to me play the piano. If not, they can always hang out in the man cave in the basement and turn up the volume on the television. I may even learn to play “I Think I Love You.”

Armed with my daily daily devotionals, my ta-da lists, and time for fun, 2016 could be my best year yet. Certainly, striving for more faith, hope, and love seems like a worthy goal—resolutions definitely worth keeping!

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19