What I Read: I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames by Jeni Decker

I was perusing the local bookstore, looking for something to read while I am on a break from classes until April 8th. (Please don’t be like John and point out that I have both a Kindle and a Nook Color–I know, and I like them, but they cannot replace physical books for me.)  I actually was looking in the sociology section, hoping to find some tome on kick-ass females in the business world, just enough to motivate me for the hell I am about to endure as I am about to triple up the few undergrad courses I need before starting MBA hell. And I saw this book. I didn’t even read the subtitle. I’ll admit that the cover art intrigued me. And it found its way into my hands. And I bought it. My initial thought was, ” this woman has two kids like Evan? What a friggin’ saint!” So I bought this book and several others, and headed to the checkout.

I certainly didn’t expect to devour it in one night. The chapters are quick little stories in themselves, written in a real, humorous voice. This made it easy to read in bursts. Zachy eating dinner? Read a quick chapter. Evan working on homework? Read another. The kids in bed? Finish off the whole thing.

This book is special to me. So special that I found myself geeking out and writing an email to the author. To which I got a response in one day. Not from an assistant, but from her, which is most decidedly cool of her.

What is so special about this book? Well, other than a few minor changes, I could’ve been reading about my own life. Though Zach is not autistic, with the nonverbal-ness and developmental issues we have had as of late, he reminds me of her youngest son, while the oldest is much like Evan: starts out quirky and just a little odd, ending up with a diagnosis–high-functioning autism.

Here’s the thing: I can write little snippets from my life and you can shake your head along with me, laugh with me, cry with me, whatever. Until you have lived in this house, there will always be stuff I just cannot explain. Stuff you would not believe. Like why it is just as important to keep a supply of disposable latex gloves beside the toilet as it is to keep the toilet paper stocked. Why you have to be very careful of the words you choose, as theywillbe remembered and come back to bite you in the tuckus. As a matter of fact, as I was typing this, my oldest angel came out of his room, demanding ice cream at one in the morning, as his room is not the perfect temperature and cold ice cream will somehow help his system reach equilibrium. Mind you, it is 1 AM, and he is not getting ice cream, and I had to convince him of a scientific reason for not having ice cream at 1 AM to get him to go back to bed. Despite the fact that he is bleary-eyed and zombie-like from the melatonin we have to give to him to get him to sleep in the first place.Thatis my life, folks. And it seems to be Ms. Decker’s as well. If she knew me, she would not tell me that my child just needs a good “ass-whoopin'” or that he is simply just spoiled. She would understand.

And while the theme of this book is autism and what it is like to parent autistic children, it does not read like an autism book. And while you can sense a sort of sadness, it doesn’t read like a woe-is-me sobfest, either. She writes of her experiences in a voice that is comical, with the celebratory sense of appreciating the gifts and differences of each child, of getting to the root of what makes them tick and parenting them as best she can. And if I were an autistic boy, I would want Jeni Decker to be my mom.

I needed this book. In the same week as the Wal-Mart incident, of venting to a coworker I can trust and hearing her tell me that it seems I just need to “bust Evan’s ass”, after having the convo with Evan as to why he cannot go to Grandpa’s this summer (seems Grandpa is also of the ass-busting opinion from his safe perch 4 hours away, and as a result, will not give him any meds thanks to his hippie girlfriend). After all of this, I was feeling very lonely. As if nobody gets it. Evan is an awesome kid. I feel privileged to be a part of his life. But parenting him is one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced.

So if you are interested in autism, know someone with autism, know someone who knows someone with autism, or even if you just like a good story, you should read this book.

I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames: My Insane Life Raising Two Boys with Autism by Jeni Decker.

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9 thoughts on “What I Read: I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames by Jeni Decker

  1. What a lovely review! And thank you so much. The best thing about writing this book is the tsunami of letters I have received since it came out. Nothing makes me happier than to know it touched a chord with someone and it might have even made them feel a bit less alone out there in the crazy-ass world we live in!

    Keep doing what your doing and make sure to laugh while you’re doing it, because it’s the best RX for life! And keep on writing! You’ve got the knack for it!!

    Jeni Decker

  2. What a great post for a truly amazing book. I wouldn’t recommend eating while you read it, though. Laughing is good for the soul, but with a full mouth? Maybe not so much. LOL

    Susan Stec

    • Absolutely true, Susan.

      I can tell you, as a respiratory therapist, that foreign body obstruction of an airway would totally ruin a buzz. Just my professional opinion 🙂

  3. Great review for a wonderful book. I read it one night after my kids were asleep. Jeni Decker’s writing rocks. I’ve become one of her gushing groupies.

    Your blog is great too and I like it that you’re a bitch because I’m one too. B.I.T.C.H. = Being In Total Control Honey.

  4. I think I am going to read it too.

    The ass-whopping comment still rankles me.

    Need a great-but-easy-to-read buisiness book by a woman? Surrender to Win by Laura Harris. She happens to be a personal friend, but the book is a quick read and VERY USEFUL.

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