On Columbus Day, my husband and I spent a wonderful day just driving around and enjoying the autumn scenery. I don’t know about you, but I seem to have an unusual sensitivity to the beauty in nature, and was once again overwhelmed by the beauty of the bright white and yellow streaks of sun streaming down through the white puffy clouds. Such a sight always encourages me as if reinforcing the fact that yes, there are clouds, and yes there may be rain, but that sun is still up there in the sky, overseeing it all, just waiting to break through and make things better. As an added visual treat, the sun shone so brightly on the tapestry of peak autumn leaves: oranges, reds and yellows, that I felt a need to wear my sunglasses, but with them on I would not be able to fully appreciate the effect of the over-the-top, gasp inducing colors. No photo, piece of artwork or beautifully sung song could have replicated the intensity of happiness that brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.
My husband and I sat, holding hands as he drove. There was no need to say anything. We were at peace, pleased to have such a respite after a hectic week of raising children and dealing with problems. We were in our own beautiful bubble, cell phones turned off so as not to ruin the interlude. It was a wonderful day!
Upon pulling into the driveway of our home, I spotted the two small maple trees which Marie had planted a few years ago. She had excitedly dug them up when they were fragile saplings with broken branches, and planted one on each side of the driveway. She had added gravel at the base of each, and attached a tall, straight, thin stick to keep them growing upright. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed them before. I had NOTICED them, of course, but I had never really SEEN them. They had grown to be about four feet tall, straight and strong. My breath stuck in my throat as the brilliant, bright yellow leaves danced happily in the gentle breeze. They were a growing metaphor for my daughter, blossoming and beautiful and holding the promise of a bright future in their little yellow leaves. Despite once being fragile and broken, they would grow tall and amazing and fit perfectly in this world, reassuring me that my daughter, who was also once fragile and broken, would grow tall and amazing and fit perfectly in this world.
Archive for the ‘church’ Category
Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to appreciate moms, step-moms, birth moms, adoptive moms, wanna be moms and women who love children. Bless you for making a difference in a child’s life! Don’t you get joy from seeing the joy in a laughing child, the shy smile of a child with twinkling eyes, and the serene look on their faces when they are sleeping? Ahhhhhh……..what sweet little rewards of being with a child…
Most of us know, however, that it is VERY difficult to be a mom and sometimes the REAL rewards are far apart….
When my son Steven was in nursery school, it was a real challenge because of his autistic and ADHD problems. He had been born addicted to cocaine and heroine and his nervous system was “messed up” (my professional diagnosis.) Bringing him was a real challenge as he would kick and scream and cry, yet I did it because he could not hide out safely at home for his entire life with me vacuuming around him. At first, he would spend most of the time in school hiding out in the “quiet tent”, playing with his plastic reptiles, sometimes soaking in the information from the teacher. Eventually, he sauntered out of his safe space to see what was going on. He did not join the other children, but he was with them…a huge improvement. Eventually, nursery school became normalized for him; part of his routine. He would come home with his little projects; a paper flower, a painted snake, a play dough alligator. I had learned not to make a “fuss” over these things, but to quietly tell him they were wonderful while his head dropped to his chest, eyes closed. (He was not a child who could tolerate excitement of any kind.) He survived two years in that classroom, and I wondered how he would act on “graduation day”, a celebration seemingly out of his tolerance level. All of the children stood there in their little paper graduation caps, tassels dangling in front of their noses so they had to keep blowing them away. All of the children except Steven. The children sang a song, and thanked their moms and generally wowed the crowd with their antics. All of the children except Steven. The children walked in a nice, straight line to get their nursery school diplomas; all except Steven. When all but one diploma had been handed out, the teacher walked over to where Steven was hiding under a chair, butt facing outwards. (If I had been smart, I would have sewed a smiley face on the butt of his pants, but, alas, I had been unrealistically hoping that he would join the other children in the graduation ceremony.) The teacher bent down with the document and Steven’s little hand reached out to grab it. He quickly pulled the diploma out of sight. Calm and cool under the seat, he had made it! Steven had graduated from nursery school without a tantrum, yelling or screaming. He graduated in the manner he felt most comfortable, but graduate he did! What a reward that was for me; I was a proud mother, indeed!
Diagnosed in elementary school with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Angel, has been very carefully placed in specialized classrooms. Although intelligent and able to do grade level work, he frequently changes “parts”, (his word for his alternate personalities.) His teachers and teacher aids, bless their souls, understand him well, and manage to educate him, even if it means repeating the same lesson because a different “part” was out that day, or giving his the test over because the “part” that studied for the test is not the “part” that took the test! He has a baby part which necessitates him to just “veg out” in a large mushroom chair. On those days, nothing was learned. His condition has been kept top secret and no unnecessary teachers or others in the school know about it. Fortunately, he has been living a very “normal” life. I have found one surprising benefit…he has a “Game Show Host” part. I work with a recreational group of adults with disabilities, and every now and then we play Bingo or Family Feud. Angel, as have all of my children, regularly comes with me. One day, he asked to be the moderator for Family Feud and his “performance” was beyond hilarious. Usually a reserved child with groups, all of a sudden he channeled Richard Dawson! He went down the rows of “contestants”, gave each of them a peck on the cheek, and, while holding their hands in his, asked their names and a little about themselves. The older women, who probably have not had much attention in their lives, giggled and smiled and blushed. Then, Angel read each question with gusto, and made a “ding” noise when they got it right, and a loud buzzer noise if they got it wrong. It was sooooooooooo funny because it was so out of character of the Angel that they knew. This group of adult with disabilities, many of whom live alone on a minimum income with this once a week outing their only time out of their houses, were laughing hysterically that evening. Ever since then, they look forward to Family Feud and “Gameshow Host” Angel! What a reward for me to see Angel’s give such joy to these wonderful people!
As a graduation present, my daughter, Dinora, and I took a trip back to her birth country in Guatemala. She had done fundraising to assist with the opening of a soup kitchen in Antigua, and we were there for “opening day”. We went shopping that morning, taking a little “putt putt” (2 wheeled open air taxi) into the village, giggling all the way as it bounced along. We bought flowers of all bright shapes and sizes, which stuck out of the putt putt on the way back, narrowly bopping passers by on the head. We spread the flowers out in front of the alter where a mass was to be said in honor of the opening of the facility. An overflowing crowd of people filled the make-shift pews, and it was a beautiful, emotional mass. Even though it was all in Spanish I seemed to understand every word, and I could certainly feel the emotion in the songs which the Indigenous Guatemalans sang. After mass, people lined up for the food in their brightly colored clothing. There was my daughter, a young adult, behind the counter, dark hair pulled back into a pony tail, serving food with a beaming smile on her face showing dimples I never knew she had, (or perhaps she had never smiled so brightly.) She was old enough and cared enough to give back something and help “her people” as she called them. I will never forget the sight of her…sweat on her brow, wiping her hands on her apron, making pleasant conversation in Spanish while smiling that amazing smile… How could that sight NOT be a reward for a mom after years of raising a difficult teen?
Raising Marie has been the most difficult because of her many serious challenges. When she came to us, she was street smart at the age of seven.(See post “All She did Was Scream and Say No! No! No!) She had no thought of danger and no social skills. Although this may sound silly, one of my concerns was the fact that she would litter. Get a drink; throw the bottle on the ground. Have a piece of gum; throw the wrapper on the ground. Popsicle; stick thrown in the grass. Repeatedly, I would have her pick it up and throw it away, explaining that we don’t litter in our family. Marie could not have cared less…she did not want to be in our family anyway… It took many months with us before she learned not to litter. That’s why it shocked me when we were at the mall one day and she casually flicked the paper from her straw onto the ground. My eyes widened, and just as I was about to ask her to pick it up, she bent down and picked it up, signing to me “I was just teasing you! I know we don’t litter in this family!” What a reward it was to hear her say that! Finally, she felt part of our family!
My most favorite reward I saved for last. For all of you parents, especially parents with children with disabilities, I will share that there has been no greater reward in my life than seeing my son, Francis, become a successful adult. Despite being legally blind, he has a college degree, is very successful in a job which he loves and through which he is benefitting others, and he recently married a great woman who not only loves him for the wonderful person that he is, but can also drive a car so he won’t have to take public transit to work any more! There IS no greater reward for a parent; to know that the problems, fun, hard work, love, difficulties and dispersed joys of childhood have come together in a positive way. My son has officially “made it” to adulthood. Now he can look forward to the rewards he will experience in raising his own children. Then I get the extra rewards of grandchildren!
To all of you mothers and others out there, Happy Mother’s Day! Beyond the handmade cards, the flowers, the breakfasts and dinners out, and the gifts of the day, so many more rewards await you. Sometimes you just have to be patient…
I’m just returning from church. I go to an inspiring, welcoming church, which I love! Everyone is friendly, and we make a special effort to include people with disabilities. We have pew cut-outs throughout the church for people in wheelchairs. (After all, just because you are in a wheelchair does not mean you want to be relegated to the back row, or, even WORSE, the front row.) We have a sign language interpreter and large print materials for the church service. If a person who is totally blind attended, we would no doubt get the materials in Braille. People with developmental disabilities, as well as people with mental illnesses are welcomed with open arms. Having the children I do, it has been a God send (literally) for our family.
The congregation members help out during the service in many roles, and today I was helping to serve the Wine. The people serving communion stand on a step while serving the bread and wine. Learning from an earlier experience when I fell while trying to get a group together for a photo, I always firmly grip the hand rail while walking down the few steps. (Falling while taking a picture is understandable, but more care needs to be taken with the wine. I am sure it would stain the carpet terribly!) When offering the wine to the congregation members, I frequently have to bend over because I am tall and on a step, and they are often shorter. Today, after I bent over the first time, I noticed that my shirt parted from my body in the front, and everyone had a clear view down to my belly button. (Well, they COULD have seen my belly button if my big breasts had not gotten in the way.) I was mortified! While I do not embarrass easily, once I notice something askew, of course I have to fix it. So, I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances; I squatted for each person. Do you know how incredibly hard it is to hold a squat at one particular level and then move that squat up or down depending upon who was next? If I were athletic, it may have been easy. But I’m not… I felt like one of those baby crib toys, all scrunched up (squatting low) and then being pulled straight, (standing tall) and while music plays it slowly moves up to the low squat again.That’s the way I was today; up and down and up and down all to the beat of the choir’s music.
I will never wear that shirt to church again…
Link to my book
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/
I do no take much about myself seriously. At an early age I had to learn not to care what other people think. My dad, very frugal, used to insist he give me a haircut with clippers. It was during the popularity of Mia Farrow’s short cut, so I wasn’t a real outcast because of it…except for the time when he slipped and I had a bald spot on the back of my head. (Everyone was sympathetic because they thought I had had brain surgery…) Also, during the times of my dad’s schizophrenic episodes, he made sure to let me know that I was ugly. Being young at the time, I believed him, of course. However, I sincerely thought, and still think, that beauty on the outside does not matter, beauty on the inside does.
In order to “remain sane”, I do not get easily embarrassed and I have learned to laugh at myself.
For example, the other day driving near our house, I saw my husband’s work van. Pulling up beside him at a traffic light, I excitedly began to wave and blow kisses. Until, upon further examination, I noticed that it was not my husband driving, but some other electrician with an identical white van, same ladders on top and roles of wire in the back. (Go figure there would be another white work van like my husband’s. They are so RARE!) Anyway, the driver looked at me like I was crazy, and I started laughing. It was SO funny! In between giggles, I mouthed the words “sorry, wrong van!” and I took off so fast when the light turned green that I could have been a contender in a NASCAR race.
At our church picnic last summer, I was organizing the photo of all of the church members. About 100 people were lined up with a few stragglers. While walking backwards to the camera, I was giving directions for people to move in closer together. (We all know how easy it is to get a picture of such a large group, with everyone smiling nicely and looking at the camera.) All of a sudden, I tripped over my own two feet and fell on my back, arms and legs in the air. Several people commented that I looked like a turtle on its back. Of course, I laughed at myself. Clumsiness is a trait of mine. So what? Afterwards, several people came up to me and commented on how embarrassed I must have been. Embarrassed? Why would I be embarrassed? I thought it was funny! (If you picture it in your head, you HAVE to laugh…)
The huge white van I drive is so tall that I have trouble getting into the driver’s seat. I usually do so by grabbing onto the side of the driver’s seat, hold on for dear life, and alternately pull and wiggle up into the seat. Sometimes I slip, and once I even fell to the ground with a thud. (Maybe the thud was in my head…because I doubt the ground actually moved…) My husband and sons always laugh at me when I get into the van, and I laugh with them. What else am I going to do? Well, I COULD have ridden up on the wheelchair lift on the side of the van, but that wouldn’t be as much of a challenge.
Then there is the story about what happened last week when I met a good friend who is blind for lunch. I admit I am quite lazy in the morning, (often reading blogs, of ALL things,) and I did not have time to put on any make-up. As is usually the case, I put it on in the car when I stopped at read lights. Because I keep one eye on the light and the other on the mirror, I do one eye at the time; eye shadow and mascara. It makes a dramatic difference as my eyes are usually kind of squinty and tiny and tired looking. I often look in the mirror with one eye done and think I look like a “before” and “after” picture on aging, all on the same face. Anyway, on this particular morning, I was lucky and got mostly green traffic lights. When I arrived at the restaurant, I excitedly jumped out of the van and ran to meet my friend. (Getting out for breakfast with a friend is a rarity for me.) Just as I got inside the restaurant and said hi to my friend, I remembered I only had enough red lights to put make-up on one eye. ”Oh, well” I thought, “there is nothing I can do about it now as my make-up bag in the car and I am way too lazy to go back and get it.” I figured that, being blind, my friend wouldn’t care. And when I sat in the booth, I made sure to put my “good eye” on the side the waitress was. I figured it I always looked ahead, she wouldn’t notice either! I had a wonderful breakfast and, with a little laugh to myself, I never thought about it again, (until later in the car when I stopped at the next red light and finished the job!)
The moral of my story is…be comfortable with yourself and don’t care what other people think. Life is too short to spend it worrying or bothered by what you may perceive others think of you. Sometimes what you think they may think may not be what they think at all! And if they ARE thinking it, have the confidence to laugh it off!
Link to my book
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/