Posts tagged ‘hope’

Mother’s Day and Delayed Rewards

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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…

“Look Mom, no trees!”

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My son Francis is amazing!  Although legally blind, he has led an incredibly successful life.  I think one of the reasons he has done so well is because he was raised without having a disability. If that sounds odd, you have to define disability as not having the ability to do what one wants in order to lead a full and happy life.  With proper modifications and technology, Francis has never been held back in any area of life.

Of course, we have chosen achievable goals when he was growing up. One of the many topics we tackled was how to fit sports into his life. Of course he could not play baseball or soccer, but he could be on the wrestling team and swim team. (He excelled and won championships in both areas.) The one sport that I worried about  was his skiing.  He learned at an early age to traverse the White Mountains in New Hampshire with a sighted guide skiing in front of him, usually his dad.  This petrified me because I was afraid he was going to ski into a tree and die. The fact that he is still alive and kicking today is proof that he didn’t, but that did not lessen my motherly concerns.

When Francis went to college at Cambridge in England, he had the good fortune to make many friends with whom he could travel all over Europe.  One day, I received a photo via e-mail, accompanied by the comment “Look, mom, no trees!” The photo was one of  Francis in ski gear, standing at the top of a ski run in the Alps.  The sun reflecting off his dark goggles was no match for the shining smile on his face.  There were no trees to ski into because they were above the tree line.  He was safe!  And, most importantly for a mom, he cared enough to send me a picture to SHOW me that he was safe.  The little cockles of my heart warmed at the thought…what a considerate son!

It wasn’t until a few months later that I saw the news of a large avalanche in that same area and three people were presumed dead.  DEAD?  I immediately remembered that beautiful picture of my thoughtful son, and I laughed.  (Yes, I laughed.)  That picture shows that my son does not have a disability because he had the same chance of dying as the skiers buried in the snow.  He is truly successful!

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Links to my book:

itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

I Have Raised My Children Right in The Most Important Area

I am sure that every parent questions how they have raised their children. I know I have.  I have not been strict enough in making them eat all of their vegetables and clean their rooms, (mainly because I don’t eat all of my vegetables and clean my room.) I know to some people  this is a major parenting faux pas.  However, I have raised my children right in the most important area…caring for others.

I volunteer with a recreational group of adults with and without disabilities.  We have a bowling league, then go out to dinner together, then have an activity at night, such as Bingo, Family Feud, or a visiting musician.  All of my children have come with me to this group,  starting with Francis when he was a baby and the group purchased a portable crib so I could bring him camping with us.  My children have been raised socializing with people with disabilities so that any disability is not knew to them.

Angel, my son with Dissociative Identity Disorder, has been my latest child to attend with me.  One of his “peeps” (as his calls his “parts’) I call the Game Show Host.  Angel is the one who calls the numbers for Bingo, or reads the questions for Family Feud.  He is hilariously similar to a game show host, right down to kissing the female “contestants” during a game of Family Feud. From the minute he starts an activity to the minute he finishes, we are all in stitches laughing.  Silly laughing.  Innocent laughing.  Heart beating fast with cheeks that hurt from laughing laughing. He is terrific, and I am so proud that he has learned to manage his disability in order to make others happy.

The happiest moment of all happened on Christmas Day.  All of our family festivities are on Christmas even, and Christmas Day is always a lazy one for us.  In fact, the children and I usually go to the movies.  Angel asked if it was okay if he invited a friend to the movies, and of course I said yes.  When we got there,  waiting for us expectantly, was Lisa, a 65 year old woman with a disability; the “friend” which he had invited.  She was dressed for Christmas…Christmas sweater, Santa Claus earrings, a Santa Hat and bright red lipstick. She was glowing as she hugged us all.  It seems that she has no family and had sat in her apartment alone for Christmas Eve.  Somehow Angel knew this, prompting his request that she come with us on Christmas Day.

We all laughed at the funny movie, and enjoyed a large popcorn, (mmmmmmm…movie theater fake butter popcorn!)  After the movie, we went out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. (Duh!  Chinese restaurants are open…)  We had a lively conversation about anything and everything funny, and she beamed the whole time.  When we left her outside at her car to go home, she burst into tears.  She thanked us profusely. She said she was so lonely at Christmas, when everyone else had a family, that she had contemplated suicide because she had no one.  She said this was her best Christmas EVER!  Try as I might not to, tears slid down my cheek also.  Tears of sympathy for her and of pride for my son…a son who is seriously disabled himself, but who was still able to find the ability to care deeply for the feelings of this wonderful, lonely woman.

Yes, I have raised him right…

A Hug Award; My Kind of Award!

I am not one to generally accept awards.  I am pleased to receive nominations, but I do not generally post the award.  I strive to stay level headed and an every day person.  (Awards would tend to inflate my ego and I may start to sound “uppity”, which is not in my nature.)

However ,Michele Kearns who has the inspirational blog Joy Returns, nominated me for a very special award:

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The HUG Award© was initiated by Connie Wayne at A Hope for Today athttp://ahopefortoday.comwhich promotes hope, love, peace, equality, and unity for all people.

The HUG Award© is for people with an expectant desire for the world, for which they:  Hope for Love; Hope for Freedom; Hope for Peace; Hope for Equality; Hope for Unity; Hope for Joy and Happiness; Hope for Compassion and Mercy; Hope for Faith;Hope for Wholeness and Wellness; Hope for Prosperity; Hope for Ecological Preservation; Hope for Oneness

The HUG Award© recognizes and honors those who help keep hope alive in our current world, which is plagued by war, natural disasters, and economic recession.  They nurture hope, in any of the above areas (in italics),  by the work they do, or in their personal lives with things such as blogging, public speaking, charity work, etc.

The HUG Award© is for anyone, anywhere in the world, who meets the guidelines and wants to be nominated for the award. Please leave a comment on this page if you are interested in receiving this award, or if you would like to nominate someone else for the award.

The HUG Award© is for people who, without giving up or compromising their own religious, spiritual, or political beliefs, are able to nurture hope and respect the dignity of all people.

The HUG Award© is for those who, without bias or prejudice, use their resources and gifts to make the world a better place for everyone.

The HUG Award©is for people who have a hope or an expectant desire that the work or talents they use in things such as blogging, public speaking, charity work, etc., will make a positive impact on the world.

These people do not have to actively use the word “hope” in their work or creative talents.  They only need be conscious of their desire to make the world a better place for everyone.

These people use their available resources–a smile, a hug, a helping hand, a listening ear, a voice, time, money, possessions, education, personality, talent, websites and blogs—to make a positive impact on the world and make the world a better place to live.

The HUG Award© is not a website or blog award.  It can be given to people in your community, at your employment, at your place of worship, etc.  Please make sure they have a copy of these Guidelines, and please don’t forget to submit their names back to this site.

I am pleased to share this award with everyone who strives for peace and to make the world a better place.  Is it such an honor, and little ol’ me is humbled.

The Baptism from HELL

I don’t mean to be blasphemes, but I am sure that all you parents out there with “difficult” children can understand what kind of hell we live with from time to time.  Most of the time raising children is heavenly, or at least like purgatory. However,sometimes there are those moments when it is just plain hell!

Our son, Steven, was adopted at the age of 3 after living with us since birth.  He was born addicted to heroin and cocaine, to a mom who was an alcoholic and, (GASP) cigarette smoker.  Although we loved his cute little face very much, the rest of him left much to be desired.  He was hypersensitive to sound, touch, smell, noise and any little thing that altered the peace in his little world.  Even as a 6 month old he would bang his head on the highchair if he was “stressed”.  He needed a strictly consistent schedule with no tags in his shirts and no loud noise from the tv.  We altered our life to fit his needs and things were fine, for the most part.

Then came his Baptism day.  First off, it was a change in his schedule, something his 3 year old body did NOT appreciate.  THEN, he had to get dressed up.  I remember thinking he’d never wear a suit and tie, or even a tie for that matter, so I managed to buy a nice pants/sweater outfit.  Unaccustomed to wearing sweaters, his body squirmed in this outfit.  Our church had arranged for a private ceremony, understanding Steven would not be able to be baptized during a regular church service.  We used the little chapel so as to cut down on the anxiety he would feel in the huge church.  His dad carried him to the altar with Steven’s head buried in his chest.  My husband, myself, our older son Francis and daughter Dinora stood by with Pastor Lorraine to begin the baptism.  Steven looked up and saw the baptismal water.  “OOOOOOOH NO!!!!!!”  he screeched.  “You’re not going to put that water on ME!!!!!!”  (He also had a fear of water I’d forgotten to mention…)  He jumped down from my husband’s arms, crawled on the ground, and crawled into the first dark, quiet place he could find…under Pastor Lorraine’s vestments!  There he was, under her vestments which were over her dress…I was MORTIFIED, (thus the “HELL” part!)  She, however, as the parent of three rambunctious kids, thought it was funny.  (God bless her!!)  She felt down for where his head was and she calmly proceeded with the baptism.  (Fortunately, you could see his head clearly outlined in her vestments.)  She did the whole ceremony with him completely covered.  I had a camera to document this momentous occasion, but was at loss of what to take a picture of!  When is it over, his dad gently dragged him out and home we went.  For any other child, a celebration would have been in order, but for Steven, it was home to his usual routine.  Same day as any other day.

PS.  I obviously didn’t learn from this experience as we attempted first communion for him.  At the age of 12, he met with our pastor for one-on-one communion classes as he was unable to participate in the standard classes.   He was then to join the other children on “First Communion Day”.  When the pastor called out his name, he promptly crawled underneath the pew, and curled into a tight little ball, where he stayed for the rest of the service…

Who Cares What I Look Like…I Saved Money…

Okay, I am officially “crazy”.  I know that is not a politically correct term, but yesterday I did something so obsessive that I realized for the first time in my life that something is seriously wrong with me…I bought make-up that did not match my skin color BECAUSE IT WAS ON SALE!!!!!!

I have always been a “frugal” person, coming from a long line of “frugal” relatives.  (Alright, actually only one, my dad, but he goes way back to my childhood so it is considered a long line to me.) My father was so “frugal” that is retrospect I realize he obviously had obsessive compulsive disorder.  Although we were a middle class family, we NEVER went out to eat.  (Well, there was that ONE TIME we did go out to an ice cream restaurant on their 25th anniversary, but other than that we did not eat at restaurants.)  He did not want to spend money on heat, so we used a wood stove. (We live in NEW ENGLANG!)  He did allow us to have electric blankets, but we could only turn it on to warm the bed, shutting it off when we went to bed.  So, I’d fall asleep all warm and cozy with happy dreams and wake up in the middle of the night dreaming of Antarctica. He also did not want to spend money on hot water, so he devised a type of solar hot water heater by threading water pipes on the roof and then into an unplugged water heater.  If it was a very sunny day, we could have a warm bath at night, but only once a week because he didn’t want to waste water.  We were fortunately to live on a lake so I did a lot of swimming to get clean.

We ate only what was inexpensive and on sale:  lots of rice, pasta, mashed potatoes and canned vegetables.  Not so much fresh vegetables, fruit or meat.  My father was not a vegetarian because of moral concerns, but because of the cost of meat.

For the beginning of school in September, I would be able to choose 2 outfits at the nearest discount store.  I would wear them alternate days during the week…all year! If I happened to grow during the year, (as of course often happened,) they would get a little tight.  Fortunately, my mother planned for this by buying them extra big at the beginning of the school year! She loved buying her and my father’s clothes and shoes at the Salvation Army.  In fact, everyone got a good laugh at my wedding when my mom came up and knelt down for communion and there was $1.99 written in black marker on the bottom of her shoe.  (You’ve GOT to laugh at stuff like that…)

My mother would cut my hair, usually crooked. When I became a teenager,  I tried to let it grown. I put it up in a “bun” like Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, but it was so thin and uncontrollable that I usually ended up looking like Pebbles from the Flintstones!

We did go to the drive-in every Friday, and I was allowed the 25 cents to get popcorn, which was a huge treat for me.  During those days, you had to pay per person for the drive-in.  My father had me scrunch down low in the back seat so they would think I was under 12.  One day, when I was about 15, the person in the admission booth questioned my father about my age.  Because he would never LIE, he told them I was 15 but that he would not pay for me, and what difference did it make if he paid for 2 or 3 because they would still get some money.  The man in the admission booth dug in his heels…and so did my father.  To my huge embarrassment, my father made the long line of cars behind him waiting to pay BACK UP so that he could leave.  That was the last time we went to the drive-in.

Of all of the effects of economic frugality, the biggest one was that I never got a real Barbie doll.  I yearned for a Barbie doll!  I asked for one for birthdays and Christmas, but I always got the cheap plastic imitation Barbie dolls.  When I went to play with friends, they would take pity on me and let me play with their Midge doll, (Barbie’s “friend”,) but it was never the same as playing with my own real live Barbie. I think it is ironic that this is the one memory that has caused permanent harm to my psyche!

In retrospect, except for the doll, I did not know anything different.  I did not feel cheated or poor or economically deprived.  I learned to live with what I had and be happy. From an early age, probably because I had a brother who was severely disabled, I was empathetic with people with disabilities.  Although I did not see many children with physical disabilities in those days, there were many developmentally delayed students in the schools.  I would go out of my way to be friendly and helpful.  I had little tolerance for ignorant people who would fun of these valuable human beings, and I was known for my protective nature. I was fortunate to have had many friends in school.  They were not necessarily the most popular or the most fashionably dressed friends, but they were down to earth, friendly, and they appreciated their friendship with me. I was confident with myself, and I thought nothing of going up to a bully and telling them to stop picking on someone. Just like that, I’d have a new friend!  Sometimes I’d even make friends with the bully! I had a great time in school! My values were vastly different than other teenagers. This difference actually led into what I think is my best quality, the unwavering caring and acceptance of others.  Without this trait, I would not have become a social worker, and I certainly would not have adopted 4 children with disabilities!

Although one would expect I would rebel in the other direction, the one thing that could not help but rub off on me is frugality.  I started working at the age of 14 and paid 1/2 of my pay to my parents as room and board, (of COURSE.)  I finally had some disposable income and you would have thought I would spend it on clothes, haircuts and such.  NO.  I was a compulsive saver.  I saved to buy my own car at the age of 16 and I saved enough to pay for college at the age of 18. I am definitely not as frugal as my father, (who, by the way, died and left my mother with several hundred thousand dollars with which she happily used for the next ten years to travel to exotic locales.)  I do, however, get a big thrill buying things on sale with deep discounts!  I’m the type who would go to JC Penny’s or Macy’s and buy the seasonal items on sale at 80% off with an additional 20% off coupon.  Who can resist shirts for $3 or pants for $5?  I clothe my 5 children in this manner, always buying the year before for clothes they would need the next year.  Once, when a local department store went out of business, they were selling children’s clothing for 50 cents each. Who could turn THAT down?????  I bought 4 RACKS of clothing!  Fortunately, I was in the process of adopting our daughter from Guatemala, so my mother and I stuffed all of the clothing in 8 large suitcases which we took with us to Guatemala.  We each put our own clothes into backpacks which we carried.  The orphanage which had so tenderly cared for my daughter was thrilled to get such an assortment of new clothes.  The director actually cried because she said all they ever got were dirty and ripped hand me downs.

I no longer do the grocery shopping in my house because, like my father, I would only by items which were deeply on sale.  My husband is not a canned vegetable kind of guy.  In fact, I was lucky enough to marry a cook, so he does all of his own shopping, regularly visiting the local farm for fresh produce or the local meat market for fresh meat or fish.  My cupboards and refrigerator are always full of great food and I never have to worry about how much it cost!

Which brings me back to my drugstore sojourn yesterday when, browsing the aisles, I noticed that some of the make-up items were 75% off.  (PLUS I had a $5 off coupon for the store!  What could be better?)  I picked out the marked-down items and proudly brought them to the register.  I was happy!  I was frugal!  I was an idiot!  When I got the items home and tried to use them, I was horrified to learn I had bought powdered make-up such an ugly color that when I put it on I looked like I had pancake make-up on my face. (I’m not talking about pancake make-up they were in the movies, I’m talking about make-up that actually looked like I was wearing pancake flour on my face!)  I tried the blush and it was so red that my cheeks looked like a clown.  The lipstick was brown.  (UGH!)  The mascara was not waterproof, (something I HATE because by night time I being to look like a raccoon.)  And WHY hadn’t I noticed that the nail polish was green???  For the first time in my life I looked at my white powdered, red cheeked, brown lipped self in the mirror and I thought “I am officially crazy!”  Oh, well, its a good thing that I think I am pretty on the INSIDE!

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