Posts tagged ‘parenting’

His or Her Graduation

college-scholarship-clipart-description-of-the-clipart-5L7j3b-clipart

 

 

My youngest child, Marie, will be graduating from high school at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford this week. When she came to live with us at the age of 7, her wild child behavior was so bad I never thought either of us would live to see this day. But here it is! She surprised me, this child of mine who prefers to look and dress like a boy, for which with her abuse history, her justification has always been “if you look like a girl, someone will hurt you.” She has chosen to wear a dress for graduation, the very same dress she wore uncomfortably as a junior bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding. Even though that was several years ago, she is determined to squeeze every ounce of flesh into the dress. It is fortunate she will also be wearing a graduation gown or I am sure something would get flashed somewhere!

Although she insisted on wearing her work boots with the dress, I convinced her to wear something “less hot because the day will be warm out.” She agreed to a slide on sandal, and I have chosen a pair that could be used by any sex, (once you take the bows off.)

But my choice of shoe for her makes me wonder if I have not totally accepted her for the person she feels to be. I know many parents would have great difficulty understanding if their son or daughter were gay or transgendered. Marie insisted for many years that she was a boy “inside” and even begged her pediatrician to sew a penis on her. He was very sweet with her, and suggested she wait until she was a teenager before discussing that issue again. After much counseling, it was determined she felt that way only out of desire to be safe, to no longer be abused as she had when she was a young child. Being a boy is still a façade she wishes to project, but not one she innately embraces.

Which brings us to the most recent lifelong dilemma; whether she was going to love boys or girls, a discussion SHE initiated one day. She went back and forth on the pros and cons of both. Bravely, taking a deep breath, I mentioned it would be best to love the person she would feel most comfortable having sex with. Her eyes widened. “SEX?” she asked incredibly, with great disgust. “I never want to have sex with ANYONE!” Too funny! I really jumped the gun!

Despite my desire to buy her flip-flops with bows on them, I really WOULD have accepted her decision to wear work boots, or even to have her doctor sew a penis on her if she was truly transgendered. I have survived my life by learning not to get upset over such matters; it wouldn’t change anything and would only draw us apart, possibly ruining our relationship for years to come. I love my daughter too much and will support whatever adult decision she makes. When she is older and still finding her way in the world, she won’t remember the shoes she wore at graduation. But she will remember my unconditional love and support. What more could a parent ask for?

 

Best…day…EVER

walt disney world - magic kingdom castle fireworks

 

I was fortunate to be chosen to do a presentation at the National Foster Parents Conference in Orlando last week. Sponsored by my employer, two hours were spent educating professionals on the importance of recognizing and treating mental health issues in children as early as possible, including facilitating school support services such as Individual Education Plans. In an attempt to try to prevent additional mental health issues for undiagnosed teens, (such as depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, and eating disorders,) support and services for mental health issues need to start as early in childhood as possible.

In order to be able to socialize with other foster teens, I brought my daughter, Marie, with me, as it also coincided with her birthday. My presentation was well received, and Marie’s time went swimmingly; the teens congregated in the pool for volleyball, basketball and movie night. (They would have also played Marco Polo, but deferred to Marie’s deafness.)

The day after the conference was Marie’s birthday so she got to choose which Theme Park she wanted to go to, The Magic Kingdom. The last time I had been there was 20 years ago when we had a tragic visit with Steven for whom the park was a sensory nightmare. Since that time, and with 5 children, we had never been able to afford a trip back and the conference offered us the perfect opportunity.

Despite the fact it was Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest days, and a bright and sunny 98 degrees, we had an amazingly awesome day. Marie was like a young child, soooooo excited about the sights. With a broad smile on her face all day, and lots of laughing and pointing at things she found especially funny, we had the BEST DAY EVER! With the use of the Fast Pass, (free) we were able to book the attractions so we generally only had a 5 to 10 minute wait. (It was astonishing to see how many people were willing to wait in the “stand by” line of 2 hours.)

Marie took pictures of EVERYTHING, including each and every country represented in “It’s a Small World”. (Being deaf, she wasn’t affected by the constant repetition of this song, which is cute for a few verses, but by the end of the ride can be almost unbearable.)

It was our lucky day because an ASL interpreter was provided for those attractions where listening was important; Country Bear Jamboree, Jungle Cruise, Monster’s Inc Comedy Show and so forth, making the attractions much more “attractive” to Marie.

In addition to the rides, Marie was super excited to see the Disney characters all over the park; Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Cinderella and so forth. (She has pictures of each and every one of them.) She wanted to get pictures of the characters from The Incredibles, but they were leading dances in a dance area and people walking into the crowd to take pictures were not allowed. I told her she had to dance her way in, which she scoffed at. However, with the beats of the song flashed in bright lights all around, and desperate to take their pictures, her body started moving to the tune and she danced her way toward them. She soon was able to snap many “incredible” pictures of the characters as they interacted with her. She was so happy that when the dance ended, her body kept dancing, and danced all the way down Main Street.

Nothing was more amazing to her than the nighttime electric parade. It was comical to see her reaction to the brightly lit floats boarded by all of the Disney characters. As the characters waved into the crowd, Marie enthusiastically waved back, as though they were waving directly at her. “Wow! Look at THAT!” she kept signing to me, giggling.

Fireworks topped off the evening. Although Marie has seen fireworks before, none were as spectacular as when seen over the spires of Cinderella’s castle. Splashes and configurations of color decorated the sky. Even Marie went “ooooh! ahhhhh!” along with the crowd, and clapped heartily when they were finished.

On the ride back to the hotel, Marie gave me the biggest hug and kiss. “I am so lucky to have you for my mom. That was the best day of my life. Thank you for adopting me!” she signed. Yes, definitely the best day EVER!

 

Password here, password there, passwords, passwords everywhere

password_580-100022344-large

I would like to think it is not because of my age that passwords are wrecking havoc with my brain lately. It was fine in the beginning when only a few were needed. It would be the same unguessable but simple word, adding a sequential number if it had to be updated. All of sudden, a password is needed to access anything! Want to order a pizza? Want to shop online? Want to play a game? Want to check your spam e-mail? Want to get a haircut? Passwords needed.

When searching on-line, (using a password, of course,) I learned that the use of passwords is ancient. Knights would knock on the doors of castles and whisper the password of the day in order to save the damsel in distress. During prohibition, alcohol seekers would knock on a back room door in order to enter the forbidden world of drinking alcohol. Today we use a written form of the password in order to enter the secret lairs of the programs on our computer. They are used to authenticate that we are who we are.

These days, I don’t know if I am who I am. In addition to an explosion of additional sites needed one, the passwords have become increasingly complex. Some require a “special character”. Santa Claus? The Tooth Fairy? My Aunt Margaret who is very eccentric? Just WHAT type of special character are they talking about? They all require a distinct arrangement of numbers and letters, some capitalized, some not. The problem is that each site is different. I have several variations of my password, each one to fulfill different requirements. However, trying each variation gets me locked out for too many tries. Then I am stuck answering my “security questions”, another disaster in the making. I inevitably get the questions I don’t remember. “What is the name of your first pet?” I am 60 years old, I can’t remember back that far. “What is the name of your best friend?” The answer to that depends on when I answered the question…best friend 20 years ago? 10 years ago? Yesterday? “What was your first grade teacher’s name?” AGAIN, 55 years ago, DUH! So there I am, trying desperately to order something, or access something, or play something and I am locked out for too many tries and not knowing the answers to my security questions.

A statement on the web from lifehacker.com fits me perfectly: the best password is one you can’t remember, so write it down. My problem is, I can’t remember where I wrote it down!

 

The Hospital Vacation

hospital5

An unexpected vacation came my way last week via a trip to the local emergency room when I experienced severe pain radiating from my shoulder down to the tips of my puffy fingers. The ER receptionist immediately had me whisked away in a wheelchair for a cardiac work-up, (not a recommended way to beat the line, but it was nice not have to wait!) The orderly swished me by all the cubicles so fast I did not have time to be nosy and glance in to see what everyone else’s commotion was about. The thing about the ER is that is houses REAL people with all their unglamorous appeal. No high heels or make-up. Unruly hair which obviously had not seen a comb in some time. Morning crustiness still in the eyes, line of drool down the side of the mouth. Bra-less, face contorted into an ugly grimace of pain, posture slumped over..and that was just ME, I could only imagine what everyone else looked like!

Once admitted to the cardiac ward, the nurses got right to work hooking me up to all kinds of do dads and thing a ma jigs. Their cheerfulness belied the seriousness of their work. I was comforted not only by their reassurance but also by the toasty, warm blanket that soon enveloped my body. Once the morphine took away the pain, I was a happy camper and willing test participant. Wheee! Off with another orderly for another test. Lay still like a sardine in a tiny metal tube while it sounded like the room was crashing all around me? Piece of cake. Electrodes super glued to my breasts? No problem, I wasn’t using them anyway. X-rays this way and that? Show me how to pose. (Those 5 modeling classes I took as a gawky teen finally came in handy!) Then there was the added adventure of being maneuvered, gurney and all, back to my room, bumping in and out of the elevators, around other patients and gurneys, and trying to fit through slim doorways all the while piloted by friendly orderlies. It was reminiscent of trying to scooter through Disney World with my daughter last May, and I tried to hide my silly smile lest the orderly think I was not in my right mind. (And, yes, the morphine was still working.)

Once back in my room, taking my blood pressure and poking and prodding for blood tests and glucose monitoring became commonplace at any time of the day or night. What an amazing staff of nurses and CNAs whose job it was to wake me only to poke me with a needle to capture my blood, and to do it all pleasantly when I felt less than pleasant for them having to do it. Although I tried not to be too crabby at them, my roommates were often less inhibited and grumbling was commonplace. Still, the staff smiled and carried on with quiet reassurance, seemingly immune to the barrage of complaints.

The most exciting thing for me was “room service”. Yes, “room service”, just like in a fancy hotel! Armed with an actual menu, I called down to the kitchen and my custom order would find its way to my bedside table. How amazing! Being a person obsessed with food, this was the highlight of my vacation. (Well, that and not being home to have to clean my house.) I carefully selected each meal; scrumptious omelet with tomatoes and onions, muffins and fruit, macaroni and cheese and broccoli with custard pudding, pot roast with salad with cake for dessert! Yum! It all sounded as good as I am sure it tasted, IF I were ever able to eat it when it arrived! Unfortunately, my food delights were delivered while I was away for one test or another. Imagine…meals being interrupted by medical procedures! What kind of vacation is that? The nurses offered to heat it up for me or to get me something else, but this seemed to be a silly request with all the important medical stuff that they had to do. When they took their jobs, I am sure that “waitress” was not in the job description.

Fortunately, it was the kind of vacation where the primary focus was my health; where what was going on INSIDE my body was more important that what I put INTO my body. With the utmost professionalism, the staff were unwaveringly pleasant, reassuring and kind. My medical care was top notch, and I was soon sent on my way home with expert instructions for the next chapter in my medical care.

Nothing could beat my hospital “vacation”. Next time I really want something as frivolous as a hot meal, I will go to a restaurant!The

Kindness is Taught at Home

isobel-and-layla

 

 

The above picture is of my 2-year-old granddaughter cleaning a “boo boo” on her dog. She makes sympathetic eye contact with LuLu, calmly positions her nose with her hand, and gently wipes it with a sterile wipe. When she tries to put a band-aid on it, she wonders why it doesn’t stick on the fur like it sticks on her skin, but tries her best to get it to stay. After the dog’s medical care has been completed, she plants a light kiss on the “boo boo”, satisfied at a job well done.

Kindness is a trait best taught at home. Children learn to accept others based on how their parents accept others. If dad complains about “crazy Uncle Joe” and everyone in the family avoids Uncle Joe, they learn to be fearful of people with mental illness. If they see a person in a wheelchair while out on a walk, and their parents cross the street to be on the other side so they don’t have to walk near the wheelchair, it is inherently learned that they should be cautious of such people. Instead, they should walk right up to the person, making eye contact and smiling, commenting on what a great day it is to be out for a walk!

It is only through my fortunate life experience with a brother with multiple disabilities that my children have learned that people like “Uncle Curtis” are different than us, and therefore need understanding and acceptance. Any of them were comfortable with offering a guiding arm to sturdy and guide him to the most comfortable chair in the house and rush off to get him his treasured glass of Diet Coke. Sitting next to him during a meal, they would unabashedly take his plate to cut the food up into tiny pieces for him to be able to swallow. If they couldn’t understand what he was saying, they’d give him a pen and paper to write it down, (although it invariably said “Dite Cook” in his unsteady handwriting.)

A child living with compassion will not be a bully, and hopefully stand up for anyone being bullied. Living with compassion has stayed with my children into their adulthood, and they are now raising their own children to be caring and thoughtful of others, as evidence by my young granddaughter caring for her dog. What a beautiful life!

*****

To read more about our adventures as a family, please read my book, The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane through Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

 

Luck? Fate? or Something Else?

shredded-tire

I am a Diet Coke fanatic.  (Before people start telling me that it isn’t healthy for me, I have to admit that it is stress relief to take a long, satisfying sip of an ice cold soda. It might not be healthy, but it has kept me alive and perky!) Being very short on money lately, and exhausted from working a long day, visions of Diet Coke floated in the air. While fishing out a one-dollar bill that desperately clung to life in the bottom of my purse, the van automatically found its way to the convenience store where a humongous drink of Diet Coke awaited me. I put my giant cup under the spigot and filled it to the brim, excited at the prospect of getting such a delight for only 89 cents! Looking up, the large soda sign smacked me in the face; this was not an “all sizes pay same price” kind of store, and a large soda was $1.49! My heart skipped a beat and actual tears of disappointment filled my eyes when I realized I didn’t have enough money to pay. At just that point, the store owner, half my age, struck up a conversation. “That’s a mighty big van out there, must be difficult for you to drive,” he said. “I have five kiddos and it fits our whole family,” I answered with my back to him, still contemplating my payment dilemma. “God bless you!” he said, “The drink is on me!” I turned around and smiled excitedly, thanking him. He could not have understood how much that gesture was such a blessing!

The truth is, our family car situation has been difficult lately.  My Acura ceased to function several weeks ago, and my husband’s work van, 17 years old, also died.  We had to resurrect our old, 12 passenger family van, switching a couple of bald tires off with newer tires from his work van.  Driving the rickety monstrosity was a challenge for me. It wobbled terribly, and I had to grip the steering wheel with 2 hands. I complained to hubby who brushed it off as being “old, what did I expect?” I drove it back and forth to work Monday and Tuesday, still cursing the challenging drive.  Tuesday eve, Steven called me frantically. A friend’s car had broken down near the Providence Place Mall, could I come pick them up? Annoyed about having to drive to Providence after working all day, I climbed into the van to begin the arduous task of maneuvering the eyesore onto the highway.  With the van waving back and forth, I had difficulty keeping it in one lane, but finally reached Steven and pulled to the side of the road near him.  His eyes bugged out as he ran to the back of the van. “Your TIRE is almost off!” he shouted, showing me where one lone lug nut, ready to fall off, had been holding it on. Just as he said that, the lug nut fell to the ground, rolled away and the tire fell sideways onto the ground!  I shrieked in horror and felt like vomiting when I realized what that meant; I had been driving it for 3 days with the tire ready to fall off! (It was Steven and his ADHD that changed the tires…I suspect he got distracted somehow and never finished putting that tire on correctly.) I not only had driven it for 3 days, but I managed to drive it ON THE HIGHWAY at a HIGH RATE OF SPEED to get to Steven. How lucky was I that is didn’t fall off while driving where not only I could have been killed, but I could have killed someone else? I shuddered with realization. It seemed like fate! Or luck? Or something else?

The Diet Coke and loose tire incidents may seem unrelated, but to me, both are an affirmation that luck does not come into play.  I like to think it was Divine intervention, a thought both heartwarming and reassuring.  A thought that always makes me smile…and so far has kept me alive!

 

Loosey Goosey with Einstein Hair

einstein  

     My body has not quite agreed with my no stress policy on life as the muscles in the back of my shoulder had started ache.  When I grit my teeth, the pain would shoot from my jaw down to my shoulder blade.) I thought this might be a good time to try a massage, something which I have always wanted but for which there was never an actual need.      

     With a Groupon coupon clutched firmly in my hand, I made my way through the front door of the Chinese spa. Chinese decorations and symbols adorned the walls, a gold and red cat with a wagging paw sat on the counter, and a petite woman in a kimono greeted me in words I could not quite understand.  With the coupon in her hand, I was reassured that she knew what I wanted; a deep tissue massage!

     Led into a small, dimly lit private room, a comfy massage table awaited me. I considered which end of the table to get on; one end had a place I later learned was for my face and the other end had a rolled towel which could loosely be construed as a pillow.  I took off my clothes, careful to leave my underwear on.  (My bra had to come off because fixing the muscle pain on my shoulder would be hindered by the strap.)  I sat in the middle of the bed, legs dangling off the side, sheet wrapped tightly around my body, awaiting the instructions the massage specialist would give me.  Another petite woman, she motioned toward the end of the table without the towel and I started to lay on my back with my head falling backwards.  She giggled a little, then motioned for me to turn over on my stomach.  OH!  So THAT’s how it works!

     It is incomprehensible to me how a woman with such tiny hands could invoke such muscle pain on me.  Every spot she touched hurt, but her delicate fingers kneaded the pain away.  It was both an excruciating and relaxing experience all at once.  When she finished with the bulk of my body, she pulled out my arm to massage.  “Reacts” she kept telling me, (which I proudly interpreted to mean “relax.”) As much as she tried to shake out my hand, my fingers remained stiffened as a board.  She giggled again, and after much coaxing on her part, my fingers finally loosened a little with the ends of them bent down into a claw shape. That was as close to relaxing my hand I was going to get!

     My favorite part was when she massaged my neck and head.  How I loved the feel of her fingers raking through my hair; firmly, therapeutically, amazingly! I knew that the oil she had on her hands would affect my hairstyle, but my mind was beyond rationalization at that point, enjoying the experience. I was disappointed when she stopped and left the room, saying something to me on the way out.  I thought the massage was over, so I stood up, naked, to get my clothes on.  Both of us screamed when she came back into the room!  She covered her mouth with one hand and squeezed her eyes shut, keeping a firm grip on the basket of hot rocks she was holding in her other hand.  “I thought it was over!” I told her as she sweetly said “no, no!” Climbing back on the table, she completed the massage with hot stones, stones so hot they seemed to burn my back through the sheet material and I wondered how she could possibly hold them in her tender, gentle hands. But, OH what a wonderful feeling, loosened muscles and warmth on my back.  It was a joyful experience! It was an experience for which I had waited my whole life!

      When she was finished, she clearly said “Bye bye” and we both giggled, knowing that it actually was time to get up and get dressed.  My limbs were floppy and lose as I awkwardly put my clothes on. I walked out of that room euphorically with a goofy smile on my face, all loosey goosey with my hair sticking out straight looking like Einstein’s.  I was so relaxed I didn’t even care!   

Tag Cloud