What Can Go Right

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Remember the cartoon character that had the little black cloud over his head all the time? Some days we feel like that poor guy, and don’t know how to outrun that cloud. Here’s the thing, we don’t have to outrun it, we just need to outsmart it. If we stop to analyze a situation and focus on the best in people or situations, the good starts to expand. The sun will come out and burn away that little cloud. When we focus on the negative traits of a person or situation, that is when that little cloud is like glue, and we just can’t find a way out from under it. The negative and positive are both always there, no person or situation is perfect, but if we want the best for ourselves, doesn’t it make sense to focus on the best?

If a situation needs to be changed, I’m not advocating to only focus on the few positive aspects of it, putting on a big fake smile and shoving all the negative stuff under the table. That negative stuff always finds ways to resurface and sometimes it grows when unattended. What I am advocating is, when we focus on the good, we magically see more ways to grow the good and find the strength to overcome the negative. We are able to think of more options, more directions to go. That way of thinking gives us hope, and therefore more energy to continue to improve our situation. If we keep looking for a fight, we are sure to find one. But that kind of thinking leaves us exhausted and feeling battered.

Focusing on the good is hard work. That negative is very powerful, and can easily overwhelm our thoughts. Our minds begin to fill up with all the things that could go wrong, instead of all the things that could go right.

If we turn our attention to all the things that could go right, then our brain starts producing options and ideas. I’m not saying everyone will agree with your ideas, and our situation will immediately become sunny and bright, but we gain more endurance to get through some tough situations if we can see options to improve them. Some tough conversations may need to happen, but if our mind is focused this way, we communicate in a much more open way that people are receptive to, therefore, making our situation a more productive one.

When I was pregnant with my twin girls, I had pre-term labor just shy of 6 months of gestation. Talk about feeling scared and completely out of control! I was put on hospitalized bed rest, and a Neonatologist was sent in to talk to me and my husband. She started ticking off a list of all the things that could go wrong with our babies if they were born right then. As she was going through this list, she actually paused and said, “hmm, let’s see, what else.” If I wasn’t terrified of sitting up, I would have popped her square in her cold-hearted, condescending nose! Now, that would have made me feel better in the moment, but that would have done nothing to improve my situation. So, after she left and I cried my eyes out, my mind went to all the things that I could do to keep my babies safe. I could have easily focused on the list of things that woman told me, and felt hopeless and scared up until the twins were born. Instead, I decided to focus on all the things I could do right to keep them safe.

First, I asked for a different Neonatologist…I never wanted to see that woman’s face again. I needed nurturing at that moment, not a lecture. The new doctor was honest, but kind. Ding! One negative changed to a positive. Then, I did the best I could with my surroundings so that I would focus on things that made me relaxed and happy instead of depressed about this situation. It was what it was, and I needed to stay still to keep those babies safe, so I decided I may as well spend the day seeing things that made me smile. I limited my TV watching as most daytime TV is depressing, read uplifting books, learned to knit, my husband and mom visited every day, my awesome friends brought dinner and hung out, and my father-in-law brought a vanilla DQ shake every time he visited. It was not easy time, but with all of those positives surrounding me, I was better able to pass the time while doing what was right to keep those baby girls safe.

Focusing on the positive didn’t mean I was ignoring the hard reality of the situation…I knew I had to stay in that bed and do what the doctors told me. But because I found and created positives in this situation, I was able to do what I needed to without going into a debilitating depression or leaving because I just couldn’t take it anymore and risking my babies’ lives.

Our complex brains have the ability to focus on whatever we direct them to, irregardless of our situation. Be brave, have compassion for yourself, and focus on the positive. Life can throw some punches, so we need to keep our endurance. Falling victim to negative thinking is exhausting. When we find ways to turn it around, our endurance grows, and we are better not only for ourselves, but also for our loved ones.

All the best,
Christie

Be true to YOU!

Be true to YOU!

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Ready for the next pitch

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See this guy…he gives the BEST hugs ever. Even if you haven’t been on the receiving end of one of Wil’s hugs, I bet a million dollars this picture put a smile on your face. We all know how great a hug can be, especially when it comes from someone you adore. But even a hug from a well meaning acquaintance might be all it takes to give us a boost to take on the day.

Accepting and giving hugs is healing for both the giver and the receiver. So, if that is true, wouldn’t giving a hug to ourselves be doubly as good?

Give yourself a hug by being good to your body. Its here to serve you, so treat it well. Exercise, eat healthy and make time to be alone. Not everyone loves to exercise and eat healthy, but do what you can…baby steps are still forward moving. The successes you see will motivate you to do more. I sure love a DQ Blizzard, and I enjoy them on occasion, but I feel a heck of a lot better after a workout and a healthy meal with the treat of a piece of dark chocolate. I also like looking at the person in the mirror a lot more, because I am proud of her for what she has done for herself.

Time alone is a big hug to ourselves. You can’t learn to love yourself if you don’t know the person you are with 24/7. Maybe you are one of the lucky people that felt comfortable in your own skin from day 1. I’m a late bloomer in that respect, and have learned by trial and error. But after some learning experiences, lots of spiritual reading, and a few great friends, I’m well on my way. I also love how life is a continuous learning experience, and even when we start to get comfy in our own skin, we continue to discover new capacities within ourselves and how we can continue to evolve if we allow ourselves.

If I could go back in time, I would change a few things. I’m not proud of some of my past behaviors, and I’m sure there are plenty in the future that I will not be proud of. But, that said, I have learned from every single one, and I have used them to know what I do and don’t want to do in this present time. And because I’ve been able to look at these past experiences as tools for learning instead of being stuck in regret, I’m able to hug myself for who I was at the time, and move on to be a better me now.

Life is going to throw me more curveballs, but this time I welcome them. Every time I step up to the plate, I get better at realizing when I need to jump out of the way or nail it out of the park.

Life ain’t easy, but it can be good. Count your blessings, be good to yourself, hug others freely, accept a hug when its given, and step up to the plate ready for the next pitch.

All the best,
Christie

Looking up and out

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When perched on the fence, knees bent and ready to spring over to the grass that looks greener on the other side, stop for just a moment, lift up your head up and look out ahead of you. You will see even greener, lusher pastures. You might need to pull up your boot straps and do some trekking to get there, but once you are there, the freedom is all the more exhilarating for the trek.

When so wrapped up in our own lives, we don’t realize the value of taking a moment to pause, and really take a look at where we are headed.  Sometimes things get so difficult, we simply want out, and it doesn’t really matter where getting out takes us, because just about anywhere would be a relief to where we are now.  So, we jump, and though we may have landed in a new lawn, there is still just as much dog crap here as there was in our yard, just from a different dog.

Think of this time to pause and take stock of our lives as a gift to ourselves.  Its hard work, giving this gift to ourselves, it might even take therapy or leaning on a trusted friend, but the rewards are all the sweeter if we stay true to who we are and keep putting one foot in front of the other instead of making a quick jump for a quick fix.

Do not underestimate the value of introspection and doing what is right for YOU. If you truly take a look at yourself, and what you need in life, you will find a drive to move forward like no other, and you will pursue it and reap the rewards of the pursuit. I’m not talking about rebelliousness…the thoughts of “hell with you, I’m doing this.” That is based in selfishness. If you find that true fire within, it doesn’t mean there aren’t the naysayers stopping you at every turn, but there is a strong inner confidence that what you are doing is right.  Their comments, even those that are well meaning, have no effect on you.  You don’t feel the anger of rebellion, rather, you are able to send them feelings of love, understand that they don’t, won’t or can’t understand, and keep on keeping on.

I have jumped to the lawn next door. Its great for awhile, relieves some pain, but then I started to realize I was surrounded by the same old crap, different dog. What I had to change was myself first, only then would my surroundings change. Its hard work changing yourself, but wow, I can not describe how empowering it is. I have had to pull up my boot straps and walk through some stuff, and I know I will have to pull them up again, but since I’ve done it once, I have the confidence to do it again because I know the sweet results of that work.

I credit my son, Wil, for this drive, passion and change in me. When he was born, and we received the news he had Down syndrome, I wanted to jump. I was scared and didn’t know where to turn. But,  I looked up and out, and found supports and people who are very strong, and are there for me, and now I have the strength to be there for them.  They opened up my view to  what a beautiful life my son would have and what joy he would bring to our family. Wil is pure joy….words can not describe how he holds my heart.

Life with a child with special needs is not an easy life.  Working with Wil to help him achieve the most he can has simply become part of our daily routine.  Because this has become a typical part of our life, I sometimes forget how much energy it takes. Then, I’ll go somewhere with my twin daughters without Wil, and realize how much time and energy I spend on Wil, and can appreciate this time alone with my girls all the more. So, this experience of having a child with special needs has taught me to appreciate what real quality time is, and I’ve also learned that because something is easy, it doesn’t automatically mean its good, and that some of our biggest challenges can bring us the biggest rewards.  Receiving the rewards of looking forward at all that my son and daughters can be, pulling up my boots straps to make that happen, and making our treks together to new places is what is good…very, very good.

Even though it may not look like it, there are ALWAYS greener pastures ahead. Its just really hard to see them sometimes, so do yourself a favor to take the time to look. We may have to hop some fences, slosh through some mud, and lean on a friend for awhile, but the trek is all part of it, and easy does not always equal good.

All the best,

Christie

Missteps and Misconceptions

 

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High school has a diverse playground. Some of us were pushed around, some of us were too cool for school, a lot of us fit somewhere in the middle, and some of us felt like we didn’t fit anywhere at all. Either way, we learned a lot.

There is a TV show called Glee that focuses on the hard reality of what being “different” is like in high school. You name it, a character is living it or has faced it…poverty, obesity, homosexuality, disabilities, eating disorders and simply being “uncool.” This is one of my favorite shows, it is entertaining but also sends a strong message of acceptance. However, last night, Glee missed the mark for one character that is very important to me…the adorable, blond cheerleader Becky, who also happens to have Down syndrome.

Up to this point, Glee has done a wonderful job with Becky’s character. She is funny and smart, and not afraid to speak her mind. She is one tough cookie, but she also has an adorableness about her that while watching the show, you’ll forgive her just about anything.

Last night, Becky had a part where she stood up, twirled around and said she was a hot piece of ass. I physically cringed. As I mentioned, Becky is an outgoing character, and speaks her mind, so the fact that she twirled around and made a strong comment is not beyond her. But this comment and action was degrading. Maybe I’m hypersensitive to how people with Ds are perceived, but we have come too far for these missteps. Too many people are unfamiliar with Down syndrome, and awareness is imperative to the acceptance and success of our children. There is simply no room for error on a nationally syndicated show.

Glee has done too many things right for Becky’s character, and too many things right for acceptance of diversity, for me not to forgive them this misstep. However, if this is the direction Becky’s character starts to go, I will give the producers the respect of a letter(or ten) from a mom in the real world.

In this letter, I will let the producers of Glee know that every time our children with Down syndrome meet someone, they have to overcome a countless number of misconceptions. We don’t need any more added to the list. We parents are out there advocating for our kids every day, so that people will look at our children with understanding and give them a fair shot. So yes, maybe I am hypersensitive to this one action, but I am in the trenches, I see and hear misconceptions on an all too regular basis. I am grateful for the many misconceptions that have already been overcome, and the fact that my son faces a very bright future. I intend to keep that progress moving in a forward direction. So thank you, Glee, for your wonderful work to this point. But know that if I see Becky digress, you will hear from me and I hope you are as accepting of my letter as you are in your script writing.

While out driving on a cold night…

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Last night, on the way home from my daughter Elizabeth’s basketball practice, we passed a homeless man out in the frigid cold we are currently experiencing. A serious thing in these temps. No, I did not stop and invite him into our warm car with my kids. All I did was send up a prayer for him, and hope someone up there is listening.

My mind went to thoughts on how he got there…maybe he made really bad choices in life and he’s downright mean, or he has a mental illness he has not had treatment for, or he has simply had a string of bad luck.

It really hit home how alone some people are…and how it takes both himself and the compassion of others to change this kind of situation. He can’t have a better life if he doesn’t want one, no matter how many homeless shelters may surround him. But, he also can’t have a better life if he doesn’t know the kindness of someone else helping him get through his struggles.

Being a parent in the special needs community, I see a similar type of situation. Its not life or death, as this poor homeless soul is experiencing. But I do see a lot of parents struggling. They do not want to seek the help and supports they need for a number of reasons. They may not want to acknowledge their child has a disability, or that by seeking supports their child will not be viewed as “normal” or they are very scared and overwhelmed. This is all completely understandable when a parent has been given such life changing news. In most of these cases, there are well meaning teachers and therapists doing their darnedest to find a way to reach out to these parents, but if the parents don’t want the help, they are choosing to stay out in the cold even though they are surrounded by welcoming shelters.

I don’t say that to be harsh on the parents. I get it, I was scared and overwhelmed when I was told my child had Down syndrome, because I didn’t know what that meant for him and his future. When you are told that your child has a disability, there is most definitely a process that has to been gone through once you receive this shocking news. There is grieving for the loss of the child you had certain hopes and dreams for, and each person goes through this in their own way and in their own time. And, eventually, and hopefully for the benefit of the parents and the child, we come to terms with this news, and we dream new dreams for our child and seek and accept the supports that are there for us.

This time of acceptance is exactly when the parents need to know the kindness and support of others. Just like the homeless man needs shelter when he is ready to seek it, the parents need supporters there at the ready to embrace them. Teachers and therapists need to be compassionate and patient with these parents, as these parents have spent hard time out in the cold and are ready to come in for some warmth. This is not the time for a lecture on how they have waited too long and missed valuable therapy time. It is the time for therapists and teachers to embrace and welcome these parents, and get started doing all they can and give as much encouragement as they can to reassure the parents they have made the right decision.

After some time in the shelter has passed, a trust will be formed, and the goal is for the parents to be comfortable with this process of therapy and supports for their child, so they can stand firm on their own two feet. At this point, everyone can work together in creating a progressive environment for this child. There may be some heated battles along the way, but at this point a relationship has been created and certain amount of trust has been formed, so everyone can move forward on more equal ground.

I don’t know the answer to helping all of those struggling out there. Some people simply do not want help and some do not know how to ask for it. Tough love may be exactly what some people need to seek help for themselves. But, in all these cases, we need to let people know we are there for them when they are ready…you just may be the shelter they need when the night gets dangerously cold.

All the best,
Christie

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We are in this thing together

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Being the best YOU, that you can be is the most selfless thing we can do for our loved ones. If you feel strong and good about yourself, you are able to share that with others. We have so much more power in us than we realize. Ironically, to discover and unleash that power, we must make ourselves vulnerable.

Vulnerability is a very scary thing. We have built up walls around certain emotions because we have gotten hurt in some way or another. Those walls are necessary to our learning process, but until we remove those walls, our power will stay hidden behind them, dormant and undiscovered.

Of course, we have to be wise when we decide to become vulnerable. If not, we will only be hurt yet again and be ever more convinced that those walls are a necessity. To become vulnerable, we need a trusted friend, trusted family member or a professional therapist.

The greatest gift you can give yourself and a trusted friend is your vulnerability. I’m not talking about sucking them dry and relying on them to build you back up after you’ve shed your wall. The re-building is solely your job. I’m talking about revealing your true emotions to your trusted friend, tearing that wall down, and leaning on them while you do the important work of uncovering that hidden power inside of you. And your friend, then, has the trust in you, to lean on you when they need it. That yin and yang in a relationship is so very essential and valuable in creating fulfilling lives for ourselves.

Many of us reach certain points where we think we are “strong” and can forge forward without the help of anyone. Yes, there are certain paths we need to travel on our own, but there will come a point where the loneliness is debilitating. There simply are certain points in life where we need some help to get through. The help of a friend gives us the endurance and encouragement to move so much further ahead than we could ever imagine doing on our own. But don’t make them carry you on their back, this is your journey. They are there to hold your hand, encourage you, and give you a push when needed. It is your job to do the work of putting one foot in front of the other.

I have thought I was “strong” and did not want to ask for help. But, it got the better of me. I realized that being “strong” meant asking for help, because that would make me better for both myself and for everyone around me. Making myself vulnerable, though scary at first, brought back rewards greater than I had imagined. It has brought out a brighter light in me than I have ever dreamed possible. We all have people that make us feel better simply standing next to them. That is the light I am talking about. We want to bask in it, and it gives us power to shed more light in our own lives. I am thankful to my dear friends for letting me bask in their light while I worked on brightening my own. And now all I want to do is share that light, and give back all that I have received. We gain power with the help of others, but we need to do the work of strengthening the light within ourselves. Don’t worry, there is plenty to go around, so bask in it and share your powerful light freely so others gain the energy and trust to shine as brightly as they can.

All the best,
Christie

Your very own Lorax

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We all have our own inner Lorax, and its in our best interest if we shut up and listen to him.

Instinct is a powerful guide, but as contradictory as it sounds, instinct requires discipline. We have so many distractions in our every day lives, that what we consider instinct, may simply be impulse. I view instinct as a knowing you feel deep down, and no one can sway you from it. It gives you a confidence, that this is the direction to go. Impulse is something that feels good in the moment, but if you give it some time, your decision is likely to change depending on your mood.

Some people are great at following their instinct…they can access that part of themselves whenever and wherever, and they have a strong, quiet confidence in the direction they are going. Things could go smoother than expected, or there may be some bumps and bruises along the way, but there is an underlying confidence that they are moving forward in the right direction, no matter what is happening around them.

Sometimes our instinct tells us things we don’t want to hear. It is telling us to move forward in a direction that we do not want to go. We busy our lives to distract us from its call…maybe by working too much, eating too much, drinking too much, sleeping too much. But it will keep beckoning us, even though we may achieve quieting it down for periods of time. It has our best interest at heart, and it will keep finding ways of getting our attention though we make our best efforts to thwart it.

I am a believer in “quiet time.” Quiet time to you may be prayer, mediation or even 10 minutes to yourself a day. This is an enormous gift to yourself. It gives you time to get to know your instinct, that guide inside you that will never steer you wrong. It will speak for you if you listen. I’m reminded of the Lorax quote: “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.”

Your instinct is your advocate, your Lorax. It loves you and wants the best for you, and its a tenacious little bugger. So, be kind to it and nurture it by giving it the daily gift of quiet time. Calm yourself and listen for it. Over time, you and your Lorax will be old pals, and you will easily distinguish his voice from impulse. The Lorax is a wise, old soul, and though he may be annoying at times, or lead you through some scary, bumpy places, he never loses sight of the bright horizon ahead.

All the best,
Christie

Fear is not safe

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Don’t you just love quotes? They are short and sweet but speak volumes. One short line has the power to inspire, give us a good laugh or comfort us. Some quotes seem to pop out of the page and speak directly to you, because you have lived or are living that quote; you could have been the author.

“It is never safe to look into the future with eyes of fear” written by Edward Henry Harriman. When I read this quote, I wanted put my arm around Mr. Harriman’s shoulder, thank him for sharing this wise use of words, and offer to buy him a beer so we can have a nice, long chat. Anyone who has written these words has conquered some stuff, and I would love nothing more than to hear all about it.

I’ve heard that we are motivated by only two things…love and fear. After I heard that, I started to really pay attention to things that motivated me. Yep, its true. And, as Mr. Harriman states, being motivated by fear does not keep us safe. Fear is tricky, it tells us to stay right where we are. If we peek out of our safe place, something might get us and its not going to be good. But, if we stay right where we are, is it really that great? Isn’t life about conquering our fears and experiencing the true joy that brings us? Achieving what we never thought we could brings us a natural high that lasts longer than any drug on the market. It fills us with a sense of pride and purpose, and gives us new confidence to look at the future from a better place.

Almost immediately after my son, Wil, was born, we were told he had Down syndrome. Imagine that huge smack of fear. We’ve just experienced a miracle of life, a beautiful new baby. Then, BAM! oh, by the way your perfect little miracle of life is not so perfect. Fear told me to stay right there, the world is a big scary place full of unknowns, its not safe.

Now I know Wil is perfect, even if he has some genetic differences than you and me. I had to overcome a lot of fear to think that way. The really cool thing is, now everything I do for Wil is motivated by love. I love that little guy so darn much, that all I want to do is educate people who don’t see him in the bright light that I do. He has changed my life in such a positive way because when that fear started telling me not to leave my safe space or I’ll get hurt, I kicked it out of the way. Now, I’m no hero. I was only able to do that because it hurt so much in my safe place and I loved my son too much to stay there. I had this beautiful boy, and I needed to get out there and seek supports for both him and myself.

It hurts me when he is made fun of, or when people so freely use the word “retard”, even typing that word hurts. But I don’t work from fear anymore. I understand now that my original fear was grounded in ignorance, and I would be a hypocrite if I shamed others for operating out of ignorance. Education and awareness are key to overcoming this ignorance, and if I have to whap you over the head with it to get you to understand, please know I’m doing it purely out of love 🙂

Speaking out is not an easy thing for me, and I realize its not an easy thing for a lot of people. I’m reserved and shy away from conflict. However, since I’ve become an advocate for Wil, I’ve learned that staying quiet on important issues is selfish, and it doesn’t do anyone any good. I’ve learned that if we speak out in a compassionate way, so very much can be accomplished. It is not without pain and struggle, I’m sorry to say. But, the older I’ve gotten, and the more experiences I’ve had, I’ve learned that when I speak out when I need to, and do it in a compassionate way, everyone wins. The outcome may not be what we were expecting and wanting, and the hurt may never completely disappear, but every single time the outcome is much better than letting fear get the better of you and doing nothing. Fear has physical ramifications. If you hold all those tough emotions inside, it turns into aches and pains, ulcers, depression. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do the hard work of facing that fear and moving into a better future than living with all of those debilitating ailments that keep us stationary.

So, please, if you are facing some big fears, get help from friends, a professional, or inspiring books. That fear is not safe and its not good for your health. Facing the fear still hurts and is hard, but if you can turn your motivation to love and compassion, I promise you will be in a much better future for it.

All the best,
Christie

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Beam me up, Scotty!

 

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Emerge…what a beautiful word. Makes one think of Spring. Buds forming, sprouts popping, leaves unfolding. It speaks of new form, new life, new beginnings.

Who doesn’t want to renew themselves at some point in time? Or even renew just certain parts of ourselves. Its hard work…we are wired a certain way, and we have to change a lot of our thinking sometimes to renew even the smallest parts of ourselves. The key is wanting it. Think of a time you really wanted something…you focus on it, and its all you can think about. You are somehow able to build this force-field around yourself and the naysayer’s comments just bounce right off. You are on a mission and no one can stop you. It is such a great feeling, and you will and do emerge. The best part is, because you did all that hard work yourself, there is no crawling back into the little bud. You have fully unfolded and are out there in the open full of pride.

Then, think of the times you wanted to do something, but oh, not really, wait, no I really do, oh, but its so much work, and oh, what difference does it make anyway? That once powerful force-field has turned into thin air and all the naysayer’s comments float right through and slap you around. They make you indecisive and sometimes even depressed. That little bud is never going to bloom in this kind of environment.

Emerging is an important word on an IEP, a goal setting plan designed to help children with special needs succeed. The teachers, therapists and parents are all involved in this plan. When “emerging” is used, it means your child has not yet achieved the goal, but they are on their way to it. Oh, what a beautiful thing that is! It can be frustrating, yes, as the goal is to achieve, but seeing progress in certain areas that seemed to stand still in time with no movement is almost enough to make you jump out of your chair and cheer.

We have all experienced something where we feel stuck in time…and sometimes the reason we are there is whatever happened is so difficult that it is best to stay right there for awhile because we are not ready to emerge and survive in the current environment. And, like the IEP where there is a circle of therapists, teachers and parents writing down goals and figuring out specific ways that will work for this child to emerge and ultimately achieve, we need a circle of people around us supporting us in our “stand-still” time, but also there nudging us along in the specific way we need so in time, we can emerge and ultimately achieve.

This circle is immensely helpful, especially in those difficult times. Our kids can thrive in the support of dedicated therapists, teachers and family. However, no matter what support and coaxing our child has, if they don’t want to emerge, they won’t. And that is true for us. We can have the most loving and supportive friends, and they can help bolster us and improve our state of mind, but we are the only ones that can decide if and when we want to emerge.

I keep this in mind every time my child has received an “emerge” or “achieved” on his IEP.  Each and every success needs to be celebrated and he needs to know how great that feels and what a success he is as a person. Some of those goals he has to reach require a lot of hard work, and I want him to remember how great that last achievement felt so he will push himself to reach the next goal. I’m his cheerleader, and can jump up and down in exhaustion for him, but he himself is the only one in charge of emerging.

In applying this to my own life, I am thankful for my support system in doing all they can, but I can hold no one accountable but myself when its time to move forward, build that strong force field and emerge to achieve. Beam Me Up, Scotty! I’m ready!

~Christie

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