Color the World

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(My daughter, Katherine, with the World in her hand)

This picture makes me smile for so many reasons. Katherine’s personality shines through as vibrantly as her outfit!

When Katherine came out of her room after getting dressed, my first thought was, “Wow! There are some colors! Wonder how I’m going to tell her this is not the best choice for our play date.”

Before I could open my mouth, her beaming smile over the creation of this multi-colored masterpiece grabbed my heart. My judgement over this outfit immediately evaporated. Katherine was being authentically Katherine, and was darn proud of it! I became just as proud of her, and her outfit, as she was.

Instead of the outfit being nonsensical, I realized it was my judgement that was nonsensical.

How wonderful to live that authentically everyday. Bravely putting our unique colors out there for everyone to see, without concern for what others will say.  By simply being proud of who we are, we shine all the brighter because we stand out from the “norm.”

This world is a vastly colorful place, and we should shine as brightly as we can in our own way. Not every color is going to be pleasing to everyone, but I’d rather look at the world through a kaleidoscope than through the grey lens of judgement and conformity.

Live boldly and brightly,

Christie

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We are Superwomen already…no x-ray vision needed.

King Salmon

This post has a different angle than my other blog posts, so bear with me, this is my outlet so I’m using it.

Today I posted an ecard on Facebook saying, “Ladies don’t need superpowers. We have yoga pants.”  Haha, very cute, right?

I adore my yoga pants! I find them both comfy and flattering to a women’s physique. They give our rear a lift, smooth out our thighs, are great to exercise or lounge in, and do not need ironing. What’s not to love?

I believe women can be attractive and respected at the same time.  However, manufactures of certain women’s clothing either don’t believe that, or could care less.

To prove that, in response to this ecard post on Facebook, a friend replied with a link to an article stating women returned yoga pants saying they were too skimpy and see-through.

Its not easy for a woman to find something both flattering to her figure and comfortable. And, just when we thought we found that in yoga pants, Hey! Guess what!! Your rear assets are showing and you didn’t even know it!

So, now, instead of just picking out a pair of yoga pants we like, we now have to bend over in the mirror, to make sure we aren’t showing off what we thought we  were simply giving a nice lift. Hmmm, not sure about you, but I find that degrading.

Now, husbands and significant others may love these see-through yoga pants for obvious reasons. Great, I have a solution for that. Rear-asset-covered yoga pants go in the exercise apparel department, rear-asset-revealed yoga pants go in the lingerie department. Problem solved! Buyers know what they are getting, companies get their revenue for marketing a product for what it truly is. Win/win

So, ladies, enjoy your superpowers, use them for good, and beware of villains who try to strip you of your respect behind your back, literally.

Christie

Reaching Higher Elevations

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“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.”  ~Thoreau

I love this quote as it does not allow our day to fall prey to blame, force or pity. It puts the onus on us to look within, find our strengths, shift our perspectives where needed, to make the most of each day.

How very challenging, but what could be more empowering and rewarding?

All of us have experienced times when we are gliding along on a fairly flat terrain then

BAM!

A gigantic mountain blasts up out of the ground right in front of us.

We feel so small and powerless, looking up at this huge thing glaring down on us. What is happening? Just moments ago we were simply sauntering along, minding our own business.

We might get angry. Hey, who do you think you are? I don’t deserve this! You can’t do this to me!

Ever try to move a mountain? Or kick a mountain? All you end up doing is hurting you. Unless there is another cataclysmic event, that mountain isn’t going anywhere, so we may as well get climbing.

We may climb the same mountain, but have a very different experience and outcome depending on our perspective. We can choose to climb the mountain stuck in blame or anger, seeing only the barrenness, or choose to alter our perspective as we go.

Even through the steepest and most barren of places, there is always beauty to be found on the mountain if we look for it.

The air is clean, crisp and energizing, if we lift up our heads to breath it in, flowers impossibly flourishing through the smallest of crevices, fresh springs of water trickling through narrow passageways.

Recently, we had Wil’s goal setting meeting at school, called an IEP. His teachers, therapists and I all sat down to write out Wil’s goals for his next school year.

Well, he didn’t achieve many of the goals we had set the previous year. He has personally improved so much over this past year, and I have such high hopes for him, that this reality hit me hard.

But, then, after I let that sink in, I started to focus on all the achievements he did make. He’s beginning to read, knows all his sight words, is starting to count by 10s, and so much more!

Hey, I just spotted a flower peaking through the barrenness!

Funny how when you see one flower, you start seeing more.

Sitting around me at this IEP meeting, I saw the great dedication Wil’s team has to his success. He also has classmates that adore and encourage him. I’m also very involved in a Ds support group that I can turn to for advice and encouragement.

Hey, look, there’s another flower, and another! Wow, isn’t this air so clean and refreshing?

Yes, there is the barrenness I could focus on, like the unmet goals and create a lot of blame on myself on others. But, what quality am I producing there? To affect the quality is to focus on what we can do to move forward in the best way for Wil to achieve his goals.

I didn’t ask for this mountain, but its there. I can begrudge this mountain, and the continuous changes it will bring to my life. But, instead, I have found so much beauty on this mountain, and the air so invigorating, that I have become very thankful for it.

By changing our perspective, we have the power to affect the quality of our day. This is a great challenge but its also a great gift. Accept it and make the very best of what you have been given.

Namaste,

Christie

Ask “Why Me?” or Shout “I Am Me!”

Me and Wil

Thank you so much for all of your comments, likes and shares yesterday in support of Wil and World Down Syndrome Day!!
We are all born with what we are born with. Some of us are born with more challenges than others through no choice of our own. Its our perception of these challenges that makes our life a drudgery of “why me” or a deeply, fulfilling one.
Have you read Tuesdays with Morrie or have you seen those young children on the news that are born with a terminal illness, yet are full of smiles and gratitude for the time they have?
Yes, their life is very hard, its not fair, and it causes strain on the family. But there is also great celebration for the gifts they have and are able to share.
So, though Wil was born with a label, I will do everything in my power not to allow that label to define who he is. He is a beautiful boy first and foremost with many gifts to share.
Having Ds does make certain tasks in life more difficult, but he is a gift, as all children are,  and its important that he knows he is a gift with every fiber of his being. Having more challenges is hard, I won’t sugar-coat it. However, he can choose to allow those challenges to shape him into an angry “why me” person or a stronger and more compassionate person.
By loving him, educating him, myself and others, I have full confidence he will continue to be the latter as he grows into adulthood.
That is the goal of days like World Down Syndrome Day. To educate people on the capabilities of those with Ds, so the labels can be removed, and they will be supported in their growth and achievements.  This knowledge helps us all to be more compassionate, and therefore, stronger people.
All the best,
Christie

A lovely and easy way to explain Down syndrome to your children…

 World Down Syndrome Day 2
A dear friend and incredible mom shared this “Four Leaf Clover” story with me…if you are struggling to explain Ds to your kids, this is a beautiful way. I’m also sharing in honor of World Down Syndrome Day 3/21:
“Who knows why Down syndrome occurs? Why does the extra 21st chromosome stick to the cell when the fertilized egg begins its first cell division? It can be compared to what happens in na…ture to a field of clover. Usually, we see 3 leaves on each clover. Once in a while, however, we find a clover that has an extra leaf –- making it a four-leaf clover. We don’t know why Mother Nature decided to add that extra leaf; she just did. There is no obvious explanation -– all of the clover plants grew in the same soil, were exposed to the same sun and rain, etc. Mother Nature just decided to add an extra leaf to one of the clover in the clover patch. This doesn’t make it better or not as good as the other clover — it just makes it different. Some people even believe it brings a person good luck when they find a four-leaf clover. It is much the same way with the extra chromosome. We don’t know why Mother Nature didn’t let the cell divide evenly, but she didn’t. She decided to add another chromosome to that baby’s cells. It doesn’t make the baby better or not as good as the other babies — it just makes him or her different. And if you find one of those babies, you are truly lucky for they are very special babies — who grow into very special people. –Author Unknown

What a Little, Wise Guy!

Wil&Taylor July25,2012

(Photo: The little, wise guy having fun with his friend, Taylor)

Wil may be 6, and have a cuteness factor off the charts, but he teaches me things like that proverbial, wise old man, who sits alone high up a mountain, face creased with wrinkles, and a beautiful, white beard trailing down his chest.

Recently, I noticed at certain times, Wil’s eyes were too dilated for the brightness of the room.  He has hypothyroidism, and takes medication, so I thought it might be a side effect. Fortunately, we had his routine ophthalmologist and endocrinologist appointment coming up, so I could check with both of them on why this was happening.

I received the same answer from both: When we are full of excitement or happiness, our eyes dilate.

I thought about when I took notice of this dilation, and it was when our whole family was together in the kitchen and there was lots of noise and commotion. So, in times I might view as chaotic, he viewed as fun and exciting.

Here I am making dinner, all 3 kids and our 86lb dog in the kitchen with me, dog’s tail wagging like mad, knocking the kids’ photos off of the refrigerator, lots of voices and movement, and as we are typically on a time schedule to go somewhere, I am making an effort to move quickly amongst everyone in a small space.

This is when Wil morphs into that wise, old man and he tells me by his actions to stop the busy, hectic chatter in my head, and observe the beauty of the moment.

All of a sudden, I see what he sees. His wonderful sisters, so beautiful and energetic, sharing their stories of their school day. Our loving, devoted dog, happy to have the kids home from school. I’m cooking something yummy on the stove and we are all together in one place. Wil couldn’t be happier to be part of this moment.

I realized that Wil and I are experiencing the same exact moment, but I am choosing stress and he is choosing happiness.  I decided to stop that busy chatter in my head, and simply absorb the beauty of what was happening around me. You may think I’m crazy, but a complete transformation took place.

Instead of viewing all the sounds and movement surrounding me in my haste as a stress inducer, I viewed them as an energy inducer. I absorbed the kids’ happy excitement and livelihood, and focused on the beauty of us sharing this time together.

Simply slowing down for just a moment, and allowing myself to fully appreciate the gifts right in front of me, gave me more energy and patience to do what I needed to do in a short amount of time, leaving me feeling fulfilled. Ironically, trying to hurry amidst chaos, and focusing only on my task, had me feeling stressed and drained of energy. That wise, little guy is definitely on to something!

This is but one example. Wil is an expert at living in the moment, and reminds me over and over to do the same. He doesn’t preach and tell me I’m doing it all wrong. He just goes about his day, doing his thing, his lessons available to anyone who is willing to observe and learn.

How blessed I am to live with this wise, little guy! I have no high mountains to climb to learn of his lessons. My only task is to be mindful, so I’m able to recognize what he is teaching.

All the best,

Christie

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The Rollercoaster Ride

ice cream

When I talk about Wil, I typically have a smile on my face. That little guy brings so much joy into my life and many others’ lives.

I have no problem expressing this joy, so many people may not realize the extra time and energy that is involved in raising Wil, who is 6 years old, and has Down syndrome. This is true for most parents of kids with special needs…its simply a fact of our lives.

Wil wears orthodics, so putting on his shoes takes extra time when we want to go somewhere.  If I ask him to do something, and he doesn’t understand what I’m asking him, I will do it with him via hand-over-hand.

There is also consideration of where we are going. Wil has a difficult time with loud, sudden noises. So, if the dog barks or there is some other type of loud, unexpected noise, he will cry and of course, I will stop what I’m doing to soothe him.

We were at basketball game, and he had a really hard time with all the loud cheering. So I carried all 50lbs of him up to the top of the stands where the noise wasn’t so loud,  so he could still enjoy the game. We no longer attend parades because the sirens and horns upset him so much.

Those are the day-to-day things. There is also working on his fine motor, large motor, speech and reading skills.

I’m so used to this routine, and raising Wil is so rewarding, I often don’t realize how much energy it takes.

Then, I’ll go to a birthday party with Wil’s twin sisters, Katherine and Elizabeth, while Wil stays home with his dad.  How easy it is! I have time to answer the girls’ questions right when they ask them. I actually have time to sit down, relax and talk to other parents.

These reminders are so good for me. I realize how much more I appreciate the things that come easy in life, and appreciate the great rewards when things are hard earned. That is a beautiful life lesson my kids have taught me.

The purpose of this post is two-fold:

1. To give those of you who don’t have kids with special needs an understanding that not much comes easy for our kids. A lot of effort goes into every forward moving step our kids make, and the best gift you can give to us parents is to rejoice in their successes with us. (And when you celebrate with someone else, it always leaves you feeling better yourself 🙂 )

2. For parents of kids with special needs to read this and feel a kind of comfort that you are not alone on this rollercoaster ride. I know how hard it can be chugging slowly up that hill when it seems our kids will just never get it. But, we also share that joyful rush when they do!

Thanks for reading! All my best to you!

Christie

What’s in it for me?

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(Photo: Wil at his first Buddy Walk and the wonderful University of Michigan gymnastics team volunteers)

I was recently on the receiving end of a jealous rant. I was blamed for many of this person’s troubles and problems. It left me feeling sad and exhausted.

The sad part is, this blame game and “what’s in it for me” thinking leaves us empty and forever craving more. Even if we do get what we want, it then turns into the thinking of “what have you done for me lately?” It is an unfulfilling, vicious cycle.

The paradox is, if we put our focus on helping others, without the focus on our due reward, that is when we are rewarded. And when we do the best we can to improve our own lives, without comparing ourselves to others, blame becomes a non-issue and we find satisfaction in our own accomplishments.

So, what I’m trying to say is, if you fall into this trap of blame and “what’s in it for me,” know that it is a black hole that leaves you craving more with no end in sight.

Reach out to someone else without concern of what’s in it for you. Enjoy helping others simply for the sake of helping. Only then, will you truly receive the benefits of what’s in it for you, and find a certain peace in your heart.

Namaste,

Christie

Victory is found in the ride, not at the finish line

Image “If it wasn’t for the bad stuff, it wouldn’t make winning so great” ~Motocross quote

My husband used to race Motocross, so I’ve watched a few races. The track has varying elevations, curves, ruts, high points to fly across, and every rider is out there trying to anticipate each change of terrain with a multitude of other riders.

On a grander scale, life is no different. There are high points, low points, curves, deep ruts, parts where we soar. Though we have control of our own bike, there are always other riders that affect our course.

All of the changes and unpredictability can be challenging, but if the track was flat, and beautifully groomed, our ride would be smooth, and we’d would enjoy it for some time, but would soon grow bored and have very little satisfaction with our experience.

Satisfaction is gained in making it through all those crazy twists and turns. The first few laps around this rough terrain can be very difficult. Though we may have the ability to see a certain distance ahead of us, and anticipate our ride, we really don’t know what its going to be like until we have experienced it. There are always ruts and contours that come up on us fast that we weren’t prepared for.

This is where we learn that not everything can be planned. Some planning is essential, but we must also be prepared to expect the unexpected. We realize that though things may look a certain way, the experience can be entirely different.

A few more times around, and we gain a certain amount of confidence. We’ve made it through some tough, unanticipated contours, and may have had a few spills, but we are now stronger and smarter riders.

Being stronger and smarter, when we hit those high points that allow us to soar, we enjoy that experience all the more, and know when we hit the ground again, we will be able to maneuver more than we did before.

We also know, no matter how many times we go around the track, it is never the same. The track is constantly changing. The more we ride, and the other riders go around, the contours are altered. The cuts in the terrain are different and some ruts are deeper.

Some of us, despite our skilled riding, will hit a deep, muddy rut. Our tires will lose their spin, and all we can do is fall. Some us fall hard. This fall may require us to lay on the side of the track and rest our sore muscles for a long time. It is hugely defeating to lay there on the side and watch all the other rides fly by.

But, to get back up, we need to be sure our bodies are ready so we don’t easily fall back down again out of exhaustion. As hard as it may be, sometimes this rest is what we need so we can get back on the track strong enough to handle the ever changing terrain.

The key here is to listen to our bodies, and recognize when its time to get back on the track. Laying there for some time may be essential, but we also need to be sure that we don’t get too comfortable in this place watching the other riders pass us by. Our muscles will start to atrophy, and the longer we lay there, the harder it will be to reacclimate our muscles.

When we do get back on that track, and get past the muscle burn from being dormant, the race is all the more exhilarating. Feeling the change of terrain under our wheels again gives us a high no drug could manufacture.

Victory isn’t won on the smooth, flat path. Its making it through the rough, unexpected terrain that makes victory taste so sweet.

~Christie

Re-focus Your Internal Lens

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Isn’t this photo beautiful!

The purpose of this photo is get us to shift our perspective about her. To put a different lens on our internal camera, and view her first as a woman who enjoys photography, rather than seeing her, first, as a stereotype.

All of us have this amazing ability to shift our perspectives in almost every area of our lives. That is one empowering, yet overwhelming statement.

When I have too much on my plate, or someone is annoying me, changing my perspective is very difficult. Its much easier to complain about the person, or how many things are overtaking my life, instead of making the effort to shift my perspective and make needed changes.

The problem with complaining is, it puts our internal lens on the things that are troubling us rather than solutions.

My internal lens focused nice and clearly on the  negative yesterday afternoon.  I just received some news that I will now have to make big decisions on, and suddenly felt very overwhelmed with all the mundane day-to-day tasks still to be crossed off my list. Complaints began to form, and flow from my mouth, and they were certainly justified. However, justified or not, complaining was not going to help me with my situation.

Once I recognized what I was doing, I had to literally stop my brain from giving the negative so much attention, focus on changing my situation, and shift my perspective on the things I did not have control over.

Changing our perspective on things takes a very conscious effort. Complaining is easy, but it does nothing to change our situation. It actually can make it worse, because we are giving power to the negative aspects of our day. That only drains us of our energy, and leaves us feeling exhausted and sometimes even depressed.

It’s easy to fall victim to complaining, especially when talking to a trusted friend. We feel relaxed with them, and frustrations easily flow from our mouths.

The benefits of complaining to a friend, are if we just need a good vent, and that will help clear our heads and allow us to shift our perspectives. Or, if we feel “stuck” and are seeking our friend’s advice for solutions we aren’t able to see ourselves in our overwhelmed state. Or, if we know the changes we need to make, but are fearful, and need the encouragement of a friend to push us in the right direction.

However, if we complain to our friends for the sake of complaining, without the intention of changing our perspective and seeking solutions, all we see and create are more problems, that give us more to complain about. Finally, if our friend is a good one, they will see this pattern, and tell us to shut up and do something about it, already!

So, next time you find yourself complaining, stop for a minute and listen to yourself. What are these things you are complaining about, and how can you change them? If you can’t change certain things, view them in a different light and look for the positives. Though what you are going through may be difficult, maybe it has also made you grow as a person, has opened you to new experiences, has introduced you to new friends, etc.

Changing our perspective is not easy, but it is essential in bringing satisfaction and developing growth in our lives. Whatever you focus your internal lens on gives it energy and nurtures it. I urge you to step back and take a moment to view what you are nurturing in your life. Is it positive or negative? If it is negative, what can you do to change your situation and how can you view it from a different, more positive and productive lens?

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