Do You See The Yellow?

Check out my latest blog on my website: Wilingness.com

I’m not sure what grade I was in, but I do know I was quite young, when my classroom teacher placed a picture on each one of our desks. She casually asked the class to take a look at it, and then, after a few seconds, she asked us to flip the picture over so all we could see was the white back side.

“Without turning your picture back over, who can tell me anything in your picture that was yellow?”

I wracked my brain yet I couldn’t remember a single yellow detail. Not a one!

A few hands shot up, and I looked around dumbfounded. How could I have looked at that entire picture only moments ago, and not remember anything that was yellow? What else didn’t I see?

Though I didn’t consciously register it at the time, this was an “ah-ha” moment for me. I was beginning to realize that though I believed with every fiber of my being I had seen the entire picture, I was really only recognizing what I had chosen to focus on, whether consciously or not.

Some 40 years, a husband and 3 children later, I found myself rushing around the house on a Tuesday night. Katherine and I were to leave for taekwondo within the hour, dinner was cooking, Wil had a book to read to me, Katherine and Elizabeth were intermittently asking for help with their homework, and I was still yearning for a shower since teaching a 2pm bootcamp class. Once dinner and homework were successfully completed, I zipped across my carpeted bedroom floor, headed straight for the shower in the adjoining bathroom, the movie reel in my mind replaying the same hurried thoughts over and again. Then, just as I was quickly padding past my bed, the glint of something at the edge of the bedskirt caught my attention. My mind and body stopped fast in their tracks….http://wilingness.com/2015/11/09/do-you-see-the-yellow/

Sky's the limit! (my son, Wil, age 5)

How about adding a little WILingness to your Life?

Hi All!wilingness01

I’m pretty darn excited!! I have a real live website now with a real live logo and everything! And to use Wil’s words, I did it ALL BY MYSELF! The website is www.WILingness.com

I even created a fun, upbeat short 45 second video introducing my son, Wil! Head over to Wilingness.com and check it out! I just know it will leave you with a smile!

My writing over the years has found it’s way to a central theme, which is opening my eyes to the power of small miracles all around us, and I only discovered them when I had the WILingness to see them. (clever, huh?!)

Sooo, this website will have some blogs you’ve seen before, and lots of new upcoming ones, all with the central theme of “WILingness.”

Now that I have the video thing figured out, I’ll be doing some of my blogs via video podcast. It’s big girl time now! 🙂

I’m only just getting started, but do me a favor and stop by to check out the VIDEO, LIKE Wilingness on Facebook, and SHARE and/or comment away. And I have a page on this new website titled WHY WILINGNESS if you are still confused about the name 😉

Thanks for checking out www.WILingness.com!!! Your comments are requested and appreciated!!

All the best,

Christie

 

Alcoholism and Intuition

There is a lot of alcoholism in my family, and I have had a hard time making peace with my own drinking over the years. I have enjoyed a glass or two of wine every night. It relaxed me, and is something just for me in a life of being a caregiver to my family.

For some that is a lot, for others it is not enough, but the point is, is it ok for me? And, I decided it’s not. I have too many past feelings and emotions surrounding alcohol. I’ve discussed it with Matt, and because he has not dealt directly with alcoholism, he does not understand my fear of one or two glasses a night. He is supportive, but cannot relate. What can these few glasses hurt? I drink responsibly, so why can’t I allow myself this? That makes perfect sense, except for the nagging feeling within me that it’s not ok.

I’ve learned, over the years, and especially with raising a child with more needs, a lot about self-care. It is a must. I also have learned to shut out other people’s “Shoulds” for me, and listen closely to my intuition and follow my own direction.

So, I decided to stop this glass a night drinking. I will still enjoy a few cocktails with Matt on the weekends, but the habitual week days, no. So, on my last shopping trip, I did not buy any wine. I admit it was hard. I had grown to rely on that glass for my relaxation. But, I know, to quit a habit, and be successful in sustaining it, I must put something positive in its place.

I heated myself some decaf tea, stirred in a big, sweet spoonful of my neighbor’s homegrown honey, took a cozy fleece blanket outside and sat on the back porch. The cat hopped up on my lap, and her purr motor was very lulling. Soon, Wil found me outside, pulled his wagon out of the garage, full of toys, and he pulled it around the yard singing to himself.

Positive reinforcement for kicking a habit? Hell yes! This experience is exactly what sat right with me deep down.

No matter what anyone else says or does, living at peace with my inner self and beliefs is what fulfillment is really about. There are no if, ands, buts or shoulds about it.

So, I raise my favorite tea mug from my back porch to yours, and I pray we all find the strength to bring forth the joy within ourselves to live the lives we personally choose to live.

Shine on in your own way, every day. We are worth nothing less.

life_is_good_half_full

Why I’m Sticking With Gratitude

Yesterday, after teaching a morning bootcamp class, I zipped over to the grocery store. The plan was to make it a quick trip. I had a load of things I wanted to accomplish before my afternoon class.

Cool, I thought, the parking lot is near empty, I pulled into a front parking spot, and grabbed myself a big cart (I established a personal rule of no small carts, no matter how small the trip, after the very embarrassing small-cart-incident of unexpectedly hitting a dip in the parking lot, the abrupt stop of the cart almost sending me barreling headfirst, in plain full parking lot view, right over top). The big cart and I safely and efficiently cruised through the aisles, finishing in record speed at the check-out line, with only one woman in front of me, who was already swiping her credit card. Score!

When it was my turn, the woman behind the check-out counter smilingly asked her required questions: Had I had found everything ok, and how was I doing? We then made typical check-out counter small talk as she swiftly swiped my items; what a beautiful day it was, how warm and sunny, and so on. Friendly, yet impersonal. And, I probably would have left the store in about 3 more minutes, with a lift to my step from the ease and friendliness of the experience, but without much further thought as I moved on with the rest of my day. Instead, I turned my head to the new sound of voices entering the quiet of the store.

A small group of kids, all with varying special needs, and their educators, were walking in and grabbing carts. There was a lot of excited chatter amidst the distribution of carts, and once a cart was in hand, a child and their educator were happily off on their shopping adventure. I spotted the back of the blond head of one of Wil’s friends, Nick, as he expertly made his way down the aisle with his cart.

The check-out woman saw me looking their way, and said, “That is a special needs class from Saline schools.” To which I replied, “One of those boys is my son’s friend. They both have Down syndrome. I was hoping to catch his eye, but he went off shopping in the other direction.”

“Oh,” she said, “I was a para-educator for 20 years. My son also had special needs. He went to school at Highpoint (a school for kids with a higher level of needs).” “I know Highpoint,” I said, “I used to work at the WISD and my neighbor recently retired from there.”

“When I started teaching,” she told me, “they were just starting inclusion. I believe in inclusion, but it’s not right for all of our kids. My son needed to be at a place like Highpoint.”

“I understand,” I said. “I’m so thankful for the inclusion my son has right now. We have not had to fight for it, he naturally receives what you had to fight for those years ago. Yet, I also understand what you are saying about inclusion not being right for everyone. Though my son enjoys and benefits from inclusion, I found in certain subjects, like math, the most effective place for him to be is in the resource room. Each child is very different.”

She nodded. “My son was completely typical, then he almost drowned when he was 2 ½. After that, he had multiple special needs, too many to be at a regular school with inclusion.”

She paused, then looked me right in the eye, I could tell she was deciding if she should share something with me, then she did.

“You know, there are some things worse than dying. To have a typical child and then…”

My heart went to the pit of my stomach. I looked at her gently, and all I could do was nod. What words are there for something as heavy as that?

“My son did die, he was only 10 years old. I have 6 children, so, well, that helps.”

But, what can truly help? She did what she could to cope. She helped other parents who had kids with special needs as a para-educator. I have absolutely no doubt that many parents found comfort in her knowing nods and compassionate words when she was responsible for the care of their child each day. I also have no doubt that those kids under her care received her best. You don’t go through what she did, and do the work she did for 20 years if you don’t care deeply about the purpose of that work.

We talked a little more, but by then my items had been checked and bagged, and a man was waiting behind me in line. It was time to go. I told her it was really good talking with her, and we wished each other a good day. I know I will make a point to find her line again.

Back at my car, filling it with groceries, I thought of our conversation. It was heavy, yes, but also, I felt a huge sense of gratitude for that time with her. Gratitude that she chose to share her story with me so that I could connect with her and learn from her in my very own life experiences.

Good days are good. The front parking space, the cruising through the uncrowded aisles, the smile and friendliness of a check-out worker, and the sun burning away the clouds and warming the air. They lift us, they carry us to a certain point, and they even spread, but they don’t run very deep, because they don’t stick. We catch them and hold on to them when we can, and enjoy them, but they are unpredictable and fleeting. They come, and they go.

Stories shared and connections made as in the one at the grocery store have staying power. They stick. I am never left the same after conversations like that, and it’s a wonder, how many I have had just like that since Wil has been born. And, it’s in these very unlikely, common places where they happen.

Last Saturday, I was in the hallway at Katherine’s karate tournament. I happened to put on a necklace that morning that our Down Syndrome Support Team sells. They are beautiful, handmade necklaces, and nothing about them says “special needs” except for the fact that they are sold at our Buddy Walk each year, the proceeds going to our support group. In the crowd of people walking back and forth in that hallway at the tournament, a blond woman stopped, pointed at my necklace and said, “Buddy Walk! I have about 5 of those! I love them, and yours is especially beautiful!”

“Thank you,” I said, “do you have a Buddy you walk for?”

“Oh, lots of them. I’m a special education teacher in Saline.”

We shared a smile, and went on our own separate ways down the busy hallway.

A passing friendly comment on a piece of jewelry in a crowded public place, but it will last longer than the smile she gave me. That compliment drives deeper, because it carries with it a common purpose, a common cause, which we both innately understand in those few words we exchanged.

At a birthday party I went to at a lake, where Wil was happily splashing around, a woman walked up to me, and said, “Your son reminds me of mine when he was your son’s age. So blond, so sweet. I miss him at that age.” And, then we shared stories like old friends reconnected about our kids and our lives, except we had only met that very moment, and our only known connection was Down syndrome. I learned so much about the experiences Wil could look forward to in her stories, and she was able to look back and relive some of her son’s youth.

I can recount many such stories, in restaurants, walking down the street wearing my Buddy Walk shirt, and other such every day places. I believe that I am so easily approached with these experiences is not for any other reason than that I am open to them now, when I wasn’t before. I did not have the “WIL”lingness those years ago that I do now.

Last night, I went to bed overflowing with gratitude. Not because of a front parking spot or the ease of my day, but because I now have opened myself to the gift of looking underneath the surface shine. Diving down deeper, past the pretty and shimmery surface, down through the murky and the messy, the deeper of the emotions, and down, down, down, down, to uncover the treasure chest of connection. That is where the staying power to fulfillment is. That is what sticks.

cropped avatar

ON ROYALTY, GOLDEN PEOPLE & FENCES

This morning, I took Elizabeth to the orthodontist. It was a first consultation, so everything was very easy going and pleasant. Her orthodontist shares the name of Elizabeth’s twin sister, Katherine, and when I told her, she replied that we have royalty in our house. A queen and a princess. I laughed, and said, “Would you believe we also have a prince? Prince William.”

“We do, too!” She said. “He is my little prince. He was born prematurely.” We talked briefly about her William, and then eased back into orthodontic talk surrounding Elizabeth.

As we were leaving, I mentioned that my William would be coming to see her soon, as well. She asked what she would be seeing him for, and I mentioned a cross bite and the need for an expander, because his mouth plate was too small for all of his teeth. I told her he had Down syndrome, so these issues were quite typical, and she nodded knowingly and asked how he did at the dentist. I told her it was a big struggle at first, but the last two visits, now with Dr. LaRock, had gone quite smoothly. Great, she said, maybe I could bring him in on Elizabeth’s next visit to get him comfortable here. Then, she shared with me that her William also had learning issues, due to his prematurity, but he had a great teacher this year, the same one her other son had the previous year, so she was much relieved. I replied to that, “Yes, I understand. Every year, it’s like starting at zero. It’s a wonderful relief when you don’t have to.”

“Ah, yes!” She nodded in agreement, “It’s exactly that, isn’t it? With all of his academic issues, I just want him to be happy at school.”

There are so many pieces that go together to make that work, the parents, the siblings, the IEPs, the teachers, the assistants, the special ed director, the therapists, the peers, and the laws to be upheld if not being adhered to. I have found, in this journey with a child with special needs, the explaining can be freaking exhausting. When I happen upon a doctor, or a school administrator, that just gets it like she does, I know I have struck gold.

The royal woman who shares my daughter’s name will undoubtedly be Wil’s orthodontist.

Not too long ago, I was having a very trying morning with Wil. I left the house out of sorts, to teach a bootcamp class. I pumped myself up on the way, and taught the class in high spirits, but underneath that morning was still tugging on me. After class was completed, and we all dropped on the mat to stretch, I happened to sit down with two other mothers who have kids with special needs. We talked about typical everyday things, slow and easy, enjoying the reward of the down time after a tough class. I could no longer ignore the downward pull I was feeling, and as the class emptied out, and we still sat there, foam rolling our sore muscles, I shared that I was frustrated from my morning, and I was having a hard time shaking it. They immediately gave me a nod of understanding, just like the kind doctor earlier today. They got it. No explaining needed. They opened up, began sharing some of their stories, and though our children all had different disabilities and challenges, the underlying emotions were the same. We formed a bond, and I knew, these friends were golden.

A diagnosis immediately places you in a very vulnerable position. It can be very scary at first, it’s uncharted territory for you. But you meet people who understand, who get it, and they help you along the way when you need it. You learn, and you grow, and begin to understand how golden that innate understanding is. I have lived and I have learned. There are people who have dove in and criticized, how I “Should” be doing things this way, and “should do” that and judged every little move I made. But, the funny part is, not a single one of them has a child like Wil. They are the sideline critics, and I no longer have time for them. Their words are loud, but hold no meaning. There is a quote that says, be vulnerable, then put up a big fence.

Then, there are the golden people. When I started opening myself up, so many amazing coincidences have happened that invited them into my life, for which I am eternally thankful.

In this life, I have found that unity and a sense of community is everything. These friends are my gold, they are my shine. We serve to brighten one another. And, if you are one of those that enjoys throwing stones at things that shine, I hope you enjoy the view of our big fence.

ivy wil

Shadow Animals: If you know someone who has a child with Down syndrome, don’t tell them about the dark, show them the dancing shadow animals on the wall

Katherine’s taekwondo class was full yesterday. So full, in fact, that half of the class went outside (it was a beautiful day!) to work on their forms, while the other half stayed indoors.

Over the summer months, students breezed in and out of half-full classes, parents passing with a smile, seeing each other some weeks, and missing one another the next, our schedules dotted in trips up north, interspersed with summer camps and visits with extended family. We had our pick of the seats in the exercise room, with chairs to spare where we placed notepads, magazines and summer reads we had visions of catching up on here and there while we watched our kids practice.

When we arrived, yesterday, I could feel the change with schedules now reined in and the energy high with the new busyness. Parents continuously joked and chatted, catching up with one another. Every chair in the exercise room was filled, the magazines of summer left behind, except the hopeful few that came along, were now stashed under seats, remaining untouched. Those of us without seats overflowed into the waiting room, catching a glance at our child through the open doorway to the exercise room, or through the glass doors outside.

The students outside lined the sidewalk in front of the neighboring storefronts with bare feet firm on the ground, crisp white uniforms with dark belts knotted straight at their waists, arms moving with precision and fingers so aligned I feel them slicing the air. Though steady with focus, the joy of their practice was clear in brightness of their eyes.

Back in the waiting room, Elizabeth found an empty chair, cracked open her Warrior book, intent on finishing the last two chapters. Wil decided he was going to sit center stage on the floor, with his favorite flashlight. With no seats available and people milling around, I scooted him over towards me. He started pointing the little beam of his flashlight here and there, watching the small circle of light dance around. Soon, the light found its way to the feet of one of the moms standing across from us.

She noticed the spark of light, looked over at him and smiled. That must have been a cue to him, because he ran over to her, and gave her a big hug. She hugged him right back, asked him a few questions about school, as was the hot topic amongst all of us, then he aimed his flashlight toward the floor again, and zoomed it over to a dad standing across the room. Wil’s light inched its way up from the man’s ankles, onto his shirt, until it stopped on his chin. Wil ran over to give him a hug. Looking up at the man he said, “You are tall!”

“Yes,” the dad, Mike, said. “And my son will soon be taller than me! You have to convince him of that. He doesn’t believe me, yet.”

Wil laughed at this, then zoomed his light in another direction down the hall, and off he went. He played in the hall for a few moments, then he came back and grabbed the hand of the mom he had landed his light on earlier.

“Where are we going?” She asked.

“To play shadow animals!”

It was darker in the small hallway, and he flashed his light on the wall, and in front of it, he put one hand in a fist, extended two fingers, and bounced his hand up and down, its shadow following suit on the wall.

He started singing, “Little bunny foo foo hops through the forest.” We laughed, then he asked the mother to make a shadow animal. She joined her thumbs, splayed her hands, and fluttered them.
“A butterfly!” He said. He then showed her a cat, which she followed with a puppy. I joined in with an alligator, and when we exhausted all of the ones we knew, he asked us to make up some, like a turtle, which didn’t look like much more than a closed fist. We laughed at the awkward looking turtle, and then that morphed into a snake, full with sound effects.

The class in the exercise room soon broke up, and kids started to pour out, with their big sparring bags on their shoulders, their bulk filling the hallway as they made their way to the changing rooms. The little shadow party broke up, and we all went in our own directions. Kids filing in and out, parents leaving their seats while other parents replaced them, conversations halted until next time, and new ones just beginning. Busy-ness as usual.

I made my way into the exercise room, found one free seat, feeling light and playful from our little shadow party, and the man sitting next me, seeing my smile, turned toward me, put his hand out and said, “Hi, I’m Darrin. So, you are in with the black belt club and the later nights, now. Welcome! Which one is yours?” And, I pointed out Katherine, and the conversation easily flowed from there. He told me how his son, who is only in 5th grade but a skilled black belt, had only happened upon taekwondo. His family had been eating dinner next door to the taekwondo studio, and on their way out to the parking lot, had noticed all of the activity inside, so decided to take a moment to watch through the big, glass windows. His son spotted a friend inside from school, and said he wanted to try, too.

And, I thought, how exciting life is, when one small action in your day can lead to a new passion. In some ways, life is like that waiting room. All kinds of busyness and high energy some days, where everything clicked with precision, and other days that were slower and easier, while others felt scattered, and within all of those varying days lay tiny gifts, waiting to be uncovered like shadow animals on the wall.

When Wil was born, I was told, this will be hard. Not flat out, but in more subtle ways. Only hours after his birth, our room was quiet and full of tears. They said, I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry, because you have a hard road ahead of you. I received folders upon folders of information about geneticists, counselors, support groups, and other resources to handle all of the hard. I felt scattered, with the mix of high emotions of birthing a beautiful child, yet everyone and everything around me was somber and full of concern.

As I went on, and met these geneticists, joined the support groups, began Wil’s therapies, and went through all of the challenges first-hand that the folders described and tried to prepare me for, I started noticing little things that those typed words didn’t relay. They didn’t tell me, that because this is hard, you will find within it, all of these little gifts. But, they couldn’t tell me that, because I was the one who had to uncover the gifts. Their discovery is what holds their magic.

Those folders of information and sympathizing looks all mean well, so I won’t beat them up. But, what I do wish is someone would have hugged me and said, Congratulations! Such a beautiful boy!! Oh, your life is going to be so much grander now, so much more powerful! You are one lucky lady to be blessed with this boy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be hard, and full of new challenges, and the learning curve you have ahead of you is high. Then, I would lean in close, put a hand on her shoulder, and look her gently in the eye and say, the hard is the best part about it, though it may not seem like it at first. When you are going through the hard, start looking. You will begin to find all of these little gifts. So little in fact, you will find they were there all along, you just didn’t see the value of them, so never uncovered them. Oh, but you will see them now, and once you do, you will uncover more and more. And, in that, in all of that hard, you will uncover so much joy and fulfillment. There will be critics and those who don’t understand, so make a point of finding those who do. Those who walk a similar walk to you. Who understand your day-to-day. Embrace them, cherish them, they are your tribe. They understand without having to explain. That alone is worth the gold that it is. Welcome, my friend, get ready for a bumpy but beautiful ride!

Though these gifts all look different for each of us, they are always there when we are looking. They are subtle as that little tiny light in a busy room, resting not full on in your eyes to grab your attention, but quietly at your chin. If you take note of the light, you will be taken gently by the hand, and led, just for a short time, to a magical place where there are no rules, and upon leaving, back to your busy life, though nothing has seemingly changed, you have, and that is the gift’s power.

Life is hard, but it’s also very giving. I am so very thankful, to have learned the value of uncovering it’s many secret gifts.

Wil 8th bday

Why I Loved It When a Girl Yelled at My Son With Down Syndrome

The story I wrote about Wil and Lila was just published in The Mighty!!! This story touches my heart and holds a message I’m thrilled will be shared. Please feel free to share this story with friends. Thank you!

http://themighty.com/2015/09/why-i-loved-it-when-a-girl-yelled-at-my-son-with-down-syndrome/

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: