A Small Kindness

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Wil had swimming at Goldfish Swim School last night, and I was leaning against the wall in the shower area, as he played and rinsed off after his lesson. A mom walked in with her daughter, and stood near me waiting for an open shower.

I didn’t really give them too much notice, when all of a sudden, the girl reaches over and gives the top of my arm a big, tight squeeze in her fist. I looked over in surprise, and the mom looked at me apologetically.

It was then that I noticed her daughter had a hard time being still, she was moving and reaching and looking around constantly as her mom was trying to keep her in one place waiting for a shower.

A shower opened up, and I watched the mom try to shampoo her daughter’s hair. She had to have one hand holding on to her suit the whole time, or I could see that her daughter would take off. At one point, a little boy was within this little girl’s each, and in a split second, she reached out and gave him a smack right on the nose. The little boy stepped back, shocked, and went back to his shower, hands over his nose, tears in his eyes. The mom gave the boy one of those tired looking smiles in apology.

When her daughter was sufficiently shampooed and rinsed, the mom wrapped a towel around her daughter, so she could not move, bunched it up in the front, and led her out by grasping the front of the towel. I gave the mom a smile as she passed me, and she flashed that tired looking smile back.

I really hope my smile gave her a little boost, a little feeling of understanding, a connection, one mom to another. I have no way of knowing, but I do know that tired smile she wore, I know how it feels, deep in the pit of my stomach.

And, I do know what it feels like to have another parent show just the smallest kindness.

I was wearing that tired smile at the grocery store a few years ago. It was at the time when Wil would just take off at a moment’s notice, and I’d have the twins and a cart with me, and I’d have to say, “stay here!” and run after him. I’ve chased him through the “Employees only” doors past people in hairnets, where upon seeing me, Wil would plop unmoving on the floor, me pulling his limp, spaghetti noodle body weight, and someone invariably saying, “Don’t throw out your back!” when my biggest concern was getting him off the floor so I could quickly get back to my unattended twins.

Standing in line was the easiest part of shopping. I’d have him quarantined between the shelves of the checkout counter, filled with magazines, trinkets and other such distractions. There was a woman on this one particular shopping trip, and she must have been watching us, but I was too consumed with my 3 kids to notice. As I pushed my cart past the checkout counter, Wil standing with his feet on the base, his back leaning against my chest, both of our hands on the bar of the cart, the twins jumping ahead with their slushies, she came up along side me and said, “Good job, mom! I was you not too many years ago.” “Thank you” I said, flashing her that same tired smile the woman at Goldfish gave me. But, under that smile was an immense amount of gratitude. Just the smallest of kindnesses can sometimes mean the most. J

ust Thursday, I went to a market after Katherine’s Tae Kwon Do class. Shopping with the kids is easy now. Nothing like it used to be. The girls are 9 and very self-sufficient, and Wil is much less likely run off (though he still has an affinity for the Employee Only doors!) As I was unloading groceries into the car with my kids, a man who was walking into the store said, “Would you like me to bring that cart back in the store for you?” Such a very simple and kind gesture, but it left me smiling and uplifted.

On this Valentine’s Day, we go out of our way to show our love for another, everything wrapped in big ribbons and bows, and that is a wonderful thing. We should celebrate our love for one another. But, let us not forget, that simple, every day kindnesses can hold more significance than we realize.

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The Joy Between the Lines

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As much as I try to plan, sometimes, life grabs me by the collar, and says, Hey, sit tight! This needs to be one of those day-by-day things.

Oh, no, not one of those! I like to fly with a plan. This day-by-day thing takes time and patience. I’m not so good with that.

But, Life is always right. So, I do my best to listen. But, I’ve had to learn the hard way.

I remember, when Wil was just a baby, my friend told me about someone who had an older child with Down syndrome. My friend thought it would be helpful if I talked to her.

So, I gave this woman a call, and we had a great chat. We talked all about the joys of our children, the doctor visits, what toys and therapies were best, and so on.

She was very friendly, kind, encouraging…and forthcoming. Or so I thought.

A found out later, she intentionally left out some of the challenges I will encounter as Wil gets older.

Why would she do that? I was hurt, and I was a little scared. What was ahead of me? What did she think I couldn’t handle?

It was Life telling me to be in the Present, and not to get too far ahead of myself.

But, of course, I didn’t listen. I needed a plan!

Wil was so little, and there was so much I didn’t know yet. I wanted to be ahead of the game. I wanted to be prepared.

So, among other books, I checked out one from the library written by two young men with Down syndrome. They spoke candidly of their life, and I simply wasn’t ready for all that I read. All I could see were the challenges.

I returned the book, unfinished and tear-soaked. It was just too much too soon.

I read many other books, such as “Babies with Down Syndrome” and “Common Threads,” which is a book that contains stories from people who have had close experiences with individuals with Down syndrome. They are all very positive and uplifting stories. That was what I needed when Wil was a baby. I needed lots of reassurance and positivity.

I’ve learned, with lots of reminders, that much of this journey is one to be taken day-by-day. All challenges are not heaped on us at once. When a new challenge presents itself, we handle it. And in so doing, we learn and we grow. In this growth, we begin to see that there is joy that is hidden between the lines.

It’s the kind of joy that is discovered in hearing your child pronounce a single consonant they have struggled with for months, or having the oral strength to blow a bubble, or to keep their feet to the pedals to move a bike, or grasp a pencil in just the right way, or seeing your child’s friends clear the way on the basketball court so your child can shoot a basket.

So, Life, in its Wisdom, pulls us back from our big plans every once in a while, and snaps us into the present. That is what that kind woman I chatted with was trying to do. She wanted me to enjoy what I had in the Now, so I would gain the strong foundation I needed to go forward.

Oh, and as for that book, I still cry when I read it, but this time around they are happy tears.

I still see all of the challenges, but now I am able to read the joy between the lines.


How To Have a Stress Free IEP (& Low Stress Life!)

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How to have a Stress Free IEP:

Step One: Maintain positive expectations.

Whoa, wait! What if I miss something if my head is in the clouds with positive thinking? There is so much to think about and worry about! If I’m not on top of this, who is going to be? That may work in your world, but not mine!

That would have been my response several years ago. Three kids under three, one with special needs, and I was fueled by stress. Stress was working for me, it kept me up and running, and on top of things. Until one day, I bonked!

I just broke down and cried one day but I didn’t know why. I can do this, I can handle it, so why am I crying? What is wrong with me? I knew all this stress was taking its toll on me mentally and physically, and I knew I needed to make a change, but I didn’t know how. I was scared that if I let go of the stress, I would miss something critical. I needed to stay on top of my son’s needs to give him the best opportunities in life. If I let go of stress, wasn’t that being irresponsible?

One day, while at the library with my kids, I happened upon one of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s books, “The Power of Intention.”  I remembered reading “The Road Less Traveled” way back on my pre kid working days, and really liked the spiritual aspect of it. So, I flipped through this book and found it very easy to read, and very uplifting. I decided to borrow it, and was soon hooked. This book was exactly what I needed, and I went on to read many more of his works.

I learned that I couldn’t wait around for things in my life to change. I had to change my thinking in order to change my environment. Holding on to blame, anger and stress, no matter how justified, was only holding me back from receiving the positive results I desired.

Replacing stress and anger with positive expectations is not easy, but I knew if I continued to hold on to stress, it would continue to decrease my quality of life, and eventually lead to serious consequences with my physical health. So, even though every day it is easy to fall back into old patterns of stress, I know that if I make the effort to change my thoughts to those of positive expectations, the results will always be worth the effort. I have found the best way to maintain a positive mindset is with meditation.

I now meditate for 20 minutes at a time, and it zips by, but it didn’t start that way. I decided to start meditating for 2 minutes at a time, and this is how: Sit upright, close your eyes and take deep breaths. Count your breaths as you inhale slowly, hold your breath for a beat, then count as you slowly exhale. Do this for a few moments until all you think about is your breath. You will have thoughts that enter your mind as you are doing this. When they do, do not give them any emotion, simply observe that they are there, then visualize them floating away on a cloud. It’s important not to give your thoughts any emotion, good, bad or otherwise. Simply watch them float away. (I was always nervous I would fall asleep, so I set an alarm and that allowed me to relax)

When you have successfully reached a point where you are only counting breaths with very few intruding thoughts, bring up a picture in your mind of the IEP (or the situation that you are feeling stressed about). Visualize yourself smiling and satisfied with the results. Don’t worry about the details of how you got there, just imagine all is positive and you are feeling satisfied. Now that you have that mental picture, internalize those feelings of well-being. If that is difficult, remember a time when you felt all was well and going in a positive direction. Let those wonderful emotions flood your body and sit with them until you feel enveloped in them. Now visualize surrounding everyone in the situation with love. Yes, even that person you can’t stand that always seems to be standing in your way and blocking your success! Any anger and blame you hold will be blocking you from the positive results that you desire. Remember, this is for you and your child, not for them, so go ahead and do it! Surround every single person involved with an aura of love. Watch all the stress, anger and blame evaporate as everyone is enveloped in loving feelings of good will.

Slowly open your eyes, but remember that feeling and that picture. What is important now is that you maintain those feelings as you go about your day, no matter what should unfold. If a stressful occurrence happens, simply excuse yourself to go to the restroom, outside, or anywhere you can have a few moments of privacy, close your eyes, and bring back those positive feelings.

I’ve found, whenever I let go of the stress of the details, and hold the feeling of a positive result, the IEP goes amazingly well, and things happen I never would have planned myself to bring about a positive outcome.

This does not mean I sit around with my eyes closed and hope everything works out for the best. Quite the opposite. When I maintain this positive mental image and state of mind, people are more cooperative and more willing to help me, and new opportunities present themselves that I act on.

This has worked so well in having successful IEPs for my son, I’ve extended this way of thinking to all areas of my life. If I find myself angry with someone or filled with stress about something, I close my eyes and surround this person with love, or visualize myself smiling that the situation worked out. I don’t think about the details of how it came about, I simply visualize being satisfied with the end result. Then, I go on with my days, maintaining this positive image. It’s not always easy when there are bumps in the road, and that is why I read a few spiritual passages every day and meditate to keep me on track. I have found this effort of maintaining a positive state is always worth the results.

Raising a child with special needs is a very rewarding experience, but it can be filled with a lot of unpredictability which can lead to high stress levels. This is one way I’ve found to be very effective in reducing stress and bringing about positive results, and I share in hopes that you will find it helpful, as well.

All the best,

Christie

Here is today’s post on my other blog, Journey to Self Compassion. This topic is one of those things that sounds so easy to do, but is one of the most difficult. Yet, to change outer circumstances in your life, you must start with the inside… Be well! 🙂

Your Soul is Calling…Are You Listening?

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Finding Happiness in Your Winter

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So many of us believe true happiness should come easy, handed to us free of charge, or that it is elusive and reserved for the selected few. When we do manage to grasp it, it is temporary, lost again to another external circumstance.

We blame the circumstance for stealing our happiness and believe we could be happy “if only.”

Ironically, it is in the cold, bitter winters of our lives where all is seemingly barren around us, that we unearth the true meaning of happiness. We must dig deep inside for strength, and in these times of introspection, we discover happiness is an internally driven condition without dependency on external circumstances.

Where we once sat around blaming winter for not blooming flowers for us, we now know how to find the warmth of the fire in the coldest of winters.

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month – Day #14

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How can you promote acceptance and awareness?

Be patient with me….I can do the same things as you, I just need more time and may learn a little differently.

I’m a visual learner, so flash cards, books, and visual demonstrations give me a better understanding (My sister, Katherine, is great at giving me visual examples to help me with my homework!)

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Do you DO good? DO you?

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Do you DO good? DO you?

Before you answer, let’s check out this do-gooder scenario: A town decides they want to do good by helping people at the poverty level. They decide on a food drive, that way the whole community can get involved, and then they’d really be do-gooders. Out goes a press release, fliers are posted, and food collection boxes are found on every corner. Soon, the boxes are filled with donations. Everyone in town is happy, patting each other on the back for a job well done. Oh, what do-gooders they all are!

Or are they?

Ok, now let’s check out the poverty-stricken neighborhood this food is going to:

First we pass by an enormous community garden bursting at the seams. Then, hey, look at the following their local church has! They collected enough food in their recent drive to feed those in need.  Oh, but look at all those kids in need of shoes and coats. And, the after-school activities have been cut, so the community is seeking volunteers to keep the programs going and kids off the streets.

Now, back to our food drive folks. Did they do good? There is no doubt there was good generated in the form of good intentions, goodwill, and people feeling good about themselves. But, the purpose of this food drive was to DO good by filling a need in an impoverished community. Good intentions yes, DO good, no.

Now, just because these folks generated good feelings but didn’t DO good doesn’t mean they all need to become martyrs to accomplish DOING good. You can accomplish DOING good and FEELING good all at the same time, and it’s really not that difficult.

DOING good is discovering what a true need is, and working to fill that need. Once you start working to fill a true need, you will be DOING good, which then naturally creates goodwill and positive feelings of doing good.

I’ll never forget this story of a large corporation collecting loads of basketballs to send to impoverished people overseas. The company believed that games of basketball would give these people a much-needed distraction from the troubles they were facing. This company created a sense of goodwill in their community, but there was one big problem. The people who received the basketballs had not a clue what basketball was!  Good intentions yes, DO good, no.

So, now, back to those first questions: Do you do good? Do you?

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