FOREVER YOUNG (Eddie Vedder)
September 20, 2018

Cole’s turning seventeen today.  Yes, that’s right, the boy is seventeen years old.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been riding the wave of his life for seventeen years.  When we became parents to Cole in particular, our own lives ceased to be our own lives.  I think it’s a reality of parents with 24/7 children in a way that is vastly different from parents of typical children.  In many ways, kids like mine are forever young.

Cole’s at an age where most his peers are wildly independent.  They’re staying home on their own, managing much of their social lives and school activities, and many of them are driving.  They’re all starting to contemplate the move from high school to college and hunkering down with their studies to ensure they have top grades, interesting community service in place, and strong SAT scores.

Seventeen looks very different in our family.  In some ways it doesn’t look much different than sixteen, or fifteen or fourteen, which in all honesty breaks my heart, because I know eighteen will likely feel the same.  Cole has delays in his development and will likely never pass the four foot mark.  In many ways he’s neurologically on track, but in other ways his comfort is still found in the same things that brought him comfort and joy when he was little.  His needs remain high, though to us fairly simple and second nature.  We struggle with the same obstacles – encouraging him to want independence, to use his voice (his Tobii – an eyegaze voice output device), and to develop new age appropriate interests.

Yet, he seems content with his life.  He loves high school and has made some good friends who he sees outside of school too, while still maintaining some of his life-long friendships, and he does well in his classes, excepting his lack of interest in using his Tobii has proven to be a frustration to his teachers and peers as well.  Outside of school he’s still happily participating in iDance and enjoying playing in his Champions baseball league.

He’s developed an interest in photography thanks to his summer spent hanging with Nelson.  Art has always been something he enjoys dabbling in but the interest in photography is new and we’re hoping to help him to expand it.  We bought him a camera that he can operate using an iPad/iPhone as both the viewer and button or a switch to take the shot and are keen to see where this hobby takes him. In typical teen fashion, any curiosity we show in his photography is met with eyes rolling and the shut down…

Ebbing on seventeen has also broadened his willingness to expand his musical repertoire and his TV viewing.  There are still times where only the music of Ralph’s World or Sesame Street or endless Holiday music will satisfy him but there are other times, more frequent times, when I can introduce new bands or playlists to him and he’s pleased.  I’ve been having the success with his TV down time. I’m not willing to watch endless hours of Little Bill or even The Barefoot Contessa, so constantly try new things and movies and lately, as he neared seventeen, he’s been a willing viewer. It gives me hope.

I’d love it if he’d show an interest in books.  I feel like resources like Audible could give him some independence and off screen time but still engage and entertain him but he’s not quite there yet.  I love to fall into a good book and so does my husband. To have Cole develop the love of a good book would please me to no end.  Oh the places, people and adventures he could explore…

Turning seventeen brings him a year closer to being an adult and having more adult feelings and curiosities. He has always been very fond of girls and has had crushes here and there over the years but this summer he fell hard.  It’s unchartered waters for us and I don’t really know what romance looks like for him.  I feel like it needs to be treated differently than the way I facilitate or manage friendships, but I don’t know exactly what that means.

I am keenly aware that much of my mixed feelings about Cole aging, or not, are just that, my mixed feelings.  Feeling blessed to have my son in my life, and loving him more than I can possibly convey can live with me sometimes mourning the loss of typical experiences both he and I would have had if things were different.  I don’t know if he considers “what if” in his own mind, and I avoid it when I can, but I’m human and I sometimes can’t help but wonder, or be sad.

IMG_1768My boy is seventeen today. Yes, seventeen years old!  He’s remarkable and brings grace to every day of my life.  I celebrate him today and everyday and hope that he’ll remain forever young…

IT’S MY LIFE (Jon Bon Jovi)
September 19, 2018

Sometimes I marvel at the things I know about because Cole is my son.  While it’s now all old hat to us, we had an extra learning curve beyond simply being new parents, when he came into our world. We had all of the usual stuff and then all of the medical and therapeutic interventions to contend with, as well as quick introductions to agencies and supports and special education. And of course, random weird things that come into our life.

In case you don’t know, Cole is fed through a g-tube.  The only way we could leave the NICU, after five long weeks, was to have a g-tube inserted because he was not able to suck a bottle or boob.  We had hoped he would catch on when we got him home but seventeen years later he’s still tube fed.

Yesterday I was placing an order for his feeding supplies, which typically includes his formula, gravity flow bags and every other month a new mickey-button (the part that actually is inserted into his belly and held by a little tiny balloon that holds 5 cc’s of water).  I was asked what size, because they like to have you repeat every detail of the order, your contact details and lots of details about Cole EVERY time you call to place a monthly order to make sure you are who you say you are and are ordering supplies for who you say you are ordering supplies for – I’m assuming because there’s a huge black market demand for formula and mickey-buttons.  Anyway, I digress.  I give the size, 16 French, and it occurs to me that I would never know what that means if not for Cole.

Tubing, often catheters and feeding tubing, is designated by French or “Fr” to note the size of the tubing. It’s a French scale where every millimeter is multiplied by .33 (Fun Fact: The French are fond of the number “3” – I deal with withholding tax at work and the France to US withholding tax is 33.33%), so Cole’s tube is 16Fr multiplied by .33, making it 5.28 millimeters wide.  Pretty small.

In the years of parenting Cole, we have had to deal with some many different therapists, agencies, doctors and medical interventions.  He’s had surgeries and treatments that exposed us to so many new adventures.  When he was still small enough to be tucked in to a Baby Bjorn, he did acupuncture to help open his brain flow.  I’d wear him and spend the whole time trying to keep him from puncturing me once his head was full of needles!  He did botox in his hips and arms before it became mainstream for faces, he had his back and neck muscles supported with Japanese kinesio tape before it was available in the US, and now gets Watsu (aquatic Shiatsu) massage when he does aquatic therapy.  I’m actually going to take a two day Watsu training class next weekend so I can take advantage of our pool and support his aquatic therapy at home too.

Being his mom keeps me on my toes and keeps me expanding my knowledge and researching every little potential interest, development, resource, product, therapy, intervention that I hear about related to cerebral palsy, communication, inclusion, education, life as an adult with special needs, etc.  I’m sure I miss a lot but thankfully I have a community of moms who all do the same and we share.  It’s a unique experience that thankfully we share with a welcoming wonderful community of likewise unique families.

 

TALK TO ME (Chris Isaak)
September 15, 2018

Cole’s first junior year report card arrived yesterday.  Straight A’s. He’s fairly consistently receiving A’s and a very occasional B on his high school report cards and always with E’s, and is always proud of himself when the grades are revealed.  We are proud too, of course.  For Cole, the grades are both a mix of subjective grading, his effort, and his understanding of the given subject.  He has modified work and the benefit of one on one class time with his Special Ed (SpEd) teacher.  It doesn’t diminish the grades and is certainly reflective of the attention he puts forth in class.  He takes a fair amount of pride in maintaining his grades and in the attention he receives for doing so.

I just wish he put forth the same interest and effort in developing some of his communication skills and independence at home.  He would gain so much by engaging in conversation with people outside of school, including me and his dad.  He has friends who desperately want him to use his Tobii (eye gaze generated voice output device) to talk with them.  Teens, even understanding, kind hearted teems, don’t always welcome the parent invasion when they’re hanging out.  Having time with friends, independent of a parent or even of a support adult to help facilitate conversation, would be so incredible for him.  It’s such a valuable facet of friendship.

th-3

I’ve gone so far as to suggest to some friends that they tell him that they won’t chat with him until he starts chatting with them using his Tobii.  His friends are too sweet to listen to me and continue to talk to him despite his aversion to the Tobii.  He met a girl this summer who is very similar to him in diagnosis and also uses a Tobii, though she is happily reliant upon it and uses it well and often. I’m told she pressed him to use it during summer school and he was slightly more receptive, which makes me hopeful that he with the right motivation he’ll warm to it.

I understand part of his reluctance, or disdain, for the device.  Cole’s a people person.  He’s very keen on eye contact and adept at communicating some of his needs and reactions through small sounds and various facial expressions and smiles.  The Tobii obstructs his direct view of people he’s “talking” with.  It’s also taxing to use, both physically and mentally, so an element of laziness factors in too, especially if he’s asked to use Tobii with his dad and I.  We’ve developed a strong understanding of him, but even with us there’s so much left to our interpretation.  He’s often just not bothered enough to be frustrated or care. I really wish he were.

I just want him to use his voice…to express his thoughts, opinions, and needs.  I want him to deepen his friendships by opening them up through mutual communication and the intimacy that comes from friends sharing. I want him to engage new people in conversation or to initiate conversation. I want him to show interest in other people by asking questions or simply saying “Hello” aloud.  I want him to expand upon his education by using his voice to express his knowledge and understanding.  I want all of these things for him…

If only he did…

Anthem (Leonard Cohen)
September 14, 2018

There is a crack in Everything. That’s how the light gets in…

leonardcohen

It’s one of my favorite song lyrics from the Leonard Cohen song Anthem, but a long standing notion that the crack or imperfection is what gives us a path to greater existence. Rumi, the Sufi poet and philosopher, has a similar oft quoted line, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”, invoking the same idea of imperfection being a road to enlightenment.

I feel like this is the endless journey I have encouraged myself to pursue.  It’s one of acceptance and betterment and I hope to travel it for the rest of my life.  For most of my teen and adult years I’ve struggled with confidence, self-love, and frequently battled myself and losing.  I tend to be my own worst enemy and harshest critic.  I allow my insecurities to shout the loudest and engage them to idly defend me when I feel put upon or angered.  They’re not my best voice because they prevent me from seeing myself or allowing me to be vulnerable.  They’re cruel and lash out.  They deflect.

I’m trying to teach myself to step back and react from my heart even if it means admitting I’m culpable in an action or behavior or that I myself feel hurt or scorned by someone or an action.  Decades of unfettered reaction are slow to turn around but it’s an effort worth taking because when I’m successful, when I approach conflict with calm and sincerity, it’s resolved amicably nearly always.

I want to be a good example for my son, an example of someone who has flaws but is constantly trying to evolve and resolve and flow.  I want him to see that he can be fluid in this way and open his heart and mind to be kind and caring even in conflict or stress.  I want him to know that the pursuit of enlightenment is something more personal and internal for every one of us, but that the result of this endeavor results in a gentler, kinder community and world.

When I was a kid, I was often as described as “nice”.  I kind of hated it because I likely wanted to be thought of as the pretty one or the cool one or the smart one.  No, I was the nice one.  In retrospect I greatly appreciate the compliment.  We should all strive to be the nice one. We should all let the light shine through our cracks…

 

 

 

FEELIN’ GOOD (Nina Simone)
September 13, 2018

I’ve gone through another period of inconsistent writing and I find I miss the outlet terribly.  Life gets in the way of my creativity!  It inspires it as well but when writing is more the hobby and work and family responsibilities fill much of each day, hobbies take the back burner.  Nevertheless, I’ve challenged myself to make a bigger effort to sneak in a bit of writing each day.  The truth is, it benefits my mind and soul, so it’s a valued effort.

I turned 54 on the 4th…While I love birthdays, particularly other people’s birthdays, I don’t generally feel the creeping up of the years to be bothersome.  This year though it did make me feel introspective. Though I do have some self-awareness and keen sense of the things I need to do maintain my health, sanity, and joy, I do have a tendency to shirk some of the responsibilities that are required to maintain myself.  This year I made a decision that I will shirk less and go through my 55thyear taking better care to make time to exercise, write, enjoy my family and friends and to step out of my comfort zone as much as possible.

I’ve actually been attempting to try new things and put myself out there throughout the past few months.  Nothing radical, small steps to expose myself to new experiences, places, and people. It’s been a wholly positive endeavor. I took a girl’s night out grilling class and wound up sharing a table with two women, both of whom are speech pathologists and one of whom had coincidentally worked at my son’s school for a brief time.  What are the odds?

I also took a chance and applied to a writing program that Imagine Entertainment just launched. Beyond the lengthy application, that included a video component, I had to provide a project I would like to develop (I have a TV series idea that I’m working on) and other writing samples.  I was not among the handful selected (over 4,000 writers applied), but I feel proud that I put myself out there and gave it a shot.  I plan to try again for their next session in February.  It will give me some time to get my ideas in to a better format and who knows???  Another coincidence, my company moved into the same building as Imagine a couple of weeks ago!

I look forward to having a successful self-motiving, self-aware, self-caring, self-sharing year.  I want to be present and well for myself, my family, my friends and for any new challenge or experience that comes my way.

Cheers!

champagne-toast

WONDERFUL WORLD, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
October 16, 2017

“Take a look at the world,
and the state that it’s in today,
I am sure you’ll agree,
We all could make it a better way.
With our love put together,
Ev’rybody learn to love each other,
Instead of fussing and fighting.”
Jimmy Cliff

There have been so many natural and human disasters around the world recently. It seems endless and it seems impossible to know what to do to help besides throwing whatever money one can afford to throw. But that doesn’t feel like it’s enough and it precludes any direct connection with the victims, and fall out.

After seeing the devastation in Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and the tragic aftermath of the senseless shootings in Las Vegas, or the massive loss of life in Somalia due to two car bombings, we look to one another for answers, comfort, and relief. We hold our loved ones tighter and make effort to let those we love, know we love them. We join campaigns and donate to organizations to provide assistance. We hope that our own cities won’t be the next struck by any kind of tragedy, natural or manmade. And we then we go about our lives feeling we’ve helped.

And we have. Being kind to one another is important and providing much needed funds to relief efforts is necessary. Going about our normal daily lives is also important both for our communities, our families, and us.

But there are some people who think outside the box and make effort to effect change and to impart a different kind of care, the care of action. I am blessed to know one such angel, and I want to share what she did in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy. She made a pilgrimage of kindness to Las Vegas; where she did fifty-eight acts of kindness, encouraging each recipient to pay it forward themselves, in honor of each of the fifty-eight victims.

The deeds ranged from surprising random diners in Flaming Fajitas with gift cards to cover their meals, to presenting flowers to a senior in an assisted living home, to paying for haircuts at a local Fantastic Sam’s, to bringing pizzas to the first responding police station, to providing her cab driver with a generous tip, that he then donated to a collection his company had going to provide aid to the victims, and so much more. Each deed was accompanied by a note with the name, hometown and age of the shooting victim she was honoring. Many of the recipients had stories of their own to share with her and ideas for paying her kindness forward on their own.

She touched an entire city. She connected with people on a whole different level. The local paper caught wind of her mission and wrote about her. She shared the journey on Facebook and had lots of supporters wanting to help facilitate her passion. She took the idea of helping a step further than most of us even conceive. I know her to be one of the kindest, most caring, friendly, enthusiastic people I’ve ever met and I’ve been inspired by her since she came into my life. I aim to think outside the box like she does. I hope you will find inspiration in her actions too.

58 Acts of Kindness