Thursday, December 18, 2008
This point was recently made very clear. I was sitting in a school group meeting for parents. The counselor/facilitator, started the discussion, leaning toward a parent he said, "So, Max, will be 18 on Wednesday, what are you going to do now?" I was at first perplexed, new to the school, I wondered what the school had done to prepare this young person for life beyond high school? When I asked about career planning, job coaching, vocational rehabilitation, and resume writing, I got the distinct impression that transition planning was not a priority at this school. At this crucial time, the school official seemed to be indicating that the school's responsibility would soon end and they would be thrusting this young man back into the arms of his parents who would then face the challenge on their own.
I shuddered, knowing that my son would soon be that age and he was not nearly ready to be self sufficient. It was at this crucial moment, that I began thinking of transition services and how we could help prepare him. My son is working, just went through vocational evaluation and with our support will have job skills before he is out of school, making his transition into the world of work less daunting. Other young people are not so fortunate.
Some have developmental disabilities so severe that their parents are never able to fully relax. Some states have very long waiting lists for services, and as a result these individuals may not get needed services for MANY years after they reach adulthood. These long waiting lists are exhausting and this often places a significant burden on the family as the parents age and their own medical needs increase. Because of these long waiting lists, parents and caregivers are expected to continue to provide 24 hour care, activities, and job related services for years on end. Some parents have died before their children have received services and with this in mind, I urge you to vote to end these waiting lists. Parents and caregivers need support too!
The proposal below is very important and could spell real hope for the parents with children with significant developmental disabilities and it needs our full support. It will take many votes to get this item on Obama's radar screen and the more people who vote for it the better! I hope everyone will take the time to vote. Only a minute or two and you can voice your thoughts on many educational issues at the same time.
What concern keeps you awake at night? Do you need support and services for your teenager? What knowledge and skills does your teen need to prepare for the next phase of his/her life?
Monday, December 15, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Come with me and I will tell you what I discovered one morning early last week as I headed into work. It was extremely cold outside, my body shook, and I shivered. I wanted nothing more than to be at home snuggled in my bed and yet there I was waiting for a bus downtown. I was delighted to see that bus come down the ramp. I was still sleepy but my mind raced with plans of getting to work, doing my job and getting home as quickly as possible to enjoy the warmth of my home and family. I was not looking forward to the day ahead and I was quite surprised by a most unusual sight. As the doors opened, I was greeted by a smiling Santa capped Bus Driver and his Christmas Tree Bus. As I walked down the aisle, looking for a seat, the day ahead appeared brighter!
Ask Bob Corbin, PRTC bus driver, #344, why he greets each passenger with a smile and he will tell you that his bus is his Christmas Tree. Each day with his Christmas Tree near, he begins his route with joy and appreciation in his heart. Look around and your eyes will feast on his creativity and you will become aware that this is an extraordinary bus and an extraordinary bus driver. Bob's dashboard is decorated with pointsettas and the roof above his head sports a piece of mistletoe. Each window is festooned with green garland, red ribbons, and candy canes. The garland and candy canes swing gently to and fro as he turns each corner and the tinsel continually glitters.
With Christmas still a couple of weeks away, Bob says that he is still decorating and his tree is still a work in progress. He points to more ornaments in the bins above his passengers, directs your attention to his toy soldiers which stand tall at the rear of the bus, and he promises to be in a full Santa Suit before Christmas arrives. He, in true Santa like fashion, smiles brightly and when asked about the decorations, he says he has been doing this for the last three years. As the holidays come and go, he changes his decorations with the season.
The one constant..in his decorations, no matter what time of year, is the red, white, and blue banner tape and the flags which wave in tribute to our Veterans. The banner and flags stay up year round demonstrating in visual terms, what Bob values. Bob, a veteran himself, gets to know his riders and their families. At this point, he is not aware of anyone who is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. They have all returned home safely. In months past, he proudly displayed the pictures of those serving overseas on his tribute board to Veterans.
As I look around, I am no longer sleepy, and I reflect on his gift of joy, appreciation and hope. I am no longer anxious to get work or to get home. I am content, at peace, and enjoy the moment, simply riding in the Christmas Tree bus, just like Bob.
This bus and driver, cause me to ponder. I wonder what you and I can do, during this busy time of year, to showcase our unique selves while sharing joy, appreciation and hope with others? Can we do something unique and bring joy, hope and appreciation to those who we meet? I am inspired by Bob and hope you are too. I encourage you take the Holiday Hope and Healing Headwind, to explore new experiences, and to move forward in action to show others what we stand for and to demonstrate our appreciation. What action can we take to find and give joy, appreciation and hope to others in unusual places?
I look forward to hearing about where you go and who you meet.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Would you like to know how you can turn hope and action today into trust and miracles tomorrow?
Would you like to learn a formula to support you in transforming your hopes into your fondest dreams and the steps to follow in putting your own miracles in motion?
Would you like to hear a story illustrating how I used the Believe in a Ray of Hope Formula to create a true Christmas miracle in my life?
Believe in a Ray of Hope Formula:
- Hope plus Action creates Belief.
- Belief plus Action creates Trust.
- Trust and Expectation create Miracles.
My Best Christmas Story!
Hope is Born
It seems like only yesterday... there I sat, a woman of 34, who had a ticking biological clock telling me that it was time to nurture my soul, it was time to open my heart and it was time to bring home my baby. The deep yearning I felt was magnified by two miscarriages and the sweet dimpled children I saw every where I looked. Hope was born. Now it was time for action.
Hope and Action Create Belief
I knew that my husband and I would be parents and that belief was reinforced as we sat in the FACE meeting all those years ago. We heard stories of success, we learned of other childless couples who had adopted children, saw happy family pictures and children who were growing up and thriving with love and attention. As we walked out of the seminar, in November 1986, I envisioned life with our baby.
Belief and Action Create Trust
Every day, I took another step toward my dream of creating a family. In taking action, we were providing evidence to ourselves that we believed in our dream. Our belief and action became our constant companions and we started to share our dream. While preparing for the holidays, we told our families and friends of our adoption plans; we wrote about our lives together, our hopes and dreams and composed a letter to the "woman" who would choose us to be the parents of her unborn baby. We had no idea who the woman would be and we knew in our hearts that we would be blessed. We met with an attorney who had adopted a child himself and learned more about the process.
After Christmas, we would draft ads to be put in college newspapers. With a clear intention in mind, we directed our focus to helping a less fortunate family to have a Merry Christmas. We attended church and were moved by Father Clark who seemed to be speaking directly to us when he said, "Put God in the driver's seat." We were being instructed to relax and trust. Father Clark's words were powerful and after church we approached him, "We enjoyed your sermon and would like you to assist us in helping another parish family. Can you connect us with a family thats need financial support over the holidays? We want to buy Christmas presents and food for a needy family." He replied, "When I get requests like yours, I always direct them to Hope of Northern VA, a social service agency in Fairfax."
Trust and Expectation Create Miracles
December, 1986, arrived and our hopes and beliefs had been shared. We had taken action to provide evidence of our intentions and rested with trust, knowing and expecting that our miracle would unfold at the right time and place.
We contacted the staff at Hope of Northern VA, told them that we wished to support a family and waited for a response, so that we could begin our christmas shopping. In the middle of December, the staff member called us back and said that she had scanned her client list and identified Natalie and her 2 year old son, Jason, as the family who would appreciate our support.
Natalie conveyed her telephone number and a desire to meet with us to the staff member. I called Natalie and learned that she, like me, loved arts and crafts and that Jason was a fast learner who loved to play and sing. I also learned that Natalie was expecting her second child in January. I said, "Natalie, what can we buy for your baby?" She replied, "Do not buy anything. My baby will not be coming home with me. I have made plans for adoption." In response, I said, "John and I hope to adopt and have written a letter that we hope to share with birth mothers like you. Would you be willing to read our letter and give us feedback on how we might modify it?" "Yes, " Natalie replied.
On December 23, 1986, we drove to a tiny apartment in Falls Church, with presents piled high and a letter for review. We met Natalie and Jason and were impressed with their warmth and hospitality. They were truly delighted as each package was laid to rest under their small Christmas tree. Before leaving, I pulled out the letter and told Natalie that I would like her to take a few minutes to read it. "Please give us any suggestions on how it might be received by a woman in your shoes who was looking to find a good home for her unborn child." Natalie read our letter over carefully and suggested that we not mention that we were Catholic as some women might not wish to have their child raised as a Catholic. We thanked her for her feedback and left her with the letter.
Christmas Eve arrived and we got an unexpected call from Natalie. She had been up all night; she had been thinking of us; and if we were still interested in adopting, she wanted us to adopt her unborn child. We jumped for joy, rejoiced like never before, and were with her when she delivered our son on January 7, 1987. On January 9th, Natalie was met by her mother, my husband, and me, and was discharged from the hospital. She tearfully released Gregory into my open arms and gave me a hug and a letter to share with him when he became of age. In that moment, we became a family and my miracles were embraced.
As you can see, miracles do come true. I hope you will consider using the Believe in a Ray of Hope formula to put your own miracles in motion. Remember the 3 step process:
- Share your hopes and dreams;
- Believe and take action in the direction of your dream; and
- Relax and trust that your dreams will come true.
What hope and dream will you share? What actions can you take to demonstrate your intention? How will you set your miracles in motion and Believe in a Ray of Hope?
Friday, November 28, 2008
According to Sam, Tongue Fu!® is not about hitting back, getting even, putting people in their place, or giving them a piece of our mind. Rather, she says, "It's about giving ourselves peace of mind by being able to handle challenging situations at that moment, instead of thinking of the perfect response on the way home." It promised and delivered 30 ways to get along better with Teachers, Principals, Students and Parents. In each chapter, Sam shared many insights, real life examples and "tongue fu tips for teens."
Parents can use the tips in Tongue Fu!® at School to improve their relationship with their teenagers and at the same time model behavior that will help their teenagers to effectively connect with others, resolve interpersonal conflicts and gain cooperation.To facilitate dialogue and relationships, Sam suggests "words to use" and "words to lose." One word she hopes we will lose is "but." In its place she suggests using the word "and." The word "but" antagonizes and leads to arguments because the other person feels unheard or minimized. Whenever, we hear the word "but," we immediately know that bad news will follow and we brace ourselves. When we hear the word "and" in a conversation, we feel a connection, expect the dialogue to continue, and believe we are acknowledged.
I remember saying to my daughter, "Sandra, you have a great report card, but that "C" in Physics is disappointing." Sandra did not have much to say after my comment, and looking back I am sure that Sandra's joy at getting 5 "A's" and "B's" was overshadowed by the criticism she felt in getting my but statement. Imagine her reaction if I had said instead, "Sandra you did great on your report card and I am sure you'll figure out how to bring that lonely "C" up next quarter. As a result of reading this book, I decided to eliminate the "but" in my communications.
As parents, we have an awesome responsibility to help our young people successfully transition from school, to work, and to the larger community. The good news is, we do not need to do it on our own. We can get help from our family, our friends, and from communication experts like Sam Horn. With Tongue Fu!® at School, we are given communication tools that will help us and our family to connect and spring back with hope, vigor, and coping skills.Who renews your hope?
Please consider reading Tongue Fu!® at School and let me know what you gain. I look forward to hearing from you and hearing of your success!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Growing up, I tried to run away from difficult situations; If I couldn't run away, I urged punitive actions and plotted my escape. As a teenager, I saw my brother make one bad choice after another. He verbally abused my parents, skirted the law and made me uncomfortable in our home. As a know-it-all-teenager, I pointed my finger at my brother and advised my parents to "Send him away." I told them, "He needs a military school. His behavior is intolerable."
When my parents ignored my advice, I sought refuge in my room, in my studies and in my goals. After high school graduation, I enrolled in college and felt lucky to escape from the daily rants, rages and excuses. The drama and trauma of living with a younger brother who marched to the tune of a different drummer was more than I wanted to deal with.
When my brother threw shoes at me in anger and was not challenged, I fled to the safety of my sorority house. I felt powerless and heartbroken as his tirades continued. I saw the frustration and exasperation in my mother's eyes and I left with a sense of relief and guilt. I could no longer witness the challenges he presented and after graduating from college, I headed for Germany where my sister and husband lived as part of the American military community.
Little did I know then, that I could not run far enough or fast enough to escape the lessons that were meant just for me. In the intervening years, I have learned that when I ran away and did not choose to learn the lesson at a given point in time, I was given more opportunities to master the lesson and given similar challenges to face. As the saying goes, "YOU CAN RUN, But YOU CAN NOT HIDE," until the lesson is mastered. I have also learned that challenges and failures are not the enemy and often our best teachers.
While I was not in CA to witness the events day to day, I did learn of the threats on my brother's life and did learn that my parents moved twice in quick succession in an attempt to protect him and get him away from bad influences. I shook my head in disbelief and was glad I was not facing the challenges at close range. At the age of 23, I thought I had escaped for good and I was convinced that I would never have any children of my own.
Meanwhile, my mom and dad remained steadfast in their devotion to our family. We lost my mother to cancer when she was only 55 and in my heart I sensed that she could bear no more. In her lifetime, she had shouldered more than her share of heartbreak and she did not know how to tap into resources outside of our family.
If my dad grew tired of the challenges of dealing with my younger brother and his various addictions, I never witnessed his despair. Instead, I saw a man and a father who consistently saw the best in any situation, in my brother, and in the people around him. My dad loved us all unconditionally and believed in looking for the blessings in difficult situations. Time after time, he encouraged us all to persevere, to learn from our mistakes and to try again. Through good times and difficult times, my father celebrated the blessings and lessons learned.
Slowly, I began to absorb the lessons I witnessed and decided not to run away anymore from my challenges. My direction and tune changed. I decided that I very much wanted to have children and when my husband and I faced multiple miscarriages, we decided that we would take deliberate action and adopt our children.
We lost my brother, Ray Jr., when he was in his early 30's, shortly after we adopted our first son, Greg. Greg was only a little boy when my brother gave him a prayer that still hangs in his room. On occasion, I stop to read the words of that prayer and I am reminded of the blessings that my brother brought to my life.
Despite his challenges, my brother, inherited my dad's generosity of spirit and is remembered with gratitude. He brought joy to the lives of the people he met and never knew a stranger. Within minutes, he would draw a crowd of those who wanted to hear his stories and adventures. As his sister, I did not always appreciate my brother's gifts, but my dad always did.
Today, I realize that my brother served me in many ways. The brother who made many mistakes while seeking to live life to the fullest, was loved unconditionally and in the process, I saw my father grow in stature. My dad's faith, hope and love were constant and as result, I was able to learn by example.
As a parent of three young adults with a variety of unique needs, I can truly appreciate the lessons I learned in watching my father and brother deal with learning, social, and addiction challenges. In my darkest hours and in the most difficult situations, I remember how my dad stood strong and was ever ready to support my brother, my sister and I. As I reflect, on his life, I am inspired to walk in his footsteps... to love my children unconditionally and to stand by them as they learn from their mistakes, and to believe in a Ray of Hope when the situation looks bleakest.
When I feel weary, I remember my mom and her early departure and take time for reflection and rejuvenation. I have learned to take time for myself so that I can tap into the reservoir of faith and have more to give to my family, my friends and community. In tough times, I reach out to my extended support system...to my family, friends, teachers, school administrators and counselors. I believe, as Hillary Clinton said, "It takes a village to raise a child."
I remember my dad and am strengthened by my his humor and example. He found time to laugh, to enjoy the moment, to celebrate with us, to support us and to work through the problems we encountered individually and as a family. Today, being the adult daughter of a Ray of Hope, I believe that there are hidden blessings in our challenges and failures and I am filled with gratitude.
Who is part of your village and who can you turn to when your child presents a challenge that must be acknowledged and appreciated? Who serves as your Ray of Hope and how will you share your gratitude on this day of Thanksgiving?
Saturday, November 22, 2008
It seems like only yesterday, that I got that call. I had waited 7 long years to get this diagnosis and my hopes soared with the information that I gathered. Boys, like my son Robert were often immature for their years, often had speech challenges and difficulty in expressing their ideas. Many were described as good looking, tall and generous in spirit. This certainly was true of Robert, who had always impressed me with his good looks and compassion. With testosterone supplementation at puberty, they often became better focused, more at ease, and school work became easier for them. At the age of 11, puberty was around the corner, and with testosterone, hopefully, his troubles would soon be behind us.
I learned of a group of parents who had come together to support one another and the development of their boys with KS. I called the toll free number and talked to Melissa, organizer of the parent group and was delighted to hear that there was a Klinefelter Specialist in the Washington, DC, area. I called Dr. Samango Sprouse, the highly respected expert and she agreed to meet with me and my son the following month. More hope!
I knew that the school would be interested in knowing of this diagnosis and that I would want to share all I knew so that they could help us to help Robert. While the principal and teachers, were interested, they were not prepared to offer the help that the Klinefelter Specialist had suggested.
They had a suggestion, perhaps, a school for the emotionally challenged would be more appropriate for Robert. With a huff and more than a puff, I blew that idea out of the water.
I withdrew Robert from public school, enrolled him in Lindamood Bell for reading support and saw his reading skills increase with the one to one tutoring support. The intensity of instruction, proved to be too much after a couple of months and soon Robert was showing his frustration in emotional outbursts. I knew he needed to let off steam, exercise after a couple of hours and arranged to have personal trainer to come in to lead physical activities. This helped but was not enough and soon we were looking for another school.
We learned of a great school in Maryland about 1.5 hours from our home that specialized in helping children with communication challenges. Robert began taking the gel form of testosterone while still taking the ADD medication as his doctors tried to stabilize his focus and concentration. His endocrinologist was less than enthusiastic about the testosterone, fearing it would make him more agressive. When teachers still had concerns about his impulsivity, we tried Straterra and decided to stop the testosterone while we checked out the effectiveness of this newly released drug. We did not want to over medicate and since the endocrinologist was tentative in prescribing the testosterone, we stopped giving the testosterone to him. Looking back, that was another mistake...
Meanwhile, Robert liked his teachers and the shop class with hands on activities in Maryland. We got in a carpool and hoped for the best even though his school days were extremely long. Robert finished out his 6th grade there and when it was over, we assessed his progress and decided that a private school in VA specializing in helping children with learning disabilities might help and would certainly shorten his 12 hour treks going to and from school. With great hopes, Robert enrolled in 7th grade.
How many of you experience one step forward, two steps backward, one step forward and still believe in a ray of hope? What is the alternative??
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
On that wonderful afternoon, I learned of not only the blond, blue eyed 5-year old little girl who was chosen to make our family complete, but also of her 3-year old cherub looking brother who was also looking for a home. The choice we made that afternoon had consequences that continue to impact our lives. On that day, July 4, 1995, our family of three became a family of 5.
I flew to Latvia in early August, met both Sandra and Robert, delighted in their hugs, their affection and the joy they showed while blowing bubbles, using crayons and running along the beach. In the adoption court, I learned that Sandra had lived with her birthmother for the first four years of her life and that Robert had been placed in the orphanage at birth and had language delays, but these exuberant children were happy, healthy and would add joy to our lives and our connections were cemented. They would come home with me to United States, be met at the airport by their father, and older brother and we would learn to believe in a ray of hope together.
Fast forward 7 years, Greg, our oldest adopted at birth, is now 15, Sandra is 13, and Robert is 11. Both in their teens, Greg and Sandra keep busy with friends and sports. Robert at 11 has been regressing, his 4th grade teacher has told us his reading skills in 5th grade are not what they were in 4th grade. I'm speechless, my worst fears are being realized. I have been complaining for years that the school and Robert's teachers were not meeting his educational needs. My frustration and anger escalate and finally, feeling misunderstood, I turn to our family doctor, who in turn refers us to a neurologist who runs a wide variety of tests on Robert and in the process, we recieve the diagnosis of Klinefelter Syndrome (KS), 47 XXY.
In learning about KS, we learned that boys like our son, Robert, who have an extra X chromosome often experience language delays, learning disabilities, and are misdiagnosed with ADHD or ADD. Finally, Robert's reading challenges, communication difficulties, frustration and emotional outbursts have a name and begin to make sense to us all. Finally, with the diagnosis, we feel a sense of relief and begin to see a Ray of Hope. Finally, we are able to stop pointing fingers, blaming the teachers, and are able to begin taking actions to serve the needs of our son and the needs of our family.
When have you made choices, faced consequences, and connected to a Ray of Hope?
Sunday, November 16, 2008
- Do you need support to be recognized, refreshed and re energized to find your voice?
- Do you hear a small voice inside of you, asking you to transform your hurt into a vision for a brighter tomorrow?
- If you look deep within you, do you see a glimmer of hope?
If so, I know how you feel. I have traveled a similar path. And I can help you find that deep inside Voice in You! Not so very long ago, I was reflecting on my own life; facing many challenges, and feeling overwhelmed. I wondered how I could recover and be the Mom, Wife and Partner I was meant to be. On the outside, I was doing well and had much to be thankful for; but inside I knew that I was not truly connected to my voice, my passion, my husband, my children, or my purpose.
On many occasions, I was shaken to the core, became indignant, angry, and when I was not screaming, I was often speechless. At such times, I would recoil, regroup, lash out and eventually wear myself out. Looking back, I wish I had learned to reach in and reach out earlier, as I know I suffered immensely and made life difficult for those who I loved the most.
Today, I am truly in touch with what matters to me most and I am using my voice much more regularly to engage in meaningful and purposeful dialogue. I am actively helping myself, my family and those in my circle of influence to Believe in a Ray of Hope and to embrace our dreams and gather our strength while moving forward in action and determination.
After facing many trials and challenges and encountering multiple failures, I turned to those who have inspired me over the years and sought advice. While my father never preached, his life was an open book and upon reflection, I could clearly see what he had done and I began to try to emulate him and the method he employed so successfully in living his life. At 80, he is in good health, good humor and has no regrets. My father's name is Ray and over the years, I have seen him weather many storms and every time he has emerged with hope, vigor and in action. Because of his positive influence on my life and the lessons he has taught me by example, I have named this method, Believe in a Ray of Hope in his honor.
I have used Believe in a Ray of Hope, to adopt our three children; to get special education services for our son who was diagnosed as 47 XXY at the age of 11; to buy our beach house; and to help students obtain scholarships, to get their dream jobs and to reconnect with their passions. There is a special place in my heart for the parents of special needs children and I have decided to spend the next few years in service to them, knowing how important they are to the success of our specially challenged youth.
Most of the special needs parents I meet are like me; successful in many endeavors, but still looking for extra meaning, extra joy and eager to reach extra milestones for themselves and for those they love. I am convinced that my Dad and the lessons he taught me in living a life based on Believe in a Ray of Hope will be of value to others who are seeking to weather the storms of life. I would love to share my Dad’s method, Believe in a Ray of Hope with you as it is transformational!
Please let me know how you would like to use your voice and what gives you hope?