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?