Thursday, December 18, 2008

Seeking Peace of Mind - As our Children Become Adults

As parents, we all want peace of mind and want to rest easy knowing that our children will get the services that they need as adults. As an advocate for my own special needs child, I have been navigating the roads that lead to educational and health related services for nearly 15 years. As my son nears 18, I am keenly aware that he will soon come of age and I will not always be at his side to ensure service delivery and this keeps me awake at night. Knowing that time stops for no one, I know that the time to act is now. You and I can not wait until our sons and daughters are adults to take action.

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?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Finding Joy, Appreciation and Hope in Unusual Places!

How does one who drives a bus make a statement without saying a word, bring joy, appreciation and hope to others, and show in living color who he is?

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 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

Hope and Action Today, Trust and Miracles Tomorrow

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:

  1. Hope plus Action creates Belief.
  2. Belief plus Action creates Trust.
  3. 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:

  1. Share your hopes and dreams;
  2. Believe and take action in the direction of your dream; and
  3. 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?