Sunday, March 29, 2009

Enjoy the Daffodils Before Its Too Late!

It's another glorious day in Washington, the sun is shining and the air is warm. As we walk outside to visit a dear young friend who is in the hospital facing another three weeks of chemotherapy, my son exclaims, "It feels like heaven! " The landscape is filled with blooming cherry and bradford pear trees. The forsythia is blooming, the smell of hyaciths fills the air and the cheerful daffodils nod as the wind blows softly past us. These wonderful sights and smells herald the beginning of spring and the good times to come.

Just two weeks ago, snow covered the ground and we wondered if spring would ever arrive. It's amazing how time flies and how our reality shifts everyday. Seeing the daffodils blooming and thinking of our friend in the hospital for another three weeks, makes my heart ache. By the time Ashley emerges from the hospital, the blooms on these daffodils will be withered and long past their prime. It is a gentle reminder, that we must enjoy the beauty around us today and cherish the special moments we share with those who are dear to us.

While Ashley will not see the daffodils blooming this year, she can still count her blessings. She can relish the sight of her smiling visitors, the gurgles of her baby who visits often and enjoy the love of her husband who spends most nights on a small sofa beside her hospital bed. She can use this time to get well and to relax knowing that her family is caring for her baby. She can rest, nourish her body and envision a brighter tomorrow. She can plot the actions she will take when the chemo treatment is over and see herself walking out of the hospital. She can see in her mind's eye, the time ahead when she can again frolick in the ocean, with her darling little girl.

We, like Ashley, are encouraged to enjoy the beauty around us and to make time for dreaming. We are also encouraged to take action on our visions because before we know it, our moments on earth will end. Please take a few moments to read the following story and then begin working on your dream tomorrow. We must remember, time waits for no one, but the little actions we take each day add up and will be remembered.

THE DAFFODIL PRINCIPLE - Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come see the daffodils before they are over." I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. "I will come next Tuesday, " I promised, a little reluctantly, on her third call. Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn's house and hugged and greeted my grandchildren, I said, "Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see bad enough to drive another inch!" My daughter smiled calmly and said," We drive in this all the time, Mother."

"Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears, and then I'm heading for home!" I assured her. " I was hoping you'd take me over to the garage to pick up my car. "How far will we have to drive?" "Just a few blocks," Carolyn said. "I'll drive. I'm used to this." After several minutes, I had to ask, "Where are we going? This isn't the way to the garage!" "We're going to my garage the long way," Carolyn smiled, "by way of the daffodils." "Carolyn," I said sternly, "please turn around." "It's all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience." After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a hand-lettered sign that read, "Daffodil Garden". We got out of the car and each took a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. Then, we turned a corner of the path, and I looked up and gasped.

Before me lay the most glorious sight. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns - great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow. Each different-colored variety was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue. There were five acres of flowers.

"But who has done this?" I asked Carolyn. "It's just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the property. That's her home." Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house. On the patio, we saw a poster. "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking" was the headline.

The first answer was a simple one. "50,000 bulbs," it read. The second answer was, "one at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and very little brain." The third answer was, "Began in 1958." There it was. The Daffodil Principle. For me, that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than thirty-five years before, had begun - one bulb at a time - to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top.

Just planting one bulb at a time, year after year, this unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of ineffable magnificence, beauty, and inspiration. The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration. That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time - often just one baby-step at a time - and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time. When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

"It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five years ago and had worked away at it 'one bulb at a time' through all those years. Just think what I might have been able to achieve!" My daughter summed up the message of the day in her direct way. "Start tomorrow," she said.

After reading the stories above, I wonder, what path will you follow? Are you more committed to your dream or your reality? What baby steps can you take to show you are taking action and walking toward your vision?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

DisAbility Rights Movement Leads to Youth Empowerment

Reflecting on the good work that is going on in schools all around us, I wanted to take an opportunity to highlight an innovative and highly successful work shop that was developed and delivered on Disability Awareness in Florida as part of the High School/High Tech (HS/HT)curriculum in February. The workshop was designed specifically for students with disAbilities and focused on the productive and meaningful lives that have been led by those with significant disAbilities.

This workshop was well attended and each of the students became fully and openly engaged. Utilizing resources from the Able Trust, the instructor created a two page timeline for the students. The timeline began in the 18th century and ended with the passage of the 2008 bill that will lead to the teaching of the disability rights movement to Florida students.

The workshop began with a discussion of previous rights movements in the United States. Many of the students could identify with the African Americans Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement, but none of the students had heard of the Disability Rights Movement. Many expressed surprise when they discovered that events connected with the Disability Rights Movement began only a few decades ago.

While reviewing the time line, the group discussed eugenics, ugly laws, ADA , and improvements in telecommunications. A lively discussion ensued as everyone shared their opinions on the information. Asthe students discussed their thoughts, the instructor, handed out pictures of famous individuals, including celebrities, artists, scientists, and politicians who had lived and prospered with a disability. The students were encouraged to identify the person in the picture and to identify what the individual was known for and to learn about his/her disAbility.

As they worked with the pictures, exclamations of surprise were heard around the room. The students were clearly impressed as they learned about the person in each picture and how each had lived amazing lives with their disAbilities.

As a consequence of these revelations, many of the students began to disclose their own disAbilities. For example, one HS/HT student disclosed her specific learning disAbility in reading after she learned that Marilyn Monroe stuttered.

Another HS/HT student revealed his own learning disability after he identified and learned about the lives of Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. After, learning about Troy Aikman's club foot another HS/HT student (an avid football player), was empowered to begin speaking about his own disAbility.

The most powerful moment of the workshop came about when the students learned that actor Dan Aykroyd had Asperger’s Syndrome. Unknown to most of the HS/HT students at that time, one of the students also has Asperger’s Syndrome. Throughout the activity, she had grown more and more excited as she discovered many creative individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent van Gogh had learning disabilities with possible autism.

After hearing that Dan Aykroyd also had Asperger’s Syndrome, she shared her Asperger’s and spent nearly five minutes describing it to her peers and answering their questions. She revealed that for the first time, she was not ashamed of having Asperger’s Syndrome and was proud to be in the same category as Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent van Gogh.

The workshop ended shortly after she spoke about her disAbility but many connections and conversations continue. Several days later, the students were still discussing the time line. The students continue to ask questions and it is clear that the workshop has brought these students closer to one another. Rather than breaking off into small little groups, all continue to cluster together, talking and laughing in a manner that had not been witnessed before. They have become empowered and know that they too can overcome their challenges and can claim their strengths and talents.

What actions can we take today to empower our students with disAbilities? If you wish to learn more about the High School/High Tech curriculum in Florida or to get the time line and stories of successful individuals with disAbilities, please contact Donna Mundy, Florida HS/HT Director, at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who Will Hear...I Love You from You?

Last night, my 17 year old son was especially restless and he decided at about 8PM that he wanted to trim his hair. I thought he would do a small clipping and said nothing. He came back about 10 minutes later sporting a shorter look in the front. He pointed out that he had shaved it partially on one side and asked me to cut the back. Not wishing to add to the "special look," I declined the offer.

He then used his shaver to add a few more distinctive circles to the top of his head. He arrived back in my room to show me his handiwork. Somehow, I was successful in keeping my composure....amazing to myself as he was truly looking "unique." While I did not like his crazy hair cut, I decided to relax, to calm myself with a hot bubble bath and to affirm his right to his unique style.

As I soaked, I let go of my anger and my need for control. I got over my frustration and my own embarrassment and decided that I would not diminish him for his harmless exploration of a new look. I decided that I would not ask him why he had decided to do this now and in this way. I decided that his actions were not worth ranting about and I decided that his actions did not reflect badly on me as a parent. Instead, his actions, revealed his own creativity. Asking him why would not serve a purpose. Instead, I simply got out of the tub, put on my pajamas and watched a favorite TV show and waited for his return.

He came back into my room with a cap on, reluctant to reveal what was underneath. As it turned out, he did not like the look either and he decided to shave it all off. Unfortunately, he did not have the right equipment, and it was clearly evident that his hair cut was done by an amateur. He told me, “Mom, I am bald and I do not know what the kids and teachers will say. I will wear a cap to school.” Knowing that caps and hats were not allowed, I told him to be prepared to go into the school without it. I kept my fears to myself, knowing that he would have to live with the consequences of his creativity.

Before, he went to bed, I said, "Robert, with or without hair you are still Robert and I love you." Much to my surprise, he said very clearly in his deep 17 year old voice, "I love you too!" This is not a comment that I hear very often from him and was a big improvement over his typical response of "Whatever!"

It occurred to me later in the evening that the “hair challenge” had brought us closer together and that our relationship had become stronger as a result of this trial. I had made a conscious decision to approach his actions with unconditional love, to applaud his daring action, to appreciate his sense of adventure and to reaffirm his right to claim his unique style and it had paid off.

I was nonetheless worried about the upcoming day. How would his "new look" be received at his school, by his teachers and his peers? I quickly wrote a note to his teacher and to his counselor to prepare them for the sight of the "new" Robert and I prayed for the best.

Much to my delight, Robert had a great day. According to the teacher report, it was one of his best! He participated fully, was engaged and walked around without a cap. He was bald, confident, had fun, laughed at the “Grandpa” jokes and connected with others in positive ways. Looking back, I believe that his positive day was an outgrowth of our positive interaction the night before.

I am reminded that our words are powerful and that we are given opportunities every day to positively impact the lives of others. Today, I am grateful; I was able to keep my composure and to express unconditional love in a challenging situation. I thank my father for teaching me to love unconditionally and for weathering the challenges of my youth when I also made some questionable decisions.

I came across a quote by Ben Stein that seems especially relevant, “Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows.”

What relationship will you nurture today? What challenge will you face and how will you respond? Who will you hug? Who will hear....I love you from you?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

We Are Not Quitters!

Barack Obama recently remarked, "History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world. We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again."

Sometimes, we need a boost of inspiration; Sometimes, we must hear good news from a national leader; Sometimes, we have to be reminded of the generosity of our neighbors; and Sometimes, we need to remember when we have experienced unexpected surprises and enjoyed exuberant victory against all odds!

On this wonderful Sunday morning, I want you to enjoy this wonderful video highlighting the challenges and triumphs of an extra special kid and the community that supports him and his family. Our kids with challenges do not quit, parents do not quit and our communities thrive with inclusiveness! "Remember, Wisdom begins with Wonder and Dreams begin with Desire," Doreen G. Fulton

Click on the link, view the 3 Point Kid, and Cheer with me! We are America!

Please share other inspiring videos with me!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Paying It Forward - A Lesson in Generosity

As a parent, I want my children to be successful. I want them to have friends, to be loved and to have positive relationships with each other. I want them to be satisfied with themselves and their jobs. I want them to be physically and mentally healthy and to be financially comfortable. Further, it is my hope that they will be spiritually content and grow up to be productive members of society while living satisfying and rewarding lives.

As a parent of children with learning disabilities, I am seeking positive adult outcomes and I am wondering how I can nurture social competence and success attributes while I still have them under my roof. How can I help them to help others? In today's world, I see people struggling all around me and I am wondering what I can do to make the world a kinder, more caring place for my children.

When I listen to the small voice within, the message is clear. I must be a positive role model. If I want to make the world a better place, I have to look at the woman in the mirror and begin with myself. Rather than tell them over and over... to be kind..., to treat others with dignity and respect..., I must show them in my actions what it means to care for others.

I invite you to view the video below and see what this community did when they saw their colleagues in danger of loosing their jobs. Their generosity helped to keep teachers in their jobs despite the terrible economy and slashed budgets. They put their heads together and collaborated and their collective action made a difference. Their actions inspire me to do likewise and to pay it forward for the benefit of my community and my children. I am reminded, we are all connected.

Enjoy the video and let me know how you will pay it forward.