Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Solving the mystery.

 So I haven't shared nearly all my pics from London. So today there is this:

 The Shraders are all big fans of Sherlock Holmes. Big big fans. We have read the books, seen movies, TV shows and read the books again. It is one of those family things we enjoy together.

While checking into our hotel in London, a gentleman in line behind us asked Cate was she was hoping to see. When she got to the place in her list where she was talking about Sherlock Holmes, he bent down very close to her face and said, "He's not real, you know."

We laughed and laughed at that. Of course, he isn't. Cate never thought he was real. Silly man.

Years ago, Wade and I visited London as part of a business trip. We took an afternoon and went to see the street made famous by the great detective:

Baker Street. 221B Baker Street to be exact.

There were maybe two other people at the site. We were alone for most of our tour of the town home museum on Baker Street. But clearly that was a few years before before Benedict Cumberbatch picked up the um, pipe if you will in his BBC production of Sherlock.

Because goodness gracious, this day we were not alone on Baker Street. Not alone at all. Rather we waited in line for two and a half hours to visit 221B. (Two and a half hours of listening to people talk about the show...many of whom had no knowledge of the books. None at all. Mason and I wanted to pass out copies!)

And sadly, Sherlock's home is upstairs. Up a lot of stairs. Benjamin and I said farewell to the crew as they went up the stairs while the staff of the gift shop helped me lift him into their area so that at least he could peruse the myriad of Sherlock-themed books, and merchandise!

But we would never end at Baker Street. No, one of the best episodes of Sherlock takes place at St. Bart's hospital. Even if Benjamin couldn't see inside the apartment, Dad knew the way to the hospital. And off we went.

As I posed my family in the ambulance bay of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, a strange thing caught our eye. (And I won't spoil the series by telling you why this ambulance bay was of interest...you should watch the show!)

Sticky notes all over the phone box in the ambulance bay. Sticky notes declaring belief in one great detective.

Even the dirty windows proclaimed London's affection for the detective.

And suddenly, the gentleman in the lobby whispering to Cate that Sherlock isn't real made a lot more sense. Apparently, everyone is not as wise as my 8-year-old. Apparently, some people actually believe in um, this fictional character. Oh mercy, he is delightful. The shows, the books, the movies are fun and entertaining and my crew and I are already counting the days until Mr. Cumberbatch returns to our tv with the next installments of Sherlock.

But we know how to distinguish reality from fiction. We understand the difference in a character on TV or in a book and a real life person.

I'm not a great detective -- but even I can figure out that our world is hurting for something to believe in. For someone to offer hope and an answer to life's myriad of questions. How blessed we are to have Jesus -- a real life comfort in times of sorrow, a real life hope for the hurting, a real life hero.

And my friends, belief in Jesus is worth a lot more sticky notes!

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Monday, September 15, 2014

Can we quit thinking of wheelchairs as something that limits us?

For the better part of last week, I was in San Diego soaking up the knowledge of 1000+ members of the medical community -- surgeons, physicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, researchers -- who are striving to make a difference for children and adults with Cerebral Palsy. (You can get more info about AACPDM right here!)

It was informative, encouraging and a bit emotional as I looked around the conference center and realized every one of the people in my line of sight were trying, working, striving to help my boys. Every. Single. Person. Wow.

The conference began with an opening address by the incoming president, Dr. Darcy Fehlings. As part of her address, Dr. Fehlings opted to be bold and do something that had never been done before at the AACPDM. She asked four mothers of children with CP to answer questions and address the audience. I was privileged to be included among this group: Dana Florence, founder of an organization raising awareness and money in Canada, and mom to six-year-old triplets; Cynthia Frisina, founder of Reaching for the Stars, an Atlanta-based organization that is also raising awareness for medical research on Cerebral palsy and mom to a pre-teen with CP; Jill Chambers, an avid volunteer and mom to a 32-year-old young man with CP. We were four women facing common challenges as well as challenges unique to our children. We were four women approaching the challenges in a myriad of ways.

But really, we were four Mamas with a mic.

The night before my stomach was doing somersaults. Wade looked at me curiously and asked why in the world I would be nervous. "You love a microphone," he said. And he is right. I love the opportunity to share our story, to show all the ways God has provided for my little family in the hopes that even one other Mama would have her heart encouraged.

But this group. This group was vastly different from someone handing me a mic to encourage Mamas! This was a group of brilliant minds. Minds doing research. Minds that, frankly, know stuff and can use big words and impressive charts to share what they know. Minds I admire and thank God that they exist. Minds that frankly, might not want to hear what I had to say.

All I had was a Mama heart and microphone.

Here's the thing: My Mama heart believes in helping Benjamin and Mason (as well as Claire and Cate of course!) reach their full potential. Once upon a time, reaching that potential meant that we engaged in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy. Reaching that potential meant that we stretched and propped and made them stand. Because in my limited paradigm as a young mom, reaching their potential was synonymous with walking.

Do you know walking is defined as moving "at a regular and fairly slow pace by lifting and setting down each foot in turn, never having both feet off the ground at once?"

I giggle just reading that. My Benjamin used a walker for years -- a little gait trainer that allowed him to propel forward, as his arms rested in the troughs supporting much of his weight. The wheels allowed any forward motion he achieved to surge forward and he will be the first to tell you that it was in fact a slow pace. But he could also confirm that often -- very very often -- both of his feet were off the ground!

So as someone who had been there, done that, what I desperately wanted this audience to hear is that walking was never and I mean never ever  one of the things Benjamin thought he required to achieve his dreams. As a matter of fact, the first question my little boy would ask surgeons prior to any surgery was, "Will I still be able to talk afterwards?" That is not a typo. He wanted to know if he would still be able to T.A.L.K.  And just in case you can't grasp that -- he never once mentioned W.A.L.K.

Surgeons thought he was silly. Of course, he would be able to talk. They were operating on his legs not his voice...but they were missing the point. We -- and by we, I mean his parents, his therapists, his doctors -- were all far far more concerned with Benjamin's legs doing what WE believed they should be doing than he was. He was focused on what he knew was his strength -- and what continues to be his strength today --  his ability to TALK, to share his thoughts, to discuss issues, and beliefs and opinions!

So with my boys' permission, I implored my audience to put the child -- and childhood -- first. I begged them to research quality of life and mental health issues as ways to truly help these amazing young people and their families. And I begged them not to rob these extraordinary individuals of the precious commodity of TIME by teasing them with false promises if they spent hours, days and months in intense therapy.

When we were done, when we had answered the questions and bared a bit of our heart to this medical community an extraordinary thing happened -- they clapped, and clapped and clapped and then gave us a standing ovation.

In the days that followed, I was bombarded with people wanting to ask me more, wanting to hear more about my boys and...my OPINIONS on appropriate amounts of therapy, surgery, appointments. I was asked to film a short video discussing some of these issues. I was asked to come home with more than one group and speak to their researchers, their parents, their community.

The appeal you see, was not me but rather to my so-called wisdom. My wisdom didn't come from research, or statistics, or any lab. Rather, everything I said was straight from Benjamin and Mason. The pearls I shared were from the lessons they taught. It was Benjamin and Mason who should be lauded, applauded and asked to speak. They are the wise ones. They are the ones living life, achieving their dreams and not letting wheelchairs or crutches get in the way.

At Trafalfar Square in London.

On campus at Mississippi State.

Another parent, Richard Ellenson, closed the conference. Richard is doing enormous things with technology to help his 16-year-old son -- and all children with CP -- and I was excited to meet him and hear him speak. But the thing that most spoke to my heart was a quote someone wrote about his son re-shaping the image of the wheelchair. With Richard's permission, I am changing it to fit my boy:

Benjamin's wheelchair is not a limit on him or his possibility in life. It is not a constraint to his dreams, his ideals or his ambition. Rather his wheelchair is the "Foundation" from which he will change the world!

If I could wrap my arms around all the Mamas in the world with the 100 million children on this planet dealing with a physical disability, this is what I would tell them: Let go of your paradigms. Determine to help your child find their strength in the things they CAN do! Don't misguide them into thinking the things they CAN NOT do are the things that define them. For dear Mamas, if we focus more hours a day making them propel themselves forward in a little walker, then we do allowing them to follow their passions, then the message we are sending them is clear: if you can not walk you are worth little.

It is a lie. Don't buy it.

Let them soar, dear Mamas. Let them fly with whatever aides they require...let it be their own personal FOUNDATION for changing the world!

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pictures and Poetry. Not my poetry. I wouldn't do that to ya'll.

We are back to school here. But even with lesson plans, math reviews and diagramming sentences, my mind still roams back to London and our lovely lovely adventure. Luckily, I can call it school as the triplets are taking a British Literature course!!

I am still poring through the 2,525 photos I snapped. I still haven't seen them all but am struck -- as I warned I would be -- by my obsession with the Queen Elizabeth Tower (that houses Big Ben) and Parliament. Our hotel was right across the Westminster Bridge from these breath-taking sites and I may have snapped a photo with every single coming and going. So when the kids and I opened our poetry books yesterday to discover a sonnet written on the Westminster Bridge, I really did feel like we were right back meandering through the many (many many) tourists to get to the other side. We've deduced that the Mr. William Wordsworth obviously didn't have as many tourists on the bridge with him...it being 1802 and all....but I have to share! (Besides, it gives me a great chance to share a few of the dozens of photos I took from that very bridge!)

Our first glimpse.

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, 
September 3, 1802

Earth has not anything to show more fair;
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:

A rainy view from the London Eye. (That is Westminster Bridge!)

This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theater, and temples lie

Open unto the fields, and to the sky
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;

Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep,
All all that mighty heart is lying still!!
--William Wordsworth 

Thank you, Mr. Wordsworth. Thank you.

Carol - The Blessings Counter