Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Using Exclamation Points for What Really Counts.

Hindsight offers wisdom, insight and sadly, judgement. I read today's email with a lump in my throat, and a knot in my stomach. 

August 13, 2000 -- "Benjamin had his casts removed Wednesday. The doctor has placed him in a brace that will hold his legs in basically the same position the casts did while allowing him to move, and walk! Hopefully, this will help even further the development of that left hip! Please keep praying! He is a trooper and still insists he thinks the brace is cool! He had done a little walking since the cast removal but seems to really hit a wall quickly. Please pray that he will regain his strength and desire to walk soon!!"

Benjamin in his little brace, reading with Mommy, Claire and Mason.

If exclamation points are what we are counting, I tally no less than six in this one paragraph written to my friend begging for prayer support for Benjamin. And let's be honest, I am begging for prayers that he will walk.

Perhaps, I sound like a broken record by now. Perhaps you are absolutely exhausted with my repetitive posts about walking. But please, dear ones, know that I WAS in fact writing about that in a lot of my emails. I was in fact praying about that a lot in my prayer time. I was in fact worrying, hoping and thinking about that most of every single waking moment.

Because remember, my lopsided paradigms thought walking equalled wholeness. If he walks then he is...dare I say it?....normal.

Thank goodness for a young man who is not limited by lopsided paradigms. Thank goodness that I am capable of learning from him. And thank goodness that I laid down that close-minded thinking before he started kindergarten -- allowing him to roll right into that school and shine!

Because his ability to shine is what really deserves no less than six exclamation points -- it is what really and truly counts!

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kindness definitely counts.

Day 21 of my writing challenge and I fear I am boring you to tears with my recounting of stories from emails written to my dear dear friend -- a wise friend who printed them out and mailed them to me years after they were written. But even as I fretted this morning about this, I realized that my writing is such an active way for me to process feelings, emotions and to give weight to the things that deserve weight...that I must continue learning to count what really counts regardless.

July 2000 -- "Arthur the aardvark made an appearance at the Rochester Public Library. Because of Benjamin's surgery, Wade was home so we decided the Arthur appearance would be a great outing for us. With B's leg casts, it took great effort to make it to the library auditorium. As we were leaving I saw a 'No Strollers Allowed' sign at the door. I thought this would be a great time to check on the rules and so asked the librarian if they ever made exceptions. I explained about my children and told her I would have to use the double stroller if my husband was not along to help. My exact question was 'Do you ever make exceptions to this or do we have to stay away from these events?'  She did not hesitate before replying that my family 'should just stay away.' I was mortified and stared at her open-mouthed before simply walking away."

I am furious just typing this. I had completely forgotten this interaction -- and perhaps that was for the best -- and even wondered recently why the triplets and I had not spent more time at the public library when they were preschoolers. Ah, yes, now I remember.

Parenting children with special needs offers many challenges that I often outline here. There is grief in watching your child struggle. There is grief in knowing your child faces surgeries, therapies and medical crises for life.

There is grief.

But there is also joy. 

But hear me when I say loudly that dealing with ignorance offers no joy. None. Zippo. Nada.

I was exhausted from Benjamin's surgery this day in the library. Instead of standing up to this crazy woman and stomping my feet, I let her crush my spirit and I walked away. And we did not return.

It was not the first or last time that a lack of education about Cerebral Palsy would upset my emotional apple cart.

We have had people tell us they couldn't spend time around the boys. It was too hard.

We have had people block the boys' view of a myriad of events -- swim meets, parades, ball games -- with no remorse. (And even some smack talk at the swim meet!)

We have had police officers park in the one accessible parking space preventing us from getting into the  trio's preschool.

We have had mothers allow their children to stare open-mouthed at us while the mom says "Oh how awful" within our hearing.

We have had mothers scream at their children NOT to stare at us -- again within our hearing. (Of course one such mother also screamed at her child when asked what happened to the boys, that "THEY ARE BLIND. TURN THIS WAY!").

We have been excluded from parties, from group dinners, and even from scouting groups.

We have faced ignorance in its ugliest forms.

But -- and this is important:

We have had preschoolers ask for walkers from Santa so they could be like the boys.

We have had teachers re-arrange classrooms to more-fully include Benjamin and Mason.

We have had little girls ask their daddies to build a ramp to third-floor apartments so that the boys could play! (That didn't happen...but she asked and that is enough.)

We have had friends move to parts of the country we have never even visited buy houses that accommodate Benjamin and his chair because they want us to be able to get in if we ever are blessed to make it there.

We have had friends build ramps and move furniture so that our family can gather at their dinner table.

We have had theater directors incorporate ramps into the set design so that Benjamin can get on and off the stage safely.

We have had strangers work to lift the 300 lb. wheelchair and Benjamin out of potholes in New York City.

We have had strangers lift the 300 lb. wheelchair and Benjamin onto hayride wagons.

We have had strangers gather around and hold onto the wheelchair as Benjamin travels down a wet slick ramp at our beloved Mississippi State football stadium to prevent him from sliding.

We have had strangers part the waters at the same stadium to allow Benjamin front-row access to the end zone.

We have had strangers stop, drop and search in the dark for the joystick that drives Benjamin's wheelchair when it fell off leaving the football stadium.

Oh, we have faced the pain of ignorance, but we have far more often felt the joy of kindness. And kindness is what really counts.

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Monday, October 20, 2014

Counting Star Wars References...

Today is twenty days into my writing challenge -- please if you are joining me today for the first time, I would love for you to click over and read our stories from the beginning. I'm sharing old emails where I unloaded, bragged and grieved from my heart with my closest friend as a new Mama to triplets. I am looking at what counted so much back then and seeing if it is really and truly what counts today. And oh dear ones, if you are still with me after these TWENTY days I would seriously love to hug your neck!

I've most recently been talking about my dear Benjamin and his first orthopedic surgery. The decision was such a challenge, the recovery seemed gruesome in my head....but I love remembering how my boy handled it:

July 20, 2000 -- God is so good! Benjamin is home and doing so very well! He sailed through the surgery and immediately upon exiting recovery started chatting and flirting with his nurses and didn't stop!! You know what a Star Wars fan Daddy is....well, Benjamin looked at Wade in the hospital yesterday and said, 'Hey Daddy, my cast looks like a Pod-Racer!' And so this little booger is delighted to be in a blue Pod-Racer!!"

Arthur was visiting the library the day after Benjamin left the hospital -- we HAD to go meet him!!

We can always count on Benjamin to put things right into perspective for us. I had dreaded that cast. Thought he would hate it. Thought he would be in pain from it and miserable. 

He thought it looked like a pod-racer. And suddenly all was well with the world.

Arthur was Benjamin's favorite -- and quite honestly the only way I had time to shower most days!!

And as I analyze the things that really count -- I know I keep coming right back to this: My young-mama fears during those early years were fueled by my own limited paradigms. I based my hopes for Benjamin as well as my fears for Benjamin on my life experiences. And frankly those are life experiences limited to a fully-able body. 

Yes, I said limited. My life experiences shape my ideals for Benjamin's future and they stem from a very limited life-view of achieving things in one way, through one means. But here is the thing, Benjamin has more capacity to dream than I have ever had. He has more capacity to envision a bright amazing future. He does not function under the same limited, close-minded paradigms of his mother. Thank you, God!

Benjamin is also not limited to the fears that I almost inflicted on him. I am so thankful that I realized at a very early young-mama stage to let him lead the way. A pod-racer. He thought his horrible, constricting, pain-inflicting cast looked like a pod-racer and he was ready to fly!

Benjamin, his blue pod-racer, his light saber and his Uncle Talley!

Oh y'all, counting what counts: Benjamin's wheelchair is not a constraint that holds him back. No, as I have said before, his wheelchair is merely the foundation from which he will reach for the stars. He is more than a mover and a shaker -- he is a rocker and a ROLLER! And I can not wait to see where his imagination takes him! 

That's what counts.

Carol - The Blessings Counter