Monday, February 8, 2016

Balancing the Walls of Smiles.

My new friend was commenting on how happy my family is as she looked at the walls of photos in my home. I gratefully thanked her at first. But then she continued -- commenting on their smiles and even adding that we must be amazing parents for them to be so happy. At this point, I gently patted her arm and said, "You do know I don't frame photos from our bad days, right?"

The conversation stayed with me after she left. It occurred to me that much like the walls in my home, my social media walls reflect the very best side of life.  I mean let's face it, on my hard days, I might post a prayer request, I might post a photo (or three) expressing outrage at people blocking the handicap accessible loading zones, I might even share my heart about surgeries, college kids moving out, and flat tires. But I don't tweet out other photos. I don't open Instagram and catch the moment for all time. I don't point my Canon and say here, let's capture this and share it with the world.

Photographs for me are therapeutic because they do capture our very best moments, our dearest times together, our special occasions. Photographs allow me to walk back through time, reliving, remembering and reflecting on precious days.

And yet,  I see how dangerous that can be. I know that on my hard days, scrolling through Friend X's photos and seeing her picture perfect children running, jumping, climbing can cause me to covet in my heart.

I know that on my hard days, scrolling through Friend Y's page and seeing her amazing date nights with her hubby and what seems from my computer screen a perfect marriage can cause me to compare my own marriage.

I know that on my hard days, scrolling through Friend Z's page and seeing her workout goals, her food pictures and her dressing room selfies can make me feel discouraged and dowdy and cause my self-esteem to plummet.

I don't take pictures on my hard days. And can I assure you that no one else does either? Can I hug you from here and assure you that no one has a picture perfect life? Pictures capture the best. They save the moment for us forever and oh how I do love photographs. But sprinkled in the mix, we all have hard days. We all have days completely unworthy of a tweet, an Insta or whatever the newest social medium.

And just because sometimes we do take pictures on our hard days....

Today, there are bags under my eyes begging for more sleep, less worry and perhaps a little coffee. I tried to snap a selfie but good-grief that might prove an even bigger point cause nobody needs to see THAT. :)

Will you promise to do me this favor: scroll through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with a grain of reality that no one is posting their baggie-eyed selfies. We are putting our best foot forward, our best chins up and our best angles only.  We are posting the happy days. We are tweeting the fun moments. But that doesn't mean we DON'T have bags under our eyes. Or that we don't have some double-chin action happening. Or that any of our days are perfect. What it means is that we are opting to take a deep breath and thank God for the gifts in our life. You know counting our...

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Unpacking the Accessible Van

Yesterday a postal employee was parked in the accessible loading spot of my son's college. It wasn't the first time. And because Benjamin has a tight tight window in order to get from a theatre class in the lower campus Center for the Arts building and back to the main campus, he NEEDS to access the ramp quickly -- a ramp that is right in front of his building. But instead, for the second time in a row, we had to drive around campus to the other side of the building -- as far from the door as possible -- to find an access to the sidewalk. He rolled right into class. I fumed. And then I parked by the postal van and waited. When the employee came back, I met him at his van and explained the problem. He was -- to his credit -- apologetic and assured me that even though he has parked in this spot EVERY SINGLE DAY since he took over this mail route, he will stop. We shall see.

After he left, I found a parking spot and pondered the situation. It did not go unnoticed by me that the scripture for Belhaven University's school year is RIGHT BEHIND where he parked. 

"Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets."
Matthew 7:12

Hmm. Mr. Postman did not by any means intend to be malicious in parking there. It was simple ignorance on his part that this need exists. And while I feel better that he apologized, I still feel sick in my heart that in spite of the fact that this space was marked "handicapped" and the lines were painted for loading/unloading and as a population we KNOW what the blue and yellow lines mean (right, you KNOW what they mean, right?!), a large percentage of the population chooses to ignore them when their needs (parking to deliver the mail in this case) seem to outweigh the wheelchair that they do not see.

Do you hear me? People ignore what they know to be the RIGHT thing because it doesn't seem so very wrong, I mean Mr. Postman wasn't affecting anyone that he could actually SEE.  In other words, we are only choosing to do what we want others to do for us  (Matthew 7:12, remember?) when we are certain those others are watching -- or when it does not inconvenience us too terribly.

Perhaps my favorite by-product of homeschooling the triplets through high school is the fact that we all four love to share our views on different books, articles, interviews, etc. I love the discussions and frankly find them to be so educational -- for me.

Mason especially, will send me links to articles that he is reading and ask me to read them as well. He will bring books home on the weekend and have me read a chapter for discussion. He sent me two links this weekend that have been bouncing around in my head for days.

The first, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh, identifies the effects of white privilege in her daily life. It made me squirm in my  chair, it made me uncomfortable. And it made me think. I encourage you to read it.

The second link Mason sent was written by a blogger identified only as Riolriri. This blogger read Ms. McIntosh's work and decided to write about able-bodied privilege in The Invisible Crutch. And if I didn't agree with it in totality, it definitely resonated with me.

And so today, as I ponder the issue of yesterday, I want to borrow from Ms. McIntosh and Riolriri and add my own personal post -- one about the privilege of being a family without special needs. Perhaps it will add to the education that was begun yesterday as friends shared the postal photo all over Facebookland. Perhaps it will make you squirm. Most of all, I pray it helps you understand and find gratitude if you are among those in a family full of able-bodied members. 

In following the aforementioned writers' form, I think I'll call my list, Unpacking the Accessible Van.

1. When other mommies plan play dates, we can attend without concern for whether or not the activity will be something we can even do. Mommy never has to worry we will be stuck watching all the other children play.

2. When we visit a new church, Mommy doesn't have to explain her child doesn't creep, crawl or walk in order to find where her two-year-old belongs for nursery.

3. When we meet friends at the park, Mommy can sit and talk with her friends instead of holding a child or two on the swings.

4. We start school with "Back to School photos" and Mommy drops us off. She doesn't stay for IEP meetings, to explain our needs to the teacher, or to ensure the room is open enough for the wheelchair to roll through.

5. Mommy breezes through carpool line with all the other parents. She doesn't have to park and make a scene to get the wheelchair across the busy line of traffic so that she can load me without slowing those busy parents down.

6. We plan vacations knowing that anything that happens will just add to the adventure. We don't worry that any attraction outside of Walt Disney World or Disneyland might not be able or willing to accommodate our family with special needs.

7. We camp, hike, ski. The sky is the limit for family adventures.

8. We take cool jumping photos on the beach to post online and send as Christmas cards. Shoot just getting in the sand on the beach is a breeze for us. No worries about wheels not turning.

9. Friends invite us to their homes often -- we don't need to worry about getting up the steps at their front door or whether the doorways will accommodate our wheelchair or if they would just rather not have our tires on their beautiful rugs.

10. We buy houses based on the area of town we choose to live and the style of home we dream of -- not just wherever and whatever we can find for the wheelchair to access.

11. We park near to run in stores in the rain. We park far to get a bit of exercise. We never think of loading spaces.

12. We never have to explain why the woman letting her children stare at our family in the restaurant just said "Oh goodness, bless their hearts" in ear-shot of our children and what she meant.

13. We never have to explain why adults ask us, the parents, questions regarding our teenagers rather than addressing the teens themselves.

14. We don't have to call the fire department to ensure they know we have a child that can not get himself out of the bed/house in case of an emergency.

15. We don't have to spend a fortune on a van that shakes, rattles and rolls in order to safely transport our child.

16. We can apply to any and all colleges our children desire, regardless of how far from us and emergent medical help those schools might be.

17.   We don't have to stalk local postal workers for completely disregarding the law in terms of parking lots and loading zones.

18. However, we don't have a child that rolls into a room and changes lives the moment he opens his mouth.

19. However, we don't celebrate our child being on the President's List because we know he overcame multiple physical challenges in order to meet the academic rigors at one of the best schools around.

20. And finally, we don't thank God daily for every single accomplishment a baby (or three) who defied the odds at birth makes -- in spite of the hard stuff.

Yea, so I tried to paint you a picture. I found I couldn't do it without fitting in some gratitude, without reminding myself of all that IS wonderful in being a family with special needs. You know, cause that is just how we roll.

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Friday, January 29, 2016

Care to talk about the weather?

As a mom to triplets, I am notorious for saying I have very little time for the volume of real conversation I enjoy, so please please don't waste my time talking about the weather. And yet, back living in Mississippi for the first time in almost 25 years, I find myself positively fascinated by the weather.

We are in late January here and winter has come softly. Very softly. And while I know weather doesn't revolve around me (if it did, we totally would have had a snow day last Friday!), I believe fall lingered so that I could enjoy every single shade the leaves turned. I oohed. I ahhed. I pointed them out to everyone near me more often than anyone wanted me to. And I enjoyed them in my heart. And as the last one dropped, so did the temperatures -- just slightly. The soft winter requires a scarf and a light coat most days. But the sun shines and the days warm and it has thus far felt very much that winter is softly ushering us back in to her presence after our years in Arizona.

And today, as we are getting in our groove for the second semester that my trio are college students, I am thanking God for how softly growing up came for my oldest three.

Born three months early, I had babies much longer than the average mom. Really. I hear from friends and my siblings about how fast their infants are growing, how quickly they are moving through clothes' sizings.  The triplets didn't do that. Newborn clothes hung on them for months. Months. I was bored to tears with our selection of newborn items long before they outgrew them. And so as soon as they fit, I moved them up to the next size and let the 3 month clothes hang on them. :)

(Already one when these were taken.)

When their first birthdays arrived, I still had fairly immobile littles. And so their infancy stretched, allowing me to savor all the moments.

 (15 months old)

And as we enter this new phase of college life, I am equally relieved that they picked schools so close to me. And I thank God for Benjamin's option of living at home and needing me still. And my Little Red is making sure she fills the empty with her own stuff, her own passions and activities and needs for mommy to take care of.

So I am being gently ushered into the winter of my parenting. The leaves have changed colors in our house to be sure, but they are also lingering, allowing me to enjoy each to absolute fullness.

And I am oh so grateful!

Carol - The Blessings Counter