Archive for the ‘Positive Attitude’ Category

Parent Alienation and the Wizard of Oz

Written by Carolan Ross

http://www.squidoo.com/parent-alienation-syndrome-pas
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“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

I believe this quote with all my heart.  The sad truth is, most people do not want to get involved.  They have their reasons.  Some of them justified.  From experience I can tell you it is exhausting.  It is complicated sometimes.  Messy.  It can be heart-breaking and stressful.  But it hurts us all when good people refuse, or simply become indifferent, to standing up for what is right. 
 
We are surrounded with examples of suffering caused by those who refuse to do what is right.  Children abused and neglected.  The elderly and people with disabilities suffering all types of unimaginable mistreatment.  Animals considered disposable.  Allowed to reproduce without concern for the over population of unwanted pets.  People are hungry.  People are sad.  Many people live in fear.  Pain is everywhere.  Not only for those enduring it, but for those who are trying to help.  Trying to make a difference.
 
The questions I pose are these:  Why are so many people reluctant to get involved?  Why?  Maybe it’s because so many people feel helpless.  Perhaps they feel they do not have the power to change anything.  Perhaps they fear repercussions from getting involved in what society deems as someone else’s business.  But what about the long term effects of turning a blind eye?  Does one really become comfortably numb as the Pink Floyd song says?  And if so, doesn’t that in itself cause another kind of pain? 
 
I believe we can make a difference.  Each of us.  Everyone has the power to effect change in their own way.  Many people have said to me, “You can’t change the world.”  You know, I don’t believe that.  Maybe I cannot change the whole, entire world but I can constantly work on changing myself for the better and helping to change the world of those around me.  In turn, when their world is changed, perhaps they will continue to grow and go out and change the world of those around them.  Isn’t that a beautiful thought?  Much less overwhelming than trying to focus on all that is wrong in the world.  When we see a need, nothing can bless us more than striving for a resolution.  Your contribution doesn’t have to be huge.  The smallest effort can make the biggest difference.  Sometimes, just a smile, a kind word of encouragement, a soft touch, can change someone’s outlook.  We all just want to be loved.  To have our existence validated.
 
Throughout history much of the progress of mankind has been made by those who were not the most powerful but by those who were the most passionate.  It’s not always money or status that effects change.  Great things come from humble hearts willing to simply do the right thing.  Take for instance Clara Barton.  From her passion for providing care to wounded soldiers during the civil war, the American Red Cross was founded.  Or what about Rosa Parks?  She had a strong sense of justice and equality and forever changed the face of the civil rights movement by quietly, yet firmly, refused to leave her seat on that bus.  Look at the men, women and children that come forward and see their physical and sexual abusers prosecuted each year.  They find strength to do what is right and resolve to see a horrible situation through to the end.  Most likely preventing further victimization of others.  These people stood up for what they believed and in varying degrees changed the world. 
 

We can change the world too.  One person, one animal, one smile or kind word at a time.  Help someone learn to read, be a voice for someone who cannot speak, right a wrong in helping someone seek justice.  There is so much that we can help and heal if only we will take the time to do what’s right.  I know it’s not always easy but I believe it’s our duty.

One does evil enough when one does nothing good.  ~German Proverb

A friend of mine recently asked me what I think about the following quote:

“{Individuals with autism, a child with a different ability, etc} are the ultimate square pegs; and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.” ~Paul Collins~

On so many levels, I absolutely agree that we are indeed destroying the peg by trying to make it fit into the hole. But what upsets me the most about this train of thought is that in our society, anyone who doesn’t follow the “herd mentality” is considered a “square” peg.  If you are an original thinker, if you happen to learn differently, if you have some type of disability, most often this is seen as a problem.  Why?  Why the terrible need to force everyone to be the same?

Throughout history, great achievement and growth has come from those wonderful square pegs that just do not fit into the round holes of society.  Thomas Jefferson was considered “uneducable” by his teachers and kicked out of school.  Helen Keller was deaf, mute and blind.  Albert Einstein was thought to be on the autism spectrum.  Beethoven was deaf and suffered from depression.  Yet consider all the contributions these amazing people made to the world. 

My life is full of square pegs.  In my opinion, how we treat people, the support they get and the extent to which we allow them to spread their wings and fly determines how they interact with society and how society responds to them. 

My son who is severely affected by autism is a constant source of joy for all who know him.  He hasn’t said a word in many years.  Yet, he is probably one of the most effective communicators you will ever meet.   Through his actions, his facial expression and body language, he shares his beautiful, loving spirit. 

My stepson has learning disabilities.  He struggles in school academically in spite of modifications made to his studies.  It’s not that he can’t learn, he simply does not learn the same way as most other kids learn.  He recently took his written drivers exam.  He passed it on the very first try!  NONE of our other children did that.  They all took the test mutiple times.  But my husband took great care to sit with him and go over the material every time he was here at the house with us.  Having the material explained to him in a manner he could understand and retain, made all the difference. 

Just because these guys don’t fit the plain round mold doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful.  They are incredible young men that I love with all my heart.  They are unique.  They are just square pegs. 

We are not all the same.  I don’t think we are intended to be.  Why do we always focus on the deficit?  Is it to make ourselves feel better about our own short-comings that we don’t want to admit?  Does it make us feel smarter somehow to knock someone else down?  That not only hurts them but it hurts us too.  There is so much to be learned from those who are different from us.  Especially, in my humble opinion, those with special needs. 

I don’t think you can make a square peg fit into a round hole.  You can pound them down, but they will always stand a little taller than the plain round pegs.

“Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?”  -Quote from movie “What A Girl Wants”

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Yesterday was Christmas.  For me, it was the best Christmas I can remember in a very long time.  Certainly since my children were babies.  We did things a little differently this year.  Our focus was more on “real” Christmas than on “commercial” Christmas.  We didn’t run around spending a bunch of money on gifts for people we don’t even see throughout the year.  We didn’t buy a bunch of gifts for each other.  We didn’t stress out trying to get to a bunch of Christmas get togethers.  It was an authentic Christmas.

A big part of this being such a great Christmas was the lack of drama where my stepchildren are concerned.  There is a court date pending that in part addresses the ex-wife’s continual interference and manipulation of visitation.  So for the first time I can remember, there hasn’t been any jockeying on her part to screw with the court-ordered visitation schedule over the Holidays.  Amazing how much better it is when she manages to play by the rules.  It is unfortunate however, that it takes having an active complaint to force her into compliance.  Fortunately, there are not many more years of this foolishness in front of us.

My favorite part of Christmas this year was being able to visit my daughter in prison on Christmas Eve.  Maybe that sounds strange.  Would I prefer my daughter be home at Christmas, celebrating with us at home?  Of course I would.  But it’s not time for that yet.  She still has work to do.  And for her to be successful out in what is referred to as “the free world” there are no shortcuts.

I enjoy my visits with my daughter.  Not just spending time with her, but learning about and getting to know some of the other women in prison.  There are so many stories.  Some happy, some sad, but all very, very real.  Faces put to problems.  People facing great adversity.  I respect them for that.  Many of the people I have met that are in prison are more honest, much more humble and sincere, than a lot of the people I know on the outside.  Often I wonder how it is that some people get caught at a crime and harshly sentenced while others commit crimes for years yet escape ever being brought to justice.  Many times I think about this long after I have left the concrete walls and razor wire that contain them.

Christmas is such a great time for personal reflection.  A time to take inventory in ourselves.  For me it’s a time to think about how I have spent the past year and how I am going to grow in the coming year.  Have I been the best person I can be?  Where have I fallen short?  How can I do better?  My hope is that I can use my voice, my talents, whatever resources I am given, to make the world a better place.  To continue to stand up for what’s right and to keep pushing for change.  To hold on to faith, to hope, and to love.

Here’s hoping you had a very Merry Christmas!  Much love to you.

 

1 Corinthians 13:13   Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

 

I haven’t written much lately.  Not on my blog.  Not on any other sites.  Honestly, I haven’t done much of anything lately.  Lately being the past 6 to 8 weeks or so.  In spite of several trips to a couple of different doctors, I haven’t felt well in quite a while.  That’s crazy, isn’t it?  With everything I have going on in my life, I don’t have time to be feeling bad.

It started over a year ago.  a dull, aching pain on my right side.  I mentioned it to my doctor at the time.  He deemed it “muscular” and sent me off with pain medicine and muscle relaxers.  It came and went from time to time and when it flared up I would try to take it easy for a couple of days thinking I had once again “pulled something” in there.

Shortly after the beginning of last year, I switched my Primary Care Physician.  At my yearly physical, I mentioned the pain that I had been having.  Explaining in detail how it varies and on the bad days can spread around my side, up my back and into my shoulder.  She thought perhaps I had a cracked rib so she ordered x-rays, but since that was also the location of my liver she wanted blood drawn too.  Both were done on that day.  I made a follow-up appointment to get the results.  No cracked rib; liver is fine.  Maybe I had pulled a muscle.

A few more months pass.  I have the pain off and on in varying degrees of severity.  It gets pretty aggravating one afternoon, so I take my self over to the convenient care clinic, asking them to check and see if I have a kidney infection.  I am told to go to the emergency room.  This to me is absolutely ridiculous!  Emergency room visits are reserved for blood, broken bones, heart attacks and such in my opinion.  I called around and found another walk-in clinic that would see me.  They did a urine analysis and told me kidneys were fine.  Asking the doctor what the problem may be, I was told that perhaps I was constipated and I should go home and drink Miralax for the next seven days.  I didn’t know what to think.  Maybe I was just really over-tired and this was just a “normal” ache and pain.  Maybe I was imagining it all.  After all, it’s now three doctors who tell me everything is fine.

About two months ago the pain became constant; sometimes just a slight ache, other times, more intense and throbbing.  I started talking to my husband about whether I should go back to my Primary Care Physician, or find a new doctor.  My Primary Care Physician had all my medical records and knows me pretty well.  It’s always a pain to start over with someone else when it comes to doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc.  Back and forth in my mind I went, weighing pro’s and con’s, as the pain worsened almost daily.

Finally, three weeks today, on a particularly pain-filled day, I decided to go back to the doctor who was Primary Care Physician when I first moved to the area.  I had always loved him, but hated his billing department who could never get anything straight.  Taking a chance that nothing had changed, my theory was I needed to be healthy even if that meant I would suffer the aggravation of billing hell!  He saw me that afternoon and told me he believed all this trouble was coming from my gallbladder.  Gallbladder???  Could it be THAT easy?  Why had NONE of the other doctors thought about my gallbladder?  This doctor told me the symptoms I described were “classic” symptoms pointing to a problem with the gallbladder.  He scheduled me first for an ultrasound, telling me that even if the ultrasound showed no sign of stones or inflammation, that didn’t mean it wasn’t my gallbladder.  He assured me we would get to the bottom of this.

The following week I had the ultrasound.  It showed my gallbladder to be “unremarkable.”  The doctor’s office immediately scheduled me for a HIDA scan.  The HIDA scan would measure the actual functioning of the gallbladder.  A week ago yesterday I found out that the HIDA scan showed my gallbladder was functioning at only 4%.  This would definitely be what was causing the pain and making me feel so sick all the time.  I met the surgeon on Friday, and this past Monday, I had surgery.  Surgery took longer than anticipated as my gallbladder was twice the size it should have been.

Here’s the crazy part – even the day after surgery, when I was still very sore, I felt better than I have in a long time.  I am so thankful to finally have the solution to the pain and sickness.  So thankful to now be on the mend.

There are a couple of important lessons I have taken away from this experience.  First, I know to trust my interpretation of what is going on in my body.  I need to trust my instincts.  I should have either pushed my PCP harder, or switched doctors long before I got in the situation where the pain was severe on a daily basis.  Two, doctors are human.  Just like in every other profession, there are good doctors, bad doctors, and a lot of in between.  If a doctor isn’t listening to you, move on.  It’s your health and well-being we’re talking about here.

So here’s to our health!  Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Do you know anyone in prison?  I mean, do you actually KNOW anyone in prison?  Up until the time my daughter went to prison I did not know anyone in prison.  Never had a face to put on the mental image I had of an inmate on the very rare occasion I did give thought to someone being in prison.  I never gave much thought to the people in prison.

Furthermore, I never gave much thought to what prison was actually like, although I was certain it wasn’t TOO horrible.  I had in my mind the idea that there was constant supervision, that the environment would be monitored throughly and controlled.  Perhaps I even believed some of the ignorant emails that float around and tout prisoners getting three free meals a day, being able to hang out and watch TV, spend their time getting a college degree and working out at the prison gym.  Much like the majority of the political emails I get, whoever wrote them doesn’t have a clue about the reality.  It has been my experience that you may think you feel one way about a situation, but when that situation becomes personal and effects you or someone you love, your opinion is likely to change.  Suddenly, you develop an understanding that you couldn’t have had without the experience.  You grow.

When my daughter was first sent to prison she went to a maximum security facility.  Not because she had done something so horrible as to deserve that, but simply because that is the only facility this state uses as the intake center for women.  It is a very scary place.  When you drive up you see the facility across a field.  Big.  Cold.  Surrounded by layers of fencing topped with rows and rows of razor wire.  There is razor wire in the fields should anyone possibly make it over the fences or through the doors.

When a woman arrives at the prison, the first sixty days are spent on what they call “Hoe Squad.”  You get up early and walk out into the fields and do exactly as the name implies; you hoe.  Or you chop with a sickle.  The armed guards on horseback watch over you.  If you happen upon a field rat or snake you had better not run.  They warn you before you ever go out that it will be determined that you are trying to escape and you will be shot.  Rain or shine, out into the fields you go.  The only exception being very severe weather.  It’s not easy.  Then again, it’s not meant to be.

There is no privacy in prison.  You use the toilet and shower with other women.  They search you thoroughly in places I prefer to keep private.  My daughter tells me you grow used to it.  This would be a stretch for me.  Then again, if you have no choice, I guess you get used to a lot of things that are outside of your comfort zone.  After visitation the searches are especially invasive.  Unfortunately, many times this is when inmates receive contraband.  It is unbelievable to me but I understand that many times easier to to get drugs on the inside than on the street.

For the most part, the day is pretty structured.  Inmates have jobs in prison.  Depending on their classification (behavior/danger level) they are assigned to various areas.  Kitchen, laundry, legal library, field work, maintenance to name a few.  They are not paid.  If they have classes, they are in the classroom half the day and work the other half.  Classes can be focused on personal behavioral issues such as anger management, or parenting skills.  Or they can focus on helping the inmate learn a skill which will allow them to be released back into society with knowledge that will help them be employable.  For some of the women this is cosmetology or culinary skills.

Mail is precious when you’re in prison.  That connection to friends, family and the outside “free” world is often one of the few things to help stave off depression.  Prison is a scary place.  Even to visit.  Some of the women here are very dangerous.  Thinking about this is enough to make me cry.  My daughter is 5’4″ tall and weighs about 125 lbs.  There have been many instances that have caused us to fear for her safety.  As a mother, there is no way to not worry.  It is difficult to think of my baby girl inside those razor wire fences, in a cement block building.

Every Sunday I talk to my daughter.  Every Sunday a little piece of me grieves.  Every Sunday has a little crying time.  I wish you knew my daughter.  She is smart and funny.  She has a big heart and is always trying to help people.  Now that part of her is forever overshadowed by terrible decisions made while under the influence of legally obtained prescription medications.  It is heartbreaking.  It has been two years since she went away.  It is still so surreal.  How did this happen?  Why did this happen?  Is she going to be okay?  Why is she in jail over others who have done much, much worse?  These are questions I wrestle with constantly.  She has two more years to serve on her sentence.  Two more years of limited contact.  Prepaid phone calls.  Two more years of visiting under the watch of armed guards.  We drive down to see her when we can.  Two more years of praying night and day for her safety.  And more than anything, we pray for her healing.

One of the highlights of my morning is putting my son on the school bus.  Not that I like to see him go.  Quite the contrary.  I enjoy every minute of our time together.  What brings joy to me every morning is the little, smiling faces already on the bus when it comes to get my son.  Beautiful faces with bright smiles.  Little hands that wave to me as the bus pulls away.  I love these children.  Pure.  Innocent.  Full of love.  Love the way I believe it was meant to be.  Accepting.  Non-judgemental.  Genuine.

I have long admired the love that comes from my son and other children like him.  Those with “disabilities.”  I don’t know.  Are they really the ones with the disabilities?  It is true in some cases they are not able to do the many things we take for granted.  Many have trouble walking.  Some do not write.  Or speak.  They may have difficulty understanding instructions.  Many need care and assistance for even the simplest daily tasks.  But what I see are beautiful people with hearts of gold.  Able to do what very few of us can even comprehend.  My son could care less whether I drive him around in a beat-up, old pick-up truck or a Mercedes Benz.  Doesn’t matter does it?  As long as we get safely where we need to go?  If I serve hot dogs for dinner or steak, he is happy to have food and eats heartily.  Clothes from Wal-Mart, a consignment shop or the Gap?  He could care less!  As long as he is in soft material that is easy on his skin and has his favorite colors, all is well.  How I long to have more of his character.

Over the years, I have learned much from my son and from other people with different abilities.  I trust my gut more when meeting people.  Maybe I am a little more present when I am with those I love, really taking the time to take them in and appreciate them.  I give thanks every day.  On the rare occasion that my son gets upset with someone or something, he makes his objection known, and then he lets it go.  He doesn’t hold a grudge.  He will welcome your apology and offer you a hug or two.  How I need to learn more forgiveness.

I always say I have two heroes.  Oprah and an my son.  Oprah because she inspires the world to change for the better.  My son because he inspires me to do better.  He is just so full of love.  So full of joy.  Such a gift to me and those who know him.

Thank God for allowing me to see the beauty every weekday in those little angel faces.  Thank you for allowing me to share my life with someone so much wiser than myself.  Please watch over all people with different abilities.  Help the world to see and embrace all they have to offer.  Amen.

My son was born a healthy baby.  Full term pregnancy.  I did not drink, smoke, or take drugs of any kind.  Nor did I have a history of this behavior.  I didn’t drink caffeine, eat fresh water fish or any other food that could have elevated mercury.  I stayed active.  I gained 35 lbs with this, my second pregnancy.  Labor was induced by breaking my water during the week of my due date as a result of pregnancy induced high blood pressure that had made an appearance the week before.

The birth of my second child was so exciting to me.  There are five years between my two children.  I waited until my ex-husband was comfortable with the thought of another baby.  When we made the decision to get pregnant, I started prenatal vitamins.  I did everything humanly possible to make sure an easy pregnancy and healthy baby.  Believe me, I have analyzed this under the proverbial microscope a million times.  I believe most parents of children with disabilities go through this.  “Did I do something wrong?”  “Could I have done something differently?”

A chubby, happy, breast-fed baby, my son was the picture of perfect health until around a year, which was shortly after I stopped nursing and switched him to formula.  Then he began to have a series of ear infections, upper respiratory infections and continual sinus drainage.  Developmentally, between his first and second year, he began to lose ground.  In between his second and third year, he lost all of his words and became non-verbal.  It was due to not feeling well I was told.  “Don’t worry”, the doctors said, “he will catch up.”  After one particularly memorable series of vaccinations, given to my son while he had an upper respiratory infection, things took a turn for the worse.  I remember asking my doctor if we should wait and vaccinate when he was over the infection.  She told me it wouldn’t hurt him as the two were not connected.  For four days after those shots, my son ran a fever, wouldn’t eat, was incredibly irritable, and would just lay in his crib moving his head from side to side as he cried.  Looking back, I will always remember this as the time that my son’s life changed.  It’s hard to believe, but that was almost twenty years ago.

Raising my son has been an incredible journey.  There have been so many ups and downs.  No please don’t misunderstand, my son is one of the greatest joys and blessings of my life.  He is pure love.  But I would be lying to you if I said it has been easy.  And I don’t mean caring for my son, I am really speaking more of the feelings, thoughts and questions you have through the whole process of first getting, then dealing with, a diagnosis.  I remember the first person to say the word “autism” to me.  My reaction was to get angry.  Autism?  My son?  He was very interactive, loving.  He didn’t sit in the corner and bang his head.  This was my limited, stereotypical view of autism up to that point.  Fear.  Complete and utter terror.  That is what I felt when I first heard that word.  A whole new world was about to unfold before me.

At first, I spent a lot of time crying.  What did I do wrong?  This had to be my fault, right?  I stuck my nose into every book, every bit of research available at the time.  I hauled my son to one of the leading developmental centers in the country only to be told that he did NOT have autism and that he would develop just fine given time.  I enrolled him in therapy:  speech, physical, occupational therapy.  The opinions of the therapists were as different and varied as the health professionals.  It was so confusing and upsetting.  Was I doing everything I could for my son, or was I obsessing needlessly?  Judgement from others ran rampant.

Over the years we have tried just about everything.  Most of us are easy targets as parents anyway, always wanting what is best for our children.  Throw in a disability that remains a puzzle, with so many variables, and we are open season for all the cures, treatments, aides.  You name it, if it could possibly help, we will try it, buy it, promote it.  And through the years I have.  We have modified diet more times than I can remember.  We have done all of the therapies including music and horseback riding.  We have tried a variety of vitamins and supplements.  Has there been improvement by any of these?  Yes.  The most from dietary supplements and from chemical free products.

Today, my son has grown into a wonderful, young gentleman.  He is my hero.  When I consider everything he must hear, see and feel during a day due to his sensory issues I am amazed that he can keep up such a happy disposition.  He is almost always smiling.  He has plenty of hugs and kisses for those of us in his life and he will go out of his way to offer a hug or a handshake to a total stranger if he sees someone in need.  How he determines who is in need of a hug is a mystery to me but he is always eagerly embraced.  He is beautiful.  To me, he represents true unconditional love of others.  No judgement, just acceptance.  If only we could be more like him and other special people.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t worry about my son and about his future.  There also isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for the privilege of being his Mother.

“You’ve developed the strength of a draft horse while holding onto the delicacy of a daffodil … you are the mother, advocate and protector of a child with a disability.” -Lori Borgman

This wasn’t always the case.  Some of my long time friends and work associates will tell you that at one point I considered a funeral and a wedding nearly the same event.  I know, it is morbid, but that’s how I felt.  In my eyes, it was a certain death, either way.

Blame it on my background.  My mom and dad divorced when I was three and my dad quickly disappeared from the picture.  Actually, he disappeared from the entire state to avoid having to pay child support.  At that time the State and Federal child support programs didn’t exist.  My mother remarried.  I spent the rest of my childhood working my butt off in some twisted real-life version of Cinderella.  Only there was no handsome prince.

During my school years I could best be described as a bookworm.  I read daily, I wrote, I painted.  Books, art and animals were, and still are, passions of mine.  Dating was something I didn’t do until I was out of school.  And then, sparingly.  I was a free spirit interested in learning about people, places, things.  Come to think of it, I still have those free-spirited tendencies.

Having watched my mother’s marriage to a very controlling man, I always thought there was no way I would marry a man like that!  Well, at the tender young age of twenty-one I ended up pregnant, and then married to a man just like that.  For the next twelve years I was like a caged lion.  Pacing, pacing, pacing.  Work and my children were my constants as my husband and I lived vastly different, and separate lives, out of the same home.  The only “real” marriage I had to use for comparison was my Grandparents.  But those were different times, right?  And what would happen if the children didn’t have their father?  This thought in particular tormented me.  I only wanted the best for them.  At the time, I thought that had to be two parents.

Now, being married to someone you have no desire to spend any time with does have its perks.  Almost every weekend I took my children on outings; children’s museums, children’s theater, events with their favorite characters…we had so much fun.  At work I excelled in whatever projects I was given.  I was focused and driven.  I was well paid.  But still, at the end of the day, something was missing.  When I looked in the mirror I saw a woman who lived a big, fat lie!

I finally screwed up the courage to divorce him.  No easy task mind you.  The one thing I learned during my divorce is that controlling people tend to get a little crazy when they lose control.  But in the end, when it was over, he disappeared too.  No contact with our children at all.

To give us a fresh start I bought a new home.  A small house outside of town on an acre.  Lots of trees.  Gravel road.  Quiet.  A good place for a single mom to raise two beautiful children.  Work was going good.  The kids and I were back to our weekend adventures.  It was grand.

So who can blame me when my daughter and her best friend started bugging me about meeting their Science teacher and I told them both to get lost?  I wasn’t interested in dating someone.  Why would I mess up this great little life I had going on?  And to top it off, he had four kids.  Four small children and an ex-wife.  No thank you girls!

Thankfully, I didn’t stick to my resolve.  After about six months of pestering, they wore me down.  I gave in and agreed to meet this man.  It struck me that my daughter was so insistent that I would like him.  He couldn’t be all bad, right?  I could at least enjoy a cup of coffee with him.

The rest is history.  Two things moved me that morning; my husbands obvious love for his children, and his patience.  As we sat and swapped stories, compared history, talked about our marriages and our divorces, I couldn’t help but relax.  He touched my hand and he touched my heart.  Eleven years later he still touches my heart.  More than ever in fact.  Even after we have gone through so much.

How is it that I can have a bond this strong with a man who I met while my heart was so hardened?  We often say that it is because our first marriages were so unhappy.  Maybe that is some of it.  It takes more than simple appreciation but I believe that goes a long way.  I know I am thankful every day to be so blessed.  Thankful for the love he shows all of our children.

This marriage bears no resemblance to my first save perhaps the real legal document filed at the courthouse.  My husband and I have no biological children together.  We simply didn’t feel the need or the want to add to the six already here.  Maybe that is a big part of it.  We don’t have any “ties” that bind.  We are together because we want to be together.  We are together because trust each other.  We respect each other as separate and independent people.  We allow and honestly encourage each other to pursue our goals and dreams.  We have freedom.  Freedom to embrace who we truly are and that which is important to us.  That to me is the definition of true love.

Recently, I made a trip to my local big box hardware store.  The service was terrible.  The help anything but helpful.  As I stood at checkout I was voicing my thoughts to the woman cashier.  She quickly changed the conversation to the paint I was purchasing, telling me that the blue and the orange represented the colors of her son’s school.  Really? I asked, my son too.  Maybe our sons know each other she says.  Her son, she tells me, is a football player.  My son, I say, has autism and is in a special education classroom.

As we continue to chat, she tells me what a heart her son has for people with special needs.  She is proud of him.  This is all wonderful from my perspective.  I have loved people with special needs long before I had my son.  To hear of a teenage boy with this in his heart brought me joy.  What she said to me next made me angry and sick all at the same time.  She told me that her son had learned about people with special needs from what happened to his cousin, her nephew.   It seems that the young man (the nephew) had done something deemed a punishable offense in our local high school, during the last year before it split into two schools.  One of his teachers thought the appropriate “punishment” was for this young man to eat lunch for two weeks with the special education students.

My legs began to shake with anger, and my mouth – which usually has no trouble spitting out words – was suddenly silent.  What do you say in response to that?  Dumbfounded, I asked her to repeat what she had just said to me.  Unfortunately, I heard her right the first time.

What is it with people?  Why do so many of us fear and despise that which is different from us?  Or that which we don’t understand?  In the instance of people with disabilities, it seems especially heartless to me.  Maybe that’s because of my son.  I don’t know.  I have been around people with special needs most of my life.  The first special needs person I remember interacting with was a girl my age named Linda, when I was in second grade.  Linda had Downs Syndrome and was severely affected.  When I was finished with my classwork, I was allowed to go down to her classroom.  I guess it was a sort of “buddy system” and I think we both benefited from our time together.

Different is not bad.  It should be welcomed and encouraged.  Whether it be intellectual ability, race, religion, whatever.  Why would any school system continue to employ a so called “teacher” who would see the above behavior as appropriate?  Ah, I guess for the same reason they continue to employ a teacher known for having sex with students.  We wonder why society has the flaws it has and where our morals have gone.  What can we expect when this is the type of example we have as role models in our schools?  What can we expect when administrators know and refuse to do anything about it?  And let’s not forget the parents.  Shame on them for knowing what goes on in these schools and not doing anything about it.  If more people would speak up and come forward with what they know and have seen, change would be forced.

I do not know the name of the teacher who issued the above “punishment.”  But  I do believe in karma.  I do believe that when we choose to victimize others that comes back on us with incredible tenacity.  To the credit of the young man who was forced to sit with the special ed kids, he chose to remain with them.  I am told that for the rest of the year he ate his lunch with them.  Hopefully he continues to share his experience in a positive light.