My name is Shara Lawrence-Weiss, and it’s an annoyingly long last name, I know. Years ago I was a single mom, and my son asked me to keep his last name inside my name – so that his friends wouldn’t be confused at school (I was teaching Art Masterpiece at the time, and all of his friends called me “Miss Lawrence.”). After getting remarried I hyphenated my last name because my son didn’t want to be the only one in our family with a different last name.
After he enters adulthood I’ll likely drop the Lawrence and keep Weiss. For now, though, it makes my son happy to know that I have (partially) the same last name as him.
Where to start?
I’ve lived through quite a bit for someone my age: I was married young, lived through his drug use, got divorced and then he died. I still miss Brian to this day; I miss my friend.
I then got pregnant and married for a second time to a man who was the polar opposite personality to mine. Things went quite sour, and by the time I left I was wearing a size 14 in little girl’s clothing, my hair was falling out, and I was skin and bones. A cancer scare was enough to set me straight. I then lived as a single mom for three and a half years, went to college, earned scholarships, won awards and was later nominated “Future Teacher of the Year” by the college staff.
I remarried again to my best friend and soul mate. We now run 12 websites, three businesses and work together from home – sitting about 10 feet apart. My husband joked the other day that we should buy ONE large desk and sit across from each other so we can look into each other’s eyes while we work.
Over the years I’ve been published locally, regionally and nationally in magazines, newspapers, journals and online outlets. I love to write! I still intend to earn my Elementary Education degree, but I’m now pregnant with our fourth kiddo and my businesses are going well so….school is on hold.
My first son was born with no vision in his right eye. They called his eye “microthalmic.” His retina then detached, and he got glaucoma. The eye was removed ten days after his first birthday. Three surgeries later the doctors gave him an implant made from ocean coral, and an eye specialist later created a prosthetic eye – beautifully painted to match his “seeing” eye. New eyes are made every few years as my son grows (spendy!); he is now 12.
Our typical weeks used to be filled with doctor visits, ultrasounds of the eye, orbital exams, surgeries, follow up visits and more. Things have settled down now, and we return for a new eye every few years. The eye is removable, and we keep it clean with soap and water. During allergy season the eye socket does produce lots of seepage but other than that, things run pretty smoothly for us.
My son must wear glasses full-time to protect his “seeing” eye so we do have to buy new glasses for him every year. We were told that he would not excel in sports because of the lack of peripheral vision. So far, my son has proved them wrong and excels at every sport he plays.
Before I had kids I was so selfish and self centered. I cared only about my own wants and needs, my own schedule, my own desires, etc. I really can’t thank God enough for giving me a child who took up so much time, energy and effort. I had to jump into motherhood with blind faith, trusting God and my instincts to carry me though. This made me stronger, wiser and kinder.
I learned to become an avid reader, a researcher of medical data, a faith warrior and a loving mother. I learned to become less selfish and to put my own needs aside. I learned what the Apostle Paul meant when he said:
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4
I don’t always feel as though I have the strength to pull through but I do. With faith…I always do.
If you’re struggling, finding it hard to go on, don’t view challenges as a reason to quit and give up. Quitting is so easy and leaves you wondering, “What if? What if I had pushed through and been strong enough to see this situation to the other side?” The only time we can give a testimony to others of what faith can do, is when we stick it out, push through and get to the other side with a story of triumph.
Kutless sums it up so fantastically: “It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard. Impossible is not a word. It’s just a reason for someone not to try. Everybody’s scared to death. When they decide to take that step out on the water…it’ll be alright.”
Faith isn’t about facts or science or supposed provable data analyzed by fallible men. Faith is about trusting what you cannot see. No parent of a special needs child can SEE what the future holds. You have to have faith, jump in, trust that God knows what He is doing when He gives you a challenge that other parents don’t seem to have and believe that some kind of amazing story will be told, through your tears and suffering. Believers were never promised easy lives. We were simply promised that we won’t be alone as we walk through the Valley. We always have someone there, holding our hand, and we’re never alone.
In the darkest nights I’ve always felt something surrounding me. A peace that passes understanding and arms that seem to be holding me up.
My favorite quote of all time comes from a man named Wintley Phipps: “It is in the quiet crucible of your personal sufferings, that your noblest dreams are born, and God’s greatest gifts are given, in compensation for what you’ve been through.”
Can this man SING or what!?
Don’t leave home without it.
Before my first son was born I worked in a school for children with developmental delays. I was working there, in fact, when I found out that I was expecting my first child. I worked as the assistant to the school superintendent, greeting parents, running the front office, answering a 10-line phone, writing memos, filing, chatting with parents about their children, talking with teachers and special needs advocates, etc. I learned a great deal from this experience!
I grew up in a home surrounded by talk of helping others and assisting children who have special needs. My father ran a homeless shelter while I was in high school, and my mom worked in special-education classrooms for more than 11 years (She is back working in classrooms again now!). In fact, my mother helped create my book business by sharing her classrooms ideas and needs with me. Thanks to my mom’s insights I learned a great deal about helping children through written text and the creation of custom stories to address personal needs and challenging life situations. Since starting this book business I’ve written custom stories for children addressing issues like heart surgery, heart defects, severe burns, parental loss, pet loss, sibling rivalry, jealousy, sexual abuse and much more.
My desire to work more closely with children of special circumstances was spurred after the birth of my first son. I realized very quickly that helping others was a fulfilling and peaceful way to live. When we give more to others than we take for ourselves, we have very little time left over for selfish thoughts.
I used to watch the parents come in and watch the interaction between the teachers and kids. I would soak up what the teachers were doing: speech paths, physical therapists, early childhood intervention experts and more. After my son was born the school sent over a newborn expert to assess my child and to watch his tracking, finger movements, body movements and so on. I memorized everything she did so I could test my son, on my own, long after she had left my home. When I nannied for other families (for more than 16 years) I ran some of those same little tests on their babies, just to be sure the babies were not showing any early signs of developmental delays. I was, by no means, the expert, but I did have fun playing the baby games and learning more and more about a baby’s brain development and physical abilities! Babies are pretty darn amazing!
What I’m about to say next is very personal for me and will likely offend quite a few women. I “self talk” a lot. I used to say things to myself like, “What is your alternative? You could have aborted your child or you can suck up what’s been given to you, face your fears, jump in, trust God and accept the life circumstances you were handed. You had the choice to be a quitter or a fighter. You CHOSE to be a fighter, and now you have to accept this, jump in with blind faith and believe what your mama and daddy taught you: ANYTHING is possible with God. Do you believe that? Yes or no? Pick one and if you pick to have faith, SHOW IT. Live your faith and live your trust in God’s ability to carry you through this. You want your son to grow up to know that his mother was strong and courageous and NEVER gave up, right? So prove it.”
I would say such things to myself on a pretty regular basis until this mantra became my life walk.
Check out some of the awards and features I’ve received so far.
I’ve written for publications including an adoption journal, local newspapers, the Homeschool Handbook magazine, the Salvation Army magazine, Christian outlets, online parenting websites, and I now write for my own sites. I often guest write for other blogs and sites, upon request. I’ve been interviewed on TV a few times, also.
Take a look at more features and media highlights about me.
Trying to overcome the fact I was a size 14 in little girl’s clothes and skin and bones, while maintaining my faith and being a mother was not easy. I prayed a great deal, listened to hymns daily, read parenting articles and books, went to therapy every week for a year, put my son into play therapy with a child psychologist, swam daily to keep my energy up and oxygen circulating through my body, volunteered, went to church and had regular meetings with a mentor (my pastor at that time). It wasn’t an easy road to travel. I was scared I’d get so thin and so weak that my son would no longer have a healthy mother to rely upon. I moved away from my parents, three sisters, and nieces and nephews when my son was 16 months old, and I’ve been away from them now for 11 years. I can’t return home because of the divorce and joint custody arrangements.
I had to learn to become self-reliant in many regards and to trust in my own inner strengths. The words of Scripture were a huge source of comfort to me, pushing me to believe that even little old me was worth something to God. When we believe that we have a purpose here, everything changes.
My parents instilled hard work into my soul. I am not sure I even know HOW to be lazy. I’ve been working since age 12 and don’t know how to live any other way. When I was a single mom, every ounce of strength inside me was brought to the surface. I learned to fix my own appliances, pump tires, caulk a bathtub, fix a toilet and sink, research for help, utilize resources that are available to single moms, apply for college scholarships and more. I was working as a nanny for a doctor, going to school at night and on the weekends, and I wasn’t making enough money to pay the bills. I had to apply for food stamps. I can still remember walking into Albertsons and vomiting in the bushes at the front of the store, the first time I went to use my food stamp card. I was so ashamed! I’m not great at asking for help, and I hated the idea that I had to rely on other people’s tax money to feed my son. I remember saying to myself, “You can refuse to use this card but what then? Then your son goes hungry. What kind of mother would put pride over her son’s needs? Go buy food.” My son never went without and, in fact, I got to the point that I was so good at budgeting my food purchases that I could share our food with others who were also in need. I would deliver food to neighbors, etc.
Living as a single mom was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. It was also the most rewarding. I wake up every day now, not WONDERING if I could conquer the world. I KNOW it.
My advice to single moms who have a special-needs child? Find friends and resources to help you! Google about local support groups, government programs and church assistance. There are so many faith based organizations out there ready and willing to help. They don’t make the news because no one in the media wants to give credit to anything faith based. But your hands can Google and find these folks all on your own, so do it! Join a gym or start some kind of workout routine – you NEED this! When things get really dark, turn on loud music and dance around until you fall over. Get the stress hormones OUT of your body and then sleep. That always helped me.
About Shara Lawrence-Weiss
Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Kids Perks, Personal Child Stories, Reliable Bloggers, Early Childhood News and Resources and the co-owner of Pine Media. She and her husband work from home, run 12 websites and are expecting their fourth child. Shara has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, marketing, PR, freelance and special needs. She and her husband run three businesses from home offering custom children’s books, web design, development, graphics, hosting, programming, social media campaigns, marketing and branding assistance, and more. Rick has been in business for more than 23 years. Shara has owned her own businesses since 2007.
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