Welcome to a new feature on Jason’s Spina Bifida Journey. Starting today I will feature a guest blogger, who will bless us with a story, poem or other words of inspiration, or just something to keep in mind as we travel this journey I love to call life together. It’s my pleasure to welcome Glynn Young who reminds us to take a minute to notice what’s really important: the small things.
The Blessing’s in the Small Things
By Glynn Young
We seem to spend a great part of our lives waiting. Waiting for the good things to start happening. Waitng for the proverbial ship to come in. Waiting for the phone to ring with that job offer. The Saturday night Lotto drawing. And waiting for God to answer those big prayers.
The older I get, the more I realize that the real blessing is in the waiting because that’s where we might be most open to noticing the small things.
A baby’s tooth-gapped smile.
Overconfident daffodils trying to push up through the dirt too soon.
A sunset. A sunrise.
Three birds sitting on an electrical wire, watching the rush-hour traffic below.
Each of these small things, like all small things, contains a blessing, a piece of joy, a word from God.
We tend to miss these, because we spend so much time focused on the big things. It’s not that the big things don’t matter; they do. That’s why they’re called big things.
But it’s in the small things, the things so easily and often overlooked, that we hear God speaking most clearly.
A volunteer brass ensemble playing Handel at church.
Melting instead of frozen ice on your car windshield.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein.
A child’s total absorption as you read her a story.
A new online friend.
Years ago, when my two sons were 12 and 4, I took them hiking at the Shaw Nature Reserve, about 50 miles west of St. Louis. We were not more than 15 minutes into our hike, with my older son and I talking about the eventual destination we wanted to reach, when the four-year-old said, “Look! Anny-mulls!”
We stopped and looked. And there was a herd of perhaps 50 or more deer, led by a big buck with a lot of points on his antlers, emerging from the woods, and then stopping and watching us.
We stood spellbound. Eventually, they turned and moved back into the woods.
Never before or since have I seen a herd of deer that large. And we would have completely missed it had not the four-year-old been paying attention to where we were.
The child was paying attention to the little things.
Perhaps that’s the real meaning of “let the little children come to me.”
About Glynn Young
Glynn Young is director of online strategy and communications for a Fortune 500 company in St. Louis. You can read his blog at http://faithfictionfriends.blogspot.com.
This week, I continue my guest blog series with author Amber Buttrum, who reminds us to slow down, be patient and trust in God to meet our needs and help us achieve our goals.
Patience From a Writer’s Perspective
by Amber Buttrum
Patience. It takes time for great things to happen. You have to have faith and the patience to allow your dreams and goals to be achieved. Like my best friend, Leslie, told me “With God, all things are possible.” I believe this to be true. I have tried my best to be patient over the years to follow my dreams and goals. So far I have accomplished a lot of them with God’s guidance and many blessings. Ever since I was a young woman in my final year of middle school, I dreamed and prayed to become a published author. I have only had two pieces of work I had written published in print in my lifetime as a writer, and both were published in a newspaper. They were both published during my school years. One was a poem I entered into a poetry contest that I won honorable mention for when I was in the eighth grade. The other one that was published was a movie review I did of “The Brothers Grimm,” which was published in a local newspaper during my senior year of high school. What inspired me to continue writing was that same year I won honorable mention in the poetry contest, the school presented me with an award for Creative Writing Excellence. I was so amazed at how people enjoyed my work and would award me for it, so I continued to write.
After several rejections from publishing companies trying to get my poetry and other written work published, I gave up and decided to share my work online with friends, family and anyone else who wanted to read my work in my official blog, established in 2009, called “Writings of a Future Author named Amber” or Ambertheauthor for short. The blog started with short stories and regular blog updates. I was inspired by my friend, director Tim Sullivan, who did his own interview series called “Tim Sullivan’s Shock-N-Roll,” a series of interviews with people in the music and film industry who had inspired him in his own passions and who he admired over the years. Tim inspired me to do my own inspirational interviews for my blog with the friends/people I admire and inspire me in my passions. I asked Tim, who directed the movies 2001 Maniacs and Driftwood, for an interview at my blog Ambertheauthor in April 2009. He said yes and decided to do a phone interview. I was ecstatic to have him as my first ever interview on my blog. I gave him my phone number and waited for our interview. After several weeks, I forgot about it while waiting patiently for it to happen. The night of May 2nd of that year while watching TV, I received a phone call, which took me completely by surprise. It was from Tim. It was great to finally hear from him on the phone since we were currently corresponding online. We did the interview, and it was a great in-depth conversation on his work and everything else. This was the only over the phone interview that I had done for my blog. It was a great experience for me. I never knew that being patient, just asking my friends along with the people who inspired me as a writer for an interview and them saying yes would actually happen to me. I have done a lot of great interviews there thus far. I have tried my best to be patient for all of them. With prayer and patience, they have happened to me. Besides the interview I have done with Tim Sullivan, I’ve also done interviews with, Robert Englund, who has inspired me as a writer, as well as my voice acting friends and more. I hope to do more in the future for my blog, but must have the patience to wait and pray for them to happen.
I have also been patient on getting to meet some of the people who inspire me in person and more. Even though I was nervous, I got to meet my favorite author, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and my friend Dee Snider of Twisted Sister face-to-face. They were great to meet and very kind. One of my friends (Dee Snider) loved a portrait that I drew of him that I gave to him in person. His son Cody Blue Snider, who I am also a friend of, told me that he framed it in his home office. Dee even told his whole family that I was a cool person to know. I thought that was nice and am glad to consider them both as friends. Other celebrities have inspired me, even though I have never met them in person, and know about me. They are probably inspired by what I do and are fans of mine.
Some fans and friends have told me that I’m an inspiration to them. They admire my passion and drive to get things done. It’s true. My best friend of eleven years, Leslie Holden, even told me that I inspired her to become the better person she is today. I’ve inspired them with my written work, art, singing and voice acting. All I’ve done has made them smile. If I have done all that, I am definitely doing something right.
I also wrote an original horror short story for Halloween last year on my blog that others enjoyed. It is called “The Omen of Teaberry,” and Robert Englund inspired me for the villain of the story, Cameron Creed. I never knew I attained a fan following from it. I still receive positive feedback when new fans and friends actually read and enjoy my story. Robert Englund and his wife both read and enjoyed the story. I thought that was amazing. I know that exciting things are coming to me in the future because of it. I once said in one of my Youtube video blogs, “It would be cool to see this story become a movie or Halloween special one day.” It just might happen. All I can do is pray and wait to see if it does. A friend and I are currently working on a film treatment of it, so we’ll see what happens. I will continue to pray and wait to see it finished. Once it is finished and sounds good, then we will stay patient to see it become a film one day in the future.
“We were given this hope when we were saved. If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.”(Romans 8:24-25). I am waiting patiently to get everything done that I have set goals for while trusting in God for them to happen. All the great experiences I have done and things I had never done before have happened because of my faith in God and the many blessings He has given me and my family. If something I do doesn’t happen right away, I must wait patiently and with courage for it to come in the future. So far I have accomplished most of my goals and hope to accomplish more in the future when the opportunities reveal themselves to me. Patience is a virtue. You must do your best to see what the future holds for you and see how your goals/dreams will come to fruition. This is my perspective on being patient. It may be hard sometimes, but I believe in God to help me achieve all of my goals I’d like to see completed that I have set for myself in the future. I hope to meet more of the people who inspire me as a writer, singer, voice actrress and artist. Until then, I will continue to wait patiently for that to happen. Prayer apparently works because I was able to see two great singers in concert, Bon Jovi and Reba McEntire. It also helped me when I was in my first and only musical. I tried my best through the auditions. Even though I wasn’t fit for the lead or co-star character, being one of three extras was good enough for me. I tried my best and it eventually landed me a nomination at the community theater awards in 2007 for best actress in a minor role. I didn’t win, but being in “Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate” was a lot of fun. It was another great experience for me. I would not have been able to do that without being patient and without God’s guidance and help. I hope that what I wrote inspiring and insightful to you. Be sure to expect more interviews and other things to come from me soon. Until then, stay tuned.
About Amber Buttrum
Amber Buttrum is 23 years old and the author of the popular horror short story written exclusively for Ambertheauthor “The Omen of Teaberry,” which is currently being made into a film treatment by herself and Matt Brunck. She is also a singer and voice actress on Youtube known as animeangel2006. In addition to her writing and voice work on Youtube, she also does inspirational interviews for her blog, which she has done so far with Director Tim Sullivan, Robert Englund, and Scream Queen Sierra Holmes to name a few.
When she is not online, she can be found doing original art and portraits for friends/herself, watching movies, listening to music, reading, playing videogames, working on stories/interviews and more. She lives in the woods with her family in middle Tennessee. Check her out on WordPress and Youtube.
The Healing Power of Nature
By Laureen Raftopulos
A couple months ago, I had the opportunity and great privilege to interview Laureen Raftopulos, @Laureenraft on Twitter, about her love of photography. I was deeply moved by her determination and the long journey she had to endure to get where she is today. It is my honor and privilege to introduce to you Laureen Raftopulos.
Laureen loved nature as a child, especially sunrises and sunsets, she said. “My career however started in Information Technology,” she said. “I went into it straight after school and worked in the United States for a year and a half.” Laureen took tons of photos in the U.S., but just for fun.
She loved computer programming and did that until she had her daughter, Bianca. “I then swapped over to business analysis so I could spend more time with Bianca and didn’t have to be called out at nights to fix problems,” Laureen said.
Laureen contracted with a South African company for many years until a project she was working on became very political. “I started to realize that they had killed my passion for my work,” Laureen said. “I could not conceive of working on anything without passion, so I quit.”
She really wasn’t trained to do anything else, IT was her life and her hobby had been gardening. “I picked up my camera and started to focus on nature to heal myself,” Laureen said. “Nature has always been a healing element for me.”
“Doors and opportunities opened for me to take amazing photos with animals, and amazing photos would present themselves to me,” Laureen said. One photo that really amazed her was when she was given the opportunity to go into an enclosure with white lions. “Normally I’m so focused on taking the photos that emotion only hits me later when the photos are uploaded and then I will shed a tear or be amazed.”
Laureen has taken several pictures that were not planned or that were taken “on the spur of the moment, and I’ve often been surprised at the outcome,” she said. “One of these pictures was an eagle flying with a crow,” she said. “I thought they were both crows until I uploaded the photos.”
“Perhaps the most remarkable discovery was that there is no right or wrong in art, there is only creation, and ultimately the feeling that if one has passion and love for anything being photographed, that love and passion will be seen and felt in the photos,” Laureen said.
Another remarkable discovery Laureen made was fractals, which are rough or fragmented geometric shapes that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole, a property called self-similarity. “This gave me the opportunity to be more creative with my photos and also incorporate my passion for technology,” she said. “Seeing no right or wrong in art, just creativity and beauty has allowed me to experiment and find my own style.”
The journey into photography has broadened Laureen’s horizons, introducing her to fabulously supportive artists and allowing her into their world. “It has also brought me to Twitter and all the wonderful people I have met.”
“I am grateful for the sometimes difficult journey this has been, honored when someone finds my work appealing and deeply humbled when someone buys something I photographed,” Laureen said. “When we embrace anything with love, it ultimately embraces us back,” she said. “This applies not only to animals and nature, but to humans as well.”
You can view some of Laureen’s photography and learn about her interest in being behind the camera at her blog. Please tell her Jason sent you!! Thank you!!!
Angels on Earth
By Andrea Sligh
Greetings, followers of Jason! My name is Andi, and I’m the author of the blog “Bringing the Sunshine.” I live in a small town on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay along the Gulf Coast with my husband and two children. I appreciate Jason giving me a little space on his blog so I can introduce myself and my children to you.
First things first – I love Walt Disney World! I’ve been there three times so far in 2011, but I’ve never set foot in Universal Studios, and I don’t know that I ever will because, well…it’s not Disney.
I enjoy photography, and before I had children and digital took over the world, I had a darkroom in my basement. I’m a pseudo-reluctant convert to Photoshop and I’m currently working on a 365 project – a photo every day in 2011. Most of my photos have been of my children.
I recently taught myself to knit via YouTube. I haven’t made anything fancy, but I’ve made several things I love including really goofy hats for my kids. Photos of the kids in the goofy hats are featured in the header of my blog.
I am a runner and have completed five marathons – two of them at Walt Disney World. I am not fast or naturally athletic. I run 26.2 miles because I can and because other people can’t. Marathons, to me, are a metaphor for life. Life is not a sprint.
I have two angels in Heaven and two on Earth. My daughter, Sarah Kate, is eight years old and was born ten weeks premature because of an unexplained placental abruption. She has cerebral palsy, which is a condition that essentially means that her brain keeps her muscles from working the way they’re supposed to.
Sarah Kate loves to scrapbook.
Sarah Kate enjoys taking photographs.
Sarah Kate’s favorite ice cream is Blue Bell Mint Chocolate Chip.
Sarah Kate is on the swim team.
Sarah Kate kicks my butt every time in Wii Boxing.
Sarah Kate is a superstar around town. Everyone knows her. Everyone loves her. She has always been a happy child and has never once felt sorry for herself. She loves life.
Cerebral palsy is something that Sarah Kate has, not what she is.
My son turned one in March. He was a surprise in more ways than one. Unlike his sister, his entrance into the world went off without a hitch (other than being a tiny bit early) and we named him Nathan, which means “gift from God.” Nathan has Down’s Syndrome.
Down’s Syndrome occurs when a person is born with three, rather than two, copies of the 21st chromosome. This additional chromosome alters development. Although older mothers are more likely to have a baby with Down’s Syndrome, more babies with Down’s Syndrome are born to young mothers – simply because they have more children.
Nathan enjoys interacting with people (in fact, he insists on it!)
Nathan loves to play patty-cake.
Nathan fusses when he doesn’t want to take a nap.
Nathan likes to bang things together.
Nathan loves bananas and isn’t so fond of peas.
Nathan is a healthy, happy baby. Except for a few minor facial features, there is nothing about him that would tell the untrained observer that he isn’t just like any typical 13 month old.
Down’s Syndrome is something that Nathan has, not what he is.
There are many things about my family’s day-to-day life that differ from that of typical families. We spend a lot more time dealing with medical bills, going to therapy, and meeting with professionals about Individualized Education Programs and Individualized Family Service Plans. But our days are also filled with typical things – visiting with friends, watching television, grilling out, going to church, cleaning house and laughing at ourselves.
I know that some people – people who don’t know us – probably look in from the outside and think that our lives are sad or tragic, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Sarah Kate doesn’t cry because she can’t run and falls down a lot; she pouts when I don’t buy her something she wants from the dollar bins at Target.
She doesn’t feel sorry for herself because she has cerebral palsy; she thinks I’m a big meanie because I don’t let her play the Nintendo DS in the car on the way to school in the morning.
Nathan isn’t old enough to tell me whether or not he suffers, but based on the fact that he smiles much more often than he cries – and by more often, I mean pretty much all the time! – I’m pretty confident that he isn’t suffering, either.
It’s true that Sarah Kate is going to have other kids (and possibly adults) make fun of her because of the way that she walks, and Nathan’s tell-tale facial features will be the first (and possibly the only) thing that some people will notice. It’s unlikely that he’ll be a high-powered Harvard graduate attorney. Neither of my children is destined for a professional sports career. But I’m not a high-powered Harvard graduate attorney or a professional sports star, either. My life is no less full because of it, so I know that what my children do isn’t as important as what kind of people they become.
So if you’re interested in following along as I work to mold my two special children into Good People, come on over and visit us at bringingthesunshine.com, where the ordinary and the extraordinary live in perfect harmony.
Living Beyond the Fence
By Leslie Moon
As I mentioned previously, I have met some amazing, wonderful people on Twitter, one of whom is the beautiful Leslie Moon, better known in the blogging and social media galaxies as moondustwriter. I had the extreme honor and pleasure to interview Leslie about the struggles she had to overcome during her life and her mission to promote people whose voice is often not heard, including her friend Rob who has cerebral palsy and wasn’t expected to live past the age of 17.
It is my honor and pleasure to present to you Mrs. Leslie Moon. This post is only edited for minor errors and is Leslie’s story in her own words.
I was homeless for the first time at age 19, but fortunately had people who offered a couch here and there. It was scary because I lost the small job I had. I wasn’t about to take food from the people who offered a place to stay. The first time I lived in my car was for about four to six months, once I got one.
I wasn’t scared, but then you would have to know my childhood to know fear. To me it was a novelty and an experience. I was always working and just had to get creative about taking baths in the sink at work.
The second time I had to live in my car was for about the same length of time. California’s weather is mild. Again I had a job, but couldn’t pay rent, and my mom kicked me out twice just because she could. I think the second time was the last time I lived with her. It is too unsettling to find your possessions on the side of the road.
God’s people have always been good to me. I would get a meal somewhere and an opportunity to house sit.
A friend of mine is now homeless and lives in his car. We have similar stories and don’t wear the sign around our neck; we survive. The homeless take in some hefty paychecks. I’ve heard, in our impoverished area, more than $2,000 a week. Ok, we are living on less than what the homeless are making. There are all types obviously.
If you look at the signs in our world every day, it’s not looking good. We need to maintain our vigilance, which is hard. I have never had more pulls at my faith and liken it to an earthquake. When the earth is shaking under you, it is impossible to hold on to anything. The force is too strong. The strongest earthquake I’ve been in was a magnitude 6.9, and the ground was like standing on water. You couldn’t hold on to a table because the force was too strong. I feel that is the way the force and dynamics of our world are today, it’s frightening.
Leslie Moon is a published author and poet. Most people know her in the social media sphere as moondustwriter. She is an advocate for the arts and the special-needs community. Recently, she co-authored a children’s series with her friend Rob Hoffman who has cerebral palsy; the main characters are children with disabilities. She hopes to find an avenue for publishing these books where children can have access to them for little or no cost. She is the co-founder of the non-profit Beyond the Fence, whose goal is to get support materials for families of children with special needs.
She is also the co-founder of One Stop Poetry, an online group whose mission is to encourage people pursuing the arts. This group sprang overnight and is helping people get recognized. The group is also trying to motivate youth and artists with disabilities. Leslie and One Stop Poetry were nominated for an arts award sponsored by Twitter, to help further the arts and help people who otherwise may never venture into the arts. Leslie has been interviewed on several radio shows and in her spare time is writing a novel with her friend Sean Vessey.
Home is Where the Heart Is
By Sarah Saldana
I have been in the homecare business for approximately 22 years. I started to care for people at a very young age. Professionally, I didn’t work in a “care home,” I started “in home care,” which is entirely different. A “care home” would be considered like a home away from home that some organizations have started for people who are disabled so they can learn how to be independent if they want to be on their own.
“In home care” means you take care of the person within their own home, as a “provider of care” and they are the “recipient of the care.” Our family started caring for people, and this started because of my mother. She always cared for others as a young girl, it was what she did. Her initial dream was to be a nurse. She cared for my granny, Emma. Granny was older at the time and had diabetes. I was about 10 or 12 years old. All I really remember about that time is that we moved when I was in fourth grade. I can recall that far back because 4th grade was a shock to me. I kicked, screamed and cried. I was scared because it was new to me. Then my mother would ask me to do simple things like rub my granny’s knees with Icy Hot because her knees would hurt her and make sure she had her coffee. I became granny’s companion and care giver alongside my mother.
Then, we took care of Marie, who was paralyzed and lived in a really huge mansion-type house. I can’t even begin to explain what it felt like being in her home. It was so big to me. I was young and would go with my mother or grandmother to care for Marie. We met Marie through my grandma, who also did “home care.”
I started to do simple things like brush Marie’s hair, pull her socks off and sit and read books to her. She just enjoyed the company because she never really had any visitors. Marie was a very beautiful lady. I would help clean the bathroom, do the dishes, vacuum or dust. All the things that needed to be done, but Marie couldn’t do. She had six children, but only Jeremiah, Jennifer and Jason ever visited. I was young, and my mother would always tell me to stay in the front room and don’t move. I would sometimes stay there watching Nickelodeon cartoons. I would get bored, then would walk up the stairs to Marie’s room and lay next to her in the bed and watch movies. Marie couldn’t eat anymore as time went on, so we had to feed her through her stomach. I would help change her and put her in the lift and help get supplies if we needed them. Her daughter, Jennifer, was a nurse, and if she wasn’t out with her boyfriend while we sat with Marie, she would help also.
During this time, Grandma had diabetes. She was getting sick so I would go stay with her during the summer, then my mother would take me to visit Marie. Grandma got jealous because she saw us care for Marie, and she wanted our attention all to herself. Then there was our neighbor Deanna, who was paralyzed and mute. I would go help her mother with similar things, watch her and be Deanna’s friend. Carmen, Deanna’s mom, would do most of the work and always took care of her daughter. She loved her very much. A lot of nurses came in and out of the house to take care of Deanna. She had a lot of nurses every week, so I was her only regular visitor. I took Deanna magazines and played music on my keyboard. She liked that because before I met her, Deanna spent half of her days just laying in bed staring out the window at a tree. Unfortunately, Deanna passed away. She was my best friend and I miss her a lot.
Time went on and we also took care of Earl and Addy and their mom and dad. Their mom was paralyzed and their dad was ill because of old age. Both have passed away, but she was another lady we took care of. My mother and I would lift her and make sure she was fed and then we would leave, and her husband would watch over her. They were a cute couple; I don’t think one could be without the other for a second.
During my high school years, there were several more people my mother cared for and I would go and help her, as usual: cleaned the house, made sure the food was prepared and made sure their vitals were ok. I took Emergency Medical Technician classes, which taught me everything I know now. We also met Pincero, an Italian my mom would help, Sister Lillian, whom we met at church, and Rosina, another Italian lady. I don’t remember how my mother met them, I think it was through church. They were just people who needed someone to help them. My mom did this for a while to provide for our home, and I was just a tag along learning everything.
I learned a lot, and grandma was getting sicker during this time. She started spending the night with us, then she would stay at her son’s house, then her other daughter’s house.
Grandma moved around a lot, first living in Montebello then Pico, then East Los Angeles. Finally grandma was in East Los Angeles, and I lived with her for awhile. Then she moved into a senior home, which she liked for awhile.
These are just a few of the people that touched our lives. My mother and I both learned a great deal of compassion through caring for them. It was hard for me, though, because I was beginning to feel that everyone I was caring for was passing away.
As you can see, I had to encounter many tasks in the home care world, and one of the questions I had is if there are any support groups for people in the home care field? I started one, but it didn’t flourish because I only had a handful of responders, but received really positive feedback. I was curious maybe how we can or what we can do as providers to help each other. Kind of like the parent/teacher associations they have for kids, but instead it’s a support group because providers go through these tough times too. In one of my blogs if you continue further you will see a blog called Reflections of Hope, which was my idea.
About Sarah Saldana
Sarah Saldana is a writer, blogger, graphic designer/artist and photographer. She always dreamed about being a photographer when she was younger and having a really big camera to capture her memories with. It was a huge passion along with music. In Sarah’s life she had a few cars, but she had one Honda car, which she sold to buy the camera she has now. This is how she got started doing photography and graphic design.
“Counting My Many Blessings: Dreams Becoming Reality”
By Chelle Baxter
There are SO many things I love to write about – how do I narrow it down? Well, for now, let me just start with writing from my heart and share with you what’s been on my mind lately….
I have always believed in miracles since I was a small child; perhaps it’s because I always thought my life was a miracle since I found out I was almost aborted, but wasn’t as the doctor told my biological mother she was already four months pregnant and too far along to do so. So my maternal grandmother drove her daughter (my biological mom) directly from the abortion clinic to the birth mother’s home, where I was given up for adoption and then adopted at 13 days old (from Edna Gladney Adoption Agency in Fort Worth, TX).
I never doubted for one second the possibility of meeting my biological parents one day, but little did I know I would be reunited with my ENTIRE biological family for twelve years and counting. I’ve continued to see many of my dreams become reality and sometimes, am also surprised to see other amazing things happen unexpectedly. Just last summer, my biological father gave a sermon at his church as the guest pastor on my birthday; what a wonderful gift that was!
I dreamed of meeting Michael Franti ever since I had heard “Say Hey (I Love You)” on the radio; it was the first time I’d felt joy of life again after both of my adoptive parents died in 2008. And I so love how the lyrics in the song include what I called my parents, “Mama” and “Papa.” My dream came true and it was more than I had ever imagined. You see, I not only met Michael Franti and Spearhead, but I also introduced the band on stage in Dallas at the House of Blues on September 30, 2010!
Another miracle I found was going through a six-week Grief Recovery course after losing six family members in six months in 2008, including my adoptive parents and a biological uncle; he died on my birthday. What was even more amazing was my experience thus far of teaching the courses afterwards. Being a volunteer Grief Recovery Teacher may not seem like a miracle to some, but for me, it truly was, because it helped pave the way of my life towards helping others as I strongly believe in giving back from personal life experiences.
Another time that comes to mind is when I broke both of my arms on my fifth wedding anniversary, also in 2008; I tripped and fell on brick that was not pasted down at Fort Worth Stockyards. It was the first time I ever broke a bone in my life, and let’s hope the last. I thought my doctor was crazy when he told me I needed to try to use my arms as therapy. But I did, as I crocheted in bed nightly and began making prayer shawls for many. It truly was a blessing.
When I thought I couldn’t help anyone while I was grieving for my adoptive mother who was dying at the hospital (two weeks after I’d finished taking a Grief Recovery class to cope with my adoptive father’s death), I got a “wrong” phone call from a 30-year-old daughter searching for her mom in ICU. It turns out both mother and daughter were from Hurricane Ike and had relocated to Dallas-Fort Worth, but both were hospitalized because of infections. So, then I visited each of them in their rooms because they could not visit each other and didn’t have any other visitors (no family, friends with them). I do not think it was a “wrong” phone call after all. I realized right then and there that no matter what a person is going through in his or her life, he or she can still help someone else and help make a difference in this world. What a valuable lesson I learned that day.
I honestly could write much more as I count my many “blessings” and miracles, but for now I will just say that I count my lucky stars every day for every amazing person I meet because each of us may be helping each other with or without knowing it. Certain people come into our lives at a certain time for a certain reason. Remember also that everyone has a story to be told, but they just need someone to take the time to listen. I hope you will be their next listener and cannot thank you enough for being mine today. More than anything else, the greatest gift I truly would love to give to others is HOPE! So please never give up on your dreams and always chase after them until they become your reality! Love and peace, Chelle (said like shell)
Chelle Baxter is a talk show host and freelance journalist. Check out information about her talk show, www.coffeetalkwithchelle.com, where there’s always variety in life.
By Noel Shrewsbury
Warning: Some of the language in this post may not be appropriate for some readers, especially if you have younger children. The opinions, quotes and feelings are Noel’s, and Noel’s alone. Parental guidance suggested.
Jason asked me if I’d like to be a guest blogger on his site, and I agreed to it quickly. Then I started thinking, “Well, what should I write about?” He said the topic was up to me, so why not start where it all began? It sounds like a great place to me!
My name is Noel, and I’m the oldest of three (I have a sister and a brother). Life was normal until we moved from Ohio to West Virginia. Our house was always happy. There was laughter all the time. Just by looking from the outside in on our family, you would never have known that we were barely making it from paycheck to paycheck. My parents worked hard for very little money. Heck, they still do.
We didn’t get to do much the other kids got to do, but we made our own fun. We swam in the river. We walked to the closest store. We would take a boom box into the woods and sing New Kids on the Block songs. We dressed weird and laughed about it. We weren’t normal. My BFF moved in with us two weeks after I met her in 1993. She never went home. We would stay up all night listening to local radio stations and calling them requesting songs. Life was good; life was fun; it was a blast.
My BFF Melissa moved away, and my sister was younger than me. It wasn’t cool being seen with your younger sister back then. I was 17 in the summer of ’97, between my 11th and 12th grade years, when I got my first boyfriend. I was a late bloomer and because of this, people in the school thought I was weird; well, that, and I was taller than everyone there. I was made fun of more than anything in that school. They made fun of my hair, my glasses and the fact that I was tall. I didn’t care what people thought of me. I wasn’t normal and still don’t think I am. I was quiet and reserved. I wrote a lot. Writing allows me to be “me.” It’s harder to be me in person, I think, because of all those years of people making fun of me in high school. If I said something I thought was funny, they just looked at me like I was retarded. I had that happen again recently, but that’s for another blog.
Well, that summer Greg and I got together, and it worked out great. His aunt was our next door neighbor, and he got to come visit her a lot. You know, I was young and dumb and thought I loved him. As any young couple does, we started exploring sex. It was great, or at least I thought it was. Summer was now over, and I was back in school. He graduated in the last class. The first day of school was great. Because it was my last year, I guess I didn’t care what people were saying about me.
I loved to just come home that day and have my boyfriend call me. I took the phone in my bedroom, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Did you look at other guys today?” I thought “WHAT!?” But what came out of my mouth was, “Why do you want to know?” “Are you cheating on me already?” he asked. I should have noticed right then and there he wasn’t worth my time, but like I said, I was young and dumb. We fought a lot after that day, but I still stayed with him. I see now how stupid I was. I was so stupid that I was pregnant when I graduated high school and didn’t even know about it. In February of ’99, he and I were married. Amy, my oldest, was born in March of ’99.
He yelled at me every day of our marriage. He cussed at me and told me I was fat, lazy and a whore. He told me what I could and could not wear. If I wore makeup, he said I was a whore. I wasn’t allowed to use the phone to call my parents or anything. So while he was at work, I would get online and tie up the phone line. You’ve got to love dial up. I wasn’t allowed to see my parents or even leave the house while he was at work, so I got a job at a flower shop once just to get me out of the house. I worked a month and quit because he was calling there all the time to check up on me. He showed up there once we got a caller ID and I wouldn’t answer the phone when he called.
Because of all this, I refused to have sex with him. I slept on the couch or in the spare bedroom. The only time I slept in the room with him was when we had guests stay over. He slept in the floor, and I slept on the bed. We had guests quite a bit for a while because that was the only time he was nice to me. So my friends, my brother and his friends stayed every weekend.
I loved waking up the guests. Greg had these 15 inch speakers in the living room hooked up to the only stereo in the house. I woke up one time, and they were all still passed out from the drinking party they had the night before. I turned on my music right in their ears. I called it “The Boy Band Wake Up.” It was great; they all love metal or rap music, and I’d play some boy band and drive them nuts. I got drunk and horny one night, and that’s how I got pregnant with Paige, my second daughter. While I was four and a half months pregnant with her, in 2004, I started having an affair with my male BFF David. I snuck off while Amy was in school and Greg was at work to have a good time. That was the only time I was happy. David knew what I was going through on a daily basis. He let me cry on his shoulder when I needed to. Other than that, I pretty much used him. He was my friend with benefits.
I know it was bad to cheat and use David, but if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing because sleeping with David made me see Greg wasn’t the only guy who would love me, like he kept telling me. It opened my eyes and made me brave enough to leave Greg. Paige was five months old the first and only time Greg hit me. I went behind his back March 3, 2005, and got a job at Wal-Mart. The first word out of his mouth the second I told him I had the job was, “What are you going to do, fucking cheat on me while you’re working?” I said, “Oh yeah, I’m going to hop on the register where everyone can watch and yell, ‘TAKE ME BIG DADDY!'” I guess that was the wrong thing to say because he slapped me across the face. Yeah, you read that right, not punched, but slapped like a little girl. I had enough of him and, like I said, I had become brave. That’s the first time I had ever stood up for myself like that to him.
After I realized he slapped me, I balled up my fist and punched him right in the mouth. After more yelling, he threw me to the floor and tried to take my cell phone away from me. This whole time my daughters were in their rooms. Amy was old enough to understand what was going on. While he punched me and dug his girly nails into my hand trying to get my phone, I bit him. I got the cell phone away from him and ran to the bedroom. He was on my heels, kicked the door down, grabbed a screwdriver, threw me to the bed and climbed on top of me. He put the screwdriver to my throat, looked me right in the eyes and told me, “If I can’t have you, no one can.” I told him to just do it, that he didn’t have the balls to do it. I was right; he didn’t because after I said it, he stabbed the wall with the screwdriver and started to walk out the door and down the stairs. I grabbed his dresser and threw it on top of him at the bottom of the stairs. I called his dad to come get him. He left with his dad, and I filed for divorce two days later. A week later, his mom brought him back to the house and tried to bribe me into taking him back because his parents couldn’t even handle him. I told her off, and called the police and had them removed.
Since all of this has happened, David and I are no longer friends. I’ve re-married someone else and had two more beautiful children. My husband and I had to work through a lot because of the way Greg treated me. It was hard for me to hear Keith tell me how beautiful I was. I flinched every time Keith caressed my face. Paige was only seven months old when I got with Keith. Some people say I moved too fast, but in my heart I knew what I wanted, and it was him. It’s now 2011, and we’re still happily married. We hardly ever get mad at each other, and we never have hit each other.
I learned a lot and got away from the bad situation. Some young ladies never get that chance and are still being abused, or that abusive situation gets real bad, and they end up dead. I hope someone reads my story and understands the bad guys are not the only ones out there. If it wasn’t for David opening my eyes, I’m sure I’d still be with Greg. But I had that one friend who loved me so much he opened my eyes. I hate the way I ended it with David, but I didn’t love him the way he loved me. And I’m so sorry about that. But I found Keith, and he loves me for me, my craziness and all. I have some of the best friends any woman could ask for; great, goofy kids and a man who loves me. I’m glad I got away from Greg because, who knows, I could be dead right now!
To all the women and children out there right now who are being abused, no matter if it’s sexually, physically, mentally or emotionally, I want you to listen to me. You are LOVED!!! Your husband or boyfriend may not love you, but someone out there does, and you need to get away from that situation. No one should be treated that way. Abusing someone is not the way to show them that you love them.
To the men who abuse their wives and children, you are a PIG, and you need HELP!!!
Learning to Dance in the Rain
By Kim Hix
I first “met” Kim Hix a couple months ago on Twitter, and we tweet a few times every week, just to see how each other’s doing and have been up to since the last time we talked. Since I’ve known Kim, I’ve learned she has a wonderful heart, two beautiful kids and would do anything for anybody. It’s my honor and pleasure to present Kim Hix, who offers a story of hope and perseverance to anyone who knows someone with a disability.
I have two kids, one of which has struggled and lived with mental/emotional/neurological challenges his entire life. Practically since birth, I felt something about him was just not quite right. This has led us on a 16-year-long journey to help him become the best person he can be in this world. We’ve researched many opportunities for him to get better, had to try several different medicines, many therapy appointments and so on. Loving a person who has such little emotional or impulse control, along with the things I just mentioned, has caused great stress in our home, which is typical. Through the years, I wrote a children’s book for Zack and other kids titled “No One is Perfect and You are a Great Kid,” to help him and other kids who suffer as he does know they are not alone. In addition to becoming a huge advocate for mental health issues in our children, in 2010 we started a business based on Zack’s gift, drawing. It was a spur of the moment thing that just happened. It is now growing and finding a following of its own, but most of all provided Zack with some much-needed self esteem and pride that he never had before. The business is Good Boy Roy. Zack draws and creates all of the characters.
Because you are disabled yourself, Jason, as you may know, people like my son or with chronic mental/neurological illnesses live minute by minute, not day by day. His mood swings happen so fast, anything can bring them on, and finding stability is a huge challenge. He may rage at any moment, over a minor incident. You always are on egg shells because you never know if things are going well and when that may change.
Having a son who has grown up with challenges his whole life has definitely made me a better person. I used to be a very shy, soft-spoken person who did not stand up for or speak for myself. Through this journey, I have become a person I really like, one who stands up for herself and others, who does not take no for an answer if I truly believe in something, who can solve any problem I am faced with, is very resourceful, honest and become very non-judgmental of others. People come to me for help because they know I can help them or offer some resources that may help them. I have been told that I am a force to be reckoned with (in a good way). One special education teacher that worked with us for several years in the school system, and had been for more than 30 years, actually told me that she had learned a lot from ME 🙂 and that she was better at her job from knowing and learning from me, my research and perseverance with my son. That was a huge compliment. I do not believe in giving up. I do not believe “Impossible” is a word. I believe we must follow our dreams, and always have hope and faith.
Going through our ordeal has made me never accept what you see as the whole story and that people are much deeper than what’s on the outside. I have learned to stop and think that things may not always be what they may seem. I’ve learned to be tolerant and understanding, always be nice to others, and that even if you think your situation is horrible, someone else is always suffering much more. I’ve also learned to be very thankful.
My advice for someone who’s fought the battles we have or may deal with this sort of thing in the future is to follow your heart. As a parent, I think we sometimes know what is best for our child, even if the experts do not agree. Never give up and never stop fighting for something you think is right.
I am too Positive to be Doubtful
Too Optimistic to be Fearful
Too Determined to be Defeated
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity!!!
Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain!
Dream as if you will live forever live as if you could die today.
Be sure to check out this interview with Kim as she discusses the book she wrote about her son.
Today it is my honor and esteemed pleasure to present Diana Matisz who shares her story of three wonderful people she meets during her daily runs through her neighborhood and how just a smile and a friendly word can mean the world to them. I, for one, really needed to read this post today because I am really scared for my grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s. It truly breaks my heart seeing his mind and body deteriorating. He’s one of the most amazing men I know and I respect him so much.
It’s my honor to present Diana Matisz who reminds us to respect and offer an encouraging word to those special people we meet along the way.
Reflections on Respect
By Diana Matisz
This story isn’t so much about disabilities or illness, or even about growing old. It’s simply a reflection on respect.
I walk and run everyday and on my regular circuit through town, I pass by an assisted living residence. There’s a bus stop near the building, and on this particular day a lady was sitting in her wheelchair. She was able to use her hands to maneuver her wheelchair but other than that, she was unable to move. She was cheerily dressed for a summer day, pink headband in her hair and wearing pink lipstick. She was waiting for the bus, alone. As I walked by, I smiled and said hello. She nodded and smiled back. But what affected me most was the look in her eyes. As if she was surprised that someone had even taken notice of her. Why is it a surprise to someone when another person says hello? Had anyone other than the person who helped her prepare for her day spoken to her, prior to my few words?
Walking further, I passed another elderly lady sitting on her porch. I waved to her, and her face lit up when she waved back. On my way home from my run, another lady timidly stopped me to ask a question, and we stood talking for twenty minutes about summer and her memories of her children when they were young. Our conversation brought to mind my grandfather, a quiet man as it was, becoming even more silent after my grandmother passed away. Did he feel so lost and empty without her that he was left with even less to say? I didn’t spend enough time talking with him (being young and full of myself), and that is my only regret in life. I can’t imagine what I missed out on. My hope is that we all treated him with the respect he deserved before he died.
I’ve always felt that we treat our elderly with such little respect. They’re a bother, they’re grumpy, tired and sick. I’m ashamed to say I’ve had my moments of lack of respect and patience. But they are also people who were once young and beautiful, wide-eyed and hopeful. People who would love to take a walk to the river but whose bodies will not allow it. They live with memories and regrets and surely wish often they could be that young person again. They’re often lonely and may just need to talk a little to feel better, to validate that what they have to share may still carry some weight.
So, the next time, smile and say hello. You may get a frown back but you may also find yourself listening to a story about a fascinating life you would never have heard without that simple “hello.”
About Diana Matisz
Diana Matisz was born and raised in Pittsburgh and is part of a large family, most of whom are still located in the area. She lived away from home for more than 20 years and finally moved back to reconnect with her roots. She has always wanted to write, even from childhood, when she wrote a short story about autumn and created a little book of pages in the shape of maple leaves. Writing became especially important to Diana a few years ago after the death of a family member. Putting pen to paper was an emotional outlet. Tears morphed into ink.
Photography has become another interest of hers; something else she has always wanted to explore. She likes the idea of looking at everyday things and places and watching them appear in different form through a camera lens. It’s a guilty little pleasure that she’s enjoyed more and more.
Read Diana’s blog here