Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

 

from the Declaration of Independence, United States of America

 

As I celebrate this Independence Day, I have never been more grateful for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Happy Fourth of July!

What light is to the eyes…

What light is to the eyes – what air is to the lungs – what love is to the heart, liberty is to the soul of man.
~Robert Green Ingersoll

 

On this Wisdom Wednesday, Independence Day is just around the corner here in America.  I am grateful to live in what Francis Scott Key called the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

When You’re Right, You’re Right

As Father’s Day comes to a close, I am thinking about all the fathers in my life.

My son, who is celebrating his second Father’s Day, has a baby girl who simply adores him.  I am proud of the dad he is, especially because he didn’t really have a role model.

When I was a teenager, my step-father sewed a skirt I ripped as I cried out of frustration.  He took me to the emergency room when I fell down a flight of stairs and split my noggin open.  And he made some killer cubed steak and gravy too!  He doesn’t sew or cook much anymore.

My brother-in-law is celebrating his first Father’s Day.  He had never held an infant until his own son was born.  By my sister’s own admission, he is a better mother than she could ever be.

My father-in-law is a wonderful man and has treated me like a daughter nearly since the day we met.  He looks out for me, sends me things he knows I would like, and takes a general interest in what’s going on with me.  (I think he likes me better than my husband.)

All kidding aside, my husband learned a lot from his dad.  I always say the line that hooked me was when my husband’s online profile listed one of his favorite things as “telling jokes that make me laugh and my kids roll their eyes.”  I always heard that the best gift a man can give his kids is to love their mother.  Well, we don’t have any children together, but my husband has certainly given his step-children the gift of loving their mother.  And I know it has been good for them.

Finally, I have been thinking about my dad all day.  He could make any situation seem better with just a few  words.  I can remember calling him late at night, because I knew he would be up… and if he wasn’t he would talk to me anyway.  He always knew just what to say.  One of the things he used to say to me, popped into my head first thing this morning.  It was usually after I had done something stupid and he wanted to let me know he was in my corner no matter what.  He would say, “You’re my daughter.  When you’re right, you’re right and when you’re wrong, you’re right.”  Now I was smart enough to know I wasn’t always right… especially in those moments.  But it sure made me feel better.

Thriving With Autism

I walk nearly every day. While I’m walking, I listen to personal growth mp3’s, webcasts, podcasts, or radio programs. As I walk and listen, I frequently begin composing my blog post for the day, often unintentionally. Tonight was no different.

Today was my youngest son’s 12th birthday. Although all children go through things as they grow and develop, some have more challenges than others. My youngest son is one of these. Fortunately, he has dealt with these challenges well.

He was initially diagnosed with generalized anxiety, ADHD inattentive type, and a short-term processing deficit. My purpose is not to get into a dialogue about labels, but to paint a picture of the struggles he was facing. Later added to his diagnoses were mild Autism and possible dyslexia.

When very young, my son wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone except immediate family. He was extremely anxious. If we drove home a different way than we usually did, he panicked. We avoided many places and situations in order to keep him calm. Like many children with Autism, my son has sensory issues such as hypersensitive senses of smell and hearing. He also has proprioceptive problems, which cause him to walk so hard that he wears holes in the bottoms of his shoes in a very short period of time, and make it difficult to do things that require balance, like riding a bike. He had great difficulty with fine motor skills such as writing and did not learn to tie his shoes until he was eleven years old. I could write a book on the difficulties my son struggled with, but I would rather celebrate his successes.

Over the years, my son has seen psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, naturopaths, pediatric Autism specialists, educational Autism specialists, language therapists, occupational therapists, reading specialists, and special education teachers. All of them were impressed by how much progress he has made over the years. He was essentially a non-reader in the second grade. He had a series of teachers who have helped him get close to grade level now that he will be entering sixth grade.

When my son was eight years old, I took him to an international camp for young people. Prior to attending the camp, we took him off the medication he had been on for his ADD and anxiety, at the suggestion of the facilitator. One purpose of the camp was to teach children how to face and overcome their fears. On the way home from the camp my son told me he didn’t think he needed his medicine anymore. He hasn’t been on medication since.

Socially, my son is working on things that many children with Autism must be taught more explicitly than other children (i.e, taking turns in a conversation, showing interest in other people and what they have to say). He tries to turn every conversation back to whatever he is interested in at the moment (currently it’s the Beatles). Ironically, he loves middle school. Even more ironic is the fact that he likes it for the social aspect.

Tonight at the dinner table, we were talking about the fact that my son likes older music (mostly from the sixties, seventies, and eighties). His classmates often give him a hard time about this. (I’m sure they point out his idiosyncrasies well.) He commented, “I’m just different, and that’s okay.” I know that no matter what he says, he doesn’t like being teased. I do believe that he has healthy self-esteem and realizes that the children that aren’t so nice to him are simply ignorant and rude.

In addition to his positive outlook, my son does love music. He dabbles in guitar and piano, and sings like a bird. He loves costumes and getting into character. When he likes something, he learns everything he can about it (one of the Asperger’s traits he displays)… and will tell you all about it. Above all else, he is happy. So my son is not suffering from Autism, he is thriving with Autism. And for that, I am happy.

Coming of Age

Today is my son’s 18th birthday.  (It is also my sister’s birthday, and my nephew’s… and mine was yesterday. Whew!  Busy couple of days!)  It is one of the those bittersweet occasions.  I am happy for my adult son, but my little boy is no more.  I only have one more in the nest, so I am a little melancholy… but quite frankly, I’m also a little relieved.

Today I was thinking about where my son Bailey is right now in life.  He just finished school (although he does have a credit recovery course to take this summer).  He doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life.  The internal pressure must be great, and the possibilities are endless.  Coming of age is exciting and a little scary.

It has been interesting watching my children grow and change.  Interestingly enough, I notice that I am really no different from them.  I am constantly evolving.  I am still learning new things.  And I am still exploring new possibilities.

So as my son moves into adulthood, I hope he finds something he loves to do and that he gets paid well to do it.  I hope he surrounds himself with people who love him and will encourage him (so far, so good).  I hope he honors himself by taking care of his health.  And I hope he is appreciative of everything, especially life itself.

Happy Birthday, Bailey!

 

 

Best Gift Ever

On May 22, 1965, I got the best gift ever.  It fit perfectly (and still does).  It still works.  In fact, the more I use it, the stronger it gets.  I almost lost it last year, so now it is even more precious.  Forty-nine years ago, my mom and dad gave me life in the human form.  (Granted, they purchased the gift nine months earlier… but I don’t want to get technical.)

Several years ago, a wise man taught me that the people who should be getting the card on my birthday were my parents.  Since then I have acknowledged my parents every year at this time… sometimes with a card or letter, sometimes with a phone call or a shout out on Facebook.  My dad isn’t on this plane anymore, so I have to believe that he “knows” I am grateful when I put it out there.  My mom is still vibrant and healthy, so this year my birthday card to her is this blog post.

Mom, I am so grateful that you gave birth to me and raised me to become the person I am today.  I am quite happy with my life, so you must have done a good job.  I know that I was placed in this family because you had things to teach me.  As I have in the past, I will continue to strive to become all I am meant to be.  In the meantime, know that I love you and I a grateful for everything you have given me.

Happy Birthday to Me!

 

 

Fighting for Air and Finishing

Fighting for Air
Fighting for Air

Many of the people I love, and some of those I’ve lost, have tried to quit smoking.  Some have been successful.  Others have not.  I support the Fight for Air Walk because the American Lung Association does help people quit smoking.  My first walk was about the grieving process after losing my dad.  This year’s walk was different.  This was Daddies’ Girls third year walking and after my accident in November, I wasn’t sure I would be able to begin the walk, much less finish it.  As it turns out, I was able to begin and I even finished.  (My left hip is not happy with me.)  Thank goodness for Ibuprofen!

Finished!
Finished!

 

Ladies’ Night

I belong to a ladies’ group that gets together once a month for dinner and to share what is going on in our lives.  I know it sounds like the scenario from a “chick flick.”  And honestly, I don’t even like those types of movies and have seen very few of them.  In real life, however, this group has been very important in my growth.  

The regular women in this group range in age from their thirties to late seventies.  My daughter occasionally attends and she is only in her early twenties.  These women are from all walks of life, occupations, and religious backgrounds.  The thing we have in common is that we have a desire to work on ourselves.  

The group has been getting together for about fifteen years.  I have personally been a part of the group for about eight years.  In those eight years, I have seen women get married, divorced, have babies, get new jobs, quit jobs, start their own businesses, and sadly pass from this life.  

Since I have been in the group, I have been divorced, remarried, taken college courses, had kids drop out of school and kids graduate (some almost… see yesterday’s post).  I have changed congregations, changed jobs, started several businesses, began singing in public, lost and gained weight, survived a traumatic injury, and began blogging.      

I say all of this to say that the ladies in this group have shared their lives with each other in a deep and meaningful way.  We have dinner at a restaurant or at one of the members’ homes.  When we are finished we each take a turn sharing what is going on with us.  It is interesting how we can be so different and yet have so much to share.  Ultimately, we find that we are not so different after all.  

So as I wind this up, I am going to go finish getting ready to go have dinner at a Japanese steakhouse (only veggies for me, since I am still on the Daniel Fast), and share with the ladies who know most everything about me and love me anyway.  We will laugh together, console each other, and simply enjoy each other’s company.  What a great way to end the week!