Thursday, November 25, 2010

More than a day of eating turkey

The other morning I was driving Jessica to Kindergarten and I asked her: "What holiday do we celebrate in November?"  She quickly answered: "Thanksgiving."  I started to explain that Thanksgiving is about more than just turkey and Mommy's yummy noodles - it is about being thankful for all that we have in our lives.  I went on to say that I am thankful for my family.  She quickly jumped in: "I'm thankful for my family too, and my friends, and my school, and Mrs. G, and my books, and my toys, and Jesus, and my dog, and my ...." and the list went on until we reached her school.  I've been thinking about those few minutes since then and wondering how we lose that innocent appreciation for all the blessings we have in our lives.  She was so genuine in creating that list and, more importantly, she didn't have to struggle to find things to list.  It was like she was looking at her life and listing everything that was a part of it as a blessing to be thankful for. 

As we head into the holidays most of us are filled with a mixture of feelings.  We are excited about seeing family and friends but we dread the logistics of fitting it all into the limited time that most of  us have.  We are excited about holiday parties and gift exchanges, but we are stressed about the financial burdens that they can cause.  But some people don't have a mixture of feelings as they head into this wonderful time of year.  Sadly, there are many people among us who can only feel despair.  Earlier this month I learned about a local family who is heading into this amazing holiday season completely devastated by tragedy.  In this family, the wife and mother of six young children, just lost a very sudden battle with cancer.  That poor man...those poor children.  I'm sure creating a list of things to be thankful for would be a little difficult for them right now. 

I'm not trying to be a downer - quite the opposite.  I just want everyone to take a pause as they head into this hectic holiday season and look around them.  Try to see your life with the innocent eyes of a child.  See your family as a blessing; see your friends as a priceless treasure ; see your home, car, clothes, and "toys" as true gifts.  I received an email yesterday from the head coach of Jessica's special needs cheerleading squad.  She is an amazing woman.  She has a young daughter with special needs and just adopted Anthony, a little boy from China. Here is what she wrote: 

"I would like to share what I am thankful for this year on Thanksgiving. I am thankful first for God and our country, we are so fortunate to live in the Unites States of America. God has blessed me and my family in so many ways and I look to him to guide my life. I am thankful for my family who makes me want to work so hard for them and make them happy and safe every day, they make me smile and fill my heart with joy. I am thankful for the new addition to our family. Anthony has already made a difference in all of our lives and I pray we make a difference in his. I am thankful for my team and my coaches and parents. You all inspire me everyday with your attitudes, patience and support! I am thankful for the Golden Key who has already made a difference and improved children's lives and accepted and included and loved them no matter what their disability. I am thankful for all of my friends who I don't get to say it enough but I love you and appreciate you very much as you put up with me pushing you to make the world a better place. I am thankful for American Elite as the gym welcomed our team with open arms and we are now in our 5th year.  I would like to ask you to also write down and email to all what you are thankful for! It really makes your heart smile when you realize just how lucky we are and how blessed we are!" (Coach Kathy)

I wasn't the only one who thought her email was inspiring...the responses started pouring in.  I'll share mine:

"Sadly, for each and every one of us, our lives are filled with challenges.  Some have more than others but none of us is given a free pass from life's struggles.  It can be so easy to become so overwhelmed with these obstacles that we lose sight of the many blessings that each and every one of us has in our lives.  God is good.  He doesn't promise to give us an easy life but he is always there when we need to renew our strength.  I am thankful for Kathy and the impact she has made on my life.  She is a true example of how a Christian should live.  Her generosity is endless and her leadership is inspiring.  I am thankful for my country where children like ours have a chance at a meaningful and productive life.  I am thankful for the men and women who give their lives to protect this great country of ours and I acknowledge the sacrifice that their entire families are making so that my family can be safe.  I am thankful I have a husband who continues to make me feel beautiful even on my most exhausted days.  I am thankful for my children who fill my life with immeasurable joy.  I am thankful for my parents and siblings whose support has made my life more manageable.  I am thankful for all the doctors, therapists, and tutors who work so hard to help my children reach their potential.  I am thankful.  I am thankful.  I am thankful.  I am thankful for all the countless blessings that I have.  Happy Thanksgiving." (Katie Cunion)

I encourage you to follow Kathy's lead and share what you are thankful for.  You can post it as a comment to this blog.  When you stop and really think about your life, you might be surprised just how many things you have to be thankful for.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I want to kiss you!

Last week I had to take Will to cheerleading practice with me and Jessica.  Bill had a late meeting on campus and was unable to do our usual "hand-off" at the gym.  Will was surprisingly good.  It was a little loud for him so he plugged his ears but he was obedient and followed my directions to sit nicely.  We had just finished our opening stretches and Will was on the mat with us.  A young girl on the squad - who is about 2 years older than Will and has always reminded me of him with her self-absorbed stares, difficulty following directions, and lack of social interaction - came over to us and smiled sweetly at my little man. "Is this your boy" she asked?  I'd been an assistant coach for over a year now and had never heard her say more than a few words so this interaction surprised me.  "Yes, his name is Will.  Say 'hi' Will." "Hi."  Again she smiled sweetly at him and it hit me...she thinks he's cute. 

Throughout the rest of practice she would periodically "show up" beside us with a smile but as practice was ending she came over and squatted down beside him and said: "I want to kiss you."  I smiled at her and said: "O.K. sweetie - that is very nice but no kissing at cheerleading practise, O.K?.  Say goodbye to Will and maybe you'll see him at another practice."

What a sweet story, right?  But it has stuck with me for over a week now.  We had practice again last night and I didn't take Will this time.  I found myself watching this girl and wondering, will she ever find someone that will love her despite her disabilities?  What about Will?  He is the kindest, most loving individual I have ever met in my entire life.  He has the purest heart with no hidden agendas or ulterior motives.   Will he ever find someone who will love him the way he deserves to be loved?  Someone who will help take care of him and look after him.  There is so much that we parents of special needs children have to worry about on a daily basis that I don't think we really focus too much thought on our children's future love-life, but after last week's practice it's been chewing away at my brain.  I think about all that I have been able to experience in my life: my first kiss, going to the prom, hearing "I love you," getting married, having children... and I wonder, Will my children experience those things.  I'm pretty sure Jessica will.  Holy Cow - you have to try to distract that child from her love of boys and she's only 5!  But will she be a target with her beautiful face and strong desire to be liked?  Will I be able to make her understand what is appropriate "interactions" between boys and girls and what isn't?  Will I be able to protect her?

But my fears for Will somehow seem scarier.  I guess because I have always been afraid to be alone and therefore, never have been.  The thought of him being alone someday seems unimaginable.  But he's not me.  Maybe he'll never have the desire for that type of a relationship in his life.  Or maybe he'll meet someone who will see him for who he really is - a beautiful person with a beautiful heart.   I might be a little biased but I think he's a good catch!