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Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Right now, we are going through a lot in our house. My kids have all started a new year in school, my husband is injured and unable to work...which means I have the whole caseload of bills and stuff...and I am going through a bunch of health issues (nothing to worry about too much, but still a concern). So my premise lately has been, 'never give up'.
Don't give up on anything just because you are thrown a curve ball. Don't give up because times get tough, and you aren't sure which direction to turn to. Don't give up because someone in your life is going through something hard...show them how to get through it all. Don't give up because someone tells you to or make you feel that you have to. Don't give up because you are given a health diagnosis that tells you that you should give up.
Don't. Give. Up.
As I've talked about a lot on the blog, I am a water person. I turn to earth elements in order to ground myself and for strength. Water, for me, is the strongest element I turn to. The sound...the motion...the feeling of it surrounding me whenever I surround myself with it. Actually, it has a lot to do with why water is a huge part of my YA series, DARK WATER.
Take things as they come, deal with what you can WHEN you can and always turn toward the things/people in your life that inspire you to persevere.
Today write about what keeps you moving forward and inspires you to keep moving towards what you need to do. Write, paint, run, ride your bike...whatever moves you.
Don't. Give. Up.
Saturday, September 10, 2016
Usually, I share excerpts from my novels, and up-and-coming ones, but today I wanted to share a story close to my heart about my oldest daughter, Jaimie.
In light of me writing the next book in my series about her, I had some heart-felt memories about all she's been through. For those who have read, Not Just Spirited, you know that she struggled with a very severe form of SPD. In fact, she was one of the top three cases her therapist had dealt with at that time. It was a very difficult time, but she has come so far and grown into the most productive, brave, strong young woman I have come to know.
And it has a lot to do in part with people who have come into our lives, helping in ways they never even knew.
She's 13 now, in Grade Eight, and in a gifted program in her school.
I am so extremely proud of her. She gets embarrassed with me still talking about all she's gone through, but I see her as an inspiration to so many others.
This is a story about a young boy that befriended her on her first day of Kindergarten. I hope you enjoy it.
The first thing I noticed about Shawn was his small size. He was about the same height as my two-year old son, Xander. But he was a fireball. He bubbled over with energy, talked out of turn, made loud noises when it was time to be quiet and couldn’t sit still. And, to the heartbreak of his teacher, spent a great deal of time in the “Sad Chair” to calm himself down. His actions never bothered me much, though. He reminded me a lot of my daughter, Jaimie. The difference was Jaimie fought with every ounce of her being to keep herself calm, whereas Shawn seemed not to be able to do so.
In most ways Jaimie was an average five-year old girl. She loved to draw, do crafts and run around. She was, and still is intelligent—above average in all academic areas—and has always had an insatiable hunger to learn. It wasn't what people saw that made Jaimie different. It was what they couldn't see. Jaimie lives with Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, and is Asperger's.
SPD is a neurological disorder that can affect how a child’s brain is able to process sensory information. Messages from Jaimie’s environment get to her brain, but they get “scrambled” during the processing stage because it can’t read them. This can cause tremendous overstimulation, confusion and, as a result, frequent meltdowns.
Jaimie was always been interested in other children but had been too afraid to get close as she was never sure how another person would stimulate her sensitive senses. Every so often, though, but not too often, Jaimie crossed paths with a little boy or girl she felt safe enough to open up to. And Shawn had been the shining light for her the year she went into Kindergarten. In fact, he was one of the rare people who brought out her gorgeous little smile.
On the first day of Kindergarten, after a week of preparing Jaimie for the day, we'd lined up outside the door with the rest of the kids. Jaimie, unable to handle the close proximities of the line up, stood at the end of the line behind Shawn.
As she leaned against the wall, her head bowing down in shyness, Shawn turned around and said, “Hi! You’re Jaimie, right? I’m Shawn. Like my shoes?”
He'd stuck his foot out at Jaimie to show her his fabulous Spiderman slip-on running shoes. That one little gesture stopped Jaimie’s little chin from quivering and almost changed it into a smile.
Shawn continued speaking in a loud, speedy voice. “Look! I have a Spiderman backpack too. I like Spiderman. He’s a superhero, you know. He can do things nobody else can.”
Jaimie didn’t say a word to him, but I noticed her little smile got bigger the more he spoke. She looked at me, covered her mouth and released a tiny giggle—something we rarely saw.
Suddenly, the bell rang and Mrs. P., the Kindergarten teacher, bounded out to greet her new students. “Good morning, good morning, good morning!” she said, holding the door open. “Shawn, either come help Mrs. P hold the door open, or please get back in line and give Jaimie her space. You don’t like your space invaded, neither does she. Now, let’s go have some fun, everyone!”
Shawn held the door open while all the students walked in. But as we got through the second set of doors leading to the classroom, Jaimie froze and instantly began to cry.
“No, Mama,” she said, shaking her head. “I can’t go in there without you. Don’t make me do this.”
Fighting back my own tears, I tried showing a brave face so her fear would ease. “Honey, it’s just like we practiced, remember? You remember Mrs. P. Please, why don’t we give it a try, okay?”
For fifteen minutes I tried every tactic I’d learned in her therapy to ease her into other situations to no avail. Her pleas got more desperate, her crying got harder and she bear-hugged my legs so I couldn’t walk. Just as I was about to give up, Mrs. P. came out of the classroom holding hands with Shawn.
She knelt down to Jaimie’s level and said, “Jaimie, you remember Shawn, right? He’d love for you to come in and be his carpet friend today.”
Shawn handed Jaimie a Kleenex. “Yeah, you can be Spidergirl. She’s a superhero too. She gets scared sometimes too because she’s different, but she's strong and always does her best. Just like me and Spiderman.”
Jaimie took the Kleenex, wiped her nose then took Mrs. P.’s other hand. I stayed for about an hour until I saw Jaimie ease a bit. Then we did our High-Five ritual—high-fives, see ya later, I love you—and I walked to the door.
Before I leaving the school, Mrs. P. called to me. “Miss. Laird, do you have a moment?”
I turned around and we talked between the double doors, as she continued. “I paired Jaimie with Shawn because they seemed to connect on a level I don’t see often.” She touched my arm. “Shawn has a variety of developmental, learning and behavioural struggles. This is my third year with Shawn. But he’s my little hero because he has an uncanny gift of seeing other children who have hurdles, like Jaimie, and makes them feel better. She’ll be fine.”
And she was. In fact, Shawn was one of the few children Jaimie called a friend. They stuck together like glue, always offering comfort to one another. And whenever Jaimie got scared or wasn’t feel well on a certain day, he’d stick his Spiderman shoe up at her and say, “See, Jaimie? Remember Spiderman,” and she’d giggle.
Shawn had to be moved to a different classroom, but Jaimie still talks about him. And he’ll always be the little superhero who made my daughter’s smile make a rare appearance.
Monday, August 22, 2016
For today\s Music Mantra, I wanted to do a special tribute.
It took me hours to come up with the song to put with this post but I thought this was most suitable.
As many of our followers know, this song holds many special points for my family. Now, I thought it holds even moreso.
Yesterday, my husband and I went out to the grocery store to get a few essentials for our house. We can't afford a lot right now with him being injured, and this being a slow time for my work but you gotta do what ya gotta do, right?
As we were pulling out, we saw a man who had two handfuls of groceries struggling to walk down the sidewalk. We watched him for a few seconds, noticing that he not only struggled with holding his bags, but with walking...even having to stop every few steps to rest. Most people would have passed the man off as someone who was drunk or on drugs, but we had a feeling it was something more. My husband asked if I'd go talk to him to see if he needed help. I was reluctant at first because I know what it's like to be offered help when you didn't ask for it...but I did.
It was a gut instinct.
We pulled up around the corner from where he was walking, and I got out of the car and approached him.
"Hi there," I said, going slowly.
He paused, staring at me and didn't say anything at first.
"Um, look I noticed you are struggling a bit with your groceries and we have room in our car. I don't want to be intrusive, but would you like a ride?"
The man stared at me for a few seconds, then said, "Thank you. I would appreciate that."
I took a couple of his bags and walked with him to our vehicle, then helped him in.
During our car ride to the Alexandra Hospital, where he lives, he shared with us that he suffers from both Hodgkinson disease as well as Parkinson's. This is a man that used to work in the same industry as my husband. Yes, he did Scaffolding and other areas but they could relate to being strong-minded, strong people who aren't able to do what they used to be able to anymore. And it's no fault of his own,
This man goes from the hospital he lives in on a 1/2 hour train ride to our end of town to get his groceries. And he doesn't have to. He does it because he wants to stay active and be an active part of our society. He gets judged for how he walks, speaks and acts because most people assume something totally negative, rather than being human enough to figure out how things really are.
He appreciated that we looked beyond that.
He told us stories about what he had done in his life and a bit about what he's going through and all we did was listen and understand.
As we pulled up in front of the hospital doors, I got out to help him. He fist-bumped my husband then turned to me and hugged me. Normally, I don't usually let people hug...I need to initiate...but for some reason it seemed so appropriate. As he hugged me, he thanked me and said, "You remind me of my granddaughter. There aren't a lot of people who'd give someone like me a chance. Thank you."
As we drove away, I cried. This man will be in that hospital until his last day and yet he gets up every day to get his groceries across town to keep moving forward and prove that he can. How inspirational IS that?
Let's just say with things going on around here right now, I took it as a sign.
Be strong, embrace what and who you have in your life, and keep moving forward.
And God Bless that man.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
It is an ugly word and scary to deal with, but it is a reality. It doesn't realize we are stronger than it is, even if it doesn't think so.
We. Are. Stronger.
Today, I usually get my kids to post what is on their minds but today we are sharing a special post. I dedicate this to my grandmother, who was a two-time breast cancer survivor, and to all of you out there going through, fighting or have survived cancer.
My Grandma was the 'glue' of my mom's side of the family. She kept us talking, kept us together and made sure that no matter what we we were going through, we fought through it.
When I was asked to contribute to an anthology dedicated to cancer survivors, I dug up this story and submitted it. I'm not sure how my grandmother would feel about me sharing my story, but I do know she would have been proud.
This is the unedited version, so excuse any typos, but this is for all of you out there.
And never give up.
Battlescars (A Tribute to Grandma)
My grandmother was a stubborn, feisty woman who was as fiercely protective of her family as a mother bear is with her cubs. I believe these characteristics fueled her strength to fight and survive breast cancer—twice. And she went through it in the 1950’s. A time when the survival rate wasn’t as high as it is today. Oddly, it was something our family never talked about.
Even as a child I knew something was different. When Grandma got dressed up, she had a womanly figure. But when we she was at home in her casual clothes, her shirts would hang flat. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to notice. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to ask questions. But one day Grandma and I found ourselves in an awkward position where we had to talk about it.
It was the summer I turned thirteen. I loved staying with my grandparents, but it was a distressing time in my young life. All my friends started showing the beginning signs of womanhood while I still looked like a boy with long hair.
“It’ll happen soon enough,” Grandma told me. “Don’t be in such a rush to grow up, Dumplin’. Besides, breasts are just an accessory. Being a woman goes far deeper than what is on the outside. Some day, I’ll tell you about it.”
That day came sooner than both of us expected when I rushed into her bedroom one morning to grab Grandpa’s house keys and surprised Grandma while she was getting dressed.
“Oh…dear…I’m so sorry…,” I started to say.
I wasn’t ready for what I saw.
Grandma stood there, her house dress open to her waist. Her fingertips held the zipper—frozen in their position. For the first time in my life, I understood why everyone always made sure Grandma’s door was shut while she dressed.
“It’s alright, child,” Grandma said softly. “I left the door open. Didn’t think anyone was still in the house. Please…come in.”
I didn’t want to. I felt embarrassed, for her and for me. Grandma removed her hand from her zipper and brought it to her side. My eyes stationed on her chest. In the space where her breasts were supposed to have been were two large dents. The skin was discolored and there were purple lines that extended out, like lines on a map. Some of them were swollen. Some lay flat and disappeared under her house dress towards her armpits. I’d always known something had happened. I’d always wanted to ask but was never brave enough to.
My eyes flooded with tears as I tried to find the right words.
“Oh, Dumplin’,” Grandma said. “Don’t be frightened. Grandma is just fine. I’m glad you came in. Grandpa always shuts the door because he doesn’t want to have to talk about it. He’s still scared, I guess.”
I finally found my voice. “What…what happened?”
Grandma zipped up her house dress and motioned me to sit with her on the bed. “Many years ago, I got sick. Very sick. When they couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to shake what I thought was the flu, they ran some tests and found some lumps in my left breast. Well after a lot of other tests, they found out it was cancer. Back in those days, they just removed the breast then gave you lots of medicine. But they didn’t get it all and Grandma had to go back. They took the right breast and some of the tissue under my arms called lymph nodes.”
Lymph nodes? I put my hands in my armpits and hugged myself tight.
“Oh, now, don’t you go worrying about things,” Grandma said, stroking my hair. “It happened a long time ago. I’m not ashamed of it.”
I kept my hands in my armpits.“Will it come back, Grandma? Will you get sick again?”
Grandma tilted her head at me like she always did when I asked something she needed to think about before she could answer me. “I don’t know. I hope not. But I can’t worry about it. These things happen, you know?”
“Is that why you told me ‘breasts are just an accessory’?”
Grandma laughed. “Yes, that’s right. Breasts may make you look like a woman but I don’t feel any less of a woman than I did with them. Maybe I’m even more so because I didn’t truly understand what it was to be one until my breasts were taken away. Doesn’t change who you are, child. Just your form. Women are strong. We’re fighters and still the head of the family, even without our breasts.” She winked at me.
She pointed to her chest and continued, “These are my battlescars, Dumplin’. They are there to remind me I won the battle and I’ll win the war.”
I hugged Grandma hard. It didn’t seem to matter anymore when I finally developed breasts. After our talk, my grandparents’ bedroom door wasn’t shut tight anymore, unless Grandpa was getting dressed.
Even though she’s been gone for over twenty years now, Grandma’s words still sing in my ears whenever I put my hand over the little pink ribbon I proudly wear on my shirt (over my size AA breasts). Being a woman does go far deeper than what is on the outside.
And, someday, we will win this war.
Monday, July 25, 2016
We all define it in our own ways. And there is no way to judge another for what they turn to for that happiness. As long as it is healthy, brings the best out in you and emits that happiness from you, it is good.
We've had a very rough week around here...mostly health-wise. It has been very important for me, more than ever, to stay positive and turn to the happiness I have in my life. If I don't, I know I can slip into complete negativity and that is not a place to be.
Happiness to me is: my children, my husband, my writing, every day I wake up to face a new day, that one thing I can get done during the day even with all four kids and my husband home, laughing at least a few times a day, flowers, water, waterfalls and the smell of rain.
Surround yourself with yours. It is vital to your survival. It's human to feel down and out. It is strength to pull yourself out of that and move forward.