Friday, October 24, 2014

"When You Tug At a Single Thing In Nature, You Will Find It Attached to the Rest of the World"

-Quote by John Muir-
I may sound a little obsessed with Tiffany Shlain but I finally watched her film, "Connected" tonight.  Not really sure when she produced it but it was moving, none-the-less (especially for someone like me who doesn't go to movies or watch TV).  In fact, I'm going to make my kids watch it because it captures so much history on why "we humans" have this never ending need to connect and how that has changed how we're designed.  She explained why technology has changed so much the way we live and our desire is driven by the chemical our brains release when we make these connections.  This is no big secret but she artfully tied it back to the Da Vinci's (?) theory on how humans behave and how they will "evolve" in the future.  There was a theory that if honey bees ceased to exist the human race would be extinct within four years.  She clearly explained why this holds true.

I would like to expand on the title of her film by calling it "Connect with What and Who Matter Most".  I really think that's where she was ultimately going.  She weaved in her Dad's death throughout and shared his wisdom so beautifully.  I struggle with this concept EVERYDAY.  I work hard, but that's relative.  I work from home so I'm not getting up super early to shower and brave the crazy traffic on a daily basis.  I get to pack my kids' lunch and kiss them goodbye as they ride their bikes to the bus stop.  I get to take walks through my wonderful neighborhood full of nature and wonder. I'm grateful for that.  I'm home when they walk through the door and though I don't have fresh baked chocolate chip cookies everyday, I do a lot of the time.  I struggle because I know everything she said holds true.  I know what she was going through when she talked about losing someone close and losing your babies...over and over again.  I still deal with that on a daily basis but I'm grateful for the short time I had with each of them.  My Mom always says that all of the babies I lost would run to hug me when I go to heaven (given I do...lol).  That's really the only hope that gets me through those loses. I blame myself for 'doing this and not doing that'.  The fact is, I have a terminal illness that I will always struggle with.  It's not like cancer but if all of my medications I take on a daily basis would go away and I didn't have access to them, I would only last a year or two.

I think we get so desensitized by the news.  I try and tell my husband that those images are not healthy for him and if the kids hear or see any of it, it "changes them".  He just sees it as "life as we know it" and accepts it as "normal".  Is it really?  I don't accept all of that hate and those visuals of people hurting others.  I don't believe that's how we all got here.  I think we all got here because ultimately we need each other to survive.  There, I said it.  I love how Tiffany shared that a four minute hug gives us the brain stimulus we need each day to survive.  If we all chose to live differently, life could be so much more fulfilling.  Choosing to disconnect is what I strive for so I can be more present for my family and friends.  I want to be "all ears" when they tell me their story or when they're hurting about something.  We've trained ourselves to "not care" which puzzles me in so many ways.  Why wouldn't we care about each other? our neighbors, friends and families?  I hear stories about someone's mother who is struggling with cancer but she tells the story as if it's the latest tweet on her phone...no emotion, no remorse for not being there, no feeling. For me, I just want to be a better human, connected to everyone and open to their story.  Mine can wait.  I like my story.  I wish a lot of it didn't happen but it did, and I am who I am because of it.  So, with that said, if you ever have a day where you don't know how to fill it, watch "Connected".  If you don't walk away feeling a sense of ownership to this world that we live...you need to take a long, deep look into yourself to figure out your role in this life.  We all make a difference, if we decide to.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Connected

I'm a late bloomer and I also don't follow conventional films,shows and newspapers. In the last week I've been blown away by a film maker named Tiffany Shlain (watching her YouTube videos...can you tell?). Everything she writes and her own life experiences are so much like mine that I'm drawn to her work. I'm dying to see her film called "Connected". I guess it came out a few years ago but since I'm just "catching on" I figured it would be worth watching this weekend when Scott and the kids go camping. This time is usually held sacred to no devices or media in any way, except for my Sister Hazel playlist. If it doesn't get bumped off Scott's Netflix playlist, I'm sure it will be a treat. Here's a little Tedx talk from Tiffany.


I had no idea she shared a similar journey with miscarriages either (she had 5). I too went through a period that death is all around us and life is incredibly fragile. I still believe that it is, which is why I pump my kids up with healthy home cooked meals each day loaded with all things if they knew about them, would probably not eat them, BUT it's my job to give them the best start. Anyway...CONNECTED. This word keeps me up at night. Look around at all your friends and friends of friends and you can tell pretty quickly who is really connected to the things that matter...to their spouse, to their kids. Tiffany doesn't really go too deep into this with the idea of connections but it really intrigues me. I'm not one to judge but I do believe that that families that are tightly connected have less issues with their kids and much more success with big life experiences. I don't have a magical formula and it's not what you can give them from a monetary or a material standpoint. Yet this is how most people live, all the time.  My own kids are guilty of this too, don't get me wrong.  I think it's impossible to be totally immune to all the "stuff".  They know what's important and deep down, they know how I feel about "stuff".  I guess I just get frustrated by certain things.  Right now, I just want to make sure my kids grow up "right".  I'm always asking them about what they're feeling, if they're happy or sad.  I don't really care if my needs are met but I think they are.  I'm healthy, I still sing each day and walk with my ugly weights.  My kids still give me kisses, share their ideas and I know exactly what to pack for their lunch each day.  They have great souls and will do great things.  Just gotta keep them on the right track.  The time will come for all of us when we will have to ask ourselves some tough, real questions like, were we really present for our kids?  Did we feel that we were whole heartily connected to them?  Were the connections we made with others, meaningful?  How will you feel when it's time to leave this earth?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

We Are What We See...and Believe

My new hero is Tiffany Shlain. I think we were separated at birth because she is the first person that I can totally relate to about the world and how I see things...and don't see things. Again, I choose not to watch TV and I haven't been to a movie in years. People think I'm crazy but simply put, I do not like to fill my brain with negative images. That's it. Tiffany's video will explain it further but the more we consume our lives in the negative, horrific stories from around the world, the less fulfilled and happy our lives will feel. I choose to believe that most humans are pretty awesome. Yes, I have little patience for bad drivers especially our beloved snow bird tourist drivers in Orlando. I want my reality to be consumed with positive visuals, of my kids laughing, experiencing joy, the unique sunset each day and the beauty of nature I am so privileged to experience each and every day. My husband, once again, thinks I'm crazy because I don't share his passion for the ongoing noise from the TV. Anyway, here's a great video, again from Tiffany Shlain. She's my hero.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Get Ready to Unconnect with the Technology Shabbat Challenge

Many of you know, I hardly ever watch TV. The most I'll watch is as I'm passing by our family room which usually has the TLC channel blaring. I love this video about taking a Technology Shabbat. For 24 hours the family celebrates no screen time and just enjoys spending time with each other. I think half of my family will be on board but there are select few that will find this extremely difficult. So much of our precious time is wasted on technology. We're bombarded with messages and distractions all day long. This ongoing stress ultimately erodes at our peace of mind and our chance to experience true happiness. I challenge all 6 of those following my blog to try this for a few weeks and see what happens. I know I'm going to do it!

You Can Move Mountains

I saw this video about "How Wolves Change Rivers". It's a very inspiring short film and will give you a lot of inspiration. Watch it now to see what I mean: So, my thinking is if wolves can change rivers, we can move mountains. Not necessarily in the literal sense, although we can certainly influence a change that big but from a willingness to change. I hear stories all of the time how someone's life continues to have failures. I know that many times, it's not the person's fault but much of our life is in our control. If we truly want to make change happen, it must be a willingness that we find from within. I'm typically the type of person where there is no task too large and that every dream is attainable. I fall down and get scraped up but usually get right back into the game. As human beings, we have an incredible power to make things happen for our mind, bodies and spiritual life. Once we decide that it's up to us to make the change, life tends to look a whole lot brighter.

I'm a Dreamer

I figured it out. I'm a dreamer. I was raised a dreamer. My siblings are dreamers. My parents are dreamers. Is that so bad? I just realized this. I love to watch human dynamics and interactions. My husband is always positive and optimistic but he's not a dreamer. He's also not very confident. It's not an insult but he'll always see things in a positive light but won't believe in something he's truly good at or something he's doing. Dreamers. That name always conjurs up something negative but to me, it's about believing there'something more, something so awesome but not necessary attainable. I don't think "dreamers" should be punished for believing they could do something or want something better. If I wasn't a "dreamer" I would never have moved to New York and would have never pushed myself to succeed. I think, as a parent, that's really hard is when you see your kids' dreams come alive and someone squashed them with words. That makes me sad. I think all dreams should be shared if they want to. I think it's okay to have ideas whether you act on them or not. This took me a long time to realize but I think this is what gets me up each day. I see my kids and hear their ideas. I never say, "that's impossible", or "that's stupid", I usually probe to see where they're going with the idea. Most ideas from kids are just ideas, that's what adults don't understand. Kids have this unbelievable survival skill and creativity. Maybe it's about hope and having dreams that may seem unattainable, gets us through each day. I hope my kids keep dreaming and keep those creative thoughts alive.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall

Though it feels more like Spring right now in Florida, it's very hard to tell the difference between seasons. They say that it's cold up north but down here we get to enjoy 70 degree weather and breezy cool days. I'm not sure why but every Fall my body picks up on the cues that Mother nature sends. I really don't do anything different in my routine but for some reason I want to go to bed earlier and sleep later. I automatically gain 5 pounds that I lost back in May and all I want to do is lounge around listening to the Free falling acoustic station on Pandora. Although I would love to see some leaves changing and smell that wonderful smell of a neighbor burning their leaves, it just doesn't happen down here. Still, I don't think I would change it for anything. I love where we live and love that my kids are thriving. I can do away with those everyday surprises, like my son who shot a duck with his BB gun five minutes before leaving for his Lacrosse game or buying a remote control helicopter for my son's Birthday gift to only break on the first day that he played with it. By the way, has anyone been able to keep a remote control anything longer than a week without breaking? Though I thought I got smart about saving the receipt, box and bag, after 2-3 times returning the same broken toy, you kind of have to give up. Little by little, I'm going through the rooms and getting rid of broken, unloved toys. Though it makes me sad to see their childhood slowly disappearing with each toy that heads to Goodwill, I celebrate the simplicity of the empty room. Besides, they rarely realize the toys are gone and it makes cleaning their rooms so much easier. No worries, I don't get rid of everything...just those toys that don't seem to have a place any more or is broken beyond saving. Back to my Fall blues, I will say that I do miss all the real pumpkin patches and apple picking activities that were a big part of our Fall weekends up North. One day, before they get too old, I'll make the journey to the Georgia mountains so they have a taste of what Fall is all about.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It's all about the Love

I can talk about this ALL day long. Everything we do, everything we say, every act we make is all based on a decision to love or not love. Our life is a result of every decision we've ever made. This world is made up of people, good and bad, making choices to create the reality that we live. All it takes is for someone to reach deep inside and really look at themselves and figure out what's working and what's not working. Make a change. If you choose to hate and talk bad about someone or try to convince another person that another person is bad...that is not love. If you don't genuinely give another person the time or respect when they're in your presence...that is not love. If you choose to feed yourself the negative news and images that others share with you...that is not love. How do we feed our soul and our bodies with only those things that will promote love and happiness? How do we make sure that our kids share the same values? When you think about it, there are so many forces against us all. How do we keep these waves of hatred and mean spiritedness away from ourselves and the ones we love? For me, I know my faith plays a big role and the values I was taught as a child. I know from lessons learned throughout my life and watching what happens when I don't choose love. This seems like such a hard concept for most people when really, it's very easy. Life is about choosing the direction you want to go. If you choose love, then you will always prevail. Please watch this video to see what I mean:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Choices

Life is all about choices. If you look at every memory, every aspect of your life it was based on the choices you made or that your parents made for you as a child. My cousin is a huge advocate of this kind of parenting. She tells me that every conversation should be based on "choices". You ask the child, "so, why did you choose to not to turn in your homework?" and "by choosing not to complete your homework the result will be bad for your grades". It makes a lot of sense. If everything is truly about choices then we as individuals begin to take responsibility for our actions and realize the result of our choices more clearly. As much as I fought this concept with my cousin, as days go by it has become more apparent that she's on to something. Just thinking about that moment when we face "the big guy", I could imagine that he'll ask choice based questions, like "why did you choose to run away when you were 12?". Okay, I ran away for 20 minutes in my little John boat but what kid doesn't have that moment? Every single day of our lives we're faced with choices like, am I going to work out? What will I make for dinner? Will I be a good witch or the bad witch when I deal with people today. I can argue that every single thing we do is based on a choice...everything. Someone might say, what about illness? I never chose to get sick. I guess this can be true. Some of the healthiest people I know get sick and it's not their fault. What about accidents? You can argue that if that had not made the choice to go somewhere or make a turn when they did, things would have turned out different. The idea of "choice" is enough for us to stop and think about when it comes to everything we do. When I'm problem solving with my kids, I always remind them that they "chose" to take a particular step which got them to where they are. Ultimately, everything we have ever experienced can be traced back to a simple choice...a choice that may have had a lot of thought or not much at all. It was a choice none-the-less that got you to "here". I would love to look at a gant or flow chart from someone's life that demonstrates the path that brought them to the place they are now. I think a chart like that would bring a lot of clarity to people and to help them make better choices for their lives in the future. At least it would bring a lot of awareness into the process of choosing. I don't have all the answers but if you really think about it, my cousin is really brilliant. Every day we're faced with a million simple and complex choices that ultimately shape us and make us who we are. It's all the more reason we need to be there for our kids, provide a good foundation so they can make the best choices as a teens and adults. I think the missing link in this whole game of life is that we feel removed from our choices and that we don't take responsibility for our choices. As they say in many college courses and corporate America..."dumb it down". If you boil it all down...it is indeed about the choices you make.

Things I Wish I Thought Of...

I picked up this LTD Commodities catalog today and flipped through it. I would normally throw this type of junk mail out but I was intriqued by all of the really cool products and gadgets that I found in there. I only wish that I was the one who thought of these nifty things. Take a looksy!



Monday, September 22, 2014

Stick to the Things You're Good At

...and cutting hair isn't one of them. With three boys we typically alternate hair cuts. They'll get a professional cut at Great Clips and then the following haircut, I'll do it. I've been following this schedule for years and it seems to work and save us a little money. One thing I failed to believe is cutting hair after a glass of wine. Not only did I mess up three of the boys hair...I mean, really bad,my daughter was in tears for messing up the waxing of her eye brows. It's incredible how one glass of wine can really mess up your judgement. None the less, they'll move on and forgive me and I promise to cut hair only when I'm sober from now on. Aside from the dramatic close to our weekend with tears coming from everyone, I decided to change the name of my blog one more time. It's not that anyone is reading it anyway so I like to change it up as I see fit. Again, the main reason I'm blogging is to keep a running journal of the kids as they grow up so I won't forget later on. Scott is gearing up to switch jobs again. I might have mentioned that in a previous post. He'll be selling cremation services which is a topic most people would rather put on the back burner until they have to make a decision. This would be pre-paid cremations with the idea of planning ahead so your loved ones don't have to make that call. I have ideas to help him with marketing but I somehow need to find the free time between my job and kids. Life is pretty hectic but I really can't complain too much.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Reading" People...What Does That Mean?

I'm truly perplexed with the notion of "reading" people. I'm usually a really good judge of a person I just met or who I've gotten to know over the years. People usually wear the "heart on their sleeve" and "show their true colors" with their expressions, actions and gestures. In business, this is the best way to negotiate. You can read visual cues from people the way they sit, lean in or the way they seem distracted. I'm constantly studying people whether it is my family, customers or people in the grocery store. So many times I feel like reaching out to them to see if my hunches are accurate, like the woman working at the store that sees you as a number and just wants to get through her shift. I feel for her because trying to be nice all day to people, who can mostly care less, is hard. I think I really want to be able to "read" people better so I know when I need to shut down my impatient self or remarks and to just smile and be kind to the person on the other side. I have clients that are so difficult to read that it frustrates me. In my job it's all about relationships. The only way to be truly successful is to have a good relationship with these people. Most of them could care less of what I have to say. They have a task far greater than what I have to do on a daily basis. I feel for them and I try to reach out in a way to make them more successful. Sometimes it works and they let me help them with a project, sometimes they just ignore the emails I send. Which leads me to my next frustration...maintaining real, deep and meaningful friends. The more you get to know people, the more you get to know their "true colors". I had a friend who will remain nameless. I know she doesn't read my blog because no one really does, and that's okay. She's been through more hardships than most people I have ever met combined, in a lifetime. I really felt like I was a good friend to her over the years. As time went by I found that it had become a more one sided relationship where I listened more than I ever talked. I was okay with that because I wanted to be that "friend" who was supportive. But what really turned me off was when she made comments about other people. Other people who reached out to help her in times of need. People that gave up their time and whole weekends to help but when it was her turn to give back, she turned the other way...and more than once. As I get older, it's those cues that can be a deal breaker for me. I see the true colors of a person and their values that I do not want to be associated with. I don't want to adopt those behaviors or feelings. I know it may sound that I am overly sensitive but I want to surround myself by people who lift me up. Here's the thing...no one's life is easy. I don't care how rich you are, how happy you are or how lucky you are...there will be a times when you fall and need help. If you can't be there to help, especially after someone else had once lifted you up, your true colors will show. I have learned to cut the cord early to escape the painful breakup later on when that friend is screaming their "true colors" at you. People don't change and if you accept all that they are and all their faults and they still make you a better person, than its fine to stick around. But if people are constantly blaming, complaining and bringing you down, that negative energy will only be absorbed into who you are. That is why it is REALLY hard to make good friends. I have another "friend" who I lost complete respect for over five years ago. We went on a neighborhood girl’s cruise where this girl proceeded to seek out someone to cheat on while she was away from her husband. Now, I'm friends with her husband too and the fact that she was so open about cheating on him, in front of us all, really put us all in a quandary. Why would she do this? Were we all supposed to forget this happened? Were we all supposed to still respect this person who blatantly hurt her spouse? As the years went by and as her marital woes mounted, I really had a hard time feeling sorry for her. I kept thinking about her husband that probably has no idea of the antics she pulled on that trip. In public, they try to display that everything is honky dory. In reality, we all know that's not the case. I had another friend ask me why I wasn't more "friends" with "her". My simple response was "how can I be true friends with someone that I don't share common values with?” It sounds harsh but being true friends with this person would be harder for me. I will be kind to her and courteous but I will never have a deep, meaningful relationship with her...ever. People don't change. If it sounds like a cliché', like it or not, it’s true. Just let time confirm that for you...

Getting in the Groove

It's already September and almost October. By now I should be "in the groove" with school starting and getting caught up with all the crazy clutter in my house. I'm definitely not there yet and it's starting to wear on me. Work has been so demanding that the frequent trips to the laundry room and dishwasher are fewer and far between. My daily walks have been swept too. I need to get it back but the demands of my job are pretty intense these days. I think the key is to simplify as much as possible. I need to start with my several junk drawers. The fact that I have several of them is an issue all it's own. I have stuff in there that was moved from our last house in Atlanta. Ava LOVES going through each one on a daily basis and moving it to any part of the house where she is no longer entertained. Then we have clothes. Lots of them. Our master bedroom is the central dumping station for all clean clothes and all dirty clothes. How they don't get mixed is a true miracle. I vow everyday to spend an hour trying to get this under control but I push it back to another day. I don't promote my blog so it's hard to get feedback from people since I really don't have "followers".

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Keep it Simple

When I think back at the very early days of starting a family we seemed to have needed everything. Over the years, like most people, we have accumulated so much stuff it's unthinkable. Though my kids are still young I'm finding that less is more. Slowly but surely I'm tossing all that unnecessary baggage that seems to demand more attention that own children. When you have five kids your house will never look model perfect but if I reduce the clutter and non-fulfilling objects naturally life gets a whole lot easier. In that same spirit I want to eliminate the clutter in relationships and my mind. I need to free myself of life sucking "friends" that deep down know nothing nor do they care anything about me. If I free up my heart and mind, I'm bound to be more loving and peaceful. Life will never be perfect but I just want less complications and more memorable loving moments. I finally started walking again. For me, walking isn't necessarily about losing weight but it's my daily cleanse mentally and spiritually, although walking with weights has really helped to tone my legs. It's a three mile walk that is filled with beauty. I love to look at the beautiful oak trees with spilling Spanish moss, to see the lake curve around the lake grass and water lillies. If I'm lucky I'll see the occasional otter or bobcat playing in their natural habitat. My soundtrack each day is Sister Hazel. Yes, I'm biased because they too are from Gainesville and I grew up with their music but also because many of their songs are about simplifying life and embracing what we have. We all need reminders of that but for me all of these things energize me to take on the day. Like this blog, I'm not writing to make money or to gain anything more than a release of my feelings. If I can write and cleanse my soul this way then that's what I'm going to do. We're given so many gifts all around us which are taken for granted. The phones, the media, the news and graphic images poison us and then we wonder why depression is the number one treated mental disorder in this country. I choose not to watch TV and very rarely do I go to the movies. I want to fill my brain and spirit with positive and beautiful images and stories so I can be a more peaceful and loving person. This journey is messy and it's never too late to make changes to enjoy it more. Keep it simple! Clean house and clean your soul!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Boot Camp for Life

I'm often criticized, talked about, and downright blasted by people for sending my kids to public school. Every time I hear the chatter I want to cringe. It's not a matter of loving your kids any less in fact it's because I love my kids so much more and I want to do the best job possible to prepare them for real life. What is real life? For most people in the world, it's really, really hard. So many people grow up in a world where they don't know where their next meal will come from. They live in a world where they fear for the safety of their children. They're battling poverty and health issues beyond anything we've ever seen. I, on the other hand, live in a bubble. It's not that fancy of a bubble but a bubble none-the-less. We planned it that way so our kids could run free and be kids, as they so well deserve. A big gate protects them from the evils of this world and most people that live within our gate are good tax paying citizens. The issue is that it's not the real world at all. How can I make sure my kids don't freak out at the first site of a crime, or they're faced with a question on safety of walking to their car late at night after working a long shift? How can I protect them from the guns, drugs, sex, and all the evils of the world once the gates open and they're free to go? I can't. What I can do is prepare them the best way I know how. Two things I believe are pinnacle...God and tenacity. Tenacity to me is equivalent to being 'street smart'. Teaching children to pray, to go to church, and that there is a higher being gives them the strength they need to get over the hurdles we face each day. Tenacity to not only survive the hurdles but to embrace them will ease them through many situations. Together these two things will be their boot camp training for life. Every single day there will be trials and they know it. Teaching them to tackle it on their own can be painful for a parent but something that is critical to their training. The other day my daughter started fearing that she couldn't succeed in an AP course. Mind you, if I took the class I would fail miserably because I'm way too right brain for that. Anyway, she wanted me to get her out of the class. Now, I'm not the kind of parent where I push to extremes. I talked her through it and asked why she felt she would fail. Obviously the regular class would be a much safer choice. I suggested SHE meet with the guidance counselor to weigh out her choices before she made a decision. I asked her what her goals were to succeed in high school and tried to help her see that taking a chance on a tougher course was better than breezing through an easy one. On her own, she ultimately decided to stick it out. She made that decision, not by me, just my little coaching on how to make a good decision. So back to the public school debate that is ongoing. What many people don't understand is that all the major universities in a state, in our case Florida, are indeed public schools...University of Florida, Florida State, UCF to name a few. Our schools and the FCAT are all strategically designed to get our kids to that bigger public school. Though not everyone agrees, for the most part, it does work. The difference is getting your kid to WANT to be on the RIGHT track. They need to decide if they're going to take the easy route or the challenging route to be successful. I think this is the part that the nay-sayers get caught up with. They only see the slugs that choose to take the simple road to graduation. Just like the real world, taking the more risky and challenging route typically yields greater success. As with the quality or kinds of kids going to public school, it's nothing more than a mini microcosm of the real world. I honestly believe that. What better place to learn about people and how to deal with real life experiences under the careful watch of teachers and administration. Though it's definitely not perfect it's far better than a teacher, that I'm paying, to tell my kid that they are the most important and that they are above everyone else in the world. That entitlement attitude will quickly get them into trouble in college and especially in the real world. Here's the deal. I'm a pretty successful person. I've worked for a Fortune 100 company for almost 20 years. The people that judge me for having 5 kids and sending them to public school need to realize that I CAN DEFINITELY AFFORD TO SEND MY KIDS TO PRIVATE SCHOOL BUT CHOOSE NOT TOO. There, for all the reasons I mentioned, there it is. I'm a product of public school. I fought the fight of figuring out who I was, on my own. I came up with MY plan to kick it up a notch, take a big chance, and to go NYC to get ahead in my life and career...on my own. No handouts. In the early 90s the economy wasn't much better and I knew that it was up to me to figure out a plan to get ahead of other graduating student heading to the marketplace. I worked three jobs and put myself through school and graduate school. I kicked bums off the stairs trying to get to my apartment. I was frequently approached by drug dealers on my walk to school. I had a single dollar in my pocket to sustain my life for food and water on most days. I befriended people that could have sucked me into their shallow and destructive world. I was strong and felt protected by my believes and by the tenacity I learned from my family (of 12). Everything I have gained and provided for my family required hard work, sacrafice and a commitment to live the best life possible. No one can ever hand you that on a silver platter. No one can pave the journey for you and expect you to succeed. For all the parents who try to prevent the hurt and the tears and the real images of life, they're not at all helping their child at all. I'm proud to see my kids coming into their own. I know they will make mistakes and sometimes bad choices but overall, they are pretty grounded. My kids know they live in a bubble and they know that life is not easy. They see me working and ask questions. They understand how to save and budget for the things they want. They know it can all go away if the right decisions aren't made. We're all in this together and we're ready to take on the world!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Old blog, new look

I decided not to ditch my old blog since I have so many stories in here that I didn't want to lose. I'll keep rebranding it until I get it right. For today, this is as good as it gets. We're deep into the summer and the kids are non stop. It's been good and everyone is happy for the most part. More adventures ahead as our vacations are planned for the end of the summer. I can hardly wait to shut down and get off the grid for at least a week or two. More to come...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hanging in There

It’s been a really long time since I’ve written. I have had my hands a little full. The Holidays were fabulous, complete with a magical snowland adventure to Tennessee and Christmas was close to perfect. Life got busy again when everyone went back to school and I went back to work. Ava is well underway to “getting better”. Her daily regimine now consists of a growth hormone, choline, fish oil and an ADHD meds that I can’t pronounce. Is it working? Hard to tell. She seems to be behaving better in school with less and less notes home, although she has a sub that is “pretty” and she told me that she’s acting good because her teacher is a “princess”. At this point, I’ll take it. If it means she has a princess for a teacher…all the better! At home, the eating thing is enough to drive me insane. The child just has no appetite and will cry and fuss to interrupt any meal. I’ve surrendered to stress-free mornings which means she can eat what the others eat, but if she doesn’t, she get an Ensure Plus for the bus ride to school. Most days I’m breaking out the Ensure. The throwing up thing is still happening too. When she’s totally fed up with eating and doesn’t want to hear from us anymore, she just makes herself throw up. Bulimia is just not my thing. I really believe I raised by Italians and food is the most cherished experience there is. Why in the world would you ever want to make yourself sick? This kid is so complicated and full of stories that made her this way, ones we’ll never really know. Raising an institutionalized child from a land far, far away is not for the soft at heart. They will rock your world. Yes, it’s love in a different way. They’re testing you because they gave up on everyone else. This is no difference. In one minute I’m putting Ava in timeout, the next she’s singing how much she loves her Mom…go figure! I just don’t get it! Anyway, she still struggles with everything academic but the pulling of hair and random hits have gotten a bit better. Yesterday in church a random women who sat next to us, by herself (believe me, I was saying prayers that she wasn’t going to yell at me after mass) stopped me and said “you have the most wonderful children…they’re so well behaved”. I gave her that “what you talkin’ about Willis?” look but tried to just listen and nod my head and say “ah..thank you?”. THAT never happened before. Yes…I do have great kids but most days I’m praying to just survive. Turns out that woman was #15 of 15 kids…I’m #5. I typically gravitate to the middle children of big families but I have to say this youngest (who was probably pushing 70) was pretty personable and inquisitive for the baby of the family. Don’t get me wrong…the youngest of big families are not always the other way around but they had it pretty good compared to the older siblings. My parents were instilling the rules when I was a baby and sipping Bloody Mary’s with their friends when my youngest siblings were babies. Let’s just say my parents were much more relaxed with them. I have found that I am much harder with my younger kids. I have very high expectations of them because I see what the older ones are going through right now. I want them to succeed and I want them to be happy. Believe me, I let them “be kids” but there’s a time and place for everything.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful for the Inches of Progress We've Made

This week we finally started to make some progress with Ava. I had another long talk with her teacher and we are very focused on getting Ava's IEP as soon as possible. After calling her psychiatrist repeatedly, I finally have a script that should accelerate her IEP with the school's administration. In other news, Ava started her growth hormone therapy yesterday. Now, for the record, I am not a big proponent of growth hormones but Ava's endocrinologist strongly recommended it as she is only projected to be 4 foot 10 inches at most, as an adult. Thankfully, this therapy is covered 100% by our insurance. The nurse came out to our house last night to teach us how to give her the shots...every day, until she goes into puberty. I have also started Ava on a Choline supplement which showed promising results with FAS kids. AND we have an appointment set with a very sought after RAD therapist in Orlando for next week. So, needless to say, we have made some big strides. Ava is very good about all of this and knows that all of these things will help get on a better track than she currently stands. She hasn't thrown up a meal in almost a week and really is trying to eat a full meal without my constant reminders to "take another bite and swallow". The journey with an FAS kid is a complicated one. And as everyone knows, Ava never got the diagnosis when in Lithuania but she clearly has it, like most kids who are institutionalized in eastern European countries. She is a very loving and happy kid but the lack of impulse controls gets the best of her. She honestly cannot stop herself from pulling a pretty lock of hair that is waiving in front her as she stands in line at school. I am learning so much from books and other families who share similar stories. I try almost every effective method to hopefully "fix" her, even if it's just a little. I remember the days leading up to Ava's adoption and how excited we were. All we could think of was how this little girl was going to complete our family with so much promise. We never prepared for the complicated struggle of her condition. The fact is, she has this condition and we have to give her the support and tools she needs to meander through it. We love her and she so loves us. Are hearts are stronger and more able to bend because of her in our life. I don't think it will ever be easy but I think we have a good chance getting to a better place than where she started.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Tangled Web of an FAS Brain

FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) is so complex. If I were to look under the hood of Ava’s brain, it most certainly wouldn’t be normal. It’s not her fault at all but she has learned to deal with her inabilities by using negative behavior. The first couple weeks in Kindergarten were okay with the occasional note home from the teacher. Now we’re getting notes on a daily basis. What’s happening is that the kids are beginning to accel with their in class assignments and Ava is getting more frustrated. Because she literally cannot do the work, she acts out. Her classic move is pulling a child’s hair or running around the classroom . As long as the attention is on her, good or bad, she is happy. I had a parent teacher meeting today where Ava’s teacher was almost in tears because she didn’t know what to do. I told the teacher my usual coaching which is to “stay firm and don’t let her take over”. What Ava really needs is an IEP but living in Lake County, it could take up to two years to get. Now Ava has been to every kind of doctor imaginable. She’s active with a Psychiatrist and we’re working on getting her in with a special RAD therapist. If we weren’t doing anything, I’d really be worried. She’s on meds to calm her down and very soon she will start growth hormones for her extremely small two year old stature. Through all of this, I’m not sure what’s worse…Ava’s bulimia (yes, now she makes herself throw up) or getting the daily note from her teacher telling me she pulled another child’s hair or hit another child. And every day, she gets the same punishment which is to sit in her room in time out until dinner. It’s the right punishment for her because she loves being with all of the kids and she does not like to be left alone. The crazy thing is, she keeps doing the same stupid things day in and day out, as if she completely forgets getting in trouble the day before. Another friend of mine used the term “swiss cheese brain” and that really stuck with me. It’s as if Ava only remembers certain things and forgets all the important stuff. You can probably tell I’m a bit frustrated. I get so many compliments on Ava, “Oh, she’s so adorable!” and “Oh, she’s so sweet!”, little do people know the monster that’s hiding behind that little girl. It really is like Jeckle and Hyde. All I can think of is what a mess her mother made with this poor child’s brain, not only physically with alcohol abuse but emotionally with neglect and abandonment. We’re learning how to deal with a child like this but Ava is a mastermind of manipulation and will try to find her way out of trouble with most anyone. One of the main reasons for not keeping up with this blog is because I really need to keep my eye on her when she’s home. We’ll keep plugging along and hopefully one day this child will realize that she cannot rewrite every rule that was ever written to be in her favor. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away, trying to get the IEP and the much needed therapy that this little one needs. Ah…good times!!!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

So Complicated

That’s the only way I know how to describe Ava. She is so complicated and unpredictable. I haven’t written in a while because we have been knee deep in all of Ava’s issues. Ava had a terrible cough for a few weeks and was on antibiotics but before then she started throwing up after each meal. At first I thought it was viral but then it’s been going on a few weeks, even after we completed the antibiotics. I deep down believe she’s making herself throw-up. Scott doesn’t believe that to be true but he also doesn’t believe she has fetal alcohol syndrome and every medical professional has shown me the markers for it and she has 80% of them. I finally brought her to a psychiatrist and it was probably the best move I’ve made so far in this journey. This doctor basically said that these kids who were abandoned and institutionalized are so complex, that it’s like peeling back an onion with so many unexpected levels. That’s the best way to describe it. The doctor also confirmed that Ava has RAD, the disinhibited kind (where she will exhibit affection with total strangers). Most people think it’s cute but it’s a bad thing to have especially when they become teenagers. Ava is already demonstrating her preference for Daddy since he’s much more accepting of her behavior and I’m more of the disciplinarian. These are all of things we’re addressing with the doctors but these kids are programmed so differently than normal kids. The next couple of weeks we’ll be visiting a host of different doctors to determine if there are other issues we’re up against that we didn’t know about from the beginning. Tomorrow is then endocrinologist where they will determine her bone age based on the hand Xray we had done today. There’s also a really good chance that she still has all those nasty parasites in her gut. Though she never threw up back in the early days when she was ridden with the parasites. One thing I will tell you is that these kind of kids know how to get attention. I am constantly aware of how much attention she pulls away from other kids to her benefit. I always make sure that the other kids are getting the attention they deserve. She even believes if she doesn’t know the answer to something on her homework that she can rewrite the rules, so “A” is not really “A”, it’s “Z”. She will then proceed to make you believe it’s “Z”. It’s so fundamentally complex that it’s even difficult to write about it. The fact is, she’s ours. We’ll love her and give her the care that she needs to hopefully have somewhat of a normal life. Time will tell. I hope by Christmas we’ll at least know a little more about what lies underneath this little soul’s skin, physically and mentally.

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