Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Happiness


H is for Happiness

This last week I have been privileged to see the happiness that our Australian Christmas festivities and wonderment can bring to a child. That child being my youngest, Jessica.

As a family we have a list of activities we try to do, leading up to Christmas: putting up the Christmas tree and decorating the outside of our house with some Christmas lights, attending Christmas Carols, visiting the Christmas lights in our community, seeing Santa for the annual photo and making Jesus’s birthday cake.

I can’t help but smile at Jessica’s joy for each of these events.

The excitement she experienced each time she saw baby Jesus in the manager. Whether it was the human baby in the nativity play or the baby Jesus in the manager in the nativity scenes around the community, she reacted the same... with utter delight and happiness. (The photo above is of her praying to baby Jesus.) 


Her happiness bubbled in the same way when she saw Santa. She yelled out, 'Santa' at the top of her voice and rushed over to him each time.. You'd think every meeting was the first time she'd seen him in her life. Happiness and delight.
And her enthusiastic, ‘Wow’, reaction to the decorated houses with sparkly blinking lights and Christmas characters, made us laugh. Her happiness rubbed off on her father, myself and my son. We couldn't help but be happy too.  


 
 
 
 
 
On the other hand, my teenager hasn't reacted the same as her younger sister. While out and about, she didn’t show any happiness at all. Barely any interest either. She stuck her ear buds in and walked around, locked in her own world. I'm sure she’d rather have been at home listening to her music or on her devices. The excitement that she exhibited as a young girl, seemed to have gone.



Now, these two different reactions are reflective of people generally. There are people I know who absolutely LOVE Christmas. They seem to thrive on the hustle and bustle, the presents, the events and partying, and the Christmas Day get-togethers.  Others though do not share this joy. These people are not grouchy or grinchy. Financial woes, the loss of a loved one, poor health, or just anxiety by the pressure put on them with the season, all take away the happiness of Christmas. This time of year can bring much sadness and stress.

*


My favourite Christmas movie, is It's a Wonderful Life. You've probably seen it, but if you haven't, the story is set in Bedford Falls, New York, on Christmas Eve 1945, George Bailey is suicidal. Prayers for him reach Heaven and Clarence Odbody, Angel 2nd Class, is assigned to save George in order to earn his angel wings. To prepare Clarence, his superior Joseph shows flashbacks of George's life. The movie outlines what would have happened to George's family and friends, if he hadn't been born. It demonstrates vividly the value of an individual person.
I love this movie because it shows that even though life can be tough, and turn out differently from the way we plan it to, all is not lost. We still have a purpose and are worthy. 

 If you were born, you are meant to be here on earth.

This movie also tells us that at Christmas time (and throughout the year), we need to find the happiness around us and in the small things, because there are many other people who will have better presents and bigger get-togethers etc. Count our blessings, as they say.
*
On Friday may we celebrate the joyous birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ, love one another, enjoy each other's company, and support the sad and the suffering around us. Try not to get too hung up on the value of the presents under the tree, or how much food is on the table. In the end that stuff doesn't matter. It will be the family and friends that you love that do.
So with tomorrow being Christmas Eve, I would like to wish you a very blessed Christmas.
Feliz Navidad.

I would like to finish with my other family tradition; the sharing of Twas the Night Before Christmas, which my husband reads to the kids before they go to bed.




Friday, 11 December 2015

Graduation



G is for Graduation

This week my son, Nick, graduated from primary school. Seven years of learning to read, write and do math (plus all the other subjects) completed.  Two weeks ago we took him to the shops and he picked out an outfit for the special occasion. Nick wanted to wear a tie and we were able to find a shirt and tie combo. He was wrapped. On the night he was so excited to be getting dressed up; as were the forty other children.
 
During the ceremony, before all the children received their Graduation certificates, awards were handed out: Dux, Citizenship, Performing Arts etc. Nick didn’t win one, but that was okay. He had been awarded a Gold Academic Award that day at school and he was pretty chuffed about that. The night went well and family, friends and the children all celebrated.
The afternoon of Graduation, all three children had brought home their report cards. My two brainiacs, Melissa and Nick, did very well as usual. Melissa's 'Yesssss', made me smile. Nick's comment was, 'I only got 6 As, last semester I got 7'... My Jessica, my youngest, didn't ask about her report card. It didn't mean anything to her. She has an intellectual impairment and is doing work that is two/three years below her grade. She didn't achieve her individual goals. Her report card did say what she could do, but much of it was what she couldn’t do.

Having two children who excel, and then having one who struggles, is hard emotionally. I always feel some sadness for Jessica. I get sad, I guess, because she hasn't been blessed with high intelligence like her siblings, and she misses out on being recognised publicly for the progress she has made. Learning for Jessica is difficult - doing handwriting, art, technology, physical activities, and maths are all hard. This year she has moved forward, just in very small steps - not the larger steps of her peers.

For our family, some of Jessica's achievements we've seen in 2015 are also not academic, but are about her ability to do things on her own. Our long term goal for her is to be an active and independent member of society, so these achievements are wonderful. During this year we were thrilled when Jessica did the following things;

  • unpacked her school bag on her own;

  • dressed and undressed unassisted;

  • performed Let It Go onstage and knew all of the actions;

  • read a Level 20 reader;

  • jumped into the deep end of the pool without being scared;

  • wrote out her own Christmas cards for the first time…
There were many more.
 
As Jessica gets older, the gap between the children in her class and herself is going to grow. So I have decided that I must shake off the sadness. My attitude must change to, 'If school won't celebrate her small steps, then we as a family will, and I won't be sad because she is doing the best she is able to'. Last night, Macca’s was requested by all three children. We ate, drank and talked as we celebrated all our children’s successes. There were smiles all round.

This letter came onto my Facebook newsfeed during the week and I thought it was perfect for all the children, like Jessica, who won't be receiving awards this year. 

I SEE YOU
It’s a time of badges, certificates, medals, trophies, recognition, awards, prizes and 'seeing' of high achievement. I love seeing the kids that shine at this time of year - a big high heartfelt round of applause to you. You so deserve it for the effort you have put in.
But this message is for the kids that didn't get called up for any of the above...
I SEE YOU.
To the child that conquered their fear of heights, or sleeping in the dark, or riding without training wheels or sleeping out for the night for the first time this year, I SEE YOU
To the child that managed to resolve more conflict than they started this year, to the child that learnt to say the impossible; "I'm sorry", and to the child that walked away from the fighting instead of getting involved, I SEE YOU
To the child for whom school is a huge struggle, you get up everyday and you go, I SEE YOU
To the child that battled all year with the maths, or reading, or concentration, or speaking out in class, or learning their words, but persevered anyway, I SEE YOU
To the child that found the kindness in their heart reach out in anyway to another person or to an animal in need or in pain, I SEE YOU
To the child that learnt to give and to share for the first time this year and even found joy in these, I SEE YOU
To the child that battles to make friends and to be social, you made new friends this year and for that, I SEE YOU
To the child who wanted so much to please, but was just out of sight of an adult who perhaps was too busy or too distracted, I SEE YOU
To the child who lost a friend or a loved one this year, but carried on everyday bravely even though their heart ached, I SEE YOU
To the brave parents that try everyday to do the best for their kids, I SEE YOU.
May you and your children revel in small but significant victories that you have both experienced this year, as I will with my beautiful children. For every year there is progress and growth, we don't need a podium or handshake or a hall of applause to be seen.
I SEE YOU.
Colleen Wilson
Contemporary Parenting


If your child has graduated, I congratulate your whole family on making it this far. Enjoy the break before your child launches onto the next phase of their life...high school. :)   
 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Friendship

 
 
F is for Friendship
 

I want to begin this blog post by sharing with you, a message my 14 year-old daughter received this week on Facebook. It was from one of her friends:
 
You’re beautiful. I know that being different is hard and having medical problems can bring you down. But I’m proud to call you my friend because you’ve held your head high and kept a smile on your face. Keep being your awesome unique self.
 
 
I think you will agree with me that this is a wonderful, heartfelt message. I must admit I was blown away when I read it. Melissa doesn’t say a lot about school. When we ask her how things are, her standard answer is ‘Good’. After I commented to her about this compliment, she told me that kids have said that she looks weird when she isn’t wearing her glasses. Now I think the ‘weird’ is not necessarily a nasty thing – it just means she does look different. Her face, and particularly her eyes, are laid bare for everyone to see. Her craniofacial syndrome is on display. But the inspirational thing about Melissa is that she is fine with this. Her attitude is 'I'm different and that's me. Deal with it'. She is unique in other ways too. She likes Japanese music and animation. She likes heavy metal music and wearing what I would class as 'skater boy' clothing. She loves astronomy. She hates pink.... and she follows alternative Youtubers. Basically, she is her own person. She hasn't tried to change to fit in, like I know many teenagers do. I am very proud of Melissa for this. In fact I admire her and am inspired by her. I really wish I had that attitude when I was a teenager. 
 
How many of us can say we were happy in our own skin when we were fourteen?
I think this comment has also made its mark on me because Melissa always struggled to form friendships. I remember in Year One, she tried to fit into the ‘popular group’ but it didn't work out. In Year Two, she was told by some of the other children in her class, that she had big eyes. This really confused her, as no one else had said that to her, or if they had, she was oblivious to what they meant. We had been raising her like she didn’t have big eyes, even though we knew society knew she did.
In Year Two, the ‘you’ve got big eyes’ started.
One incident in particular, that stands out in our memory which happened before Melissa realised she was different... was when Joe had brought her back to school after she had been at the ophthalmologist. She had been given eye drops to dilate her pupils. A boy said to her 'Why are your eyes so big?' Her response was, 'The doctor put drops in my eyes'. She had no idea what he was referring to.
Poor Melissa suddenly did realise that the kids weren't talking about her pupils, but her eyeballs. This confused her and she didn't know how to handle it. She started to act out and became quite naughty. This 'label' affected her socially. She would barge into groups and be an attention-seeker.
We ended up taking her to see a psychologist who helped her. But for the rest of primary school she still struggled. It was in high school that she finally found her ‘group’. Some of her group, knew her from primary school, others didn’t.  
Her group generally consists of the kids who are different and unique themselves. They are not the popular group. They are teenagers who have found each other and probably had C.S. Lewis's conversation in one form or another:

  • What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’

 
Have you found your group?
 
With our youngest, Jessica, who has Down syndrome, we always worried about friendships. We needn't have. The number of children who say hi to her, and look after her, is phenomenal. In Prep they would fight over who would be her helper. Jessica sees all children as her friends which in itself has caused problems. Children have been upset because she flits from person to person. On her school desk yesterday was a pile of Christmas cards from her classmates. She is accepted for who she is, and that's what friends do.
*
 
Friends are important, though there are times when they will let you down. I remember when Melissa and Nick were little, and going through their skull surgeries. The people I called friends at that time didn't phone, text or visit. I was told they were busy. That hurt and led me to realise quickly that I needed to find friends who weren't too busy to support me in my time of need. I found them in a church.
Since leaving teaching, with more time on my hands, I have sought out more friends. I think this is important. Friends don't normally just drop in your lap - you have to invest time and effort into finding people who could potentially be friends, then time and effort into the relationship (just like a marriage). I have been blessed with friends who have disabled children; who are at my old and new church; who are parents at my children's schools; and others who are writers. Some of my friends fit into more than one category. Within these groups, I know who I can call on in an emergency, and that is a blessing. It's been many years since I've had an emergency contact other than my mother.
Where have you found friends?
I have to say as well, that some people come into your life as friends for a season. Since I was little I have had friends who were there for a while, sometimes years, and then things happen, and they are gone. Life changes and the contact wanes. I have other friends who I've had my entire life, who I don't see a lot of because of distance, but are still dear to me.
*
Friends need not only be human. Animals can be great friends. When human friends or family aren’t around, they can provide great comfort. You can talk to them, walk them, spend time with them. It is well known that animals can reduce stress.
This is Jess sleeping with one of our cats a couple of nights ago. She loves our pets. (We all love our pets!)
 

  Do you have a pet that is your friend?
 
I found this letter My Dear Friend on-line. I would like to dedicate it to the people who are my friends; and who are my children's friends. Thank you. :)



Sunday, 29 November 2015

Extraordinary


 
E is for Extraordinary
 
‘Dad, I’m so excited!’ Jessica’s smile lit up the lounge room. She had jumped out of bed this morning and greeted her father with these words.
‘Morning Jess. What are you excited about?’ Joe asked her.

‘We’re going to Pluto and the moon today!’ she exclaimed, jiggling with the joy she felt.
Joe looked at her and said, ‘Okay.’

When I got up, the heat in the bedroom beginning to feel like a sauna, Jess greeted me with. ‘Hi Mum, we’re going to Pluto and the moon today!’

I smiled at my daughter, but I had concern too. I didn’t want her excited about something that we couldn’t make happen for her.
‘Jessica you know we can’t actually go to Pluto and the moon. You’ll have to go in your imagination.’

Jess’s face immediately dropped and she was silent. She really believed we could.
After breakfast Jess went into her bedroom to get dressed. She woke Melissa and instructed her big sister, ‘We’re going to Pluto and the moon today. You need to get up!’ She wasn't giving up on her dream.

Melissa bleary-eyed, stared at her sister. She smiled and remembered the conversation we’d had over the dinner table the night before.
Jess had asked, what were we doing today? As we had no specific plans, Joe said as a joke, ‘We’re going to the moon.’ Then Melissa piped in with, ‘And Pluto.’ Pluto is Melissa’s favourite planet. The discussion turned to flying on the satellite to get there and you only having 10 seconds to take photos of Pluto. After dinner, the movie Frozen was on TV. Jessica entertained us with her acting out of the entire movie, and singing all the songs with the actions.

Nothing more was said about the space mission… until this morning.
As Jessica was so hung up on going on her space trip, I thought I had to try and make it happen in some small way. No way could we ring NASA and ask them, to drop by our house, and take us into outer space. Instead we could make some playdough rockets and pretend. Jess was happy with that, thankfully. Here is her rocket and astronaut. J
 
Here she is:



Now what does this little story have to do with my blog title ‘E for Extraordinary’?
A lot in fact. In Jessica’s mind she could do this extraordinary thing - travel into outer space. She wasn’t bound by her circumstances or her limitations. You might be thinking, well she doesn’t know how far the moon is away. True, she doesn’t know exactly how far away it is, but she knows it’s a fair way. She knows you need a rocket to get there.

I googled 10 most extraordinary people in the world. Up popped a large number of sites. I began to read the names of the people on the list. To be honest, most of the people I had never heard of. People who were considered prodigies and had high IQs, and others who had achieved some type of success in life. There were lists of disabled people, others with ‘superpowers’. It was interesting because I didn’t see the people who I expected to.  I didn’t see Father Chris O’Reilly who helps homeless youth with his program ‘Youth off the Streets’; I didn’t see Rosie Batty, an advocate for domestic violence; I didn’t see the Sarah McGrath Foundation who provide Breast Care nurses; Destiny's Child who rescue girls from a life of prostitution. These and many others, who are leading extraordinary lives.


What does extraordinary mean? ‘Remarkable, beyond usual ordinary’ is what the dictionary says. If that is the definition, then everyone is capable of leading an extraordinary life. Can an ordinary person, living in the suburbs, going about their everyday existence, live an extraordinary life? Yes, of course. I believe that if you are helping others, and trying to make a positive difference in the circle you live in, then you are in a small way being extraordinary. The world does not change without people who stand up for good. Who stand up for the injustices in the world. Who stand up for the animals, the environment, and for the vulnerable people who cannot stand up for themselves. Who try to make the world a better place.
Think about one thing you can to do, but don't just think about it --- do it!
What if we were all like Jessica and believed we could?
 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Difference


 
D is for Difference

My daughter’s home reader this week was an abridged version of the The Ugly Duckling, the renown fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. I am sure you knows the story but in case you don’t, let me retell it quickly.

A mother duck is sitting on a clutch of eggs. The eggs crack open and out pop six ducklings. One of the ducklings though is not like the others. Because he looks bigger and is a different colour, he is classified as ugly. This duckling doesn’t fit in with any of the farm animals, is laughed at and no one will play with him. His mother tries to comfort him, but to no avail. The ugly duckling feels lonely, sad and scared. He goes to the lake and sees a flock of beautiful white birds flying overhead. He wishes he could go with them. 

The farmer finds the duckling at the lake, and takes him back to the farm. Nothing has changed. The animals continue their bullying. He is absolutely miserable.

Time marches on, as it does in nature, and the seasons change. Little does the bird know that he is changing too.

One day the despondent duckling, waddles  back down to the lake, where the beautiful white birds have returned to. They call to him which is a huge surprise. He wonders why these birds would want to talk to him. ‘You are the most beautiful swan we have ever seen,’ they say. 

He doesn't understand their comment. He is confused... until he sees his reflection in the lake. A striking white swan stares back. He suddenly realises that he is a swan! What a revelation. He has found his type. He has found where he belongs.

Of course, as most fairy tales go, it all ends happily ever after, as the swan flies off with the other swans. No longer is he the ugly duckling...
 
#

Awww how sweet. Now I must admit, I have loved this story since I was a girl. It has always spoken to me about ‘looks’ and ‘difference’.

‘Looks’ and ‘difference’ are two subjects very close to my heart. Particularly as I have grown up with a face that was considered ‘deformed’. I experienced many of the isolating incidents noted in the fairy tale. I didn’t know I was different when I was born. I didn’t know I was different when I was a baby. But as a toddler I soon became aware. How did this happen? The adults and teenagers who I came into contact with, told me. They stared at me. They pointed and snickered, and made rude remarks. The children who called me names. The children who wouldn’t let me play or would push me over. I wasn't treated the same as the pretty girls, or the sporty girls or the popular girls.

Now one could say that I was born in a time where anyone who was different was persecuted in some way.

Have things changed?

In a small way, yes, but in a massive way, no.  Did my husband or myself, tell our children that they were different? No. Then why did Melissa in Year Two, tell me, ‘I’m different Mum.’ The other kids in her class told her. They pointed out her big eyes. They told her that her face wasn't normal. Did Melissa cope with this? No, she didn’t. In fact she was confused and started acting out. We needed to take her for counselling for her to cope with this new identity they were pinning on her. What were these children saying – you’re not like everyone else, and you should be!

We have seen ‘difference’ in our youngest child in another way. Children have accepted her. It is the adults who have labelled her and attached preconceived ideas to that label. I guess the most frequent comment we hear is, how 'amazing' she is. Well yes she is amazing because she is ours.... but that's not what they are referring to. The fact that Jessica can talk and perform on stage, and generally do the things that other ordinary children do, people are amazed. Sometimes we are thrilled, just as we are with our other children when they achieve great things, but we are not amazed. We know that our child has the potential to do many of the things that the other children can do. That’s why she is in mainstream school. Jessica may not have the IQ of an ordinary child but she is more the same than different. She wants the same things as every other child. She wants love, to be listened to, to learn, to be valued, to have friends… She loves One Direction, Taylor Swift and the movie Frozen.

It seems that the human race loves to make judgements about fellow citizens of the earth. Judgements are made about skin colour, the prettiness of the face, the figure,  religion, clothes and the stuff that is owned. Even if nothing is known about someone, people make assumptions. For example, if you see a Muslim, do you automatically think they are a terrorist? If you see a person with black skin, do you automatically think they must be shady? If you see a person driving a BMW, do you presume they have lots of money? You get the idea, I am sure.

I find it ironic that we love animals that are different. Ugly Cat is a phenomenon. If it was Ugly Susan, would she be a phenomenon? I don’t think so.

I like the quote I began with, as it is so true. You have to be strong and brave to embrace your individuality, and not get caught up in the crowd, or change to fit in. Children and teenagers know the pressure. Standing on your own, can have the consequence of being shunned. It can be a lonely existence. How many 'ugly ducklings' are in the world?

It is the uniqueness of people that makes them interesting. If everyone liked the same things, and had the same gifts and talents, there wouldn’t be the variety in life that we see. If everyone looked the same, we wouldn’t be able to distinguish one from another. We need difference in the world.

A final thought: If more people looked at the heart, and not at the exterior, we would have a better planet with more peace, love and harmony.

I like the two pictures below. They show a positive attitude towards being happy with how we are.


  

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Choices


May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. – Nelson Mandela

C is for Choices

We make many choices each day. For example, what clothes we wear: the red or the black dress? What we will have for lunch: a salad or a meat pie? Will we exercise or stay in bed for the next hour… 

Some choices will have little effect on us, like whether we eat an apple or a pear for afternoon tea. Others will have major effects, such as deliberately driving our car after we’ve been drinking, then having a serious crash.

Some choices can slowly creep up on us. Our weight could be one of them. If we eat lots of high fat, high sugar fast foods and don’t exercise, then one day we may find that our waistbands are tight or the button on our jeans doesn’t do up. 

Tuesday I went to a CRU (Community Resource Unit) http://cru.org.au/ seminar on the NDIS. The NDIS is the National Disability Insurance Scheme which is taking over from Disability Services, in Australia. In 2016 it will start to be rolled out in Queensland. One of the activities we had to do during the day, was to write down our vision for our disabled child. My child Jessica, has Down syndrome and my husband and I actually already have a vision for her.

Our vision is for adult Jessica: We see her as an independent member of the community. She will live on her own, be financially secure, and have friends, relationships and interests/hobbies. Our vision for her is the same as it is for our other two children, who do not have an intellectual impairment or developmental delay.

Having a vision though is not enough. Deliberate choices for how we are going to help Jessica reach the destination, need to be made, otherwise the vision will never be realised.

At the moment she is eight years old, but we are already working on the skills that she will need, to be able to live independently. For example, we are helping her to achieve her personal hygiene and dressing skills. Jessica helps me bake and she does simple tasks around the home. She is learning to swim as she wants to join the Swim Club like her brother. That will also be a good fitness activity for her when she is an adult. We take her to stores, teaching her how to shop. She has speech therapy and occupational therapy. And we try to give her a broad range of experiences. The list goes on.

We have fears for when Jessica is an adult. Will she have the skills to be able to live independently? Will she be safe? We won’t know until we get there, but if we give in to our fears now, we won’t offer her the opportunities or teach her the skills she will need. It is so important that our choices reflect our hopes, NOT our fears.

Now, you may not have a disabled child, but you can still do some self-reflection on what choices you are making with your life. You can have your own vision and plan the steps involved in reaching your destination.

Think for a moment about your friendships, relationships and work, and answer these questions:

·         Are the choices and decisions you are currently making, producing positive outcomes?

·         Are they giving you a better life?

·         Are they giving you hope for your future?

Sometimes you need to make instant changes. For example, cut friends, stop bad habits, start saving.  Some things of course, you may not be able to change so easily, such as your employment. But if you want to change jobs you can start planning how you are going to get out of it. You could investigate promotions, study options, read the employment section of the newspaper etc.  Even small positive changes will have an effect.

Is there one change you can make today?

Life is all about choices. Which direction will you take?



 

Friday, 6 November 2015

Belonging


Help me - where do I belong?

Who will accept me as I am?

Why can’t they see past my exterior?

They think I’m a yak… but I’m really a lamb.

 

B is for Belonging

In primary school I always had a few good friends but I was never in what I considered, ‘the pretty, popular group’. I would look at those girls with envy, because they seemed to have it all. They were the ones who were chosen first for sporting teams, games and dancing. I was one of the last, or the last, to be picked. Always soul-destroying. As a child I thought being popular meant you had it made.

By the middle of primary school I had picked out one of the girls, Lisa, who I saw as being gorgeous. I convinced myself that if I hadn’t been born with my craniofacial syndrome, then I would have looked like her, and I would have had a better life because of that.

I only have one vivid memory of being evicted from a group. It was in Year Five and Abba was huge. We made up an ‘Abba’ group and I was in it. I can’t remember who I actually was but I was so excited! We were practising the dancing and singing in the withdrawal room, which was a little room adjacent to the classroom. I left the withdrawal room to go to the toilet. When I came back I had been kicked out of the group and relegated to working the cassette player. I was devastated. It hurt. Why wasn’t I good enough to be in the group? Was it my face?

Again in high school. I had a few good friends, and I had a best friend. It wasn't long until the popular group became known. They were the girls who seemed to have it all. The looks, the sporting abilities, the charm, the first picks. Those of us who weren't in the popular group (the poor girls, the simple girls, the ugly girls, the uncoordinated girls) looked at them without envy, but with disdain.
Now time has travelled along since the 70s and 80s, but not a lot has changed. Popular groups are still in school and kids want to know they belong. It's a fundamental human need. We see on the news all the insane things kids do to be part of a group, and how terrorists are using this need to their advantage. Too many teen suicides are also occurring because of cyberbullying. Other kids telling them that they’re not good enough, that they don’t belong.
Adults too, want to belong. Many change themselves to fit in. Whether it be by way of cosmetic surgery, make up, clothes, having the latest IPhone and technology, drinking, gambling, drugs, showing off. The list goes on. People want other people to like them. They want to belong.

So what am I trying to say?
Did it really matter that I was never in the popular group? No of course not. It did affect me at the time because no one told me that it didn't matter. In hindsight what really mattered was that I had friends who loved me for me. They accepted that I had a different face, and embraced my individuality. I didn't have to try and be someone else. And that was a gift.
It’s healthy to belong, to know that you are liked by other people. But if you can't be yourself it's not healthy, instead it's toxic. Whether you're a teen or an adult, find people who are similar to you. People who you have things in common with. Find people who will encourage you, care for you, support you and speak positively into your life. If you feel inferior or not good enough, keep looking. Being popular in school really doesn’t mean anything. School comes, and school goes. People who have been to high school reunions know this. The popular kids usually just have regular jobs. They aren’t stars. Being popular didn't get them further in life. The adult world can be more difficult but again, it’s all about perspective. If you don’t fit in at work, do your job and work hard. Find your peeps out in the real world. They are out there. I found mine, and you can too. :)




Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Attitude


Attitude, attitude, here it comes
Rude, selfish, polite or fun.
Positive, negative, what will it be?
Is the glass half empty or full - what do you see?

 
A is for Attitude

Why did I choose attitude for the first entry to my blog? It was a little thing that happened the other day actually. My daughter Jessica, who has Down syndrome, was being stubborn and non-compliant. I blurted out, ‘I don’t like your attitude,’ which I don’t think I’d ever said to her before. A weird feeling passed through me. As a seasoned primary school teacher, I had told my students that I didn’t like their attitudes many times, but never my intellectually impaired daughter. Jessica’s reply was, ‘I am being good Mum.’ She didn’t think she was doing anything wrong… just exercising her right to not do what I wanted her to. Her IPad was more important than following Mum’s instructions to get dressed. It’s all about perspective. Her perspective and mine at that moment, clashed.

We all have attitudes towards whatever we are doing. I remember having a foul attitude towards my Maths 1 tutor, who was trying to help me achieve better grades in senior high school. His helping me, did not change how I felt. My attitude, thus, did not help me to improve my grades either. If I had changed my attitude, maybe I would have eventually passed. Who knows…

Haven’t we all been there at some stage in our life? When life has thrown us a roadblock, whether it was trying to lose weight or dealing with a demanding boss, we have walked away from the situation. Now maybe there are times when walking away could be a good thing. A friend that is leading you into trouble would be one example. But there are other times when it would be much more advantageous to keep on, keeping on. Problem solving, striving, not giving up.

Have you heard the saying, ‘Keep your chin up?’  What does that mean? It’s usually said, by a caring friend, trying to encourage you when things aren’t going well. It means, keep a positive attitude.

Is it nicer to be around people who have an optimistic outlook or a chip on their shoulder about life’s journey? Very few people have it easy. Troubles come, and sometimes it seems that troubles after troubles after troubles, pile on top of you. It is hard to even get out of bed and breathe, let alone be happy and positive. Now, I’m not even saying ‘be happy’. There were times in my life I was absolutely miserable. It was difficult to find anything to be thankful for. It seemed that there was nothing to have a positive attitude about. Some days I had to search for something, like, the sun was shining or a student had drawn me a picture. 

I think I would be entitled to have a low view of the world, with all the things I have been through in my life. But I don’t. Instead I CHOOSE to be thankful for the good things and moments in my life. I choose to focus on what I have, not what I don’t have. I choose to focus on my abilities, not my limitations. And finally, I choose to count my blessings and look for the good in each day. Even if it’s a hug or listening to the birds chirping. I hope you do too. It’s all about perspective.

 

Monday, 19 October 2015

The ABCs of Life

When you were little, I am sure you learnt to sing the ABC song, and it probably stood you in good stead for the rest of your life. In school, you learnt the order of the letters first, then had exercises to help reinforce it. Do you remember rearranging words into alphabetical order or searching for a definition in the dictionary, locating a book at the library or even listening for your name in roll call - if you were a W or a Y or a Z, you had a long wait. Did the first letter of your surname affect you? For example, our surname starts with W. I have noticed at special Assemblies my daughter is always the last or second last to receive her award. She doesn't get to stand on stage whilst the others are presented. Does that matter? Maybe, maybe not.
If you are out of school, do you still use the alphabet? 
Because words influence our existence, and are, impacting our life significantly, I had an idea that using the alphabet would be a thought-provoking and interesting way to write a blog. I already have a blog at http://crouzonsdownsandme.blogspot.com.au/ which details much of what I have been through in my life. I don't want to repeat what I have written there. Instead this one will consist of reflections, articles, poetry, stories, or anything really, that supports the word of the day. I hope it will be fun, entertaining and inspirational. Will you come along for the ride with me? :)