Finding Beauty

The older I get the more I want to find beauty. To see it in people’s faces. To recognize it in their laughter. To find it in their tears. Life is a struggle (for us all), and so many times I find myself weighted down with all the things that are going on in the world, but yet still…I look for ways to list all the ways that people are beautiful. The smooth, sweet smelling skin of my five month old grand daughter, her contagious laughter instantly changing my mood. The older lady in the store parking lot, smiling at me. The UPS delivery man who is always so friendly and kind, even though I know he is tired. My husband who works hard for me and for his family. The neighbors who offered help, and unconditional support when we lost our beloved dog. My friends who know me, and know my heart, and I theirs. There is beauty. I just keep my eyes open for it.

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I enjoy being outside. I like to take sky pictures… And field pictures… And animal pictures. And yes, people pictures, in my search for beauty. The other night I walked out on the deck, waiting to call the dogs in for the night. The cold, crisp winter air was still as I peered up. The sky was blacker than ink, with sparkling glitter. I find moments like this to be holy. I am reminded how small I am, and how big God is. The intricate workings of the Milky Way, created by the sound of His voice. Beautiful.

Scented soap homemade from a friend, texted messages and voicemails from family and friends, iced tea, and iced coffee, holding hands and holding hearts, baby laughter, and giggles, good books and timeless stories, friendships that have withstood both time and distance, children who are now adults, but still say, “I love you”, pictures on the refrigerator, and smiles from strangers at the grocery store, dogs that lay their heads in my lap and lick me until I pet them, wedding rings and commitment, love and loyalty and fun. God is so good and He chooses to gift me with beautiful people and beautiful moments and ……..

I am so thankful.

 

 

It’s A Wonderful Life

Yes, it is true. This movie is one of my all time favorites to watch during the Christmas season. I wait for that time when George Bailey realizes that his life really did make a difference, and that things would be different if he had never existed. Most of all he realizes he truly does have a wonderful life.

I agree with George Bailey. Sometimes all we need is a reminder……

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Top Twenty Reasons It Truly IS A Wonderful Life: 

*Celebrating Jesus’ birth, the greatest gift of all (all other gifts pale in comparison to God entering time and space to make a difference for all eternity)

*Remembering The Light of the world (the baby born on that day so long ago, that grew into a man that shattered the dark– of hopelessness, and separation of man from God—because of His love for us)

* Christmas music (my favorites are O Holy Night, and White Christmas)

*Family, both near and far ,that I love and love me right back. (family in different states who don’t let the miles get in the way of showing love)

*All the kids home for Christmas (even though they are young adults)

*A new daughter-in-law (our first Christmas together)

*A new granddaughter, seeing everything for the first time. (is there anything more precious?)

*Sweet baby laughter (I could listen to this all day long)

*White lights (simple and pure)

* Hot Chocolate (home made, not from a packet)

*Snow on the ground (preferred over the ice)

*A warm house (yes!)

*New opportunities (one year is ending, a new one getting ready to begin)

*Friends (I am so blessed)

*The nice UPS guy--(we see him a lot)

*An “A”in my grad class (Hallelujah!)

*Time off from school (rest? maybe?)

*Watching Christmas movies with the family (fun times)

*Outside twinkle lights (it “looks” like Christmas)

*The night sky—Silent Night, Holy Night (there is nothing better than the winter night sky, cold and clear)

 

 

I Can No Longer Feel My Fingers

My family and I moved to Ohio seven and a half years ago. Even though I am originally from Maryland and my husband from upstate New York (so yes, we know cold and snow) with lengthy stops for each of us in Texas and Tennessee–there is something to be said for the cold AND wind here in rural Ohio. The wind makes things one hundred times worse!

Today our high is supposed to hover around 10, with (yes!) a windchill of -15. Even with insulated gloves on, my hands are cold by the time I get over to the barn to feed our horse, Jazz. I’m not complaining, because over all I enjoy winter. I just wish I could feel my fingers.

When Scott and I were building our farmhouse in the middle of what was once a cow field, I remember we were building (well, okay “we” in the sense of we were paying for it, not “we” as in actually building the house) and it was February and it was snowing and the wind was blowing. I was suited up like Nanook of the North. I should have known!

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Light In A Dark World

 

My family enjoys seeing the lights at Christmas. There are some families that go all out decorating their houses like light show extravaganzas. You know what I mean. They are a sight to behold.  (Although, I always wonder about the January electric bill for these homes) The lights I enjoy seeing, made me think of something I read on another friend’s blog post the other day. She said, “See  the lights. Be the light.”

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Light that cuts through the darkness.

Light that brings joy to those who see it.

Much like the Light that cut through the darkness of time and space…

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Flashback over 2000 years ago… A dark night. A man and a woman who needed a place to stay. No one could help them out. The city was busy and there was not one room available. They were bone tired. The young woman was not feeling so well, she knew that this child that she had been carrying for the past 9 months, was ready to be born. But where?  The man managed to talk an inn keeper into allowing them to sleep in his stable, which was really not much more than a cave.  A literal hole in the wall.

In the stench of barnyard animals, the greatest gift to mankind was born that night. A night where people were running to and fro, busy with their lives. A night where no one was really paying much attention. A night not so unlike what we have now. God came into the world. Jesus left Heaven to come to this earth in human flesh. AND THE WORLD HAS NEVER BEEN THE SAME SINCE. A divine gift. A gift of love to humankind. A light to the world. Light that split the enveloping darkness of that night, as well as all the days and nights to come.  –(excerpt from my archives)

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The Christian Life Isn’t Always Easy

IMG_1163The Christian life isn’t always easy. I’ll be honest. There are days when the words of my heart, are not pleasing. When my thoughts are selfish or downright mean, or when I’m screaming on the inside…even though I look calm on the outside. I wish I could say that I always have my thoughts under control, that my first reaction to stress isn’t to freak out. If I said that, I’d be lying.

Thank you God, for your grace. For forgiving me. For giving me a second chance. For your faithfulness and your mercy. Just thank you.

( I was going through my blog archives and found these. Some things I wrote a few years ago…….) 

There Is No Going Back

Each day is filled with grace. It washes over me, I breathe it in. God’s choice, for His pleasure. Amazing grace.

Time moves on, and over the past week or so I’ve thought hard on transition and change. It occurred to me that I am at a point where there is no going back. As a mom, I have had to let go, breathe deep, and trust God. Trust is more than a word, it is action.

This life is filled with so much. Many days I am thankful, but some days it is difficult…and my fist clenches tightly on all that I have, all I don’t want to lose. Will the God that loves me so, bless me more? Or will I accept if His answer is not what I want to hear?

I am sharing one of my past posts that speaks to how I am feeling today…..

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It is what Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, says……is “hard eucharisteo”.

I’ve not had any terrible things happen to me lately. I am thankful for that. I know that life will throw me another curve ball someday—and I pray that I am ready for it.

Most Mondays I blog about thanks, along with other bloggers, over at A Holy Experience. Many of my blogs are happy thanks.

Eucharisteo….to be grateful.

Sometimes… I don’t feel grateful.

I should.

But, I don’t.

I’m working on it.

Hard work.

God has always been faithful…and He will be again.

He is my anchor in all of life’s unpredictability.

I am thankful, grateful, in awe of, a God that is strong.

That is powerful. Whose grip on me is firm.

So, today I thank for the hard stuff…….

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*I am thankful for doctors and their skills. Physicians that care for those I love…Even when it hurts.

*I am thankful for family members that love each other through good and bad, and they feel my love for them even when I can’t see them regularly.

*I’m so very grateful to be able to send love across the miles, when I can’t be there in person.

*I’m thankful for sticky floors that I have to clean, even when I didn’t make the mess.

*I’m thankful for a vehicle to get me from one place to another, even if it isn’t new.

*I’m thankful for times when I am weary, times when  God’s strength and power, alone, are shown.

*I’m grateful that I don’t have to have all the answers, all the understanding of the “why?”.

*I’m glad for having the opportunity to make choices…even when I choose poorly.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you… Isaiah 43:2  NIV

I am thankful, that in darkness, even a small light can help people see.

Where On The Continuum?

 

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Those of you that know me personally, or have been reading my blog for some time, are aware that I am a special education teacher and an independent special education consultant. I have a myriad number of friends with children that have some type of diagnosis. I grew up with an aunt with intellectual disabilities, and have a grandson on the autism spectrum. I have an online page for parents of children that have various special needs, and am co-founder of a parent networking and support group. I tell you all these things, not to give you a list of my credentials, but to let you know, when I speak about special education, it is from years of experience. My passion and drive has always been to educate an advocate for those individuals with disabilities, and their families.

I am “back in school” to get my Master’s degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders. My classes on transition, collaboration, and behavior have validated a lot of what I have thought for years. The other day, during class discussion, we were going back and forth about the “Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)” continuum. The continuum being from very restrictive, such as individuals living in an institution, to the very least restrictive, when children (with disability diagnoses) are in their general education classes with only a minimum of supports.

I read an article the other day, written by a mother of two children. One diagnosed with Down Syndrome and one not. The article discussed how she wanted her child with DS to have full inclusion. The author believes, in her opinion, that all children, regardless of (dis)ability, should have a fully inclusive experience at school.

Her article made me wonder. Do all parents feel this way? Is full inclusion really the best education, regardless of diagnosis, for all children? Is being with “typical” peers, using the same general curriculum, always the most appropriate learning for all involved? I took this topic to my online page for parents. Those that replied to the discussion, had some interesting perspectives. Parents told of their children, that are in full inclusion, getting in trouble frequently, and often requiring, but not receiving, more sensory breaks. Others talked about a mixture of “pull out” special ed classes and general ed, while others wanted their children out of the general ed classroom altogether, because their child was being bullied. This parent spoke, of feeling her child was safer in a special education classroom. I believe all these parents wished full inclusion would work, but unfortunately that often isn’t the reality. Maybe some of my readers  have children in full inclusion and it is working. I’d love to hear your stories.

Special education has come a long way since the enactment of Public Law 94-142, The Education of All Handicapped Children Act, forty-one years ago. Reauthorizations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, over the last twenty-six years have created more opportunities for those students with disabilities, and their families. Before 1975, special education services were hit and miss. Some students, who desperately needed services, didn’t get anything at all. Even with all the good that has occurred since this time, there is still a long way to go……….

I am a firm believer in everyone having a voice. I believe in real collaboration, working together to form solutions that will be good for all involved. Do I expect perfection? Absolutely not. I doubt anything will ever be perfect……but, it can be better. Here are some questions I think about, not because I have all the answers, but because I think we need to think about these issues and consider the implications. In this way we (the families, student, schools) can make the best choices possible. Isn’t that what special education should be about?

  1. Is full inclusion always appropriate if a child is unable to work at their grade level? Should we alter the integrity of grade level curriculum in that classroom? Or are modifications always okay? How many accommodations/supports are too many to still be considered for full inclusion?
  2. Is having a special education teacher in the general education classroom for one or two academics, enough?  Does working with the special ed teacher, in the general ed classroom, make the child feel even more different? Is working one on one or in smaller groups in a special ed. classroom, wrong?
  3. What about all the non-academic activities? Some students have difficulty during unstructured times. Some students require more sensory breaks. Some students require a person to teach them and daily practice with them, social skills.
  4. Is is right to expect a general education teacher (who might have only had to take one or two special ed. classes to get their degree) to understand a myriad number of disabilities their students could have? Can we expect them to be proactive instead of reactive in their classroom behavior management? Is it fair and equitable to treat all the children the same? Does fair always mean equal?
  5. How do we keep students from being unkind to each other? Do we talk about a student’s disability to the class? In order to help the class understand “why” a student might act the way he/she does?
  6. Should the student who has a severe intellectual disability, be subjected to taking standardized tests at their grade level? (For example, should a fourteen year old with the cognitive ability of a toddler be expected to take an eighth grade test? And if so, why? How will the results even be close to any kind of accuracy?)
  7. Should a teenager with high functioning autism have less supports in his general ed classes, because he “doesn’t look like he has autism” and “we don’t want him labeled”?
  8. Is overlooking a student’s true needs, an inherent danger in inclusion, because sometimes a student doesn’t “look” like he/she needs special ed services/supports? (whatever that is supposed to mean)
  9. If/When do the rights of a child with special needs carry more weight, than a child who does not have special needs?
  10. Are we making decisions now that will ultimately benefit the student after he/she graduates? Shouldn’t all of school be preparation for life after graduation? Especially, with teenagers, how to we make sure our children will have a smooth transition?

Blog readers, what do you think? I would be interested to hear your opinions, your experiences……

 

 

One Hot Mama

 

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Here I sit, on a hot and humid mid-July morning in rural Ohio. It is already hot as hades, and amazon jungle humid….and our air conditioner is on the fritz.  I am just not made for this weather. I think I must have Scandinavian blood in me. You know, the countries of the north, where it is cooler, and there are snow capped mountains even in the summer, and humidity isn’t as much of a thing.  Yes, I know I lived in east Tennessee for twenty-three years. I understand hot, muggy, summers in the south, but this chick does not “glisten”. I sweat like a horse. There, I said it. I know that is gross, but there is no getting around it. My hair is plastered to my head, I have a very attractive sweat mustache, and if unable to find some cool air soon, will be found deader than a doornail lying in a puddle on the floor. Okay, fine. This might be a slight exaggeration, but……only slight. My dogs and cats tell me to get over myself, I cannot possibly even understand heat until I’m wearing a full fur coat with temps in the 90’s. Yes, for those of you who care to know, I speak fluent canine and feline. What??!! Stop looking , staring, reading (?) at me like that. My husband calls me Dr. Doolittle for a reason. Kidding, people. Really. I am. I am not clinically insane. Yet.

I have an autoimmune disease, that I was diagnosed with when I was just fourteen. This particular “gift” makes me extremely heat sensitive. I told my husband the other day, “When it is cold you can put on socks and crank up the electric blanket to stay warm. In the summer months, when I am caught in the seventh circle of Hell, I am unable to escape”. I suppose I could strap a box fan to me, and just wear it around my neck as an, albeit unusual, fashion statement. I can only strip off so many clothes to cool off, before being arrested. Just sayin’.

I have summer loving friends, who thrive in the heat. I still love them, even though in my mind I’m thinking, “freak of nature” how lucky they are to be able to enjoy the summer months. Fine. Just fine. You enjoy the months of sweat, and frizzy hair (or stick straight hair, however it is you roll), and sunburn, and having to shave your legs because you want to wear shorts. And don’t even get me started on going bathing suit shopping. I don’t care if a woman is skinny as a rail or resembles Jabba the Hutt, or anywhere in between. After a certain age, bathing suits are not a girls best friend. The struggle is real. Sisters, can I get an amen?

So, as I sit here sipping my iced coffee, in front of a box fan going full blast, just know that I am dreaming of October. My month of bliss. Crisp, cool temps. Sweater weather. Hot chocolate. And pumpkin everything. I just have to hang on for what seems an eternity another two and a half months. Lord, help me.

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