Precious Memories—Happy Birthday

birthday cake

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Special : readily distinguishable from others of the same category

Some people long for it…others strive their whole life to obtain it….and yet, a few, rare people are just born with it. That special something that makes one unique. That makes one different. That makes that person, absolutely one of a kind.

I’d like to tell you about one such person.

Today is her 75th birthday, and this day I dedicate my blog to celebrating her….. the lady that has had such a huge impact on my life, as well as the lives of my entire family.

My aunt Dorothy.

My cousins and I always knew that she had time for us. When we were very young, and she was our “Dor Dor”, to Aunt Dorothy when we got older…she was the one who took us on Saturday afternoon drives (and got ice cream if were lucky), made sure she was at all the ball games to cheer on whichever child was playing at the time, opened her house as “command central” for multiple family get togethers, birthdays, and holiday celebrations. She attended graduations, celebrated marriages, anticipated the births of new family members.

Her love continued on to the next generation of children.

Aunt Dorothy continues to give us all the valuable gift of time…. Her time. Priceless.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUNT DOROTHY. HERE IS TO CELEBRATING YOU!

The Perfect Moment

The Beautiful Life

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Some days are better than others. Sometimes I feel as if life is flying by and I’m left standing there in the middle of the living room–wondering what in the world just happened. I’m sure you’ve all had days like that. Right?

On some evenings when everything is going as planned it is a beautiful moment to me. A lull in the storms of life. I have a wonderful dinner in the oven, the snow is falling gently outside, the light from the candles I keep in my front windows spills out onto the snowy ground, the kids are quietly working, my husband and I share a joke, I have everything checked off of my to do list for the day, I finally have time to just sit back and relax…..a beautiful moment in time….when everything is perfect.

If you are anything like me, you love those moments. They might be few and far between, but when they happen…well…they are just beautiful.

The Beauty Of Your Smile

When I think of all the times I've tried so ha...

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It doesn’t matter if you have straight teeth, or if you ever even wore braces.  Movie star whitened teeth are not mandatory.

A smile is one of the easiest things a person can wear. It doesn’t cost any money. Anyone can do it.

A genuine smile is a beautiful thing. A smile is the outward expression of a happy heart. That is what makes it so beautiful.

*The smiles of the young couple on their first date. The promise of what the future might hold.

*The smile of new parents who see their precious baby for the first time.

*The smile of a wife that makes her husband feel secure.

*The smile of a husband that makes his wife feel loved.

*The smile of a friend. So much to catch up on!

*The smile of a parent that sees their military child disembark from the plane, safe and sound.

*The smile of a child as he pets his new puppy.

The smile says so much, without saying a word…and that is what makes it so beautiful.

Will you share a smile today?

The Children That Changed Me–Part Three

In 1995 I started teaching in a new school system. I was placed in an inner city classroom that consisted of nine streetwise boys…all of whom had some sort of emotional disturbance. I admit at that time I was naive’. I had no idea what lay ahead of me. Let me just suffice to say that during my two years at this particular school I got bit, spit on, threatened, hit, bruised, called every name imaginable and then some. Unfortunately, my assistant and I had to spend more time keeping order than actual teaching. I learned many lessons during my time at this school, with these particular students. Even though these kids had seen and done things that no child really should have to deal with, or an adult for that matter, I was allowed to catch brief glimpses of the truly young children that they were. One young boy had several members of his large family that were mentally ill. An older brother had “a breakdown” one night and broke every window in the house with a ball bat. Then chased his mother and siblings around the house threatening to kill them….until the mother called for help. The next day when this student came into the classroom he was tired, irritable and angry….and really, who could blame him? His own emotional instability didn’t allow him to process what was going on in his life. I appreciated that I had mental health counselors at my disposal to help with the kids, but I still felt inadequate to even make a dent in this child’s life.

These kids weren’t sweet and lovable like some of the other students I had in the past. They were tough, and closed off. Walls had been built up, long before I came on the scene. To be honest with you I spent a lot of those days tired and totally depleted mentally, physically and emotionally. Early on it struck me that at the end of the day I could go home. Home to a husband that loved me, an infant son, a house in a middle class neighborhood where I didn’t have to concern myself with drive-by’s, drug deals, or gangs. A place where I could be refreshed and where I felt safe. My students didn’t have that privilege. I cried for them. I spent time wondering if having me for a teacher would make any difference at all to them. To this day, I’m still not sure. I like to think I did something positive, but I don’t know. I learned that sometimes life, is difficult, no matter how much we wish it wasn’t. Sometimes we just do the best we can. Then we have to let it go.

The Children That Changed Me–Part One

As a mom, of course my own children have changed me. I am definitely a different person because they are here. I love my kids all the time, and most of the time I like them too…especially  now, during the teen years, but that is a story for another day.  This particular blog really isn’t about my own kiddos though. In this blog I’m talking about my other kids. The kids that I’ve spent 20+ years with. The kids that have challenged me…and changed me. I choose to dedicate this blog to all the kids out there that are fighting against the odds with both grace and goofiness, spirit and hope, determination and grit….and above all love. You see, I’m a special education teacher/consultant/advocate—whatever you want to call me…. and these are the stories about my kids.

“Aunt Mabel looks different”. My mom’s sister was born in the 1930’s, well before special education law went into effect. A child that was born at home, after a long delivery on my grandmother’s part.  A child that, due to reasons I’m really not sure about, was born mentally retarded. I understand that the doctor told my grandmother to just put her in an institution. She wouldn’t amount to anything. My grandmother refused and my Aunt Mabel went on to live a happy life. A simple life by a lot of people’s standards…but, it suited her fine. She brought a lot of joy to her family in her own way, and when she passed away a few years ago, in her 70’s, a hole was left in the hearts of those who loved her. Although my aunt wasn’t my student, she was my first understanding of “special education” and I learned a lot from her.

At the beginning of my senior year of high school I had almost enough credits to graduate. I was able to take a couple classes in the morning and by ten o’clock I was on my way to the elementary school next door to complete my independent study at their special education preschool. It was a good year. That was the year I met Joey. Joey was non-verbal, in a wheelchair, and he had seizures. He was the ripe old age of five, but he was full of personality. Those who think that you have to talk to communicate have never met this little guy. He laughed and smiled…and it was contagious. Joey taught me a lot about laughter that year. He also taught me about having a servant’s heart. He depended on me to move him from his chair to the floor–and to do that gently. He taught me how to deal with pain. Joey had a major seizure one day, unfortunately he bit his tongue–hard. I know it hurt, and I was helpless to do anything. His jaws were locked down and there was not much to do until the seizure was over. I learned to put myself in his place, and think about how I would want to be treated…even if I didn’t have the words.

That same year I met Carrie. A precocious two and a half year old. Grand-daughter to my former 3rd grade teacher. Carrie was a petite powerhouse, with almost white,blond hair and a million dollar smile. She could have you wrapped around her little finger in no time flat. She was talented that way. Carrie also had brain trauma and limpness on one side of her body….from being in a car accident as a infant. She had been born perfectly “normal”. Everything worked. Everything was good….until that fateful day that changed her young life. Carrie taught me that, but by the grace of God, I could have had the same thing happen to me. Traumatic brain injury could happen to any of us. It only takes one bad accident to change everything. Every time I saw Carrie, I didn’t feel sorry for her, because she didn’t feel sorry herself. She kept smiling and learned to figure out how to do things on her own–even if it was difficult. A lesson for all of us.

In my first two years as a “professional”, I met Luke, Malisha, Shonda, Jeffrey and Todd. Brent, Michael, Daniel and Travis among others. We all lived in a small town in the mountains of East Tennessee…..and we were going to the Olympics! It was an exciting time. The day of the trip was cool and overcast. We just prayed that it didn’t rain! The troop was ready to go. We were bringing “the heat” to this little get together! I couldn’t have been more proud. Each of the students participated. Even if they didn’t place, they put their entire heart into it….and they were brave in the attempt. So many times, those of us that are able bodied, think to ourselves, ” I can’t do this or that”. I think we probably miss a lot of opportunities because we are too scared to just do it. The courage and tenacity of my students was what made my students special….not their mental or physical disabilities. My kids taught me to press on, past the obstacles. Go, go, go and don’t look back. Keep running. You can’t win the race if you don’t try.

Tomorrow I will be continuing my story from the year 1992….come join me for some more lessons from the heart.