get healthy, self care, Uncategorized

4 Happy Habits I Learned From My Kiddos Who Rock An Extra Chromosome

Being the mom of two kiddos who rock an extra chromosome and who are 100% nonverbal has made me a quasi expert at reading people.  In order to overcome what could quickly turn to mutiny, it became necessary for me to anticipate their thoughts before they could even think them.  I never have been much of a people-watcher, but because of this acquired skill,  I’m much more aware of non verbal queues and human behavior.  When your daily survival requires mind reading (no exaggeration), you pay much closer attention to those things that make no sound at all.

Even though I interact constantly with Hope and Charlie, I still can’t imagine what it must be like to be non verbal and to have no real independence.   They don’t know any different, of course, but I still believe if I didn’t have a voice, I’d be pretty frustrated a lot of the time.  But you know what?  They’re not.  In fact, aside from those times when the occasional diva comes out of Hopey, they’re the happiest kiddos you’ll ever meet.  They can’t tell me if they have a headache or tummy ache, what they did at school, what they want to watch on tv, what color they want their bedroom painted, what song they want to hear in the car, who they wish they could visit, or even what they dreamed the night before.  So why are they so happy?

      Charlie Blog

There are four attributes in Hope and Charlie’s lives that never waiver.  I believe these are ingredients for happiness that not only pertain to them, but to all of us:

  1. Sleep.  Hope and Charlie don’t go down easy, but when they finally give up the ghost, they sleep like rocks.  Because of their disability, they have no guilty consciouses, no agendas for the next day, and no schedule to worry about.  They don’t even have to think about what they’re going to wear to school the following day, because I do all the grunt work for them.  No responsibilities means they don’t have a care in the world, so once they’re snoozing, a locomotive train coming through the house wouldn’t disturb them.  While it would be difficult to clear our minds in the way Hope and Charlie do, sleep is vital to our mental and physical well-being.  Sleep keeps your heart healthy, reduces stress and anxiety, makes you more alert, improves your memory, helps you lose weight, improves your mood, and helps your body heal itself.
  2. Exercise.  Hope and Charlie are constantly moving.  Much to my chagrin, when they’re awake, they’re literally moving nonstop.  As with most kiddos, they are balls of energy.  While our busy schedules and long lists of responsibilities don’t allow us, as adults,  to be in constant movement, we can (and should) make time to get our hearts pumping.  Exercise produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety, making you feel happier, helps with weight loss, builds muscle and strong bones,  aids sleep, and reduces risk of chronic diseases.
  3. Choose to be happy.  Hope and Charlie don’t ever ask for anything, because they don’t have voices.  As a result, they’ve learned the art of being happy with what they have.  Whatever I fix them to eat, they eat.  Whatever clothes I buy them, they wear.  Whatever toys they have, they make the most of.  The absurdity of “the haves” and “the have nots” has not even occurred to them and never will.  They live in the moment and honestly make the most of life.  No worries.  No wants.  Just making a choice to be happy.  It might sound simple and trite, but we can all choose to be satisfied with what we have and to be happy.
  4. Be a friend.  Because Hope and Charlie are unable to speak, they are much more aware of what’s going on around them, and they are especially open to people.  Somehow, for instance, they are able to discern when a person needs a hug.  Hopey can be running wild, but when a person who is hurting comes into her presence, she immediately dials back her energy and gives a gentle hug.  Charlie can be happily playing in his own little Charlie world, but when a person enters our home, he always puts down what he’s doing in order to give warm hugs.  Both of them are friends, no matter what.  You can be tall, short, rich, poor, successful, or a deadbeat … they never notice.  They only see people.  Studies have shown being a friend to others offers a myriad of benefits, such as increased feelings of belonging, purpose, increased levels of happiness, reduced levels of stress, and improved self-worth.  Giving our hearts away to others in the form of unconditional friendship is a beautiful gift.

Try to make these four habits a part of your life and see what happens.  Like Hope and Charlie, you might feel happier too.

Just my thoughts,

Melanie

 

fit over 50, get fit, get healthy, Health blog, Uncategorized

Attention Online Dating Scene, Homecoming Queen, and Future Running Machine: Your Costume Is Everything

“Costume is a huge part of getting into character.  Your body soaks in what you’re wearing, and you turn into someone else.”  ~Jane Levy

Relationships.  Dang, we make them difficult, don’t we?  I mean, it’s actually simple if you think about it.  In each relationship, we play a role and wear a costume.  As long as we stay in character, those relationships roll along without too many bumps in the road.  In one relationship, we’re a daughter, and in another, we’re someone’s mom or grandma.  At times we’re a friend or acquaintance, a student or teacher … a neighbor, sister, cousin, aunt, employee, or employer.  Suffice to say, we’re many things to many people.  And in each role, we put on a distinct costume, whether we realize it or not.

We offer a friendly smile and thank you to the bag boy who pushes our overloaded grocery cart out to the Suburban that’s literally rocking in the parking lot, locked and loaded with a couple of wild kiddos who just got out of school for the day.  (Ummmm, yeh, that very detailed example might be personal to me.)

We offer a completely different smile and thank you to our mom when she takes the time to cook our favorite meal.

And when hubby brings home flowers, he gets his own special sort of thank you.  Boom-chicka-wow-wow, right?

It’s a costume.  A familiar role.  And it’s as predictable and boring as dirt.  As long as each role we play remains in its designated box, those relationships will remain dirt,  predictable and familiar.  The message is pretty obvious.  Don’t ever, ever, everrrrr treat the bag boy like he’s hubby.  haha.  It’s much safer to stay in the box and to be dirt.

Some roles are easy.  As moms, for instance, we know exactly what our role is, don’t we?  The moment that baby is placed in our arms, we put on our motherhood costume, and you couldn’t rip that costume off of us if you came with a mechanical claw, a couple of raging bulls, and fifteen knife-wielding zombies who haven’t eaten in weeks.   We are mom, dagnabbit, end of story.

The role of employee, employer, teacher, student, and acquaintance are straight-forward as well.  These roles are far less emotionally driven than the role of mom/child, but we know what’s expected of us, and we can easily meet those expectations.

Other roles are more hairy-scary.  Kids rebel.  Grandma’s sometimes overstep and spoil too much.  A neighbor might not like the color you painted your house.  And a best friend might choose a new friend.

If a child would remain true to his role by respecting parental authority, his life, and the life of his parents, would be so much easier.  If Grandma would support parental authority and willingly give up her Matriarchal superpower, more families would stay intact.  If Joe-Blow neighbor would support his neighbor’s right to paint his house chartreuse green, there would be no need for fences or home owner associations (preach!).  And if every best friend valued the gift of having an old friend who loved her way back when she had braces put on her bucked teeth, used pasty white Clearasil to cover zits on her face, and went through a third break up with the same loser guy … then friends would be friends forever.

Are you getting the general gist of how life-altering these roles are?

Well hold on, because if you have a significant other, things become even more complicated.  What role do you play in your relationship with your significant other?  Are you the princess who is adored and cared for by your prince charming?  Are you an equal partner where you both demonstrate mutual respect and decision-making authority?  Are you submissive to an all-powerful partner … or are you the power player?  Is your significant other somewhat like a father figure?  Or more of a best friend?  Were you high school sweethearts?  Or did you meet on Tinder when you were sixty?

Whatever the role, our romance began somewhere, and that beginning continues to direct the relationship.  For instance, I have a friend who married his high school sweetheart.  She’s a couple of years younger than him and was crowned homecoming queen her senior year of high school.  To this day, more than thirty years later, he still refers to her as his homecoming queen.  In his eyes, she is forever his high school love.  I’m actually fairly certain she hasn’t aged a single year in his eyes.

I have another friend who complains to her husband all the time.  “Why don’t you do this?”  Why did you do that?”  “You make me so mad!”  She badgers the man constantly,  but her husband always responds with (insert a grown man using a baby voice here):  “I’m sorry, honey, will you forgive me?” … then he gives her a bear hug, a kiss on the cheek, and tells her he loves her.  She rolls her eyes, giggles, and tells him she loves him too.  This goes on every day and has for more than two decades.  I think she complains just so he’ll hug her, kiss her, and tell her he loves her.  It seems insane to me, but this has worked for them for more than twenty-five years.  They’re one of the happiest couples you’ll ever meet.

There’s another woman who was a widow.  She met her (current) husband on Christian Mingle.  He was a widower, too.  Their entire relationship has been built on how fate magically and mysteriously brought them together through internet dating.  They’re both in their late sixties / early seventies and talk about how they met all the time.

Each of my examples demonstrate a role and a costume.  It’s the normal, predictable, and expected that make up the foundation of what makes those relationships work.  The dirt, so to speak.

God forbid if the high school sweetheart in my first scenario ever ceases to see his bride as his homecoming queen.

In the second scenario, what would happen if the man’s wife did her normal complaining, but instead of receiving the typical hugs, kisses, and I’m sorry, the husband started accusing her of complaining too much?  What if he called her a pain in the — you know what?

And in the third example, I hope there never comes a day when the former widower tires of gloating about meeting his bride on an internet dating site.  I hope they both continue to acknowledge their magical, mysterious, fateful meeting … until death parts them.

The small roles that are played out in relationships hold tremendous power to make or break a marriage and/or relationship.

So what does this have to do with being fit and healthy?

Two things.

First, to feel alive, you MUST have relationships.  And if you’re going to have relationships, you’re going to be much more mentally and emotionally healthy if you succeed in them.  Grab hold of your role, embody it, don’t change your costume, and respect the boundaries each unique relationship in your life has established.   Some of those boundaries have been put in place by God, some by society, and some by our own volition.  Whatever the case, treasure them, protect them, utilize them, and keep peace.

Second, if you really want to become fit, you need to wear the costume and play the role.  Buy the yoga pants, ladies.  Wear the sneakers.  Pull your hair back in a pony and sock a cute strapback cap on your head.  If you dress the part, and if you embrace the role, you’ll succeed in every area of your life, including in fitness.  Your body soaks in what you’re wearing, and you turn into someone else.  Do you want to become a runner?  Dress the part.  Do you want to become a yogi?  Dress the part.  Then join a gym, hire a trainer, buy a treadmillor an elliptical machine, or take part in a regular exercise class.  It’s not only important to dress the part, you have to actively play the role.

Every time I run a race, I look forward to being given my bib and number.  It makes me official.  It makes me a runner.  The 5k race is a role.  My bib and number is a costume.  My body follows what my mind believes … and it works.  Every.  Single.  Time.

The method is so simple, perhaps it’s too simple, yet we sometimes miss the obvious.  Why do we make life more difficult than it has to be?  If a fifty year old woman can still be her hubby’s homecoming queen more than thirty years later, you can certainly be fit and healthy.

Just my thoughts.

Mel

Down Syndrome, special needs blog, Uncategorized

Take The Five Second Challenge & Be The Change

‘Be The Change’  … Think about those three words for just a moment.

How can you actively “be the change” you want to see in the world?

For me, this is an easy answer.  As a mom to two amazing kiddos who rock an extra chromosome and who are 100% non verbal, I’d like to change the way the world too often views them.  Lumping the special needs community into a one size fits all category is dehumanizing.  Sounds a bit harsh, I know.  But it’s true.

“Down syndrome kids are always so happy.”

Is that so?  (cue rolling my eyes as far back in my head as is humanly possible).  Talk to me about how happy cutie pie is when I say no to that Oreo cookie.

“Down syndrome kids are so loving … they love everybody.”

Ummmm.  My two ragamuffins are completely nonverbal, yet they’ve figured out a way to constantly grunt, groan, and fuss at each other just like typical siblings … This is more like toleration, not love.  haha.

I hate to burst the bubble, but in my home, beyond the almond shaped eyes, small stature, and bright smiles are two individuals who have distinct personalities, temperaments, strengths, and weaknesses:

A diva who will size you up in a heartbeat, Hopey is fiercely independent and feisty:

Hopey Braids

Charlie, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different.  He’s a soft cuddle bug who’s a master charmer when it comes to getting his way:

Charlie Swing

Hopey is mischievous and funny,  while Charlie is a more go with the flow kinda dude.

Both will go outside to play for the same amount of time … Hope will come dragging herself in the house with skinned knees looking like she’s been wrestling a couple of hogs in a pile of mud while Charlie will look like he’s just bathed and is ready for Sunday School.

I foresee a day when people will automatically accept them and see them as individuals instead of brushing them with the broad stroke of Down syndrome.  When accepted as individuals, Hope and Charlie become human and worthy of identity and relationship.   Neither should be expected to fit into a once size fits all Down syndrome kids bucket.  You get the point.  Yes, both are kids who have Down syndrome … but more than anything else, they’re just regular kids.

be the change 3

I’ve immersed myself in the differently abled community.  It’s become my passion and my life.  In the process, I’ve made very real friendships with many adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Just like Hope and Charlie, each are unique in every sense of the word.  Through my own relationships and experiences with these amazing individuals , my desire has grown for others to see what I see.  All people, regardless of ability or disability, are much more alike than different.  Whether differently abled or not, for instance, we all love the anticipation that comes with Christmas Eve, how sand feels when squished between our toes, the view from a mountain peak, time spent around a campfire with friends, a sloppy kiss from the family dog, a new pair of jeans that fit just right, the crisp edges of a fresh baked brownie … am I right?

At the same time, though, we are all a bit different.  Some of us are born Chatty Cathy’s while others are excellent listeners.  Some of us are athletic while others are artistic.  Some of us have arms and legs … others were born without limbs.  Some of us have brown eyes, and some have blue.  Well … in the same way, some folks were born with an extra chromosome, while others weren’t.  It’s no big deal at all, because differences are never a bad thing.  They’re just a thing.  And those things that make us unique might actually be what make us most interesting.

I was given this shirt by Bee Attitudes , and was challenged to describe how I’m being the change I want to see in the world.  I’d honestly never thought about it before, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it.  If I want the world to treat Hope and Charlie with love, honor, acceptance, and respect, then I must treat the world, especially the differently abled world, with love, honor, acceptance, and respect.  Through my friendships with the differently abled community, I guess I’ve lived out the term ‘Be The Change’.  How I treat those individuals (since I pretty much adore them) is definitely how I want others to treat my two loves.

be the change 2

 

Here’s my 5 second challenge to you.  If an individual who is differently abled is placed in your path, no matter where you are … at church, a restaurant, a grocery store, or a ball game … introduce yourself.

“Hi, my name is Melanie, what’s your name?”

It’s that simple.

Then follow up with a warm smile and a handshake.

That simple act not only takes five seconds of time, but it validates that you see that person as an individual.  As human.  As equal to you.

I’d love to hear from you.  In the comments, tell me about how you are being the change you want to see in the world.

Remember this:  In the big picture, God never makes mistakes.  And when we choose love, we’re all The Change.

(With every purchase, Bee Attitudes gives back to charities who are making a change.  Be sure to click the link and check out their site!  This mustard colored shirt is one of the softest shirts I’ve ever worn.  The fabric is bouncy, so it hangs nicely.   Not to mention … what about that cute message?)

Just my thoughts,

~Mel

Disney Vacation, Down Syndrome, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World

The Day I Met A Hero On Rockin’ Rollin Coaster

hope disney

What mom in her right mind takes her two special needs kiddos to Walt Disney World during the Christmas holidays?  I mean, wait times are longer than the summer tent revival altar call … and people are more wound up than the church lady who received a dose of the Holy Spirit during that tent revival meeting.  But my kiddos are suckers for Goofy in a Santa suit, and I am too.  So off we went.

Due to the throngs of Disney fans (short for fanatics for a very good reason), the Disability Access system was on overload and crashed.  As a result, for two days in a row, in order to get the much needed paper version of the disability pass, Hopey and I stood in line at Guest Relations for forty-five minutes.  The sole intention of the pass, mind you, is to avoid long lines.  Go figure.

In typical Hopey fashion, as we waited our turn in the queue, she tried her darnedest to make friends with everyone around her the only way she knows how.  She hooked her hands into the pockets of the man in front of her and yanked hard … nearly pulled the man’s britches clear to his knees.  I honestly did get a shot of his white skivvies.  He turned around and glared at me as if I was supposed to know she was going to pants him.  He’d been defenseless, poor guy, but he wasn’t her only target.  She grabbed a boob or two, pinched a teenage boy so hard he yelped, turned flips over the queue line chains, and kissed about a half dozen strangers.  By the time we reached the counter on both days, the Disney attendant was very pleased to hand me a pass and scoot us out the door and on our way.

We rode Everest, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Slinky Dog Dash, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Test Track and Tower of Terror.  While Hopey enjoys Dumbo, Pooh, Small World, and the Peter Pan ride … she lives for the thrill rides.  Each line though, even with the Disability Access Pass, was terribly long.  And in each line, I worked as diligently to manage her as she worked to “make friends”.

By the time we hit Rockin’ Roller Coaster, I was exhausted.  She looked up at me with that mischievous twinkle in her eyes, and I begged her to just stand in line patiently like everyone else.  I would’ve had better luck getting an oak tree to dance the Vietnamese Waltz.  With a tummy full of Mickey Bars, the sugar high was real.

As we waited, Hopey couldn’t help but stretch her arms out and touch anyone she could reach.  Every fiber of her being longed to share her excitement with the people around her.  Her face beamed with the biggest smile.  I imagine she wanted to tell everyone how thrilled she was to be at the most magical place on earth, but with no words, the best she could do was to tap the person next to her, in front of her, and behind her.  “We’re all riding this together, and it’s gonna be awesome!” is what she wanted to say.  But to many people in the line, she was an aggravation.  Eyes rolled.  People turned their backs to her.  And some even shot me the angry eyes.

I apologized to several people, and I actually hate when I do that.  What’s there to apologize for?  My daughter is filled to the brim and overflowing with unbridled and uninhibited joy,  but she’s unable to verbalize what she’s feeling.  What else can she do but to try to pull those around her into her world.  “Look at me!  See?  I’m just as happy as you are to ride this ride!”  She speaks the only way she can … with facial expressions, actions, and behavior.

We eventually made our way into the holding room for the pre-show, the one where Steven Tyler gives all the Disney fans  fanatics backstage passes and a limo ride, and Hopey and I ended up in front of the room right next to the door.  But when the door opened up to allow guests to ride the ride, everyone pushed in front of her.  They acted like they didn’t see her and shoved right past her.  In response, I held her close to me and told her to hold on, that we’d wait and be the last in line.

And that’s when it happened.

This man suddenly appeared in front of us, and shouted:  “This is unbelievable!”  He then jumped in front of everyone who was moving forward ahead of us, threw his arms wide open, and continued:  “Everybody stop and let this young lady get out to the ride.  She’s at the front, you’re all cutting in front of her, and it’s rude!”

A young guy tried to dart around him, but he put his hand out in front of the guy.  “That’s not gonna happen!” he stated flatly.  “It’s this angel’s turn.”

And just like that, he’d made a way for us to go in.

You might not know this, but every special needs mom is given a sixth sense.  It comes with the territory and is a not so subtle bead on the heart of people toward the special needs community at large, but especially toward her own child who has special needs.  Within seconds of meeting someone, for instance, I can tell whether the person is accepting (or not) of my two children who sport an extra chromosome.  In the special needs world, people are either all in or all out.  There’s no middle ground.  Even family members and long time friends will sometimes drop out of your life and forget your kiddo.  Being a special needs mom … and being an individual who is differently abled … is not for the faint of heart.

There are those, however, who are all in, and let me tell you, those people glow with a brightness that outshines the sun on its best day.  They dig their heels in deep and embrace that you are the ringleader of a circus where your child is the clown, the juggler, the knife thrower, the trapeze artist, the escape artist, and sometimes the ferocious lion … all rolled up into one.  But mostly our kiddos are the cute clown, eager to be funny, to charm and to make others happy.  And oh, how those amazing saints love our little clowns.  They choose mercy, grace, love, and acceptance.  They laugh when they could judge.  They press in when they could pull away.  They choose to be there.  No excuses.  No matter what.

This complete stranger was one of them.  He was all in.

It’s in moments like that when I get an extraordinary glimpse behind the veil to see what God sees.  The best in humanity.   No one else in that line or in that holding room saw Hopey.  I mean, yes, they looked at her.  But they didn’t really SEE her.  This man, however, grinned when he saw her hands flapping with enthusiasm.  He allowed her to reach out and touch his arm, made eye contact with her, and spoke to her.  Then he took a giant leap further when he publicly acknowledged her and defended her.

But most important of all, the stranger ended up making a difference.

As we waited the last few minutes for the ride, several of the people who’d been in line with us, those who’d previously ignored Hope, smiled at her.  A couple of people asked me if she was excited.  One guy gave her a high five.  I’d like to think they finally saw what they’d missed before and wanted to make up for it.  It didn’t matter to Hopey.  She was happy to share in the excitement with whoever would allow it.

To the ordinary heroes who choose to “see” what others miss.  Thank you.

“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” — Zeus (Hercules)

hope and minnie mouse

Just my thoughts,

Mel

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Home … Sweet Yurt

 

I slept in a yurt.  I slept in a yurt.  I glamped in the woods on top of some dirt.

I’d like a yurt here.  I’d like a yurt there.  I’d like sleeping in a yurt most anywhere.

yurt 12

Did I enjoy the spring fed creek?

And being surrounded by the mountain’s peak?

Did I like the quiet atmosphere?

Where I could escape for my mind to clear?

 

Did I like the s’mores around the campfire ring?  Singing songs with my cute offspring?

Did I sway back and forth in the hammock swing?  Did I take in almost everything?

 

Did I feel at home in the village square?

Would I stay there again … would I dare?

I liked it all, I can honestly say.

I’d stay in a yurt on any day.

I slept in a yurt.  I slept in a yurt.

I glamped in the woods, on top of some dirt.

 

Gaaaaaaaa, y’all!!!!  A yurt has been on my bucket list for a few years now, and last week, I finally made some time for the experience.  Let me just say, it far exceeded all of my expectations.  If you want to rough it, this is the way to do it.

Mountain Springs Cabins in Candler, NC is nestled in the blue ridge mountains on fifty gorgeous acres teemed with tall trees and expansive fields.  The site offer cabins, tiny houses, and yurts that are all perched along a rapidly moving deep water stream.  On property, visitors can tube down the ice cold stream.  And nearby, there are several amazing things to experience:

  1.  Sliding Rock, NC — One of my favorite places in North Carolina, Sliding Rock is a  60 foot natural rock water slide that dumps into an 8 foot deep pool of water that remains at 50-60 degrees all summer long.  The cost is only $3 per person.
  2. Chimney Rock, NC — Chimney Rock is considered one of the most iconic sites in North Carolina.  After taking 499 steps up to it’s peak, you’ll soak in the 75-mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure.
  3. Biltmore Estate — Built in the late 19th century by George Vanderbilt, at 178,926 square feet, the Biltmore house is the largest privately owned home in the United States.  Built in a French Renaissance style, with 250 rooms, the stately home sits on more than 10 square miles.  The Biltmore House is a must see.
  4. Pisgah Inn Restaurant — Take a gorgeous drive up the winding mountains of Pisgah until you arrive at what looks like a nondescript, very ordinary Inn.  But attached, high on top of the mountain with a picturesque view, is a casual fine dining restaurant.  Walnut crusted fresh mountain trout garnished with blueberry butter … need I say more?
  5. Great Smokey Mountain Railroad — If you’re up for a rail adventure, hop on board a train ride through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina.

Spend the day exploring the canopied woodlands, lakes, rivers, and streams of North Carolina.  In the evening, however, come back to your yurt, slow down the pace, and build a nice fire in your own private fire ring.  Make s’mores, sing country songs, and enjoy being unplugged from civilization.  That is the point of a yurt, after all.  Simplicity and togetherness.

What are you waiting for?

 

Just my thoughts,

~Melanie