Raw and Uncensored

Fair warning.  This is not a pretty post. And, well, I’m tired so who knows how this will all come out.  Stay tuned, only if you dare.

The girl is  back home.  At least for now.  Things didn’t go well at the group home.  She wasn’t always an angel but there were a lot of other things that went on too.  Placing a “child” into another’s care is always a leap of faith, whether they are special needs or not.

The first three months went pretty well.  There were many frustrations for the girl as well as for myself.  The girl has a low frustration level.  Due to short staffing many outings were planned and then canceled.  While you and I can understand all of the nuisances of that, she doesn’t.  It leads to a lot of irritability.  That led the group home to make appointments with her psychiatrist which led to too many medications that made her extremely tired and zombie like.  I can’t and won’t tolerate that and I am in the process of shopping for a new doctor.

I think I’ve mentioned here that she was also given a kitten by a good hearted staff member only to have the kitten taken away due to house rules.  That was a very devastating blow for her.  I’ll spare you the details but I’m sure you can imagine the buckets of tears that caused.  The girl also spent a lot of her own money on cat supplies too.  Another loss but nothing like losing the love of a new kitten.

What some referred to as defiance, I regarded as being unhappy with herself and situations that arose there.  Since being home, she has expressed a lot of self loathing.  Not something any mom wants to ever hear.  I’m trying to give her plenty of love and encouragement but am failing as I am so tired.  I called in a dear friend the other day that did her a world of good but we will be having our little battles as she tries to adjust to my rules again.  I have found her to be more helpful and that’s great news!

I’ve discovered several untruths in reports from the group home.  The most disturbing is they had me convinced she was not behaving at work.  I had a long conversation with her work yesterday and they have not seen any significant behavior issues at all!  They are still extremely pleased with her work ethic and are also concerned about how tired she is.  In fact, she literally fell asleep at a table there the other day.

There are other things but the turning point for me was on Saturday morning.  She called and told me she was in trouble because she locked the door to the bathroom while she was taking her shower.  That caused another resident to have an accident.  I never realized there was only one bathroom in the home and the rule is not to lock the door.  Ick!

Most of what they complained about all reflects back to me and the way I have raised my child.  It’s a lot to take in. I feel like I am hanging by a thread right now but my main concern is the girl.

I just hung up from the pharmacist and they too were stunned at the amount of medications she is taking.  She walked me through what I could and couldn’t eliminate or decrease and how to do so.  Thank goodness for reliable people.  I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants the last few days but it turns out my gut instincts about the medications have been on point.  At least that’s one thing I’ve done right.

I have always been one to second guess myself and parenting has not been left out of that trait. Now, I find myself questioning myself over and over and over again. It’s hard to listen to “experts” and to tell them they are wrong.  However, there are times they ARE WRONG!  To all of you parents out there, remember that.  My friend reminded me I know the girl better than anyone and to trust myself.  I always used to believe that.  I’m not so sure anymore.  But, I am trying.

What I do know is I’ll be leaning on others through this and that in and of itself, isn’t easy for me. I have two children and I feel like I have failed them both.  I feel like a fraud.  It’s a tough wake up call but at least I still have a chance of fixing things.  At least, I hope I do.  Right now, I am tired and irritable.  I need to work on that.  I don’t like it when I get crabby.  I much prefer laughing.  I’m hoping that feeling will come back.

I doubt this has been making much sense but I needed to get it out.  So thanks for baring with me.  To my friends for listening, thank you.  For the hugs.  Thank you.  For holding my hand, thank you.  For spending time with me, when you have so much on your plate, thank you, from the bottom of my struggling heart. I love you and I’m grateful.

Shine On,

Jill

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Preparations

As my secret love says “Alright, alright alright!”  I quit saying it and got busy doing it!

My new school clothes are hanging in the closet all nicely.  I’ve bought my new bag, a filing insert for said bag, post it notes, pencils, pens, notebooks, chewing gum (I share with the kids), index cards, highlighters and so on are all packed and ready to go.  My badge sits ready to swipe on the door next Monday.

School maps and building phone extensions are filed in the proper sub folder and within my bag.  They’ve renumbered all of the rooms so it will be interesting trying to learn the new numbers along with the students.  Although, it won’t matter much, I guess, unless I’m called to a room, which rarely happens.  It’s a good reminder to me about how students feel when they join our school for the first day.  The school felt huge to me on my first day!  Funny how quickly it shrank.

After doing what I do for all these years, I still get butterflies before returning.  They are always the worst on the first day.  Wouldn’t you think that after twenty plus years of first days, I’d be over that part?  Ha!

What makes me the most anxious though, as always, are the students themselves.  I am always concerned about bullying, no matter where I work.  I am always most concerned about those that are “different.”  Many of them do not have a voice of their own. Or, they may have a voice but can’t process things the way and I do.  They may have a lot of difficulty expressing themselves. I make it my passion to be a little part of their voice.  I think it’s what I was meant to do.

Most of you know, by now, I couldn’t birth my children and even though they are adopted they were born in my heart not under it and they couldn’t be more mine if my blood coursed through their veins.  You also know, I chose to adopt special needs children.  I’ve chosen to be a special education paraprofessional.  So between the parenting of two and being a para for countless for a combined total of over 70 years, I’ve learned a thing or two.  I certainly don’t know it all and my kids aren’t perfect but I want to do what I do at the start of every school year.

I ask parents to talk to their children about children like mine.  And parents, I know it may not be easy for you.  So let me give you a few tips, if I may be so bold.  The place to start is to use the proper term.  These children are not “retarded.”  That word needs to be banned.  These children have special needs. They have more challenges than you and I but they are people just like us.  We all have challenges.  I’m terrible at math.  Someone else may be terrible at grammar.  I am not good at sports or music, but I enjoy them both and know people that excel at them.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  Don’t be afraid of these children.  They aren’t going to hurt you.  Yes, there are some that are physically aggressive but trust the people they are with to keep you safe.  Those parents or helpers know and understand the child and their triggers and are there to intercept.

These children have feelings!  They laugh, they feel joy, they hurt, they cry.  They are intuitive.  They can sense emotions in others and they often react accordingly.  Their feelings are often exaggerated only because they cannot process things the way we do.  They have beautiful souls.

There are people, even some I am close to, that don’t understand.  They may never understand the love these children can bring into your life.  I am blessed every time I spend any time with them.  They give me so much more than I could ever give them.  I used to get upset with people that didn’t give them a chance.  Now, I pity them.  They are missing out on some of the greatest human beings on this earth.

I often talk about their resiliency.  I’ve seen my children and so many others get teased and laughed at and these kids just dust themselves off and greet each day as we all should; as a new opportunity for good to happen.  I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it.

Let’s all make this a great school year, for every child.

Thanks for reading.

Shine On!

Jill

 

 

 

Mending Broken Hearts

Mending broken hearts of others can be so life affirming.  Or, it can break your heart too.

When  we found a home for the girl to move into, they told her she could bring her cat a long with her.  She was excited beyond words.  At the last minute, they told her she couldn’t.  I was never quite clear on the reason they changed their mind but assumed it’s because they already had a cat living there with another resident.  I was so proud of my girl as she accepted it like a champ.  She was sad but she still wanted to move and move she did.

She has been away from home for nearly four months now.  There have been plenty of highs and a few lows but over all, she’s been doing pretty well.  It’s not always easy living with roommates!  We have our daily phone chats and she keeps me updated on what’s new in her life. People have asked me how I’m managing living alone.  To tell the truth, it’s been such a hectic summer, I haven’t really felt a lone.  That may sound terrible or strange but for the most part, I feel like I run in and out of here through a revolving door.  All the plans I had for a spotless home seem to have flown right out  the window! I’ve had a few disasters this summer (my garage door opener got blown out in a storm, the mouse got in my car, my car needed some significant repairs (unrelated to the mouse and so on), but we’ve managed to see each other at least once a week for some mom and daughter time.  It’s been good.

Sunday, the girl called me all excited and announced they had a new kitten in the house!  A staff member had found an abandoned, four month old kitten and brought it to the home.  It was decided the kitten would belong to the girl.  She was ecstatic!  She rushed right out and bought all of the required kitty paraphernalia, with treats being the number one priority!  She called me several times to report that “Cinderella” was sound asleep on her lap or near her head.  She had a live being to sleep with and life was sweet.

Then it all stopped.  Once again, she was told by the powers that be, she couldn’t keep the kitten.  Apparently, staff did all of this without the proper permission.   Now, I will tell you all, this staff member did this out of the goodness of her heart and I know she was really trying to do a nice thing.  But my girl was/is DEVASTATED!  I was there when they told her and the tears just came rushing out.  I took her out for awhile and we talked and I had her all calmed down (all the while, I was crying my heart out inside).  It was hard to leave her but I thought she was alright.  I was home for five minutes before she called, sobbing.  She called a few hours later, weeping.  It broke my heart!  How could I possibly fix this for her?  Any mother knows that if our child hurts, we hurt.

She wanted to skip work today.  She was afraid she’d cry at work.  She wanted to come home for the day.  I let her.  I’ve learned through the years that many times a broken heart needs time to heal more than a cold or a broken bone.   I got up bright and early and arrived at her place at 7:30.  She was half asleep on the couch.  Her eyes were puffy from crying and while glad to see me, her steps were slow and heavy.  I wanted to just sit there and cry with her.  But I had a job to do.

We stopped and got some breakfast and headed off to do my grocery shopping.  She didn’t complain once about having to haul groceries in.  We talked, watched a couple of movies, baked a very small batch of cookies and played and giggled through three games of Yahtzee. She got three Yahtzee’s in ONE game!  She got a lot of good cuddle time with her cat, Martha.  I think it all helped.  I hope it did.

She hasn’t called me since she left four hours ago.  I hope she’s doing OK.  She’s resilient but oh my heart still aches for her.

Mending broken hearts is hard work but worth it all in the end.

Shine On!

Jill

 

And So On…

I’ve been busy.  My friends on Facebook already know I’ve been helping a friend with preparing for and conducting a garage sale.

It was a big one.  A huge one.  A GINORMOUS one!  I’ve mentioned it before.  The lady is a bit of a hoarder.  Nearly 40 years of accumulation.  I went through every item with her.  Box by box.  Piece by piece.  I hauled boxes, unpacked the boxes, readied the items for her to price, then packed them up to haul out to the garage.  First from the three season porch, then the basement.

I was sweating like five dudes most days and nights. I was dirty. I mean, filthy.  I had damp hair from the sweat, dirt on my face, my feet were black and there was glitter by my eye.  My friend looked at me and said “You look like a Louisiana whore.”  Please don’t take offense to that, none is intended.  It was needed to lighten the mood and it worked.  We had a good chuckle!

Most days and evenings last week were riddled with an over abundance of humidity.  I am not a fan of heat and humidity.  It usually makes me quite cranky.  It must have been the good company because I managed to keep a rather even disposition through it all.

I did get a little unnerved as we began unpacking boxes to stage the items for sale.  Several times, I heard my friend exclaim “Oh! Please let me see that. That is so cute!  I love that!”  I silently said many prayers that day hoping the owner wasn’t going to start keeping things we had worked so hard to prepare to sell.  I’m happy  and relieved to report she ended up keeping 1 to 2 percent of everything.  That was quite a feat for a hoarder and I couldn’t have been more proud of her!  The pride continued along with a little feeling of sadness as she said “I don’t know what’s with buying all of this stuff, I think I need to see a psychiatrist.”

We had many laughs through the days and evenings, even through we were all tired.  Sleepy tired and bone weary but we met around the picnic table each night  for lovely dinners.  We had lots of fresh, home grown tomatoes, corn on the cob, cucumbers, cantaloupe, strawberries, raspberries and my favorite, watermelon!  Cold pasta salads one night and bar- b- que ribs the other.  It was lovely to listen to the crickets as we dined in the dark.

Even the parrot Squirt got into the act.  Although, he fell fast asleep once the sun lowered and the moon arose.  In fact, he was so quiet, we actually all went into bed and left him out there alone!  Luckily, someone remembered before he fell asleep himself and went out to rescue poor Squirt.  However, Squirt was a little less than pleased when he was awakened to be taken into bed.  Don’t we all know that feeling?  ha!

All in all, it was a lot of work but I wouldn’t change the last two weeks for anything.  I’ve learned one thing though, I’ll never be a hoarder. In fact, I need to go toss some things right now…

Shine On!

Jill

Endings and New Starts

It’s a mixed emotion time of year for me.  Summer is quickly drawing to a close and that always makes me sad.  It always goes by so fast and this summer has been no exception. With painting projects, camping trips, and all school reunion, concerts, a part time job and more, it has gone especially fast.  I always tell people that I spend the first half of summer catching up on what didn’t get done over the last school year and the last half of summer trying to get ready for the new year.  It’s true.  I guess I need to be more organized.

I’ve always loved shopping for school supplies. Ever since I was a child, I loved the smell and feel of brand new crayons, pencils, notepads, etc. I would spread them across my bed to admire them while I packed my school bag.  I was always excited when it was time to purchase the supplies for my own children and I’m thankful I continue to purchase them, only now, they are for me.  I don’t need the crayons anymore but I still spread my supplies across my bed as I  fill my bag to the brim with  items I might “need” while trying to keep the bag light enough to carry with me all day long.

I’m excited to see “my” students again!  I’ve missed the giggles and the hugs!  That first hug on the first day will set the school year on course to be a great one.  I’ll admit, I’m a little nervous about juggling two jobs but I remind myself I can do it.  I’m kind of stubborn like that.  ha!

Many have asked if I’ve had any word from or about “the boy.”  The answer is no.  However, I’m dipping my toe back into the water and trying to get the county and home to provide me with paperwork that I am legally entitled to.  I seem to have been “shut out” of things and I have decided that if no one is actually planning to take over guardianship, I need to stay in the loop.  If the boy won’t call me, I at least need and want to know how he is!  In addition, I have to supply updates to SSI and the courts so they need to count me in.  I’m far away from the emotional side of this travesty to think a little straighter ( I think, I hope), at least for today. I have not yet attempted to call the boy again but I see that in my future.

I’ve been battling with my computer!  I so want to include some pictures but can’t seem to get them from my phone to my computer.  It used to be an easy task but not any longer.  I feel my readers need and deserve a little color in here somewhere to add some interest.  Bare with my as I continue to try.

This weekend is, once again,I will be helping my friends mom prepare for her garage sale.  This time, hauling tons of stuff up the stairs and out to the garage.  I haven’t quite recovered from the last round so if you could send some positive thoughts my way, I sure could use them!  This is going to be one HUGE sale!

I’m closing with a saying that is really important to me. I remind myself to follow this rule on a daily basis (yet I sometimes fail).  It is “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”  Doesn’t really get much plainer than that, does it?

Embrace these last few weeks of summer!

Shine On!

Jill

Heavy Hearted

I’m revisiting what my blog was set out to do today, reach out to those regarding the special needs population, in hopes of maybe offering a tiny bit of education and or support to others that face some of the things I  have faced in raising my own two children..  I’ve have many moments in my life of feeling alone, not because I didn’t have people supporting me, but unless you walk the walk, it’s a challenge to fully  grasp our lives.

I read something on Facebook this morning that brought tears to my eyes and a pain to my heart so large, I could hardly catch my breath.  It was written by a mother who is withdrawing her special needs student from his school.  There were many things not done right but the worst was the physical abuse, that she documented, through pictures, that her non-verbal son had endured while at school.

My reaction was immediate.  My reaction was anger, pure and simple, anger.  I consider myself fortunate that both of my kids are verbal.  They have always been able to come home and give me some sense of their day.  Yes, plenty of those days were filled with teasing of my children, but never physical abuse.  My girl was one to watch out for those non-verbal students and would report to me anything she viewed as abuse or neglect.  While not always 100% accurately reported, she would report and there was always, always at least a tinge of validity to her reports.

As a special educational paraprofessional, I wish I could tell you I have never witnessed abuse in the schools, but I have.  It make me furious. In fact, so much so, I basically walked off the job.  By staying, I felt I was condoning the behavior.  I would not do it.  Yes, along with a co-worker, we made all of the required reports and contacted all of the proper agencies.  We spent over a year trying to right this wrong, to no avail.  It’s a very long story but it all comes down to this:  The system let us down.  BIG TIME!  It still, to this day, eats at me.

Parents, of any children, must be involved and aware of what goes on in their child’s school.  There are many, many wonderful staff members out there, working with and for your children.  There are staff members out there that would literally lay down their life for your children, as we have all witnessed in the unnecessary and vulgar school shootings.  There are staff members out there that will fight for the rights of your children.  There are staff members that respect your children!

As school is rapidly approaching, I ask you all, be a willing team member for your child.  Work with the schools.  Educate yourself on the rights of you and your child.  Find out places that can help you with your issues.  A couple of examples:  PACER and ARC.  They are both a wealth of information.  And please, please, don’t let a few sour grapes ruin your perspective of all schools and all staff.  There are some wonderful, caring and loving people in your schools.

While my children are no longer in schools, they both reside in group homes.  I’m sure you know, by now, that I have encountered some wonderful staff members in those homes and some that leave a lot to be desired.  Fortunately, it’s been more good than bad.

Having said that, I am going to preface this next segment with a warning. It IS POLITICAL and I usually do NOT get political.  I have my opinions, which I hope you respect as I will respect yours.  But there is something happening in the girls home that has me feeling very uneasy.

You see, she called me the other day to report that they have a new staff member.  I usually get quite excited with my girl over such news.  But then she went on to tell me that this particular woman doesn’t touch meat, due to religious reasons. Therefore, when she works, the ladies in the home have to respect her religious beliefs and not have meat for their meals. OK, hold on here, before you get all mad at me.  Yes, I teach my daughter to respect others and she will respect this person.  BUT, here is my question, why isn’t this staff member expected to respect the religious beliefs of my daughter and the other three ladies in the home?  Why do her religious beliefs supersede the majority of the household? I am a Christian living in a Christian country.  I know all about being “politically correct.”  However, if I went to a country that doesn’t handle meat, I would never, ever expect them to serve me meat while there.  So why is it, that in our country, we are expected to set aside our belief system?  It just doesn’t add up to me.

It took me  along time to be able to speak my mind.  I can’t help but speak up for what I think is right.  I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, but I won’t be quiet either.

I hope everyone can find their voice.

Shine On!

Jill

 

 

Not Old but Certainly Not Young

I had a realization this last week.  I refuse to consider myself old but I sure am not as young as I used to be!

I’ve mentioned in the past how I was privileged to be able to do some major weeding in my friends yard awhile back.  I was elated to have my hands in the dirt again.  It a very nice way for me to unwind.

Last weekend, I was called upon to do it again as the weeds were running rampant.  I also volunteered to help her get ready for a garage sale.  I was feeling energetic and excited to help!

I arrived late Friday afternoon and spent a good two hours weeding.  We spent the rest of the night visiting and relaxing.  I love a good fire and so do my friends but little did I know we’d be up until 1:00 a.m.

I popped out of bed bright and early (well, sort of early) and was ready to work.  My thighs were screaming a bit but I ignored them, determined to move forward. We began by removing anything that was not attached to the walls, out of the garage.  I do not exaggerate when I tell you the driveway was full by the time we finished!  I did most of the heavy lifting as my friend cut his thumb on Friday which required 5 stitches and his mom is 79 years old, but I was up for the task.  Once we had the movable items outside, we began to put up four shelving units.

Then, the real work began.  You see, my friend is a bit of a hoarder.  We had a three season porch that was packed wall to wall, floor to ceiling that was filled with items to sell and a lot of empty boxes.  We packed and hauled countless boxes to the garage and set the items on the shelves to be pulled out at the time of the sale.  There were few required breaks as my back was killing me and it wasn’t an easy task for this sweet lady.  Our longest break happened when a bike from the ceiling fell onto my friend.  He was now sporting  a wrapped hand with stitches, a huge bandage and brace on his knee and another big bandage on his elbow.  He gimped along, working through the pain, determined to complete our task.  The bright spot is that, one day, a few months ago, he referred to me as “his little disaster.”  After witnessing all of his calamities, I was happy to pass that title right over to him! ha!

We worked into the evening and I’m happy to share we got EVERYTHING into the garage, including her car!  What I won’t mention is we have a FULL basement yet to do.

We settled down at the outside table and waited for a pizza delivery to arrive.  It was then I realized I needed to cut apart all of those cardboard boxes so that we could safely burn them.  It took almost an hour to do so and it was even longer for our pizza to arrive.  It felt good to finally sit down to relax!  It was obvious that someone wanted to have a real, wood fire that night but my friend and I waved the white flag and hobbled down to bed!  Before I could crawl into my bed, I had to shower. I don’t think I have ever been that filthy in my life.  That was the best shower I have ever had!

I dragged myself out of bed the next morning and showered again so I could finish weeding and also so I could water her many, poor, dry flowers.  I took it upon myself to harvest her many, bright, red, ripe tomatoes and even brought a few home.  Yum!  By this time, I knew I should have waited on that shower but I needed it so that I could move again!

Later that day, my friend and I met some of my family for supper.  They are older than we are but you wouldn’t  know it by our appearance. And I couldn’t blame them as they  giggled as my injured friend and I  limped our way to our table.  I kept trying to hide my hands as I still had dirt under my nails.  Ugh!  If we were able to see them more often, I would have canceled but I appreciated the dim lighting of the restaurant.

I’m a bit red in the face to admit I am still stiff and sore but my heart is warm as the three of us accomplished a lot together.  As for the basement?  I’m not sure when we’ll tackle that.  I did drop a pretty big “hint” to my friend that we should have some more help for that task!

In closing, I just want to report I still have that blasted mouse in my car.  However, I’ve caught two in my garage!  I will take encouragement in that!

Today and tomorrow, I’m preparing for the girl to spend a few nights here at home as she turns 25 on Saturday!  Further proof I’m not as young as I used to be (as if my mind and body needed anymore reminders)!

I may be sore but it’s good to put in a good weekend of “hard” labor once in awhile.

Shine On!

Jill