100 Reasons Why I Am Thankful

Thanksgiving is always the perfect time to count and reflect upon our many blessings as we enjoy this special day with family and/or friends. It’s something I try to be mindful of and this year is no exception. I wanted to take it a step further and write down EXACTLY what I am most thankful for. Having a written account makes me more appreciative of what I DO have, versus what I don’t have. I am able to literally “count my blessings”and can go back to this list anytime I need a reminder of how much I truly possess. There is no particular ranking or order; I just wrote down what came to mind after thoughtful reflection, so here it is:

I am most thankful for….

1. A roof over my head

2. Food on the table

3. My husband

4. My son

5. Cancer survivorship

6. Clean clothes

7. Hot showers

8. My car (it’s hard to get around NJ without one!)

9. Extended family

10. Good health

11. Good Friends

12. Brian’s school program and staff

13. Brian’s recreational activities, including camps

14. Brian’s good health (overall)

15. Brian’s easy going nature

16. Solitude

17. Exercise

18. Good books

19. Writing

20. Travel adventures

21. The Five Senses that are still working pretty well!

22. A good nights sleep

23. Coffee!!

24. Living in America

25. Modern medicine

26. Cherry cheesecake

27. Feelings

28. Bear hugs

29. The beach

30. Seeing the Grand Canyon

31. Belly Laughs

32. My Christian Faith

33. My Memory and Memories!

34. Brian’s Bear hugs!

35. Respite

36. Brian’s home therapists

37. The ability to give and receive love

38. Sunshine

39. The life lessons my parents taught me

40. Opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life

41. A fine Chardonnay wine

42. When Brian says “Mom” ❤️❤️

43. Unconditional love

44. Forgiveness

45. Hope

46. Each new day

47. Other special needs families

48. What the future holds

49. The ability to learn from my mistakes

50. The Power Of Prayer

51. Each new beginning

52. A sense of humor

53. Tears

54. Chocolate!

55. Lipstick ( #Revlon#625IcedAmethyst)

56. Hair color ( #BlondeAmbition)

57. Music

58. Singing

59. Being Brian’s Mom

60. The kindness of others

61. The splendor of Fall

62. Hiking in the mountains

63. Heaven

64. The opportunity to make amends

65. Detachment

66. Yankee candles

67. A hand to hold

68. A shoulder to cry on

69. A new hot water heater (early Thanksgiving present)

70. My guitar

71. Living in Germany

72. Learning German (though I forget most of it)

73. Texting (a time saver! 😊👍🏻)

74. No credit card debt

75. Paying bills on time

76. Health insurance

77. My original teeth (hey, you never know when things can change! 😁)

78. Nitrous oxide- I am SO grateful!!

79. Brian’s bus driver and bus aides

80. Good neighbors

81. Flannel PJs

82. Italian food- it is the BEST cuisine!

83. Sleeping in whenever possible

84. Visiting family in Ireland

85. The opportunity to be a teacher

86. The privilege of being a Mom

87. Our beloved cleaning lady, Grace, and her monthly magic!

88. Annual vacations at the beach

89. My husband’s sacrifices for our family

90. The volunteers in Brian’s life

91. Still having my beloved Mom here with us, 88 years young!

92. My beloved Dad who was simply the best!

93. No cooking on weekends! #Leftovers

94. A husband who likes to cook

95. Our quiet street

96. The ability to say NO sometimes when needed.

97. Healthy boundaries in personal relationships

98. Brian sleeping all night! 😊👍🏻

99. Chili in a crockpot on a cold night

100. A roaring fire to dream by…

May your personal blessings be many and hardships very few! Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with laughter, good food, and great memories!

Until we meet again, thanks for reading!

🦃🍁🦃🍁🦃🍁🦃🍁🦃🍁🦃🍁🦃🍁🦃

The Journey of Many Miles

You have heard the Chinese proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. In the special needs world, ” a journey of one mile often takes thousands of steps”- literally! Who knew that our kids lives could be broken down, analyzed, dissected, or evaluated in such a way, but Brian has certainly shown me how this is exactly the case, for better or worse. I never really thought that essential life skills could be broken down to the most basic steps, as we neurotypical types just automatically proceed when we do things, without ever thinking about it.

I do take things for granted sometimes and can forget the incredible amount of repetition and effort it takes for Brian to accomplish the smallest of things. I wish it wasn’t so hard for him; I sometimes struggle with the reality that Brian will always require lots of steps, of one kind or another, to accomplish the most simple tasks. So, in order to proceed, I have to pick my battles- “how important is it really?”, specifically, what things will Brian need to do/understand, versus what I would like him to accomplish? Sometimes the two are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes my pride gets in the way and my thinking gets distorted. Although well-intended, I have chosen the wrong priorities for my son in the past , based on what my heart would like for him and what I thought was necessary, instead of what will be most practical and important for him in the long run. Hope springs eternal, but the line between positive thinking and reality can become blurred. I continue to both struggle and learn, just like Brian. I’m glad that he is most patient with me, although I can’t say that I have always been so patient with him.

Brian’s school uses a teaching method called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). ABA takes a basic skill and breaks it down into small steps for learning and mastery of the skill. Positive reinforcements are utilized for each step achieved and data is taken to record a student’s progress, so it’s easy to measure/track a student’s learning. ABA teaching does not work for everyone, but the small step/ repetitive approach has worked for Brian well overall. It’s a helpful way to determine exactly how Brian is learning, in conjunction with feedback from teachers and therapists, since Brian can’t tell me. He will most likely always require some type of ABA teaching for the rest of his life. There is no limit to the thousands of educational skills that can be taught, including vocational/ self help skills.

Like everything else, it has taken lots of time and data to see Brian’s true success with this type of teaching. Some skills are easier learned than others. Some have not been learned at all or never will be, despite the amount of time and effort. We continue to reassess, readjust, and move forward based on previous outcomes to the attainment of new goals. It’s a never- ending cycle. It’s also a blessing and a curse that will remain for a lifetime. Taking life one day at a time is critical. Having a sense of humor on this journey with our children is imperative, lest we take all that is required of us as parents a little too much to heart. I am constantly looking for those funny moments (even dark, humorous ones) as a means of coping and putting things in their proper perspective and it usually serves me well- at the very least I can laugh at some absurd things and get my mind off of what I can’t control, which is always preferred.

When I look back in review of my “thousand mile journey” with Brian so far, the steps have been infinite, slow, and often tedious. There have been moments that I have seriously questioned my sanity. There have also been times where I can hardly contain my elation and joy! This life tapestry with my son is rich in so much: belief, success, trauma, tragedy, disappointment, frustration, sorrow, and hope. This is the stuff that all of us experience in life, it keeps us moving forward on our own journeys, sometimes willingly, sometimes not. Our kids lives are exactly the same! Our tapestry is woven together with the strongest bonds of love, strand by strand, held together by faith and God’s grace. I don’t always agree with the pattern and will often question “why”? Perhaps the real question should be: “Why not?” and “You will see…” I am slowly learning that, step by step… it may take thousands of steps until mastery, but I have the best teacher in my son, and for that, I am truly grateful.❤️❤️

Thanks for reading- until we meet again! 😊

Forever Family

You’ve heard the expression, ” you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family”-‘ no truer words have ever been spoken! Sometimes, friends become our family instead, or you happen to be blessed with both the biological version and those who we choose to call “family”. In our case, we are most fortunate to have both a wonderful large extended family and a special group of friends who are just like family too.

I am one of 4 children and my husband is one of 5. Brian has 23 first cousins between both of our families and several more great cousins, second cousins, plus numerous aunts and uncles! They reside anywhere from 20 minutes away, to Australia, and everywhere in between! We don’t see our extended family as often as we would like to, but when we do, it really feels like we have arrived home. I’m so happy for Brian that he has the love and support of our families, particularly as an only child. We had hoped at one time that Brian would have had a sibling, but a miscarriage was our sign that this was not meant to be. In retrospect, everything ultimately worked out for the best, but it took time to come to this place of acceptance and grace. I am reminded every October of our angel who is in Heaven, who I will look forward to meeting one day… The heartache never quite goes away, as I still think every anniversary of what could have been, but it’s comforting to know that Brian will always have a guardian angel on his shoulder, along with many other loved ones in our extended families who have left this earth for eternal life.

Yesterday, we met our beautiful great niece, Charlotte, from Connecticut, along with our adorable great nephew, Max, from Australia, for the first time. It was a terrific celebration of family and fun! We loved holding these precious new family members and were reminded of how the strong bonds of love and faith are the glue that truly hold us all together. We may be separated by distance and time, but we are never far from one another in spirit. Plus social media is a huge help in keeping up with everyone’s progress! I am always amazed how our conversations with family continue, just like we were together the day before, and yesterday was no exception.

It was also so heartwarming to see Brian engage, observe,and enjoy the time with his Grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins. He even used an unfamiliar bathroom with no problem, which is a milestone in itself! Brian has come a very long way from our first family events from years ago, where we often had to leave a venue after a short period of time because of severe sensory issues to sound, light, etc. Those times were so hard and added to our feelings of sadness, frustration, and isolation- I know many of you can relate! Now, our Brian can walk into a crowded room with gregarious family members like yesterday, and not be phased in the least by the sensory overload- we are so proud of him! It also feels so good for Jim and I now to have that ability to converse freely with our family, without the constant worry that Brian may melt down at any moment. Of course, Moms will always have eyes in the back of their heads to watch ( as well as excellent hearing specifically for their children) to make sure that their kids are OK, it’s just who we are! 🤣

The importance of our kids being “connected” with others, whether family or close friends, shouldn’t be underestimated. All humans are relational beings; it is the way we were created and especially those close relationships that we forge with others, give us strength, and often add meaning to our lives. Our special children have the same requirements and flourish when they know people care for them and love them. While education and vocational training is very important for our kids to learn (to the best of their abilities), social interactions are just as important, perhaps even more so. The ability to get along with others in social and work settings is probably one of the most important skills for any of us to learn. I see this as Brian’s greatest strength and would like for him to have opportunities to further develop this skill, hence the various activities that we expose Brian to, with the hope that he will also learn other skills along the way. Slowly, but surely, he continues to make his progress…

At the end of our lives here on earth, I don’t think it will really matter much on that final day how many possessions we accumulated, how smart we were, or what we accomplished during our time here. While these things are certainly admirable, in the end, it will be our families and friends who will be our most prized treasures. I know this is definitely how Brian looks at life based on his reactions to the people who mean so much to him. He is curiously indifferent to material things, has no agenda, and only wants to love and be loved- isn’t that the greatest gift of all that any one of us can truly hope for? I think Brian definitely has the right idea!

Until we meet again, thanks for reading!