It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

Another school break is just around the corner, and with that, are dreams of sleeping in, pool time, and some much-needed down time for a couple of weeks before Summer school begins. This year is no exception! I will pack Brian up this weekend for overnight camp that commences this Sunday for one week. This will be Brian’s 9th year at Camp Moore, a wonderful place with fabulous counselors who ensure that the children have the time of their lives- and they do! I am so grateful that Brian has this annual opportunity to go away, to be independent from Jim and I, and to interact/ socialize with other kids and adults. Overnight camp is a brief simulation of what it would be like for Brian to be on his own, which will eventually happen one day when Jim and I are no longer here. Personally, I’m glad that we decided to start sending Brian to overnight camp sooner versus later. If I had waited too long, I’m not sure if I would have sent Brian at all and that would not have been good for his independence or ours. Of course, having Camp Moore in such close proximity ( only 30 minutes away) is a huge help both physically and psychologically.

While Brian is away, I will have the chance to take some respite for myself, by spending time with my beloved airline friends. It will be a “gal pal laugh fest” for 5 whole days, even thinking about it now brings a huge smile to my face! This year, the friends are meeting in Michigan, which is home for 2 of our gal pals, who will be hosting the group. I feel so blessed to be able to get away for this time and quite frankly, I really need a break from care taking! Jim has been traveling frequently for work this year so far, so Brian and I have been mostly on our own during the week. Fortunately, Jim’s business travel is very minimal this Summer, so Brian and I will get to spend more time with him for a change! We will be taking a family vacation to Niagara Falls and the Jersey Shore in August that we very much look forward to. In the meantime, I can’t wait to take a break from all that entails special needs parenting next week. It’s funny how you appreciate even the little respite moments, like being driven by Uber to the airport, relaxing with a cup of coffee and a good book, or one of my all-time favorites : resting on the plane! I’m never able to fall asleep inflight, but I sure do know how to relax, especially once the main cabin door closes and the plane pushes back from the gate. Then you know that respite time has officially begun! Knowing that Brian is having fun at camp and is being well taken care of, enables me to relax and take good care of myself. Self care is good for the entire family, let’s face it: when Mom is happy, then everyone is happy! I know Jim and Brian would agree wholeheartedly! πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘πŸ»

Speaking about happy, another reason why I can go away with a smile on my face and a spring to my step, is because of Brian’s school. He had a great year and continues to make progress, slowly, but surely . The staff were outstanding and I continue to marvel at their persistence and patience with Brian in helping him to learn. I am so proud of Brian and deeply appreciate the staff’s hard work and the ongoing collaboration between home and school. It is certainly no easy feat: you can imagine how challenging it would be to teach special students, each one with multiple and often complex needs. The amount of effort, communication, and follow-up for each student, every day, is truly mind-blowing. Yet, Brian’s teacher and therapists made sure to listen to my concerns, requests, and more importantly, follow through with what was discussed. This really means a lot, for actions always speak louder than words, and this is exactly how progress is made.

One the hardest things for special children ( and the parents as well) to face at the end of the school year is the inevitable change in staff going forward. This is especially true when the staff has been the “right fit ” for your child. As a parent, you just want to keep this wonderful momentum of learning going! Change can be scary and is not always for the better. Like many other special families, we have also experienced some awful school years with staff that didn’t “get” Brian, or even worse, gave up on him all together. Of course, these past experiences come immediately to the forefront of my mind at the end of each school year. There is that sense of cautious optimism and the crossing of fingers that everything will work out fine, but you don’t really know for sure… I felt exactly the same way this year. When I found out that Brian would not have his current teacher again next year, I literally cried. She is such an exceptional teacher and I really wanted Brian to be in her class again. Those fears, that uncertainty, the starting all over again, the intense sadness- it’s like losing a good friend and this is what this experience was like for me. There is a silver lining to this story’s ending, however, and actually good reason to anticipate another great school year after all…

Although Brian will no longer have his beloved teacher, apparently the new teacher he will have is also terrific and well respected by colleagues and families alike. I’ve heard only great things from multiple sources and can now have peace of mind. Plus, Brian’s fabulous one-on-one side will go with him to the new classroom-that’s a huge relief too! Anticipation has replaced fear and hope springs eternal once again. I look forward to what lies ahead for Brian in the next school year. I have no doubt that I will continue to learn a lot myself along the way, not only from the staff entrusted to Brian’s care, but also from Brian himself. He is a Master Teacher in the subjects of love, perseverance, patience, and pure goodness.

Wishing you, Dear Reader, a Summer of peace, rest, and fun! These things are not easy to make time for when raising special children and often require a village in order for them to happen at all! As I get older, peace and rest, wherever or whenever I can get them, are no longer luxuries, but are rather absolute necessities. It’s too hard to cope with our full plates otherwise. May your mind, body, and spirit be renewed and refreshed during moments of respite and self care. Remember, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first, before helping anyone else! This is particularly fitting advice for my flight on Monday morning- once a flight attendant, always a flight attendant! ✈️ πŸ‘©β€βœˆοΈ

Until we meet again, thanks for reading, and best wishes for a great Summer! β˜€οΈ 🌊 πŸ–πŸ˜Š

My Dad, My Hero

My beloved Dad passed away over 5 years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. It’s still hard to believe that he is really gone, as I often feel his presence, hear his contagious laughter, and fondly remember our many conversations. Dad was a true friend and I miss him, his quiet strength, and wise counsel. Dad’s wonderful sense of humor and fun were legendary to all who knew him! He was kind, caring, and loyal. I can recall countless times in my life when Dad was always there to support and love, no matter what. Like the time I called him from Germany to say that I was returning back to the United States after 16 months and there he was at Kennedy Airport in New York the very next day with a huge hug and a warm welcome. Or when Brian had his open heart surgery and he and Mom spent endless hours at the hospital stroking Brian’s little hand, giving Jim and I both support and much-needed breaks. If you looked up ” loyal” in the dictionary, you would definitely see a picture of my Dad next to the definition.

Dad was a constant support in good and bad times. I will never forget when Dad was my “driver” and “cheerleader”, along with Mom, to and from each of my chemo treatments for colon cancer. Even during this very difficult time, he always had a joke, a reassuring hug, and my favorite snacks from Panera Bread readily available for each treatment. Every trial, every victory, Dad was always there, our family’s rock and quiet strength. Of course he was not perfect, as none of us are. He did lose his temper quickly sometimes, as well as his patience, but never held a grudge. Dad worked very hard to provide for his wife and 4 kids. There were stressful financial times, along with the ups and downs of family life that are inevitable and often challenging. Yet, Dad persevered, continued to work hard, and always put his family’s needs first. I am forever grateful for the wonderful legacy that he left behind. I would like to think that I emulate at least some of what Dad taught me and hope that I make him proud, for he sure was everything to me!

My husband, Jim, had a similar experience with his wonderful Dad, who he lost very unexpectedly during his final semester in college, so unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet him. Jim will often talk fondly about his Dad as well, sharing old stories and reminiscing about the many ways in which his Dad was a devoted husband and father. Dad McDonnell and my Dad were very much alike in the fundamental, important ways that are essential for a good family life. I marvel when Jim shares something about his Dad that sounds exactly like my own. Jim always says that my Dad was his “second Dad”. My husband and Dad got along famously, sharing jokes, discussing sports, and having many fun times together. Jim and I say how well both of our Dads would have got along. I’m sure that is exactly what is currently happening in Heaven! I can visualize and hear Brendan and Jerry sharing stories, laughter, and especially prayers, for their family members who are still here on earth. I take great comfort in knowing that our Dads are always rooting for us and that we will see them again! I can only imagine what an incredible, joyous reunion that will be! In the meantime, I hold the precious memories, hopes, and love from my Dad very close to my heart. He is always with me. Dad left his indelible mark on my life wherever I go. His wisdom and love will often come to mind during difficult trials and uncertain times. I can hear his advice, feel his reassuring hugs, knowing that everything will ultimately be OK…

Dad also had an incredible love for Brian! He called Brian his ” wee man” and took special delight in literally everything he did. Some of my fondest memories of Dad with Brian were watching the two of them interact during storytime, playing with toys, or giving Brian his bottle when he was a baby. He cheered whenever Brian achieved a milestone, cried with me when Brian was diagnosed with autism, and reassured me that God would always take care of Brian during the times when I needed to hear this most. The Boyle “Coat of Arms” or our family name crest, has a symbol of an oak tree with an inscription on the bottom that says “the Lord will provide”. Our family crest is a beautiful reminder of exactly what Dad always said and exemplifies how he lived his own life by faith and trust. I will always be grateful for the valuable lessons that Dad taught me not only by his words, but more importantly through his actions which were always a testimony to his fine character.

Dad was a reserved man by nature, yet made quite the impression wherever he went. People naturally gravitated towards his humor and fun. Although he preferred smaller group settings, he loved “working a crowd” in social gatherings and was a beloved favorite amongst his friends . Dad and Mom had a large circle of friends from their church, lifetime friendships that were cemented by faith, fun, and family. Dad was very active in church and participated in a variety of committees over the years that both honored God and gave back to the community. I was proud to see Dad in his role as a reader during Mass; he read the Scriptures with such clarity and assurance. Dad also collected our church’s Sunday offerings, was a bingo caller at my high school, and was even an actor/singer in a few shows at church , the most memorable being “Guys and Dolls”- who wudda ever thunk it?!

Dad’s lung cancer diagnosis in January 2014 was very unexpected and devastating. Dad had quit smoking 35 years before, so he never thought in his wildest dreams that this was even a remote possibility. Nor did he ever consider that asbestos exposure as a young man working in the shipyards over 60 years ago in Belfast, Northern Ireland, would be a factor. Yet, asbestosis was the causation that morphed into small cell lung cancer in Dad’s case. Everything moved so quickly once Dad was officially diagnosed. Doctor appointments, scans, MRIs, biopsies, and chemo treatments. It was absolutely heartbreaking, but there was really no time to process or grieve what was happening- that would happen much later. I accompanied my parents to all of the appointments and treatments, giving my best academy award performance of strength and valor. Meanwhile, I was dying on the inside, not knowing how I would pull this act off, but ultimately I did. I then understood how Dad must have felt when he took me to my own chemo treatments and realized how truly strong he really was, despite the agony he must have felt. It was Dad’s brave example that ultimately helped me to be brave too during his time of need.

God called Dad home almost 3 months after his lung cancer diagnosis on April 1, 2014. Dad’s transition to Heaven was a peaceful one, surrounded by his immediate family. I will never forget the peace and love that was present during that time and it gives me great assurance of what is yet to come…Our time on this earth is truly only a dress rehearsal- just wait until the big show in eternity!

Dad, you continue to bless my earthly days with your strength and love. I hear your voice and feel your presence. Thank you for all that you gave from your heart to our family! I definitely have a taste of what our Heavenly Father’s love must be like because of your great capacity to love. I take great solace in the fact that we will meet again, and knowing you, you will have a side-splitting joke or story to tell me as soon as I see you….🀣🀣

I love you, Dad, so very proud to be your daughter! Until we meet again….

Happy Father’s Day in Heaven!

Xoxoxo, Brenda 😘❀️😘❀️😘❀️…..

Until next time….thanks for reading!! 😊

It’s All About Me!πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰

I recently celebrated my 58th birthday, a reminder of another year gone by, perhaps another year wiser, or at least I would like to think so. At this point in my life, I am truly grateful for the things that matter most: faith in God, family, friends, and good health. These gifts become even more meaningful and relevant with the passage of time, yet there are also still other “birthday wishes” to be realized…Birthdays present an excellent opportunity to take stock of the past year and to have a game plan for the new year ahead. You think you that you have all the time in the world to execute your plan, yet, that is not necessarily so…Life can change in an instant! Each of us have seen this happen or have experienced it personally. At the very least, I know that I have lived more than half of my life already and the time has sure gone by quickly! There is still so much to experience!

Isn’t it funny how you feel exactly the same on the inside, (hence the infamous “young at heart”), yet, your body gives you direct ( or sometimes subtle) cues over time that it is changing, slowing down, etc.? Of course, that’s the part of the life cycle that we don’t like so much, especially because of our special children . We want to remain strong in body and mind for their sake, as well as our own. It is the prayer of every special parent that I know, including mine, and for very good reason: I shudder to think about the alternative…I try to focus on what I can change about myself for the better and try to do that-this is the best self care there is! I can really only control myself and am responsible for my own choices. When I take care of myself, I am in the best position to take care of Brian. Self care is the best gift I can give to both of us, but of course life’s stressors can make this very difficult sometimes. So often, self care has to be a conscious choice and priority in order for it to happen. If we parents choose to ignore our needs, sooner or later we will pay a very dear price for neglecting ourselves. This is where realizing our own “birthday wishes” can help us achieve this goal and so much more! Here are my “birthday wishes” for my “new year”:

1. I wish to have good health and a sound mind.

2. I wish to laugh way more this year- may I continue to cultivate a sense of humor, especially during those challenging times when it comes in very handy!

3. I wish to experience peace in all circumstances, especially those situations that I can’t control.

4. I wish to spend more quality time with family, friends, and other loved ones. In the end, this is what really matters, but I want to do this more in the present moments.

5. I wish to celebrate every success, milestone, or accolade with joy, applause, appreciation, and chocolate! 🍫

6. I wish to encourage others with my words and actions when opportunities arise. All of us can benefit from love, understanding, and support.

7. I wish to take naps without guilt.

8. I wish to learn something brand new this year, though I haven’t figured out exactly what this is yet…

9. I wish to dream big and without fear about the future.

10. I wish to remove toxic situations and/or people who threaten to steal my joy.

11. I wish to be more like Brian: to have his child-like faith, to have the ability to live more in the present moment, and to appreciate the simple things in life with genuine delight.

12. I wish to always have new wishes to hope for and attain!

This concludes this brief “all about me” blog, and why not?! After all, birthdays come only once a year- aren’t each one of us worthy of accolades and good wishes on our special day? I certainly think so! It is a great reminder of who we are, have far we have come, and where we plan to go moving forward, the stuff that hopes and big dreams are made of. Cheers to a new year!!!πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰

Until next time, thanks for reading! 😊