Gratitude Journal #5 ~ My Parents

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I just want to share how grateful I am to my parents. I am quite sure that my parenting skills come from being raised by caring dedicated parents. Sure we didn’t always see eye to eye and of course we did things that were disappointing to each other but in the larger scheme of things we lived, learned and learned how to adapt to to each others needs.

Now I am a parent and I am truly grateful of all of the things that my parents sacrificed for me.

Love,

Sammie

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Heartbreak & Gratitude ~ Gratitude Journal #2

This week I am both heartbroken and grateful. I am heartbroken by the death of my friends twenty-one year old son. He was not just their son, he was my son. He was a part of my heart and my life since he was eight. He was my oldest son’s friend, confidant, playmate and teammate. He was our families treasure, our hope, our joy. He was a member of our “family” not by birth but by our choice.

Needless to say I am sad, but I am eternally grateful to have had Richard in my life. I was proud to watch his dreams become reality academically, on the basketball court, and as he created his own family. He will live on in my heart. He will live on in his young wife and their newborn son. He was a gift from GOD. A beautiful perfect gift that I will continue to treasure. I will look to him to comfort his parents, my children, and the entire community of “family” that loved him.

• I will be grateful every time I see the sun shining bright like his smile.

• I will be grateful when I pass the outdoor basketball courts where we used to play.

• I will be grateful for all of the time I had with him before GOD called him away.

• I will be grateful to see little pieces of him in his son’s eyes.

• I will be grateful because I know love never dies!

Rest in Heaven Richard Castillo.
Homecoming January 28, 2012

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20 Things I’ve Done In My Life ~ Gratitude Journal

GRATITUDE JOURNAL ENTRY #1 for 2012

I have had a great forty+ years of living and I’ve done some pretty awesome things. There are tons more I’d love to do, but this is not a bad list of my top twenty life highlights for my gratitude journal!

1. Married to a wonderful man.

2. Completed my Masters Degree just before I turned 40 years old.

3. Became a Certified Meeting Planner.

4. Gave birth to amazing children.

5. Became a Soccer Mom.

6. Traveled to: Paris, France.

7. Went Parasailing in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.

8. Sang a solo in front of 3000 at a conference.

9. Walked in a 5k race.

10. I was told by my favorite author, Mr. E. Lynn Harris (R.I.P.) “You have the name of an author!”

11. Danced the night away until I had blisters on my feet.

12. Saved someone’s life by performing CPR.

13. Rescued two children out of a burning apartment.

14. Raised $300,000 to renovate a preschool.

15. Voluntarily read through the entire bible.

16. Had an article published in a magazine.

17. Breast Cancer Survivor.

18. Rape Survivor.

19. Written a book on helping children who suffer from the impact of trauma that is currently being edited for publishing in the Summer of 2012.

20. Made the decision to take back my life and get healthy!

Busy Times

During the month of December 2011, I will be moving and having surgery! It certainly is a busy Christmas season for my family and me this year. We are blessed beyond measure and pressing toward 2012 with lofty goals and accomplishments to achieve.

With this said, beginning Monday, December 1, 2011 my blog schedule will be changing until the New Year.

Monday ~ Song of the Week

Wednesday ~ Excerpts from my still uncompleted NaNoWriMo 2011 Project (which will be of an erotic nature)

Friday ~ Week of Gratitude post

Looking forward to hearing from each of you while I recuperate from surgery and unpack at my new home. Wishing each of you a blessed and wonderful holiday season!

Love,

Sammie

SPOTLIGHT CORNER ~ @JuliaRoberts1 of Support for Special Needs

This week in my SPOTLIGHT CORNER, I am so very proud to welcome Julia Roberts of Support for Special Needs. I am so proud to have her here in the SPOTLIGHT CORNER because she is just AWESOME!! As a parent of a child with Special Needs, I can’t begin to tell you how her words and the support of the community that she has created have helped me and my family, and although she believes that she is getting so much in return from the community she has created for families with children that have special needs, I assure you – we would be lost without her gentle support, fierce advocacy and love. I look to Julia when I am at my wits end, when I have an IEP coming up and when I just want to celebrate a good day with my son. She’s been in my shoes, she wears them well, she is my constant reminder that sometimes I have to run in heels to advocate for my families needs and its not impossible to run my race wearing shoes that I have been assigned. Without further delay here is Julia’s perspective on How Blogging has impacted her life.

When I started blogging in 2004 I mainly did it because I was exhausted from telling multiple people about the day, or the week, or the appointments that were changing our lives at lightning speed. In 2001 at two days old, our daughter was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease. Three months later our then 3 year-old son was diagnosed as well. A myriad of appointments, treatments, more diagnoses and wanting to update friends and family as to how we were doing brought me to blogging.

I didn’t realize it until I’d been blogging for a couple of years that blogging became my therapy. While I was meeting people and finding support, I was also finding my voice; my voice as a mother, wife, volunteer and advocate. I often blogged through the issues I was having difficulty processing. When I wrote the words that would become my best posts they were often of me realizing how the Sad Mom was really just a Regular Mom. Yes, more baggage. Yes, more stress and I’d venture to say more expensive and time-consuming, but in the end I was a mom who loved her kids and wanted to fight for them fiercely if needed. So basically the same as all the mothers I knew.
So I cried, fought and celebrated online. Through the devastating news of our son starting emergency dialysis to save his life and what we went through to fight an impossible system to keep our daughter off dialysis and move to transplant preemptively. I can’t say that I was ever prepared for the nearly 2 years that our son was fighting debilitating depression. In a matter of a few months he went from a happy, energetic child after his kidney transplant to one who wanted to kill himself. While we were in the midst of finding the right treatment a blog reader reached out to me because as her younger self she could identify with what my son was going through.
While I certainly think we would have ended up with our son mentally stable, I think the road would have been much harder without having met her. On a particularly hard stretch of days watching him suffer, she reached out to me with maybe the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me. She said that what I was doing was enough, and while my son couldn’t get out of his depression with my love and patience, just the fact that I was witness to his experience and that I kept telling him and showing him we would find a way to reach him, it was enough. She told me he heard me even if he didn’t acknowledge it. She told me when he had rages that lasted hours that he would appreciate us carrying on to the next task, that sometimes he just needed to know that we weren’t falling apart as a family.

Blogging led me to co-found Support for Special Needs, a social network community for parents of kids with special needs as well as the professionals that serve them. The experience of managing a community has been a terrific way to give back but honestly, I get so much support and knowledge from other people. I’m so proud to have been a part of building it and I hope it continues to grow.
In short (well, maybe not so short), blogging has brought me support and information to get through a maze of special needs parenting, but it’s also helped me find myself. Blogging, in a lot of ways, helped me figure out the kind of woman I wanted to be in this phase of my life and I am so grateful.

Bio
Julia Roberts married into the name. In case you didn’t know, (the famous) Julia Roberts will not call your establishment to make her own tire rotation appointment or to argue about her cell phone charges. To make matters worse, this Julia Roberts husband’s name is Julian. They own a marketing firm together. They know. It’s a bit much for them, too. A geneticist’s dream, they produced two cute kids with a rare syndrome that includes a vision disorder and a crazy kidney disease; resulting in weirdly moving eyes and kidney transplants for both at age of 8. She’d like to dispel the myth that they are heroic; they talk about their kids’ poop just like the rest of you mere mortals.

Julia speaks to groups on topics about navigating life as a special needs family. She blogs at Kidneys and Eyes and created a social networking site for special needs families, Support for Special Needs with friend/writer/blogger Dawn Friedman and she helps her daughter with her blog, at I Wanted a Blog. You can find her on twitter as @juliaroberts1 and @supportSN.

10 Ways to Support Parents After the Death of a Child

The loss of a child(ren) is life changing.  There is no greater sorrow one can experience. The loss of a child is like a sucker punch to the throat, its takes your breath away, it aches to breathe and it hurts to swallow.  It doesnt matter if the child died in the womb, during birth, in a tragic car accident or at the will of a random bullet meant for the local drug runner or gang member — it just fucking hurts!  There is no way to compare the feelings of such loss based on the circumstances of the child or children’s death.  To try and assign the weight or a degree of pain to a parent for the loss of their child is asinine. It seems unfathomable that people attempt to do this but I assure you that they do!  The love a parent has for a child who dies is unconditional, profound and lasts an eternity.   Such loss can leave family, friends and a community speechless, stunned and scrambling to find peace and understanding that may never come.

If you are looking for ways to support someone who has lost a child here are a few suggestions.  Please note that there are hundreds of things that people can do to help, but these are my simple ways and they will not be the answer to healing the depression, grief and overwhelming feelings of loss that a parent feels.  These are just ways for you to acknowledge this loss and show that you care.

1. Acknowledge The Parents Loss

Lift them up in prayer. Send them your positive energy. Send them a card, flowers or a monetary donation if there is a burial or scholarship fund set up in memory of the child/children.

2. Listen To Them
Listen to the parents as they talk about their loss or memories child/children. Allow them to share their feelings with you.  Offer hugs and a pair of ears to help ease their pain.

3. Cook A Meal For Them
After such loss it is easy for parents to be overwhelmed.  Offering and preparing a simple meal can help them with self-care and will provide them with the nutrition they will need to deal with their loss.

4. Invite Them Out To An Activity
Invitations to get out of the house will probably be declined but keep asking!  The goal is to get them out to participate in an activity, preferably an adult activity without children present.  Invite them to your home for cards or a board game. Ask to meet them at a coffee shop, or ask them to take a walk with you at a park.  Keep asking them, don’t barrage them but ask them at least once a week.

5. Plant a Tree in Memory of the Child
Call the Arbor Society or visit http://www.arborday.org and pay to plant a tree in honor of the child.

6. Make a Donation
Donate to a local school that they attended, a charity that helps children, or the Pediatrics Department at the local hospital in honor of the child/children. In these tight budget times, donations are needed and what better way to honor the family than to remember their child by helping another child.

7. Ask them, “How Can I Help You?”
Ask them if they need you to do anything specific for them. Tell them that you want to help them.

8. Speak Out For Children!
Become an advocate for children.  Speak out against community violence, talk about children’s diseases or become an advocate for change to protect and enhance the lives of children.

9. Offer Resources To Help the Parents, Family and Community to Heal.
Attend a grief support meeting with your friend.  Ask a grief counselor to meet with the family or community if necessary so that people can begin to process their feelings.  This is really helpful when children die after long illnesses or under violent circumstances. Children touch a community and sometimes it’s the community that needs to heal.

10. Just be there for them.
Finally, I say it’s just so important to just be there for the parents.  Let them know that they are not alone. Let them know that they are lived and cared for.  Let them know that YOU are there and you share their loss.

If you know someone who has lost a child or children please be present for them and comfort them as best you can. You may feel there is nothing you can do for them, but being there for them can and often does mean the world to them and it can truly help them begin to heal.

New children after the loss of a child /children, is a blessing but it is never a replacement of those who are gone. This article was written because I am feeling the need to give a special thanks to those who’ve helped and a wonderful Congratulations to my friend Lani and her hubby and the impending birth of their child after losing their child.  I know Silas is watching over his sibling from heaven.

THE HELP — A review through the looking glass

I had read a review of the movie The Help by Russell Simmons last week on http://www.globalgrind.com and he was verbally being assalted because of his appreciation of the film. Some sentiment was just what we need another movie with African American Women being portrayed as hired help, others actually called him a sellout for liking the film. I am not easily swayed and I decided to hold off on the debate and see the movie myself and form my own opinion. Off I went to see The Help on opening day.

I had the pleasure of seeing The Help with my Mom and two younger children on Wednesday. My immediate thoughts were I enjoyed the movie but I am still processing it. Do I recommend you seeing it? I surely do. Take your girlfriends, fiends, dates and teens. Do I think it is worth the Oscar buzz — you bet your sweet cheeks I do! Was I disturbed by portions of the movie? Of course I was. Do I feel as if the African American characters were stereotypical? I do not! Do I think there is power in these African American women’s voices? Yes, indeed, I do, because it is the telling of their stories that created the the lives that African Americans get to live today.

It’s been three days now and I have taken time to reflect on the movie and compare it to the true to life example of my great aunt’s experience as a domestic in Alabama and later on in some of the finest homes in Chicago. This is my Aunt Tee’s story. This is the story of all those women who traveled near and far from their homes to take care of others households.

I always admired my Great-Aunt “Tee” because she was a hard worker and she spent her life raising children other than her own (she was childless) including my father and his four siblings. “Aunt Tee” was a fierce Christian woman who had a sharp wit, and sharp sense of business to match. She managed to buy a house, and send two of her nephews off to college: one to University of Indiana and my Dad off to Purdue. She worked hard as a domestic and she did that so that my Dad and his siblings could have a better life. She often worked 6 days a week and she never complained, she just smiled when she was able to help someone who had less. She was humble and the daughter of a sharecropper.

As I watched The Help, I couldn’t help but think of “Aunt Tee” and all of her struggles. I thought of how she cared for another families children as if they were her own in order to take of her own family. I thought about how she must have felt and how she must have been treated and I just remember her as a wonderful, loving, proud, hard-working woman. One thing that stood out for me in the movie was the bonds that children had with the domestics. I really felt sad for those children that their maternal bond was with the hired help and not their mothers. That really left an impression upon me since I am an Early Childhood Educator, and it is my job to strengthen the bonds of the family not to act as a surrogate mother.

The movie easily transported me into that turbulent time called the 60’s when the Civil Rights Movement was brewing to eradicate the ugliness of the Jim Crow laws. It was interesting to see how the all of women reacted and responded to the social norms that had been dictated to them. Hilly was a monster created by an ambitious nature. She was power-hungry, grandiose, and almost inhumane, unlike her mother who was compassionate, witty, and likable. Millie her housekeeper was verbose, hard-working, stubborn and proud. These two characters represented the battle for civil rights, the battle between the rich and the poor but most importantly they represented the classic dichotomy of good versus evil. Abeline and Skeeter and their quiet strength helped the society women take a look at themselves through the eyes of the help and I can only hope that those “society women” were able to see how truly inhumane and silly they behaved.

I am still processing The Help in terms of race relations in the 60’s and today in 2011, but I do know that there are still some differences that exist like this in certain parts of America, Europe, and India. It saddens me, but this is still reality for some people in parts of the world. I hope The Help will make all of us take a look at ourselves and the doctrine in which we say we believe. I hope The Help will open doors for discussions about the importance of the 60’s and give this generation of people a better understanding of what went on during that time and how what was brewing then has the same undercurrent which is brewing today (think of London).

My final hope is that those who watch this film look into their hearts and NEVER EVER let history repeat itself because we are all made equal and the sun that shines above each of us marries all colors into one race called human!

Summer Ended Too Quickly

This a Sunday Streams of Consciousness exercise. 5 minutes of writing whatever is on my mind at that moment. No spellcheck or grammar check, just me clearing my mind.

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It’s T-1 day and younger children return to school. They are attending different schools this year which adds pressure to get them both where they need to be on time every morning. I’ve planned, laid out their clothes, prepared lunch but all the organization in the world goes out the window when trying to get a child with ADHD and Dyslexia out of the house if he is having a bad morning.

His bad mornings equal his sister and me being late to school and work, in spite of our best efforts and us being ready to leave on-time. I hope this school year will be better and I pray that they both have a successful school year. We are all in transition this year. He begins Middle School, she is in the 5th grade and ready to run her Elementary School and me being off work until September. Things are different for each of us this school year and in seven hours we’ll see how it goes.

Defying Gravity


(Glee Version featuring Chris Coffer and Leah Michelle)

Last week seemed to have a recurring theme for me and those around me online and offline. Many of us dealt with FAITH! We either tempted it, my online friend @SharonDV did the CN Tower Walk in Ontario, Canada and survived. Alex @L8enough struggled with faith, My friend/Sister @MOMmagRocks as we begin to challenge ourselves to get out of our comfort zone and do something DARING! Finally, I literally verbally fought with someone I love because of my faith (I assure you it wasn’t my finest Christian moment).

This week has been an incredible week for each of us, but when I look back at it I hope Sharon, Alex, Tamara and J know that they are loved beyond anything they can humanly measure. I hope that they continue to challenge themselves and continue defying gravity and press forward with the courage and questioning that inspires so many people. We are each evolving, growing, clinging to and testing our FAITH. Life can be a bumpy journey but I’m so glad to have met each of you as I have traveled along my path.

Defying Gravity Lyrics ~ from the Musical WICKED
(Melody Sung by Idina Menzel the first wife of MY HUSBAND Taye Diggs — LOL)

Something has changed within me,
Something is not the same.
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game.

Too late for second-guessing,
Too late to go back to sleep.
It’s time to trust my instincts,
Close my eyes and leap.

It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I’m Defying Gravity
And you won’t bring me down…

I’m through accepting limits
‘Cause someone says they’re so.
Some things I cannot change,
But till I try, I’ll never know.

Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost.
Well, if that’s love,
It comes at much too high a cost!

I’d sooner buy
Defying gravity.
Kiss me goodbye,
I’m defying gravity.
I think I’ll try
Defying Gravity
And you won’t bring me down.

I’d sooner buy
Defying gravity.
Kiss me goodbye,
I’m defying gravity.
I think I’ll try
Defying Gravity

And you won’t bring me down.
Bring me down!
Ahhahhoahh

SO AMAZING by Luther Vandross 7/20/11

On this day many years ago I walked through a beautiful Art Gallery to a chuppah made of flowers and stood below it as my Pastor joined my best friend and me together in holy matrimony in an interfaith ceremony.

It was a beautiful wedding that joined two people into one family. One family joined our guests and became one community. That one community joined us and became our extended family and have been with us for better and for worse, in sickness and in health and forever they will remain in our hearts until death do us part.

As beautiful as our wedding was, our love story continues in spite of our differences and our life together has been so amazing! We never dreamed when we chose SO AMAZING as our song for our first dance at our wedding reception that our love would create such an amazing family, complete with three beautiful children, two amazing godchildren and four additional “adopted son’s.”

Married life hasn’t always been smooth for us. There were arguments, life stressors, births and deaths but through the triumphs, bumps, joy and bruises we are still together and that is simply a blessing!

Happy Anniversary J — here’s to you!

So Amazing Lyrics

Love has truly been good to me
Not even one sad day
Or minute have I had since you’ve come my way
I hope you know I’d gladly go
Anywhere you’d take me

It’s so amazing to be loved
I’d follow you to the moon in the sky above
Ooh…ooh…ooh…ooh…ooh…ooh…ooh…ooh…I’d go

Got to tell you how you thrill me
I’m happy as I can be
You have come and it’s changed my whole world
Bye-bye sadness, hello mellow
What a wonderful day

It’s so amazing to be loved
I’d follow you to the moon in the sky above
Ooh…ooh…ooh…ooh…ooh…ooh…ooh…ooh…I’d go

And it’s so amazing, amazing
I could stay forever, forever
Here in love and no, leave you never
‘Cause we’ve got amazing love

Truly it’s so amazing, amazing
Love brought us together, together
I will leave you never and never
I guess we’ve got amazing love

Ooh, so amazing and I’ve been wondering
For a love like you

It’s so amazing to be loved
I’d follow you to the moon in the sky above
Oh, and it’s so, it’s so

It’s so amazing to be loved
I’d follow you to the moon in the sky above
And you know, it’s so

It’s so amazing to be loved
I’d follow you to the moon in the sky above
Hey…hey…hey…yeah…it’s so

It’s so amazing to be loved
I’d follow you to the moon in the sky above
Hey…hey…yeah…hey…yeah…yeah…hey…it’s so

It’s so amazing to be loved
I’d follow you to the moon in