Who can tell ahead of time what the experience of parenting will be like? Technology can let you know the gender of a baby, and sometimes it can diagnose a health issue in the womb. But technology can’t tell you this individual’s personality or forecast her or his future.
So parents and children are then thrown together into a relationship that unfolds day by day and is influenced by a number of factors. Some factors are in the home environment, and some factors are randomly and possibly senselessly thrust upon a family. It is my hope that every child’s home environment is a secure place for them, but this is not always the case. If you suspect a child is being abused, I hope you will do the right thing and report it to the proper authorities in your area.
Barring any major abusive dysfunction of you as the parent, the life in a family is uniquely yours and your children’s. Suffice it to say, that regardless of whether or not your child or you have an identifiable health disability, you will encounter obstacles along the way in the form of
- finances and
- outside relationships.
Part of the human experience common to us all is to overcome challenges in whatever form they take. It depends on how you define things that will determine how you view it. The nervous system releases the same chemicals whether you are anxious or excited. But your perception of an event will determine whether you are excited or anxious.
So, it is the same with parenting and relationships. Something that might seem like a problem could actually be the solution to other things you have encountered both with your relationship with yourself and with other people.
The poem “Welcome to Holland” was written by Emily Perl Kingsley, a writer for Sesame Street. Her son, Jason Kingsley, was born with Down’s Syndrome. He is now a grown man and has appeared in several movies. Kingsley’s experience as a parent with a child with a known disability inspired her to advocate for families whose children had disabilities. She influenced Sesame Street to have the Muppets represent the range of human experiences people have. In March of last year, Sesame Street introduced us to Julia, the first Muppet with autism.
Kingsley also took her writing gift and used it to educate and inspire thousands of people. Her poem “Welcome to Holland” has been adapted for many different experiences, parenting and otherwise. Regardless of whether you are a parent or you are someone who doesn’t have children, you have likely experienced an unexpected change in your plans you’ve needed to work through.
So, welcome to Holland or Iowa or Texas or Montana or wherever you find yourself that you didn’t plan on being. Here’s to “blooming where you’re planted.”
Welcome to Holland
BY EMILY PERL KINGSLEY
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you never would have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away…because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.
But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.
©1987 BY EMILY PERL KINGSLEY.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
You had a disagreement with another person and in your mind you forgave. You were able to forgive them because you ended your relationship with them. But did you really forgive them or did you just forget them?
The answer to that question will be revealed next time you unexpectedly run into them in a location you weren’t prepared for, such as your local grocery store. If your heart jumps and your stomach feels anxious, then the injury of the conflict hasn’t subsided and, frankly, you focused on the forgetting but not the forgiving.
So what do you do when you come across that person?
Here are some options, not all of them recommended.
1. Turn around and pretend you didn’t see them.
2. Take your shopping cart and bang into the back of their legs pretending you didn’t see them.
3. Walk by them as if they were invisible and pretend you didn’t see them, or
4. See them.
As uncomfortable as it could be, facing a person who injured you is a response coming from a stance of self-empowerment. Avoiding them or lashing out at them will reinforce for you that you were on the losing end of the conflict. Instead, take a deep breath, open your eyes, and see the person in front of you. What you discover might surprise you about them and yourself.
Now, for the awkward moment. Does seeing them include speaking? Maybe. But on your terms and not theirs. You can say hello, or nod your head and give a small smile (but not the smirk smile) and keep walking. If they initiate a conversation, such as, “how are you?” say, “I’m great!” (You are great, so be honest about it!)
So. the moment has passed and you SAW them, what do you do next to FORGIVE them?
Here are some steps that may help you with the process of forgiveness.
1. Write the person a letter stating exactly what they did that hurt you.
Journaling is a therapeutic process which can help you “read your own mind.” Journaling does not have to be limited to words. Incorporating art or other visual modes are just as effective in processing your feelings. (Do not send that person the letter, but it might help to read it to another supportive person who can keep a confidence.)
2. Pray and meditate on the concept of forgiveness.
Sometimes, we can’t pray for that person, but we can start the process by quieting the thoughts that racket around like they are on a handball court by focusing on the theme of forgiveness.
3. When you are ready to move to the next stage, pray for good things for yourself and that person. Some people will leave out the part about praying for good things for themselves, but you deserve good things, too.
This action is empowering because it gives you control. When you start, you don’t have to be sincere (and you probably won’t be sincere), but over time you may find yourself hoping each of you receive the gift of a great life. After all, hurting people hurt others.
4. Understand, the role of forgiveness isn’t to change that person as change may never happen, but it is there to heal you and give you a better quality of life.
Even if the other person tried to steal your quality life in a long ago incident, they don’t have to keep stealing it.
© 2018 Brenda Henning
Coming soon! An E-Book for Caregivers with Special Needs Children
Learn to ADVOCATE, PARENT, AND BUILD STRENGTH in raising your child with special needs
Find your peace of mind as you learn what supports you need in place to guarantee a life of emotional, financial, and physical security for you and your child
Do you worry about:
|· What will happen to my child and will he or she be happy?
· Who will help me with my child and how do I get my friends to understand the stress I’m under?
· How do I get over the loss of the dreams I had for a family?
· How can I tell if my child is acting out because of his disability or because he’s being a kid?
|· How will I support myself when I have to support my child?
· What if my spouse leaves me because of the pressure?
· What school should my child attend and do I have any recourse if my child’s school treats him or her inappropriately?
· What will happen to my child after I die?
You’re not alone. Nearly one-fifth of American families have a member with a disability, either physical, sensory, or intellectual (according to the National Organization on Disability). And many people with disabilities or special needs are outliving their primary caregivers (their parents) because of advancements in medical technology and treatment.
My Training and Credentials
At this juncture, you may be wondering who I am. Beyond having been a journalist, a researcher and a licensed professional counselor, I am also a mother to two children who have had special concerns at various times in their lives.
My youngest son was born with a disability. My older son developed a temporary disability later in his life, which he has overcome. Each of the experiences came with its unique set of challenges and opportunities.
When I first heard the diagnosis for my youngest son, I sat on my bed, called a friend and sobbed to her “I just want my son to be okay.” My friend tried to comfort me as best as she could, but she couldn’t truthfully tell me if my son would be okay. No one could. As his diagnosis began to unfold, I found myself struggling to find help. We lived in a remote New Mexico community and autism resources were only beginning to be offered there.
Consequently, I had many sleepless nights of constant worry, fear, and grief of what the future could hold for my beloved son. Also, I had to completely reorder my life emotionally, spiritually, financially, socially, and professionally because of his special needs and the lack of resources available.
One of my biggest fears, initially, was the fear of the unknown. I had never had an experience as a mother of a child with a disability so I had no idea of what to expect. So, what did I do? I did like any mother who wants what’s best for her child:
- I scoured the Internet,
- Made hundreds of phone calls,
- Took countless trips to professionals, and
- At the end of the day collapsed exhausted and still scared.
No doubt about it, it can be a lonely and stressful experience as a caregiver and our ability to access an in-person support group can be challenging, and in some regions of the United States, nearly impossible.
But you’re not alone. My E-Book, “My Special Needs Child: The Complete Guide to Advocating, Parenting, and Building Strength” will help you address your worries and connect you with the vital resources you need for you to have peace of mind as a parent.
- You’ll learn the subtle shift in thinking that will empower you and your child. It took me nearly a decade to understand and articulate this idea, and I’ll share this with you in my E-Book.
- You will gain insight into how to be a parent and not only a caregiver.
- You will read stories from people who have been where you are now and the successes they have achieved and that you can achieve, too.
- You will learn how to overcome your reticence in speaking up for your child and yourself. This book will help you trust your intuition when opinions differ with professionals.
- You will learn effective advocacy skills to help you and your child meet your needs to ensure the best outcome. You will learn the critical skills to advocate at the local level all the way to the federal level.
- If you are worried about having enough money or how your career will be affected by your caregiving role, this E-Book will share about financial tools you can leverage for economic peace of mind.
Life can have many sudden twists and turns. Whether through an accident or the aging process, at some point every human being will experience either a temporary disability or a disability that becomes permanent. You will gain understanding how disability affects a person in different ways across the lifespan.
It’s not always easy to raise a child with disabilities. There is even a time of grieving as a diagnosis comes to light. But it can be a fulfilling and a profoundly positive life-changing experience in a way you never would have planned for yourself. In this E-Book you will learn how to transform what looks like a loss into a positive experience which will ripple throughout all your relationships.
If you are worried or struggling with knowing what to do or who to turn to for help for your child with a disability, then this e-book is for you. You will save countless hours of worry and research. You will find your way through the maze of programs, professionals’ opinions, and life’s challenges. You will find new meaning and purpose in life and release your fear and anxiety.
Please fill out my contact form below to let me know of your interest in this e-book. I am here to help.
© 2018 Brenda Henning
Fear can be as corroding to your body as is rust is to metal piping. It feels like a million jumping Mexican beans in your stomach and your shoulders sag from the buildup of it. The environment of your mind influences the spread of panic, depending on many factors. Today, you can choose to detach yourself from highly charged emotional environments, which can mitigate some of the flow of anxiety. You may be in the environment, but you can choose to not take anything personally, even it it’s meant personally.
Should you realize your thoughts floating, shooting and wandering and untethered to places and people flung far from your body, you can bring your body back to now. You can use your breath to coat yourself and prevent the build up of more fear. In and out, in and out, you can consciously redirect your ionic attention and thoughts to the energy held in your shoulders and stomach.
The life force of your breath can redirect and expel the corroding fear from your lungs and nose and into the Universe. The Universe, though, sacrifices nothing with its absorption of your breath. Instead it can take your highly charged energy and expands itself by creating more galaxies.
© 2018 Brenda Henning
Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7 NIV)
Remember to breathe.
This weekend marks my 21st wedding anniversary. Marriage has consumed my life for two decades. Everyone’s marriage is unique to them, so no one can tell you how to be married. It’s uncharted territory for the both of you. You can learn general guidelines from books, therapists, or church classes in how to:
- Fight fair
- Have more and better sex
- Be better parents (if you have kids) and
- Plan for retirement.
But the details of those general suggestions will be worked out by you and your spouse. Sometimes it will be done in an adult, mature way and sometimes the neighbors will wonder if World War III broke out. Don’t worry, though, the neighbors have probably had World War III, themselves.
Ann Landers would pose the question “are you better off with them or without them” to someone who was trying to decide on a divorce. I’ve Googled once or twice about how to get a divorce, but thankfully, the moment passed and I was able to answer I’m better with him. I hope my husband thinks he’s better with me, too.
Despite (maybe it’s because) of our rough patches, I admire and love my husband more than anyone else in the world. That is not an overstatement. Arriving at this global admiration has required me to be open to the experiences that developed the character my husband has. It’s easy to admire an inspirational person when you read about their story. It’s much different when you live that inspirational story with him. After all, the path to an inspirational story is traveled by overcoming challenges and obstacles placed on your journey.
Of course, we have overcome mutual obstacles and doing so is easier when you have a teammate. Yet, I am talking about the personal achievements of my husband. Perhaps, I’ve been his helpmate through it, but he is the one who tackled the work and earned the accomplishment. Most people use financial success as a standard for achievement. We have abundant resources, yet that’s at the bottom of my list for my admiration. What I admire him the most for is his diligent attention to personal self-improvement in how he cares for himself, interacts with others, and provides service to those around him.
I married M. because of the value he placed on being a father. Our sons have had health challenges that have required an investment in time, money, and nurture for them to overcome. My husband has been there each step of the way. I’ve talked to many single moms in similar circumstances and their common theme for why they are single tackling similar issues is because their men “didn’t want to deal with it.” M. deals with things.
When my husband graduated high school he went right to work. He learned a trade in the oil and gas industry. He literally has gone from wearing an FRC shirt with his name embroidered above the pocket to a high-rise office building with his initials monogrammed on his shirt cuffs. He has gone from turning wrenches in the dusty oilfield desert in New Mexico to turning in his swivel chair to look out over the swanky Galleria in Houston. Sometimes M., will say it feels like a dream to him he has been able to progress the way he has in his career, considering the modest background in which he was raised. My husband is a good example that it’s not necessary to have a college education and the debt that goes with it to do well in your career.
My husband has a mind for business and he also has a heart for service. Daily, my husband is on the phone with people to check on them and offer his experience, strength and hope. If you’re one of my husband’s neighbors, thank your good fortune because if you have a broken faucet or fence latch, my husband will be there to fix it for you. If you’re the stranger on the road with a stalled car and my husband passes by, he will either jumpstart your battery, change your tire, or drive you to someone who can help you.
Twenty-one years is a long time to know someone and I’m grateful that both of us have been willing to stick it out. One day at a time, I know we can make it another 21 years.
“Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” Robert Browning, Jr.
© 2018 Brenda Henning
Affiliate disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase of a product or service.
Every so often it’s good to take a step back and take a different view of your life. A big picture point of view can give you some perspective that living it up close and personal every day won’t allow. A wide-angle, panoramic view can be especially helpful when you are experiencing a challenging time.
One way to see your life in a different way is to create a lifeline or life map. New author Jen Alward recommends a lifeline as an activity in her new release Hope and Healing at Home: Build Bridges with your kids and empower them for life with Art & Christian Therapy.Click here to visit Jen Alward.
Locating where you are and gaining insight into how you got there can give you direction in where to go next. Families have challenges today that were unimaginable 20-30 years ago. Drug epidemics, increased school violence and other societal trends are placing new levels of stress on parents and their children.
You can be as detailed as you want in your lifeline, family map. I set mine up for 10-year decades, but you divide it into five-year increments if you prefer. It can be helpful to include other family members on one sheet of paper to see where the trajectory of their lives may be headed and to help you set family as well as individual goals.
A perspective you may gain by completing a lifeline or family map is noticing how many challenges you have already successfully overcome. This can be reassuring that you will be able to meet whatever challenge you currently find yourself coping with. Seeing the pivotal periods in your life on paper can be a reality check into how you are spending your precious commodity of time.
So, where are you going with your one “wild and precious life?”
© 2018 Brenda Henning
Affiliate disclosure: I do not have any affiliate arrangements with any of the products created by those mentioned in this blog post. If you buy one of their products, they will receive all of the profit. I will not receive a commission.
Do you feel like a fake, an imposter? Are you wondering what you’re doing putting yourself out there like that?
In “Steal Like an Artist: 10 things Nobody Told you About Being Creative,” Austin Kleon lays out the unspoken dilemma of people who are entering a creative or start-up phase: “nothing new is under the sun.” With the exception of actual inventors, nearly every one with a product wants you to believe they have an original idea or that they offer a special sauce to the established formula. What they offer is consistency of effort. The more times someone gets their message out there, the greater the chances that someone looking for that service or product will find it.
Look at Dave Ramsey. He didn’t invent either the envelope strategy or the concept of snowball effect for Financial Peace University. Those terms and strategies have been around for a long time. What he did, though, was organize a curriculum around a need he and others had for financial peace and, since then, has been sharing it with everyone he comes in contact with. His need has helped many others.
Lots of people will show you a formula on how to develop a successful blog. They may even have a course. They tried a number of things and kept doing the things that worked. So, if you are set on building a profitable blog, do what the successful bloggers tell you they did and yours will grow, too. Polish native Cristian Mihai began blogging in 2012. I started reading his blog, then. He did not have many followers. Now, over 132,000 people follow him. If I had done what he did beginning in 2012, I could be where he is now. But I didn’t. I started a blog and then stopped it. I started another blog and then stopped it. Remember, 90 percent complete to you, is 0 percent complete to your potential reader or customer.
Don’t stop. Keep going.
Just about anyone who makes an excellent living boosts their income when they present what they know to others. To do this, they sit down and organize their thoughts and strategies into a cohesive, sequential manner. People who sell courses on-line or offer public speaking services are teachers in disguise.
But marketing is the secret sauce to success. And at its most basic definition, all marketing is, is telling everyone you come across what you’re doing. Don’t be shy: just blurt it out. When I started out as a journalist, I applied to work at newspapers and kept applying until a newspaper hired me. Then another one did, and then another one. Then, I decided to become a counselor. I had to complete additional educational requirements to be in this field, but not all fields require that. Now, my private practice is growing because I tell everyone I know I’m a counselor.
Some people never finish high school and can become billionaire business owners. Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, David Karp who invented the popular Tumblr social media platform, and singer extraordinaire Aretha Franklin are among people who were exceptions to the statistical outcomes of dropping out of high school. But the common denominator between them and people who became successful with Ph.Ds, is that they kept working at what they wanted to do and told everyone about it.
When you’re starting out, what you’re doing may feel like a version of the real thing. It takes a lot of practice and repetition for the stars to get to be stars and they all started as beginners. Even the prodigy piano player had to sit down at the piano for the first time to discover that s/he had the talent. Then s/he kept playing the piano over and over until enough people looked at him/her, young as s/he is, and noted s/he’s got talent.
It is the same for you. Whatever you pick to do for your living, keep telling other people about it and keep doing the work. Eventually, you will be known for your unique version of “nothing new under the sun.”
© 2018 Brenda Henning