Yesterday was Vincent's 1st Talent Show. He's been practicing with his class for WEEKS. I've been helping practice at home by encouraging him to practice along with YouTube videos to "show off" his cool dance moves.
However, the entire time I was wondering if he'd end up participating. I was about 98% sure he would, but the anxiety of this past year snatched a 2% window of worry.
When John and I arrived to get him dinner before the show, he was in rare form. His teacher said he'd gotten frustrated at the practice routines and was clearly upset about the prospect of using face paint for the act.
Instead of arguing with him, John and I diverted his attention away from the issue to give him a chance to calm down and recenter himself. A yummy dinner at some laughs with Mommy and Daddy were just what he needed to recharge.
When we got back to the school, Vince again put up a fight about the face paint. Over half the class had already been painted to resemble ghouls for the act. Vince revolted and didn't even want to go into the classroom. I promised he didn't have to have his face painted if he didn't want to. That made him feel better.
Face-painting is a huge no-no for an SPD kid like Vince. The sensation of wet paint on his face would be akin to nails on a chalkboard for the rest of us. John was frustrated at first, but I pointed out it wasn't a huge deal. Besides, we could easily pick him out since he'd be the only one without his face painted! :)
The next hang-up came when he refused to keep his tattered shirt on. He obviously didn't like the way it felt against his skin. The rough patches of shirt that had caked on paint irritated him. Instead of fighting with Vince, I told John to just slip his normal tee underneath the tattered one.
Poof - problem solved and he was no longer threatening a melt-down.
Sometimes it's hard to remember that SPD is an all-encompassing issue that can make seemingly simple tasks an ordeal. Making small concessions like those I mentioned above made a HUGE world of difference for Vincent. Instead of melting down, he accomplished this:
That's right! Not only did he perform well, he was trying to help the other kids out by keeping time. Ha ha! 2:05 - 2:09 might just be my favorite part.
Obviously, John and I were super proud. This was such a welcome joy for us after a year spent hearing how disobedient Vincent is... how difficult he is... how impossible he is to handle.
Vincent can be a challenge - I'll be the first to admit it - but he's not an impossibly broken fragment of humanity to be discarded as unworthy of a solid effort. The teachers at this school have consistently worked with John and I to ensure Vincent's success. They've welcomed his therapists, they've adapted their methods, they've provided outlets for his more challenging moments. The one thing they've never done - and I'm crying with appreciation while writing this - they've never called me to tell me they've given up. They've never thrown in the towel in exasperation, effectively saying he's not worth their effort.
They've actually done the exact opposite. They've welcomed Vincent with enthusiasm. They've celebrated his accomplishments and redirected his mistakes. They've wrapped him in hugs, returned sticky kisses with smiles, and reinstilled a sense of trust and love in teachers.
The last year, he really truly thought he was bad. He believed that teachers / students didn't like him which led him into believing there was something wrong with him. My baby...
He no longer fears going to school. He no longer worries about being sent home or getting into enough trouble to be "kicked out." He's back to being at ease making friends and engaging in social situations. I am eternally grateful for this.
Again, SPD is not an educational death sentence. It certainly felt that way last year as John and I were shown the door again and again, but persevere. Your child needs you to fight for them; no one else is going to.
And I'll continue to fight for Vince. He begins kindergarten on September 2nd... kindergarten. I almost can't believe it. A few months ago, John and I were debating having him restart preschool. A few months home with me and transitioning him back into his old school made such a difference. He's back on track.
Thank You, Lord, for consistently guiding the way.
Prayers for all of you embarking on the new school year. <3
John's birthday was the 23rd. These are some of my favorite photos of us.
<3 Love this man right here! <3
You guys have seen all the videos, articles and memes regarding the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge at this point. For those of you that haven't (I can't imagine there being many of you), there is a viral challenge sweeping the internet. It goes like this:
Maggie gets nominated by Joe to dump a bucket of ice-water over her head. Should Maggie accept the challenge, she donates $10 to ALS research, videotapes herself getting soaked, and nominates 3 new people to the challenge. Should Maggie NOT accept, she donates $100 to ALS research.
Either way, money is donated to ALS research. With those accepting the challenge, however, the added benefit is raising awareness.
Now I've seen a lot of folks complaining about the challenge taking up space on their news feed. I find that to be an incredibly arrogant complaint, especially when the "hide" feature is so easily accessible. Why complain about other people posting a 30 second video that you don't have to watch? It just seems incredibly arrogant.
Then I saw folks complaining about donations to the ALSA. The ALSA funds embryonic stem cell research, so I was mostly on-board with folks complaining about donations made to the ALSA. Most people are completely unaware of the embryonic stem cell issue. That being said, there are several organizations one can donate to that meet the requirements of the ALS Research donation. I, for example, offered the Kimberly Kim Foundation as well as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute as viable, moral alternatives. So again, why complain about something with such an easy solution?
Finally, I saw the most ridiculous of all arguments, and it shamefully came from a Catholic whom I follow via Facebook: Frank Weathers of Why I Am Catholic. Normally I can get behind stuff Mr. Weathers writes, but his brief, snarky message against the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge made me cringe.
He quotes Matthew 6:2-4 and uses that as his "#1 Reason" for being against the challenge:
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites
do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen,
I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your
almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who
sees in secret will repay you.
I think Mr. Weathers is stretching things a bit. He'd've gotten more support if he stuck with the anti-embryonic stem cell research. Pulling the Bible into things as if he actually thinks Jesus wouldn't be cool with His children banding together in such a way to help one another... that's mind-blowing to me.
People aren't dumping water on themselves to say "Look at me and how charitable I am!"
In all honesty, I think the majority of folks are doing it so they can feel a sense of belonging. They see this challenge as being a real solution to a real problem, and it's a solution that is fun, easy and entertaining. And they're right! This sense of belonging has become a real movement which has already raised over $70 million dollars. $70 MILLION DOLLARS!!!
And that's only from the ALSA. That doesn't count the Kimberly Kim Foundation or the JPII Medical Research Institute.
That is nothing to turn your nose up at. More than raising money, this viral campaign has raised awareness of ALS which has raised compassion and understanding. It has caused folks to reach out to one another in new and unexpected ways. It has given hope to those struggling with ALS, and in some ways empowered them to realize they COULD do something about their seemingly hopeless situation.
Again, it has bonded people into a sense of belonging to a real solution. That is incredible!
And yes, while it'd be nice for folks to support, en masse, Christians is the Middle East, you cannot condemn participants of the ALS Challenge because, frankly, you have no clue if that person already IS. Supporting one does not preclude you from supporting the other.
So I'm in favor of the challenge, and I think anyone who would attempt to shame me or call my Catholicism isn't question would do well to remove the hull of the Titanic from their eye first . I accepted the challenge from a friend, explained my donation to the Kimberly Kim Foundation (as opposed to the ALSA), and then requested (in my commentary) for my three nominees to do the same. So not only am I spreading awareness for ALS and donating to the solution, I'm also making folks aware of the embryonic stem cell issue that, again, most folks are simply unaware of (and not seeking to intentionally be malicious about).
Finally, from a marketing standpoint (given my background in Communications), I LOVE the simplicity with which this challenge went viral. Brilliant marketing ploy. Kudos all around.
Ooo, and obviously, keep folks suffering with ALS in your prayers, and if you haven't already, make yourself aware of the signs and symptoms so you can better serve those whose lives are affected by it!
I helped a sister into her office this morning and was rewarded with a new image of Our Lady to share with all of you!
Many of you are likely familiar with the artwork of Brother Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS. If you're not, I'm delighted to be the one to introduce you! He's an award-winning artist whose deeply Catholic themes jump to life through brightly colored watercolors (at least I think they're watercolors).
The image I'll be sharing today is titled "Tower of Mercy."
You'll have to forgive the reflections - those aren't part of the piece. At first glance (because I only got to see it for a few seconds before running off to work), I thought it was an image of the Incarnation. After all, the Holy Spirit has descended upon what appeared to be Our Lady's womb. I attributed the tears to her humble acceptance of the Sacrifice she knew she'd one day bear witness to.
When I opened the image up on my computer for closer inspection, the first thing I noticed was the angel at the bottom holding what looked to be a flaming pentagon. I simultaneously realized it was THE Pentagon, and it was flaming right next to the Twin Towers which were being held by the second angel. Suddenly Our Lady's tears made a lot more sense.
Also, the words around her halo are taken from the Hail, Holy Queen (a Marian prayer for those of you unfamiliar): "To thee do we send our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears."
I really like how Brother McGrath uses the curves of the letters to create a halo of tears that mimics Our Lady's sadness. Our prayer, in effect, echos hers.
She comes, then, our prayers reaching out to her and pulling her close, bearing the Holy Spirit. So many people in the years since the September 11th tragedy have said that they can't believe more people didn't die. I truly believe the Hand of God was upon America; the Blessed Mother asked that we be spared more suffering, and so angels supported the towers until more could escape. Angels surrounded the Pentagon and helped our officials get to safety. Divine Providence ensured that people who were supposed to be at the epicenter of these events were somehow displaced, late, sick or otherwise unable to be there (my brother included).
Mary is, indeed, a Tower of Mercy. As our ever-loving mother, she seeks to surround and protect us - even in the midst of chaos and terror. The flames of her love (and the Divine Love of the Spirit which emanates from her Immaculate Heart) are bigger and more powerful than those of the terrorist attacks.
And so it truly is. Our Lady is bigger and stronger than any of the terror we see in our world today, and we would do well to turn to her in prayer. She cries out for her children all over the world because we do so much damage to ourselves, but she does not forsake us; she will not forsake us. No matter how dark the night, no matter the flames and smoke that engulf us, she will rise as a beacon of hope and love, of strength and mercy.
Bless Brother McGrath for using his God-given talent in such an inspiring way. His ability to take sacred themes and make them accessible to everyone is awe-inspiring.
There's a petition making its way around social media seeking to revoke a ban barring homosexual men from donating blood.
I've seen several impassioned messages accompanying the re-posting of this petition in support of revoking the ban. However, something struck me about these impassioned pleas to revoke the ban and "restore to gay men their dignity."
None of them - NOT ONE - made an appeal using facts. Each and every posting was geared to strike at the emotional / psychological heart of the reader. In doing a bit of digging, I realized why.
Should anyone use factual evidence to support their desire to revoke this ban, they'd come up short - severely short. The FDA regulations are incredibly clear about the risk factors present when blood from gay men is used. They didn't just decide "We think gay men have cooties so no donations from them!"
Instead, they acknowledged that gay men have an extraordinarily high rate of infection - exponentially higher than any other sampling of the population. Given there is no real test for HIV that can definitively test if someone has it or not in the early stages (called a "window period" after exposure), the gamble is simply not worth the lives of others. Even with earlier tests, it takes between 1-3 months to test positive.
In other words, the FDA believes that the need for gay men to feel validation through blood donation DOES NOT outweigh the risk they collectively present to the general population. Given that gay men make up such a tiny portion of our population, the public at large shouldn't be forced to play Russian Roulette with a transfusion simply so they can have another avenue to feel justified in their lifestyle.
We currently have enough donors who fit regulation guidelines. Why in the world would we seek to change protective regulations that were created based on solid science? These impassioned pleas for a restoration of dignity are sad.
I mean that. They make me sad.
Do sexually active gay men see their own self-worth as being found solely at the end of a syringe? Do they truly believe they hold no worth outside of their ability to strap a rubber band around their arm while squeezing a tension ball?
That's sad. That's really, really sad.
They should recognize their own self-worth through their humanity. They need no more validation than that which their humanity affords. Men do not have less dignity because they are unable to bear children just as sexually active gay men do not have less dignity because they pose a higher risk for blood donation.
A common argument in favor of repealing the ban is the fact that tainting can happen in other ways - needle sharing, heterosexual sex with infected partners, etc. Several posters posted about an episode of The Golden Girls which raised this same point.
While tainting can happen in other ways, the risk in those areas is quantifiably lower than in cases where blood from active homosexual men is used.
This has nothing to do with discrimination or lack of dignity - this has everything to do with the HIV epidemic that spread like wildfire through (and continues to ravage at an exponentially higher rate) the sexually active gay male community.
If and when our medical savvy gets to the point where we can screen more quickly and efficiently, by all means, feel free to repeal the ban. We haven't reached that point yet, so there is NO SCIENTIFIC REASON to alter the ban.
I'm sorry, but the hurt feelings of a few people (because again, contrary to what the media force feeds everyone, homosexuals make up only a tiny portion of the general population) don't justify the heartbreak their blood potentially poses to people who could just as easily rely on blood we've already amassed through approved donors.
The emotional arguments are impassioned and moving, but they simply do not stand up to logical scrutiny. This doesn't make me a bigot, this doesn't make me a homophobe, this doesn't make me heartless. I recognize the emotions of gay men who feel their status is somehow diminished by their inability to participate in a charitable activity, but I also recognize the valid reasons the FDA has for putting the ban into effect to begin with. I recognize the fear of those who rely on blood donations. In truth, the latter two trump the former.
It's not worth the risk.
And again - gay men shouldn't be basing their worth on what they can or cannot do. No one should. Everyone has inherent worth in the eyes of God. Everyone.
So my Veils on Parade entry got picked up again and sparked a discussion in our women's group about how expensive veiling can be.
Some women felt that veiling, though a lovely idea, was off-putting because of how expensive they can be. That's a fair point. Not everyone has $40 to spend on a veil. However, for those who feel the call and aren't able to stretch the budget for high-end lace, there are plenty of colorful, beautiful and wallet-friendly options. I put together a few below.
And if all else fails, maybe local ladies can get together, pool resources and host veil swaps or veil sharing circles! If anyone's in S. Jersey, I'd be more than happy to open my closet to you! :)
Vincent and I spent the weekend down the shore with family and friends. Usually we hang out as a group on the beach, but due to the rain, our neighbors ended up coming over to our house and my in-laws hosted an impromptu barbecue.
It was a blast. Our neighbors, Pete and Daisy, have two little girls named Jasmine and Lily. Jasmine is Alliya's age, so the two of them are best buddies. Lily is only two, so she and Vincent are a little pair. The four of them play well together, too, but they definitely tend to break up into two distinct groups.
Anyhow, when my FIL brought Jasmine over in the morning to give Pete and Daisy a break, Vincent was angry that Lily hadn't come, too. He didn't understand why she needed to nap when she should've been having fun with him. Later, when Pete showed up (also without Lily), Vincent didn't even bother greeting him. He demanded to know why he dared to come over without bringing his "best friend in the whole wide world."
Finally, Lily woke up from her nap and Daisy brought her over to join the rest of us. Vincent was in his glories. He jumped off the couch, rushed over to her and gave her a giant hug. "LILY!" he cried. "We gotta play!"
This is what the two of them look like for the rest of the time they're together:
Vincent leading her by the hand everywhere, checking to make sure she's got everything she needs (or does everything she's supposed to do before she gets a snack - ha). They also both tend to scramble if you try to sneak a picture of them being cute together. Rascals.
Later on in the day, Lily settled into my FIL's lap. She calls him "Uncle John" and she knows she's got him wrapped around her adorable little finger! Anyway, it was so sweet to see how they were interacting together. I snapped this picture of her giving me a toothy grin:
Vince is right behind her with his back turned, but Lord, that kid won't let Lily out of his sight for very long. It's so cute!
I admit, however, that I got a bit wallow-y when I wondered what it'd be like for Myla to be sitting in his lap. Vince is such a good big brother to Lily (and his other little cousins), I feel sad that he didn't get the chance to interact with Myla the same way.
I pushed those thoughts out of my mind until later that evening when we took the kids out for ice cream. Again Lily was sitting on my FIL's lap while I had Jasmine, Alliya and Vince huddled up in front of me. Lily was successfully convincing my FIL to hand over all of his ice cream to her, and he was happily obliging, looking like the proudest, happiest person in the universe.
It made me sad to think that we'd never provide him with the grandchildren he takes such delight in. I felt guilty... like I'd failed something on an intrinsic level. He wasn't doing anything to accuse me or even make me feel badly. He likely didn't even notice I was there watching him enjoy Lily's manipulations for ice cream. It was my own brokenness projected and magnified by my intense longing for not only Myla, but all the children I've envisioned and subsequently been denied. I understood that, but it didn't lessen my feelings of inadequacy, failure and sadness.
I didn't want to further my upset, so I turned away and imagined myself making a fist and physically punching back the knot in my throat until I could breathe without crying.
Sorry if I sound miserable or depressed. I'm not. I'm certainly sad now and again when this sort of situation arises, but I'm trying to be honest with how this sort of thing affects my daily life. Myla is always in my thoughts, so my imagination sometimes puts her into situations like this. Is it logical? Probably not. Then again, I think it's human to always wonder "What if?"
In this situation, it's obviously a moot point, but I guess we're so used to exercising our God-given gift of creativity that we can't help ourselves sometimes.
Losing a child (or even the opportunity for children) is a terrible cross. It's hard for folks who haven't been in this situation to understand how all-encompassing it is. I don't write these things to remind people of my struggle, but I do write to remind folks that this struggle is real and it's daily (not just for me, but for the many, MANY other men and women who struggle with this sort of cross).
Tread softly and with much, much compassion, because even when we're trying our best to look past our sorrow to count our blessings, we can't help but hear echos of our indignant humanity insisting "What if?"
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