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Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,

it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

Albert Einstein

It’s Saturday again, and for many of us, that means cleaning day. The work week is over, Sunday looms near with its promise of reading the newspaper in bed, a big, Sunday dinner, church, perhaps a family outing. But on Saturday, we clean.

I find myself reflecting on my life, past and present, as I work my way through my home, and as I mop and sweep, dust and scrub, my mind goes to other things besides the purely physical effort of making a home – a home.

I’ve chosen a quote from Einstein because its philosophy has been the fulcrum of my life. First, growing up, being told that I couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that, was not so smart, pretty, and later as I raised my son and told him that he is intelligent, handsome, kind, sweet and everything a young man should be. I’m actually thankful for my childhood. It taught me how not to treat my son.

Being told that you are unworthy, stupid, unqualified will cause you to inadvertently fulfill the expectations of those who tell you so, whether they be parents, friends, teachers, bosses or whomever. Self-fulfilling prophecy can be devastating, as it seemingly reinforces that which has been told to you – unless it’s positive. Then the sky is the limit.

Mirroring, a kissing cousin to self-fulfilling prophesy, works the same way. As an example: you’re walking down the street and you see someone you know. You call out their name, they turn around and they recognize you. What does that first look on their face tell you? Are you sorry that you called out their name, or are you pleased with their look of pleasure as recognition sets in? That is mirroring.

So I thought I’d just put this out there today as I take a short break from cleaning bathrooms and mopping floors. It’s something to ponder, to turn over in our minds as concerns our relationships with those we know and love.

***

I am your mirror. When you look into my eyes,
you see how beautiful you are.
When you enter a room, my heart lifts up to meet you;
a smile of greeting lights me up from within.
I am your mirror. When you look into my eyes,
you see love, as my soul embraces yours,
revealing to you just how wonderful you are:
my friend, my heart, my son.

©2014 Debra Shiveley Welch

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I’ve been gone for a while.  Late in 2008 I began work on Cedar Woman, a book about a woman of the Lakota Souix who opens the first high end American Indian restaurant in Central Ohio.  I enjoyed the writing.  In fact, literarily speaking, it’s the best time I’ve ever had.  Written with the cooperation of my adopted sister, Spotted Eagle Horse, it indeed became an adventure.

So here we are in 2012.  Cedar Woman has just been named Best Native American Fiction of 2011 by Books and Authors, I’ve become a partner in the publishing house that has been publishing my works since 2005 – I just turned 59 – and life is good!

I intend to be back and posting here frequently.  I will write about my works, about life with my husband and adopted son, Christopher, the joy of my life, and whatever you want to hear about.  Just let me know.

It’s the year of the dragon – my year! So let’s rock n’ roll!

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Governor Strickland,

With your proposal of Sub. H.B. 1, you have lost my vote.  I was waiting to see if you were listening to your fellow citizens, but you held that rally Friday and I realized that you are deaf to what we want, what we need.

Parents of children in charter schools throughout Ohio are uniting and we are coming to the same conclusion and the same decision.

So, 88,000 plus students:  each has grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and some even have siblings and friends of voting age, not to mention friends of their family. Many of the children affected will be voting by the time you run for office again.  Think about it.

What you have proposed is, in my opinion, and in the opinion of these hundreds of thousands of voters who support charter schools, a miscarriage of power.

Charter Schools were set up to offer an alternative to the public school system – which many parents, like me, see as FAILING our children. Some of these children will not be accepted into any private school, so home schooling is the only option left – and isolation.  The majority of the students affected by Sub. H.B.1 come from low-economic families. They cannot home school, as they need to work full-time to support their families.

My son has nowhere else to go.  In public school and the private school we later sent him to, he was bullied, sometimes by some ignorant teacher.  No one would work with him and help him overcome his learning differences.  He was stuck in a corner, given no help and would cry when he had to go to school to face the bullies – to be made to feel inadequate by the teacher.   Thankfully, Chris’ neuropsychologist suggested, “Send him to The Graham School.  He’ll blossom there.”  He was right.  My son is happy, loves school and is learning.  Not only is he learning, he is achieving his dreams.  He is getting good grades, he is part of a school-sponsored guitar club, is a member of a band, and he has become a twice traditionally published author.  He currently works with Meals on Wheels, has helped to build a community garden and is looking forward to attending a culinary institute.

You want to take this away from him.  I want to know why!  I want to know why you think it is appropriate to penalize children, our future leaders, by taking away the schools where they are finally thriving.  I want to know why the special needs kids are the ones to be targeted, for many of these students are special needs. I want to know what alternatives you have planned.  Are you going to help me find a school that will, not only accept my son, but respect him as Graham does?  I want to know how you are going to help my son succeed as he enters his adult years without an education, because you took it away.  I want to know if you will find my son a job where he can make a living wage, marry, and raise and provide for a family.  And I want to know how in Heaven’s name you could even begin to think that this is appropriate.

My son is a citizen.  By the time you are ready to run for office again, he and his friends and thousands of these kids will be voters.  He is just as valuable and important as you are, and he, just by himself, is worth every dime that you are trying to cut.  What are YOU going to do for my son when his last option for a high school education is taken away?

What are you going to do for the family who has more than one child in charter schools?  Special needs children who, like my son, have no options.  Are you going to allow them to be swallowed up and forgotten?  You are supposed to be our leader, not our enemy.

I have seen many of my friends cut their household budgets, but I guarantee you, they did not take from their children!  They have cut out necessities.  I know of one couple that sold their house to provide an education for their children, one father took a third job; none of them have taken from our future citizens.  We work, we plan, and we sweat for our kids, only to be stymied by our governor, a man that we are supposed to be able to trust and look to for leadership.

One of the many things I have learned in life, is that when you propose a change, you outline options for problems that will arise from that change.  You have done nothing.

Let’s say that these 88,000 plus children lose their schools.  Where are they supposed to go?  Back into the public school system?  That would be a very interesting phenomenon to witness.  I can picture a veritable “flood” of humanity into schools that already claim that they cannot service the children they already have: schools that have failed the very children, which would now be bereft of schools where they were successful.  What are you going to do about this?  Yet another hole in your proposal.

Like most parents, I don’t want anyone to hurt my child.  What you are doing will hurt him.  Shame on you.

To the reader:  if you live in Ohio, please write to your senator and demand that Sub H.B. 1 be defeated in the senate.

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“Your son is incapable of learning.”

I sat for a minute, looking at the counselor who had requested the meeting, trying to decide if I had heard her correctly.  I felt my left hand press against my pounding heart.

“Did you say, ‘incapable of learning?’”  I queried.  “Yes,” she responded, and proceeded to mouth paragraphs of jargon, which my confused brain was incapable of comprehending let alone translating.

Stupefied, near panic, I fought for coherent thought.  Slowly, however, a heat began to rise from my trip-hammering heart and to suffuse my face.  Rage replaced terror.

“Incapable of learning?” I cried!  “Incapable?” I repeated loudly.  “How can you say that?  How can you doom a child of three years of age to that kind of diagnoses?  He taught himself the alphabet at two!  How can you say that?”  I raged.

I have to admit that there were times when I believed I was either incapable of understanding what was going on in my son’s little head or reluctant to admit that there was a problem, but this I knew: Chris could learn.  He had indeed taught himself the alphabet.  I had purchased a wooden alphabet puzzle in lower case letters.  Christopher would bring them up to me, one-by-one, and I would say, for instance, “a – apple.”  It didn’t take me long to realize that he was actually learning the alphabet.

Of course, I realize that I was teaching him.  But, the “game” was initiated by Chris, and it demonstrated a desire on his part to know, a wish to learn.  This initiation on his part was indeed a form of self-teaching.  Chris made the move.  Chris wanted to know.

Incapable of learning!  As my mother used to say, “Bull Hockey!”  I thought of my friend Sue and her daughter Gretchen.  Born with Williams Syndrome, Gretchen was an adorable, pixyish young woman with a sweetness of soul that made her a joy to know.  At birth, Sue was told that Gretchen would never be able to dress, feed, or take care of herself.  Sue had refused to believe it, and proceeded to patiently teach her daughter as she would any child.  The end result was a charming young woman, who admittedly was mentally challenged, but was happy, had friends, and held down a full time job, far from the diagnosis her mother was given at the time of Gretchen’s birth.

“Where are the people who know where the people are?”

I removed Chris from the school and entered him into a church-run day care center; Chris began to show progress.  It was in Pre-Kindergarten that an inability to focus caused his teachers to mention the possibility of Central Auditory Processing Disorder.  CAPD affects the ability to process what you hear.  I set up an appointment immediately to have him tested.  The results were negative.  Chris passed with flying colors.

Next came testing for Attention Deficit Disorder.  Although diagnosed with ADD, none of the medications, covering everything from Adderall to Welbuterin, had any affect whatsoever.

More years passed and still we tried to understand Chris’ particular issues.  Aspberger’s was mentioned as well as epilepsy.  We didn’t know where to turn until, finally, an educator suggested we take Chris to a neurological psychologist.  Chris was diagnosed with ADD, Dysgraphia, Working Memory Deficit and Executive Function Deficit.

Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder, which interferes with the fine motor skills needed in the physical act of writing.  For instance, when Chris puts pen or pencil to paper, some letters will “float”: they will be too high or too low, and his penmanship is generally too large or too small, and very difficult to read.  In addition, because it is so difficult, Chris cannot write his thoughts with as much fluidity as he can when dictating or typing.

He also confuses some words, using “tell” instead of “ask,” and “never” instead of “ever,” and has trouble tying his shoes.

Working Memory Deficit affects short-term memory, and Executive Function Deficit can manifest in problems with test taking.

At last, we had a diagnosis.  It was not easy to accept, but coping strategies could be taught to help Chris learn, and that was the key word!  Learn!  Yes, he would learn!

Learning Differences – Not Learning Disabilities

Christopher has worked hard to overcome his learning differences – yes, differences.  It isn’t
that he is not able to learn, he simply learns differently.

We have worked with our son by being active in his school work, at school and at home.  When necessary, tutors are hired.

Chris plays guitar and is now the proud owner of an acoustic, six string electric and a bass guitar.  He plays excellently after a mere eight months of lessons.  He has asked for a mandolin and wants to take piano lessons as well.

Chris is an excellent swimmer, gardener, is becoming an accomplished cook and is working with me on a cookbook.

This year, Chris finished the ninth grade with glowing reports!   Not one teacher referenced focusing problems.  A master speller and a budding essayist, Chris has received excellent grades in his written assignments, which are typed.

As I finish this article, I am awaiting an email from his publisher as to when his second book will be released.  Yes, my boy who was diagnosed as “incapable of learning” is a twice traditionally published author.

I think back and can’t help but send out a thank you prayer to my friend Sue, whose example helped me to help my son.  She taught me to listen to my heart, to believe in my son and his abilities, and to trust in his desire to learn and to grow.

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If you want to be a parent, you are a candidate for adoption.

It is a natural desire to wish to pro-create. Every living thing on earth replicates and creates young, whether it is a bird or a blade of grass. It is also natural to want to protect those who are already here.

Most of us have seen pictures or heard stories of a farm pig who suckles orphaned kittens, or the dog who allows an orphaned baby squirrel to suck. Then there is the elephant who, upon the death of a mother, will take the dead mother’s calf to herself to nurse. Adoption is a completely natural part of life and exists throughout the animal kingdom.

Some of us are not able to conceive or to give birth. The desire for children is strong, which is also a natural state of being. So, it would only be normal to open one’s arms and home to a child in need of a family.

I once had a friend say to me that she was afraid to adopt because she felt that the child would not be like her own because she did not carry it. I paused for a second and then replied, “I feel very sorry for your husband, then.” She looked at me with surprise and asked, “Why?” “Well,” I answered, “he did not carry your daughter. He didn’t feel her growing inside of his womb. So, I guess she must not feel like his child.” She understood.

The moment you hold your child in your arms, it doesn’t matter if you gave birth or not. What matters is that here is a new life, which is dependent upon you to survive. Here is a sweet baby, which will look to you for the rest of his or her life for love, guidance, support. Here is your child.

Many people want to adopt, but feel that they can’t afford it. There are children languishing in foster homes or orphanages praying, yearning for a family, for a home. They are considered special needs because they either have a physical problem, like my son who was born with cleft lip and palate, or are part of a sibling group, or are of mixed race or are older. Most states do not charge any fees for the adoption of these very special children. If therapies or surgeries are needed, the county will usually pay for them.

So, if you’ve spent all of your youth climbing that corporate ladder and don’t have time for an infant, or you have a good home, but not enough money to cover adoption fees, special needs adoption is a perfect way to build a loving, close family.

Whether you choose domestic, international or special needs adoption, be prepared for the greatest love of your life!

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My son came home at seven-days-of age.  Fifteen years later, I am still in Nursery Nirvana.  From the moment I first held him in my arms, I have felt a deep pride in him and how he came to be my son – and he knows it.

We have always discussed adoption naturally and openly, and with great joy.  I call him my Very Special Child and even wrote a book by that title for him.  He is giving a copy of it today as a present to a young girl who is also adopted, because he is proud of it and is proud to share his specialness with others.

In discussing your child’s adoption openly, just like you would discuss your child’s birth had you carried him or her, you make it a common every day thing: I have two eyes, two ears, a nose, I’m adopted, I’m a boy, I live in Ohio….no biggy.  On the other hand, by hiding it, you make it seem like something to be ashamed of, something to push to the back of the closet, something that you wish had never happened.

More importantly, you are basing your entire relationship on a lie – a lie of omission.  How is your child going to trust you in any other area of life if you have deceived them about the very core of your relationship?

I have a cousin who was adopted and his parents never told him.  He found out on his own at age fourteen.  He ran away from home and refused to speak to his parents.  They reconciled, after a fashion, but their relationship was damaged irrevocably.  My cousin never trusted his parents again.

I say speak of adoption to your child.  Show them the pride you have in choosing them out of all of the other children in the world.  Encourage them to adopt when they decide to have children.  Tell them openly about waiting for them, praying for them and that glorious moment when you finally got THE call.  My son knows the story backwards and forwards and loves to tell it to others.  When he speaks of it, his face lights up and he smiles.  He even wrote a book about it which is coming out soon.  Here is a quote from it which I think clearly makes my case:

From Just Chris by Christopher Shiveley Welch

I am adopted.  That feels good.  I like being adopted.  If it weren’t for my parents, I don’t know what I’d be like.  They are here for me.  My mom and dad tell me that I am beautiful, so I believe that I am.  They tell me I’m a good kid, so I accept that I am.  They tell me that I’m loved, so I know that I am.

I have learning differences.  Mom says I am not learning disabled, I just learn differently, and that’s okay.  I don’t mind having differences.  I just want to learn.

Mom says that a child sees themselves in their parent’s eyes.  I want to put this poem of my mom’s in here:

I am your mirror.  When you look into my eyes,
you see how beautiful you are.
When you enter a room, my heart lifts up to meet you;
a smile of greeting lights me up from within.

I am your mirror.  When you look into my eyes,
you see love, as my soul embraces yours,
revealing to you just how wonderful you are:
my friend, my heart, my son.

From “Mirroring” [1] 

Mom uses this poem a lot in her interviews.  She tells people about adopting special needs kids and that makes me feel good.  I know she is so happy that she adopted me and she just wants people to know how it can make them happy too.   


[1] Son of My Soul – The Adoption of Christopher, Debra Shiveley Welch, Saga Books, page 118

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Right now I want to write about the courage of the human spirit. In particular, the spirit locked within the adolescent breast of my thirteen-year-old son.

Right now I want to write about his witness, about his goodness, about his compassion.

Last night my son stepped into the icy waters of an ice-rimed Ohio lake, in an attempt to save a soul. As gray eyes locked with brown, he watched the light dim from the frightened orbs of another being, yet continued to fight to bring the dying form to shore.

Gently he laid the still body upon frost-covered ground, his heart filled with love for the hapless soul who had minutes earlier breathed in the chill snow-scented air of Central Ohio. Then my son wept.

To some it would have seemed trivial, even comical, and they would have laughed. They would have ridiculed someone who would step into frigid waters to save a wild animal, who would have fought to save a nothing – a pest; who would have struggled to save a rabbit that had just happened to get in the way of a dog bred to the chase…but not my son. He stayed with the tiny animal until someone could come to remove him. Gently stroking the wet fur, my son prayed to Creator to accept His child into His arms. Then my son came home to me, his mother, and wept some more.

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