Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering September 11th

Five years ago our nation lost what little was left of its innocence. Wives lost husbands, husbands lost wives, parents lost children, children lost moms and dads and grandparents, aunts and uncles. The magnitude of the loss is great on so many levels. It is difficult to put into words, even for a writer used to writing about tough life stuff like death and trauma. We all lost something precious on that day.

As the twin towers crashed to the earth that terrible day in NYC, we watched history unfold in horror and disbelief. I remember thinking that up until that event my worst nightmare as a mother was wondering if someone would manage to get my son and his wheelchair out of the building to safety in the event of another tragic school shooting. That was, and still is today, a real concern today for many families, another unfathomable horror, one born on American shores.

But the increasingly thin line that now separates sane acts from the horrific crossed over to a whole new degree on 9/11. None of us will ever again be quite so lighthearted, so seemingly invincible, not even in our laziest moments of slumber. You don't get over such senseless, hate-filled acts ever. Somehow we do adjust, rewiring our wounded psyches and hearts and egos enough to continue about our daily lives in the best way that we can, given the ever-present and often unseen enemy. At times, it feels like we are all actors in a dark play, trying to pretend that everything around us is normal, a world filled only with beauty and wonder and people chasing big American dreams. But the world is no longer that innocent, and neither are we. And we never again will be. When will we wake up to that reality?

Now more than ever, it is crucial that our acts of goodness, kindness, tolerace and acceptance of differences build up steam and momentum; we must not retreat from being humane, from fighting hatred and injustice. We need to challenge our young people to better understand the critical role they play in impacting the world in more positive ways, in building the nation's future foundation, one that has nothing to do with fame and celebrity and materialism and self gratification, Nick and Jessica, or overpriced designer handbags.

We can start our work right now by being better models for our kids, fully present in their lives, teaching them the skills they need in order to make a difference in this crazy world, teaching them to give back to others and to model respect and tolerance for the value of the many world cultures that co exist with ours, including on our own shores. By helping empower our youth to understand that they CAN be part of the solution to such world madness, we offer the world, and ourselves, hope for a better future. We can't put this world back on course for very long without them. It is their inheritance.

While the media clearly feeds our belief that the world is indeed a frightening place with danger lurking around every single corner, the reality is that there is much good in the world. We just don't run tag lines across the bottom on CNN non stop for such acts. But there are people risking their lives every day for our freedom, neighbors watching out for neighbors, parents helping the most challenged children have better lives, adults becoming mentors. Trees still stand, flowers still bloom, cats still purr, children still laugh, the seasons still change, the surf still pounds the shoreline. We still go on, day by day. Wounded, limping at times, still holding our heads high, boldly, even menacing at times to others. We are a tough, kind hearted bunch.

Terrorists did not kill our spirit, our resolve, our fight, our heart, our democracy on September 11th, 2001. Did they make us take notice? Without a doubt. Did they take the wind out of our sails? Perhaps for a bit. But evil can never truly triumph over good. And the actions of a few cannot compete fully with the commitment of the masses to love, move forward and take care of one another. Hated is a powerful weapon. Love is more powerful.

As a nation we do need to awaken, to check our arrogance. We have a bad habit of forgetting the trials of the rest of the world as we enjoy the freedom and materialism our country affords. We behave as if we are superior to all others on planet earth. We're not. We are all human, too, with human failings and free will, regardless of the constraints placed upon us. We have much work to do on our own shores to make the world a better place. Each one of us should take the time to do a gut check on ourselves- how are we spending our gifts, talents, resources? Do we take time to pay attention to what's going on in the world- to help make a difference in our own hurting backyards? Are we rasing our children to be good citizens who give back?

September 11th reminded us that we are all human and we do depend upon one another to survive in some way. No one is immune to suffering, to loss, to trauma. The scale of this event makes it tougher to ignore those facts, as it should.

Today, a call has gone out for a moment of silence and reflection, a time to remember those whose lives were cut short in this unspeakable act of hatred and senseless violence. I believe we should take time for silence every single day to see where we are in our own lives and see where we are headed with our personal decisions and actions. We need to examine how we each own a part of the solution to peace and acceptance that this world so desperately needs. When will we finally figure out that the time for real action is now?

So while the strains of the National Anthem and God Bless America are repeated over and over today, I hope you take the time to really listen, to think about what this word and music really means and feel it, don't just listen casually as you return emails, run the kids to soccer practice, cook dinner or feed the cat. September 11th really happened, and we cannot forget what that means to all of us or to our children's futures.

One person can make a difference, for good or evil. I have seen it time and again. The only thing that stops real freedom and allows evil to triumph, even if only for a few seconds, is our inaction, our laziness, our self centeredness. We can andmust make better decisions. It's time for us to make some tough personal choices that impact our nation and our world in more positive ways, for the sake of our children.

The world needs healing and we can choose to be part of the necessary healing. I hope that you choose well.

God bless America, and every single one of us, too.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Walking Free

I believe strongly that one of the greatest gifts that any family can give their children, especially those with special needs, is the gift of a healthy mom and dad with good coping skills. And that comes from pursuing fitness on a regular basis.

I know how tough it can be to fit such activities into your busy, overscheduled and challenging lives. I also know the benefits outweigh any excuses you can conjure up not to do it. Parenting a child with a disabilty can feel like running a marathon without the proper training- the stressses are far too real, sometimes intense, and they take a toll on your body, mind and soul. That makes you at increased risk for burn out, something regular fitness can help prevent. I know.

Throughout my son's short life, we worked hard to stay physically fit, and we included Eric in that fitness plan to ensure that our lack of childcare or the ability to get to a gym (or afford one) did not interfer with our good intentions. It was worth every ounce of effort.

Physical fitness can save your life in more ways than one.

To further inspire you, I am sharing a piece I wrote about the value of physical fitness and parenting a child with special needs a few years ago before Eric's death in 2003 at age 12. To learn more about Eric, visit or get my book Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations.

Now read on, then get your own bodies moving!


It was the kind of cold and snowy Midwestern morning when personal motivation is tough to come by. As I burrowed deeply into a cozy cocoon of toasty blankets, my fat Siamese cat purred contentedly at my feet. I echoed her gentle sigh of complete contentment. In this perfect life moment, I harbored no desire to get out of bed, lace up my shoes and go walking. Nada. Zip. None.

Still, I released a loud groan of acceptance and propelled my body over the edge of the bed anyway, then sat wiping heavy winter sleep from my eyes. My furry friend blinked at me sleepily as only cats can do, enticing me back to bed. The only thing that prevented me from diving back under those still warm covers was knowing that I couldn’t disappoint my walking buddy. We’d covered too much important ground together.

My walking partner is my ten-year-old son, Eric, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. His spotless Nike shoes have never met pavement. But his disability doesn’t prevent us from meeting our family’s fitness goals together. Eric loves taking daily walks and running with his father. Our son has accepted the important role of fitness coach,coaxing us up steep hills and encouraging us to challenge our pace. In an interesting role reversal, Eric has become the taskmaster!

On this particular November morning, Eric and I cautiously tested the slippery pavement at the beginning of our familiar four-mile course. The frosty air quickly painted his cheeks and gentle snowflakes tickled his nose, causing him to giggle. As Eric breathed in the clear, crisp air that helps improve his health, my body and soul began healing, too.

In 1990, Eric’s traumatic birth dramatically altered the predictable course of our lives. My husband had run several marathons, including Pike’s Peak in Colorado. I’d embraced walking, a fitness activity with its roots deep in my childhood.

As a young girl,I’d felt elation whenever my shoes hit the deserted country roads filled with stones and gravel. The healing sounds of birds and the laughter of children playing hide and seek in tall cornfields nearby, captivated me. I can still hear the loud, crunching sound of pebbles as they lodged in the well-worn tread of my tennis shoes. I savored sweet berries from roadside bushes, and carefully put my hand through a barbed wire fence to pet the wild horse and donkey that I strongly believed had been denied any real freedom.

Even as a child, I loved to champion the cause of others, especially the apparent underdog, including animals.

During those long, leisurely walks, I treasured both solitude and personal freedom. I was hooked on walking. It was a simpler time in my life. As the years went by, walking helped me sort through teenage angst and survive the traumatic breakup of my first true love. As I increased my mileage, I dreamed of exotic lands that I would one day visit. The more ground I covered, the bigger my dreams became.

I had no idea how such simple acts would prepare me for my future challenges.

In the months following Eric’s birth, the reality of his disability sank in slowly. His life-threatening illnesses and repeat hospitalizations proved exhausting. I was at risk of losing perspective. So as in childhood, I hit the pavement to escape my tremendous responsibilities and reclaim my sanity, if only briefly. Walking allowed me to return home and boldly face the next parenting challenge. Without its enormous benefits, I could not meet the daily physical, emotional, and spiritual demands required to parent both my children well. Such a simple act resulted in lasting benefits.

Walking has become my friend, my confidant and my counselor. It’s allowed me to raise my son more normally, in light of his disability, improving the lives of everyone in our family. The first time my husband and I took a walk with Eric, his heightened sensitivity to light, sound and cold forced us to return home. But those first important steps represented a new beginning. We continued to walk, losing pounds and relieving stress, while regaining valuable perspective and enjoying priceless family moments.

Walking has given our son an increased sense of belonging.

Today, Eric is a local celebrity and serves as an example that fitness is important for everyone, including the disabled. After seeing my son in his special-need’s jogger that allows him to move more easily through snow and sand and rough terrain, people feel freer to approach us and ask about Eric’s needs. As a family, we’ve participated in several races, including the annual eight-mile walk around Mackinac Island, a heavenly family oasis free of motor vehicles located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

It was there that Eric proudly received his first medal, the only person in more than one thousand entrants to enjoy the beauty of the Island race from a wheelchair. As we placed the medal around his neck, Eric beamed, sharing the enchanting smile that has stolen many hearts during the past decade.

There were times when it would have been easier for us to stay indoors, hiding our son and our fate from the world. We could easily have sacrificed our health and become a family in crisis, overweight and overwhelmed, even self medicating by using any number of potentially addicting and dangerous drugs of choice, including food, alcohol or worse. We have always refused to take that road, yet I now hold a greater understanding and sensitivity of how someone can make such choices to cope...

By choosing to include Eric in our fitness plans, we’ve claimed a richer, healthier existence, one that has helped heal our once grieving hearts. During those walks, everything about our life seems more normal. Such priceless gifts allow me to drag my still sleepy self out of bed on a cold, snowy Midwestern morning, while my lazy cat purrs loudly, enticing me back to bed.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

ADHD & Yoga

I understand far too well the excessive time demands that face most families of children with special needs. So I'm committed to doing my best to bring to your attention any timely, helpful and promising information that I run across regarding treatment options for a wide range of disabilities.

Here's one brief sample.

This week, I discovered an interesting blurb in YOGA JOURNAL ( I admit that I love yoga and have practiced it on/off for many years (before it was cool to do so), but I'll save that journey for another day's blog... The information that I uncovered this week is worth sharing with those of you who face the daily challenges of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/ADHD.

Written by Jenny Andrews, the piece reports that a 2006 German study found that kids taking drugs for ADHD may benefit significantly from yoga practice. These gains include helping children to develop increased powers of concentration- an important consideration with another school year just beginning. In my book, anything that may help children with special needs achieve greater educational/life success is worthy of further investigation.

I believe that yoga practice can be beneficial for a wide range of special needs, but I also believe that each individual needs to do their own research and decide if a particular resource option is right for their own child and family. To learn more about the benefits of yoga and ADHD, visit and be sure to let me know what you think by emailing me at Here's the link to the Andrews article: Yoga and ADHD.

I never get tired of hearing your success stories... they fuel me on.