Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lesson 121: Catch Some Fireflies

Happy weekend, Readers.  This one has blown in a bit blustery on this February Saturday.  We've gotten ourselves a long overdue blast of arctic wind, snow, and cold here in the Lake Erie region.  To help you combat the cold, Eloise suggests this:  pour yourselves a cup of hot coffee (preferably black) and sit back and watch this very heartwarming picture movie.  I made it at my daughter's beauty pageant last night at our local high school.

Our high school Debate Team sponsored the Ever So Lovely Pageant for the second year in a row.  Special girls with special needs were invited to show up for a night of feeling like a princess.  The girls donned their evening gowns and showcased their talents before a captivated crowd of friends and family.  Each girl was escorted by a dashing young man, offering a bent elbow to lead each one to their special time in the spotlight, center stage. Some girls sang.  Others danced.  One girl hula hooped.  Another read a poem.  The biggest surprise of the night was when a nonverbal beauty about my age told Valentine jokes via the voice on her communication board.  There was not one act better than another.  All were different and all were special---just like the girls. Therefore every one of these beauties took home a crown, a sash, and a bouquet of flowers last night.  But who were the real winners of the night?  We were.  We took with us much more.

The message the audience received last night was important; important enough to share it again with all of you who live too far away to have made the show.  Slovenia really is quite a journey from here.  Everyone watching learned this:  YOU ARE BLESSED.  You are blessed because YOU have the opportunity to know these girls and see what each has to offer.  We all are blessed just by knowing them.

Kaitlyn, the high school organizer of this pageant read a poem written by some anonymous person (who could have been me) titled Blessed Are Those.  I've seen many variations of this poem--one for the aged, one for the persecuted---but this one is aimed at the special needs population.  The poem is long, so I will extract a few stanzas that I like best:

  • (for the communication impaired) Blessed are those who stop and listen to my chatter. You may not understand me; but I love when people talk to me, for I long for companionship, too.
  • (for the physically handicapped) Blessed are those who take my hand and walk with me when the path is rough, for I easily stumble and grow weary. But thank you, too, for letting me walk alone when the path is smooth, for I must learn independence.
  • (for the illiterate) Blessed are those who take the time to tell me about special happenings, for unless you make special effort to inform me, I remain ignorant.
  • (for all disabilities)  Blessed are those who are not ashamed to be seen in public with me, for I did not choose to be born this way. It could have been you as well.
It could have been you......No one gets to pick their parents, where they are born, or under which circumstances we enter this life. None of us.  God chooses our path and this we must believe.   Remember that.  It's important.  That's why I underlined it.  It's what teachers do if they want someone to pay attention to something, so go back Students, and read those lines again.

Once, when Ellen was about four, she finally asked the question I was waiting for:  Mom---about Natalie and Erik......are there something.....?????....  I jumped in for the rescue.  I knew what was in her little mind and that she was too immature to have the vocabulary to match her thoughts and feelings.  So the conversation went a little like this:

"Yes, Ellen.  Natalie and Erik are a little different.  They communicate differently.  They have autism."

She pondered a minute.  "Do I have autism?"

"No, Ellen.  You don't."

"Does Jack?" she inquired.

"No, Jack does not have autism either," I replied.

After a moment's pause Ellen pondered aloud, "Well, why them and not us?"  

And for once, I was speechless.  I couldn't answer.  Teachers sometimes take this as a personal defeat when they cannot answer a question.  So to give her some sort of comfort and buy myself a little more time, I pulled her to me and hugged her tight.  I smoothed her curls and rocked her gently from side to side.  Finally, I pushed her back and held her shoulders strong at my arms length.  I looked into her deep brown eyes and said, "I can't answer that, but we have to believe that there is some reason."

I think this is what many in the audience last night may have been thinking.  Why them and not me?  I do also believe that is why we saw so many siblings, particularly sisters, standing next to the girls supporting them during their acts, up on stage next to them, but away from the spotlight.    You'll see a few snapshots of the sisters looking into one another's eyes for support.  

That gives me the opportunity to share my all time favorite picture of my girls.  It was taken several summers ago.  Ellen was the flower girl in my niece's wedding.  For the first time ever, Ellen had a fancy dress and was doing something special without her sister.  Natalie was upset.  "Natalie white dress?   Natalie go too?" she said.  

"No, Natalie," I interjected.  "Ellen is going to the rehearsal dinner.  They could only have one flower girl.  You stay with me."

Natalie looked at Ellen for affirmation.  Ellen, with her keen sense of always knowing just what to do, grabbed her sister and pressed their foreheads together, just like Natalie likes.  "Natalie, it's okay," soothed Ellen.  I like to call Ellen the horse whisperer in times like these, because Ellen has the power to calm a wild stallion.  Natalie listened.  And I just so happened to have my camera at the ready.  

Josh & Grace <3
I found this piece on my new favorite website, pinterest.  It is a photo story, told in note cards.  It is the story of siblings Josh and Grace.  Josh appears to have Downs Syndrome and Grace is doing his talking.  Despite how blogger posts this when I upload it (I've been having formatting problems lately), read the photo story all the way through.  It's heartwarming.  

I love the part when Josh is described as being silly.  Natalie can be a real ball buster if you let her.  She has her father's personality and takes delight in pushing my buttons.  That is never more evident than in her song choice, Faith Hill's Fireflies.

Faith.  Oh, Faith.  It's my favorite word.  I like how it looks.  I like how it sounds when you say it.  I like what it means.  And it just so happens to be the name of the woman who married my handsome cowboy Tim McGraw.  Drat.  

I know I have referred to Faith Hill on this blog as Public Enemy #1, but in all honesty I do admire her.  She's a great singer and I actually liked her music long before I fell in love with Tim McGraw.  But it's always fun to poke fun at someone for a little comedic literary license (I don't like my blog posts to be TOO serious).  

In fact, I even broke down and bought a few People magazines with her on the cover like this:  

And this:  

The article inside this one got me all the more irritated.  I found out Faith is one inch TALLER than me and WEIGHS 20 pounds less.  She's a perfect size 6, she's beautiful, she can sing, she's rich, AND she's married to someone who sings her love songs.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

It's just when I start mentally slumming it and sayings like "life is not fair" run through my mind------record scratch-------look to the left.  Life is not fair?   I beg to differ.  Our lives are blessed.  

When I talked to Natalie a month ago about choosing a song for her pageant, we went through her running list of favorites:  Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus.  "Hey Natalie, what about Carrie Underwood's There's a Place for Us?  How about that one?"

"No."  (smirk)

"Ok," I replied.  Let's see if Taylor Swift has a new one.  Lots of girls like her."

"No."  (giggle)

"Here, let's see your iPod," I requested.  "Let's look through your song list and pick one you kind of already know so you can get better at singing it."

Giggle, giggle, backs up a couple of steps.  "No."

"Come on Natalie!" I yapped.  "Give me that iPod!  Quit fooling around!  I we got to get this done and I'm a busy mom and blah blah blah blah blah......."

Natalie was giggling and scrolling through her tunes with her pointer finger maneuvering that screen faster than a firefly on a hot night in July.  She handed me the iPod.  On the screen was Faith Hill.

"Faith Hill?"  

Giggle, giggle, cackle, laugh out loud.  "Faith Hill."

"You little turd!" I said, and started chasing her around the kitchen, each of us sliding in our socks across the linoleum floor.  

So yes, my verbally impaired daughter was bustin' my chops.  Brat.  Yes, special needs kids can be just as bratty as the rest of 'em.  But the song Fireflies was perfect.  Here are the lyrics:

Before you met me I was a fairy princess
I caught frogs and called them prince and made myself a queen
And before you knew me I'd traveled 'round the world
I slept in castles and fell in love because I was taught to dream

I found mayonnaise bottles and poked holes on top
To capture Tinker Bell
And they were just fireflies to the untrained eye
But I could always tell

I believe in fairy tales
And dreamer's dreams like bed sheet sails
And I believe in Peter Pan and miracles
Anything I can to get by and fireflies

I caught a few fireflies on Friday night.  I'd take them all home in a jar if I could.  To the untrained eye they do look like just bugs, but with a good education you can see that they are much more than that.  They are all little Tinkerbells.  Do you see them now, Readers?  

And as for that darn old beautiful Faith Hill.  She's on to me.  She knows I am after her man.  Looks like she called the press.  

Yeah, yeah.  I hear ya.  Can't help who you love though.

Love YOU all,

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