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Moves Like Jagger!

This post can be found on my new blog.


I’m lucky because my kids really don’t ask for much. They are very appreciative for what they have and rarely will I hear “can you buy me…”

So when they do ask for something I know they have given it thought and whatever it is they ask for holds meaning to them. One evening during dinner Arielle said, “you know, Matt Nathanson, Maroon 5 and Train are coming to Tampa and there are only accessible seats left.”

A week later we hopped in my car and drove to Tampa because this is Arielle’s senior year of high school and next year at this time I’ll be talking to her on the phone and not sitting next to her at the dinner table (sniff, sniff).

We had a blast! First Matt Nathanson came on stage.

He sings, Come on Get Higher.

Then Maroon 5 opened with, Moves Like Jagger. The girls screamed, the crowd roared and Adam Levine danced across the stage. They played one hit after the next with intense energy. I don’t know if Adam Levine has moves like Jagger. He certainly has incredible stage presence and I thought I saw a tatoo that read, mom. He gets points for that.

Both kids knew all the words to every Maroon 5 song. I sang each chorus. The security guard next to me gave me a thumbs up every time he recognized a song.

Maroon 5 left the stage at 9:45 pm. and that’s when I realized just how late we were going to get home. A huge cup of coffee was in my future. Suddenly the lights dimmed and the thundrous sounds of a locomotive echoed through the night air. Train! I leaned over and yelled to my kids that if they are ever in a band, the should call themselves Jet and have the sounds of a jet taking off in the beginning of every concert and landing at the end. I’m sure they enjoyed hearing my brilliant idea as Patrick Monahan began to sing.

It was obvious Patrick had years of experience on stage. He was a pro with amazing showmanship. He talked to the crowd and seemed to care about putting on a great show as much as playing incredible music. He brought lots of fans on stage to dance with him. During Marry Me he ran down the aisles high-fiving everyone. I waved, my kids reached out and slapped his hand. The security guy laughed when Arielle held up her palm and pointed to where she had touched him.

Before we left I asked Arielle to take a picture of the three of us. It’s a little close. Get ready to see lots-o-teeth.

Me and my babies. Spending time with them sure makes me happy.

Hurricane Charley

Two adults, two kids, four cats, two dogs and a mattress. This is where we hid from Charley.

It was August of 2004. Nine short months since the accident that paralyzed Arielle. School had begun and I had my first third grade class. I was sitting at Bob Evans eating dinner with Arielle and Kai when the waitress mentioned a hurricane. Hurricane? I was too busy with lesson plans and a class full of eight year olds. I didn’t have time to worry about a hurricane.

The next few days were all about Charley. Every time I turned on the radio or the television Charley’s name was being mentioned. He was quite popular. Charley was interrupting my life. My students couldn’t concentrate. Everyone was asking me if we were packing up and leaving town. My kids hoped school would be closed for at least a day, having never had the opportunity to experience snow days, they felt they deserved a hurricane day. When the schools closed, Arielle and Kai cheered. Life was put on hold to await Charley’s arrival.

Shelves at the grocery store were bare. Excitement was in the air. Everyone was discussing Charley.

Most of my friends were staying put so we decided to do the same. After all, Charley was going to be a category 3 storm on track to hit at least a hundred miles north of us. We believed it wouldn’t be that bad. Besides, I had my own zoo with four cats and two dogs. Where would we go? We covered the windows with sheets of wood, bought lots of water, batteries and snacks and waited.

The morning of August 13th, I woke and grabbed the video camera. I was going to get it all on tape. I remember standing on our balcony filming the trees blowing in the wind when I heard on the news that Charley had suddenly been upgraded to a category 4 hurricane and was expected to hit Punta Gorda a town very close to Cape Coral. It was too late to leave. We had no choice but to hope the house wouldn’t fall down around us or on us.

I remember the panic that overcame me. I went from being a little more excited than nervous to outright scared. I turned off the video camera and went into action. The news said to get a mattress to cover everyone. The four of us, with four cats, a cocker spaniel and a greyhound, all hid in a small area under our stairs with the mattress.

We listened to the wind scream and slam against our garage door. All of us quiet and calm. Slowly the howling died down and on the radio we heard that the eye of the storm was over us – they warned everyone to stay indoors. After a short time the wind picked up again and our garage door shook. We waited. Our cell phone rang. It was my friend checking on us. Everyone was fine at both houses.

Finally, they announced the storm had passed. We came out from under the stairs. I peeked through our sliding glass door to find a collapsed pool cage. Pieces of metal were strewn across our backyard and in our pool. Out front,  some of our siding and roof shingles were gone. Minor damage.

Our electricity was out for three very long, hot days. The neighborhood came together to collect supplies for people in Punta Gorda. It was actually the first time in four years that I had seen neighbors meeting and talking with one another. I remember driving to drop off the supplies and seeing  a boat lying ontop of a fallen billboard on the side of the road. Three days without electricity was nothing compared to the damage I witnessed on our short drive. Many living in trailers were homeless. Punta Gorda was hit hard.

My thoughts are with those up north preparing for Hurricane Irene. I have an idea of what you may be feeling. I would highly recommend having a battery operated radio nearby so you can follow the path of the storm and a fully charged cell phone along with all the other supplies like water and flashlights. Those with children, please make sure you keep them away from tempting water puddles after the hurricane has passed. There may be fallen power lines nearby.

Stay safe.

An Ending, A Beginning – A Mother’s Tears

I warned him. I told him not to tease my friends. Their first-borns are leaving for college in a few days. Did he listen to me? Of course not. “So when do we break out the slideshow of J’s birth through teen years?” Yep, that’s what my husband said. The reply (with me yelling in the background… “I told you to be nice!”) was, “go ahead, say what you want. I don’t know if you’ll get laughter or tears. I never know which it will be at any given moment. This is a very emotional week.”

It was a quiet gathering of friends. I offered pizza and bean dip and few words. I knew there was nothing I could say to comfort them. I just wanted to show I cared and would listen if they wanted to talk.

I had a glimpse of their pain this past June when I dropped my daughter, Elle, off at Columbia University for three weeks. We had just spent an intense three days together in the city and on a sunny Sunday morning we arrived at the college campus two suitcases in hand. One was hers and one mine. I had two hours to get her settled and then I was off to JFK.

We both were overwhelmed by the newness of it all. The campus was huge and unfamiliar. Worry overcame me. What was I thinking, letting my daughter spend three weeks in New York City? I’d be too far away if she needed me. Sure she’s strong and independent but this is a city – not Cape Coral. I remembered my excitement when I was eighteen, moving into the Beacon Hotel on the Upper West Side. I was more than ready to begin my adult life on my own. Just months before my father had thought he’d scare me and took me to The Big Apple for the first time thinking I’d be intimidated and never want to move there. His plan failed. I fell in love, prepared an audition for AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) got in and started classes in the Fall. Now, I was walking in his shoes. I understood why he gave me specific boundaries within the city. I was eighteen, from a small town and naive much like my daughter. I suppose it was because of my experience at eighteen that I understood her desire to tackle the city on her own. At least she was in a college environment, she’d have a curfew, and two RA’s looking after her.

We rode the elevator to her dorm. Inside I was shaking. On the outside I was smiling. Usually I am very good at holding back tears but I could feel them building, waiting for just the right thought to open the ducts and let them spill down my face. Every time I pictured us saying good-bye I had to take a deep breath and change my thoughts to buying her extra towels or finding a cafe for lunch. Anthing to keep busy.

We were greeted by two kind young women, her RA’s who had decorated the suite in a disco theme. I tried to talk to them and appear cheery but my mind was in a fog. I didn’t want to leave.

Elle’s dorm was bare. The two of us rearranged her bed and desk to make room for the wheelchair. I placed the PlayBills from the musicals we had just seen on a shelf to add color. Elle said it made her happy to look at them. Then I began unpacking her suitcase and that’s when it hit me. Even though I knew she’d only be gone for three weeks the reality of her leaving after her senior year came pouring over me. It was no longer something that would happen in the very distant future. Something that I could put in the back of my mind. It was going to happen soon and this was a peek into what I’d feel. An ending. An ending of a way of life that I had known for eighteen years. She was not mine to keep forever in the same house, always knowing where she was or what she was doing even though I had convinced myself otherwise. All those years of saying “my daughter” was a bit deceiving. She is her own person and not mine.

In life there are firsts. Exhilarating, frightening firsts and that’s what it is like to have your first child. Suddenly your life is not your own but someone else’s. You can no longer be completely selfish about your dreams and desires because your first priority is your child. The love mixed with the responsibility is overwhelming and like no other. My identity went from Krista to mom. I took on that role with enthusiasm and often struggled with the balance between the two. Mom had a family to take care of and Krista had to sit in the background and not be selfish. Kids first – always.

Next thing I know, I’m in a college dorm unpacking a suitcase wondering how it happened. How did I get to this point? For the first time I’m seeing the big picture. I’m able to see that being a mom was part of my journey and that the path that I thought would go on forever was coming to an end. I look back at almost eighteen years and see the baby in my arms smiling at me . I see the one year old pushing a child sized grocery cart blabbering on and on telling me something very important in toddlereze. I see the girl coming home from school and practicing her violin. I see the tween surrounded by friends climbing on her lap and pushing her wheelchair down the sidewalk. And I see the young woman dressed for the prom sliding into a limo with her friends. I feel sadness because just as I can never return to my childhood in E-town, or relive those precious times with my grandparents when my kids were little, this too is an ending to which I can only look back and remember. My baby, the one I have cared for, laughed with, cried with, given so much of everything I’ve had and love more than she can understand – is leaving soon. I’m looking back, older and wiser, but inside a bit baffled at how much time has passed and how I still feel like the same young woman who used to walk through the Pennsylvania woods alone, listening to the birds sing and dreaming of her future.

Now, that time is almost here for Elle. My role as mom is leading me down a new path, one where I must trust in everything that I have taught her and one where I must have faith that she will make more good choices than bad. I have to have the courage to let go and the belief in the goodness of people that will fill her life in my absence.

My cell phone rang. The taxi was on its way to pick me up and take me to the airport. I hugged Elle and reminded her that I’d drop everything and get to her side if she ever needed me. I told her how proud I was of her, of all she had accomplished, her bravery, and of what she was to become. I thought about our first days at home together after she was born, how scared I was. I hugged her good-bye. An ending. A beginning.

Busch Gardens Fabulous to First Day Blues

Friday was a great day. We woke early, hit the road, and arrived at Busch Gardens before noon.

I prefer not to be dropped from hundreds of feet and jolted and shaken and turned upside down. However, the rest of my family finds it entertaining. Here I am taking a picture of them while they’re waving at me and screaming, “mom!” Funny thing was, I never heard them, was completely oblivious, snapped the shot because it was something to do. Imagine my surprise when I uploaded my pictures. And they laughed at me for not hearing them. Ha, I showed them. Or actually I will show them when they read this.

Montu 3.85 G's!

The boys put up with me peacefully watching the animals and taking hundreds of pictures. Here’s one of my favorites. Probably because she wandered away from the group and did her own thing. I can relate.


Did you know some elephants like to dance? I saw it with my own eyes. An elephant swaying to the Busch Gardens soundtrack. I wanted to take video but my camera battery decided it was too worn out. Sitting on the curb, his hand on his chin, my husband interrupted my zen like state with,”they should be playing ___g ____s (that famous AC/DC – Ozzy Osbourne song.) Now that would be funny.” He got a big laugh from teenage son and two glares from me and daughter. See what I’m going to have to live with when the only other female in the house leaves for college? I’m in trouble. Serious trouble.

We found our way to the kangaroos and wallabies after getting thoroughly soaked. You would think after all of these years of living through Florida summers I would have been prepared for the afternoon rain. Nope. We didn’t even take cover. Just provided entertainment for the intelligent guests of Busch Gardens who stood under awnings and umbrellas.

It had been many years since we’d visited Busch Gardens. We used to go every summer when the kids were little. Memories were around every corner. Like this…

Which is now this…

When my son grabbed his stomach and squinted his eyes, we knew he had enough rollercoaster rides for one day. Luckily our hotel was across the street. Unluckily, none of us thought to pack more than one change of clothes in case we got wet. Dinner was a bit uncomfortable. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sopping socks and sneakers.

You know how everyone says that time flies and you get so sick of hearing it and just want to say please come up with a new phrase that ones been done already! Well, I think people say it because they have children graduating and they don’t feel any older and they are trying to figure out how the little baby they held in their arms has grown into the young adult that will soon be saying good-bye. Ouch!

I have two graduates this school year, one from twelfth grade and one from eighth. Monday morning thunder could be heard for miles. Students all over Lee County were waking before dawn to lightning flashes and pouring rain. The trees were happy but these two… not so much. August eigth was way too early to be the first day of school. Of course they won’t think that in May but that’s ten months from now which seems like forever to a teenager. Ten months to a mom can feel like tomorrow because time flies. I mean, time insists upon change whether we are ready or not. So ready or not I’m venturing into my daughter’s last full school year at home with her family. Ouch!

Stalking Daniel Radcliffe

This post can also be found on my new blog.

Last week was Harry Potter week. Picture me curled up on the couch, Kai lounging in the chair next to me, lights dimmed, watching a Harry Potter movie every night. Meanwhile, Arielle was stalking Daniel Radcliffe in New York City. It worked. I received a text while watching the Half Blood Prince, with this picture and several hundred OMG!’s

Individually autograhed PLAYBILLS

The Universe works in wonderous ways and that little autographed picture led to four very big smiles.

THANK YOU! to Mr. Radcliffe’s bodyguard who made sure Arielle did not get trampled in the crowd waiting to get a glimpse of the star after his, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,  performance. This mom is very grateful for your protection of her daughter.

Midnight movie openings are our family tradition but this month two of our family members were in different states. So, we picked up a friend and Kai and I went to see a double feature. Deathly Hallows part one followed by Deathly Hallows part two at midnight.

Harry Potter look-a-likes

With our Harry Potter adventures behind us we raced to the airport to pick up Arielle. While waiting we spotted this…

Jets Playing Chicken

And she’s home after three weeks at Columbia University’s summer camp for high school students. She met teens from all over the world and loved her Urban Studies class.  

We celebrated by eating at CPK because eating my cooking would not be celebrating.

When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in 1998 these were the two beautiful faces I saw every day.

They grew up with J. K. Rowling’s marvelous characters and stories. Just as Harry Potter will live on forever in the hearts of millions, so will my memories of rushing to the bookstore, costumes with robes and wands, and midnight movies. Time insists we say good-bye  but every experience we have whether it’s a camp, a series of books, or a childhood, prepares us for our next great adventure!

Tourists Behaving Badly… The End

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Case 4:

We finished lunch and decided to squeeze in the Harry Potter Exhibit before our next show.

On our way out of the restaurant I heard someone calling my name. I couldn’t believe it! It was a friend from Ft. Myers. We stopped, amazed at seeing each other so far from home. Elle had already started to make her way through the crowd of people waiting at the door. Imagine shoulder to shoulder people and having to try to get through in a wheelchair. People have to look down in order to see a wheelchair approaching. A lot of “excuse me’s” have to be said. Imagine going through this every day all day.

I called to Elle to wait for me. Then quickly decided it was better to meet her outside. Upon hearing my voice she stopped midway through the crowd and turned and then turned back around to head out the door. Every day normal behavior – except she’s in a wheelchair in a crowd.

As I caught up to Elle I heard a woman’s voice yelling at her, telling Elle she has to be careful she could hurt someone. Elle ignored her and kept going. I stopped right in front of the woman, hesitated, remembered my manners, and shot daggers at her with my gaze. Luckily, my friend was right behind me and the excitement from meeting up with someone I hadn’t seen in years overpowered my desire to exchange words with the angry woman.

We said good-bye to my friend and ventured across the street to see Harry Potter. Neither of us mentioned the woman in the restaurant. We needed to press on and enjoy and not let a stranger’s ugliness ruin what was left of our day.

A little magic was all we needed. The Harry Potter Exhibit exceeded our expectations. We saw a collection of props and costumes from the films and listened to recordings of the artists who made them. I even pulled a Mandrake out of its pot and listened to it squeal. Did you know that every feather on Buckbeak was hand painted? Amazing.

Elle and I had to rush to the theatre to see Catch Me if You Can. There we were swept away into song and dance for two hours. After the show, Elle got her picture with Aaron Tveit and all was well in our world again.

Final Thoughts:

The reason I titled this blog, Tourists Behaving Badly, is because with the exception of the taxi drivers I really believe it was tourists and not New Yorkers being rude. People who worked at every restaurant and tourist attraction we went to were exceptionally kind and helpful. In fact when we arrived in line at TKTS someone found us and moved us right to the ticket window. We heard the phrase “wheelchairs first” several times throughout our trip. We laughed as the men on the street, collecting for the homeless, would yell “you go girl!” as Elle wheeled by. I sensed an accessibility awareness that I had not sensed three years ago when I last visited New York City. The reason I have blogged about our difficult day is to raise awareness and to let the other parents of disabled children know I understand what they may be going through.

Elle has been at Columbia University camp for high school students for three weeks. Concerned, I asked her if she’s been able to get cabs. She told me that if she tries to get a taxi while she’s near Columbia she has no problem at all. However, Times Square is still very difficult. Elle told me she figured out a trick to getting a taxi in Times Square. When she and her group of friends are ready to go back to Columbia her friends will hail the taxi and she will pretend she’s not with them. When the taxi stops Elle will quickly wheel over and get in. Only once did a taxi driver say “Is that a wheelchair? No!” Immediately, one of Elle’s new friends starting yelling at him and telling him he couldn’t do that. He drove off.

I cannot protect my daughter from the grimaces or ugly words of others.
I can teach her to use her disability to help educate the public and smooth a path for others.
I can teach her to cherish herself whether she’s standing or sitting.
I can teach her the words of strong women that came before her.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Eleanor Roosevelt

Tourists Behaving Badly Continued

Our agenda for Saturday was Empire State Building, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, lunch, Harry Potter Exhibit, and then Catch Me if You Can. Here’s what happened in between…

Case 2: Taxi’s!

My husband and one of my close friends are extroverts. They have a gift for speaking combined with a joyous energy that immediately puts people at ease. I, on the other hand, am very much an introvert. I am comfortable getting to know people from the safety of my computer. “Email me,” is my phrase of choice. Even the phone makes me cringe. So, hailing a taxi is way outside my comfort zone.

In NYC they have SUV taxi’s that have a handicap sticker on the back. Well, I think it’s just for show because taxi drivers took one look at the wheelchair and came up with varied excuses of why they couldn’t transport us.

I can have the wheelchair apart and stored in minutes and Elle is an expert at transferring but my lack of social skills and my pain of knowing we were being passed by because of the wheelchair stopped me from being able to educate the drivers and show them it’s really easy to transport someone who is paraplegic and can transfer.
I chose to walk everywhere, hiding from Elle the fact that we couldn’t get a taxi because of the wheelchair.

Walking to the Empire State Building from the theatre district is one thing, wheeling it is another. The sidewalks and roads are bumpy and there are a lot of people to watch out for. Still, Elle had no fear and did wheelies over every obstacle in her path – only falling once.

After our tour of the Empire State Building I told Elle we would take a taxi to the theatre where our show began in less than an hour. I could feel my stress starting to build. When we exited the Empire State building there was a cab parked along the curb with a driver waiting. He had the handicap sticker on his van. I had a moment of hope. I waved, he opened his window and preceded to give me an excuse of why he couldn’t take us. That’s when the lid popped off of my little compartment and I felt extreme pain. I knew I needed to advocate for my daughter and tell him how easy it was to transport us but I couldn’t. The sadness that was within me overcame me and I could do nothing but wave him off. I turned to Elle and said, “let’s just walk.”

Elle was tired and afraid we wouldn’t get to the theatre in time. She wanted to try to get another cab. That’s when it happened. That’s when I made my doozie of a mistake and shattered her safe world. I told her the taxi’s wouldn’t take us because of the wheelchair. I told my own daughter it was her fault we weren’t getting a ride. Immediately guilt consumed me. I tried to explain to her that while I do advocate for her as often as I can, this was a situation that hurt me too deep. People were excluding my child from a right she deserved! I was afraid my emotions would get the best of me. I didn’t have confidence in my ability to speak with the taxi driver in a calm way and I was fearful of trying again. I made a mistake. A big one! I should have faced my fear for my daughter. It was a long quiet trip back to the theatre. Elle was hurt… deeply. This is what happened next.

Case 3:

We reached the theatre with a few minutes to spare before the afternoon show. They had one accessible bathroom and the rest were down two flights of stairs. I handed Elle her ticket before she went into the restroom and then headed downstairs.

When I returned to the lobby I saw Elle from behind, the theatre manager standing beside her and a woman bent over talking to her. I knew something was wrong. I thought it was from our taxi incident. I touched her back and when she turned around and saw me she burst into tears. What could have happened? I was only gone for ten minutes. I looked at the woman and saw she had tears in her eyes but she said nothing. I turned to the manager who said, “let me take you to your seats.” I was confused.

We had excellent seats and Elle transferred into a movable chair. The tears started flowing as she explained what happened. Apparently after she got into the bathroom an elderly man started banging on the door and yelling. It frightened her. A crowd gathered and tried to explain to him that a young lady in a wheelchair had just gone in and he’d have to wait. He continued to yell and bang and insist that Elle was staying in the bathroom just to spite him.

Elle came out and the man shook his head at her. Afterwards his wife apologized. It was all too much for a seventeen year old to handle.
The theatre manager was very kind. He came to our seats to check on Elle and gave her a souvenir mug. It was obvious he was genuinely concerned. When he saw Elle’s tears had not stopped he put his hand on her shoulder. Then he said “Um… you do know this play is about the Iraq war… right?” I knew but tried (emphasis on tried) to be funny. ” What? We just came to see Robin Williams.”

Elle was sad, embarrassed, angry at the scene that had just taken place. Angry at the old man. Angry at me for not getting us a taxi and bringing to her attention that it was because of the wheelchair. I was angry at me for what I had said. It was too much wheelchair drama for one day and both of us were emotionally exhausted. I realized for the first time that the world I was sending my daughter out into was really very different from our world in Cape Coral. And now my daughter was no longer the cute little girl in the wheelchair, she was the beautiful young woman in the wheelchair. There is a difference in how people react to the two.

I pulled out the peanut M&M’s and began my spiel on human behavior and reasons of why this man may have been yelling. Beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or frustration because he was worried he would have an accident. I told her his yelling was all about him and what he was going through – not her. The last thing I want is for Elle to carry anger inside her for everyone that makes an insensitive remark, gives her a dirty look, or is afraid to pick her up in taxi because of the wheelchair. These are things that are a reality in her life and she must find a way to deal with them that doesn’t turn her into a bitter, defeated, individual. Seeing things from someone’s else’s perspective and forgiving or letting go is freeing and essential in order for her to be at peace and live her life to the fullest.

The play was intense. Robin Williams, Glenn Davis, Brad Fleischer and Arian Moayed were brilliant. Elle and I waited a few minutes afterwards to see Robin Williams. I knew he was friends with Christopher Reeve and he supports the Reeve Foundation which has been very good to us. I wanted to meet him and thank him. After everything that happened and seeing the play, I wasn’t sure if my words would come out right. The introvert in me took over. We left for a late lunch.

What happened at lunch and what Elle has to do to get a taxi (She’s still in NYC) that’s tomorrow’s blog.

Tourists Behaving Badly

This post can be found on my new blog.

This story needs an introduction because it will be posted over three days. When I sat down and wrote about our experiences traveling with a wheelchair in New York City I ended up with four pages of material. Four pages is way too long for a blog. So I’ve broken it down into Cases 1-4. Instead of waiting a week between each post, I will post daily until my story is told.
If you haven’t read my article New York City Amazing, please do. It’s an account of the wonderful time my daughter and I had in New York City. I want to make it clear that overall our trip was amazing. So be sure to read about all of our wonderful experiences first and then come back and read about tourists behaving badly. Even if you don’t have a child with a mobility challenge your eyes may open to some of the daily obstacles those in wheelchairs must face.

This is all from a moms perspective. I can’t comment on my daughter’s feelings. She could probably write several articles about having to deal with a mom who is an introverted advocate. Sometimes they clash. This post is about what I go through watching others react to my daughter and how I deal with it. Deep breath… It’s my closest friends that hear these stories but after reading some posts on the Reeve Foundation site, I felt it was time to fess up.

Somewhere down deep inside me is a little compartment where I have stored all my pain from watching what Elle has had to go through since she was ten years, two months and eleven days old. Most of the time that compartment is sealed and layered on top with strength and a belief that everything will always be okay. But sometimes, especially when I am a bit worn from traveling, something will happen that will blow the lid off that little compartment of mine. At those times I feel intense anger, pain and sorrow braided together shooting through my veins.

Case 1:

Elle and I went to see Mamma Mia. Broadway theatres are not the most accessible. However, they really do try and accommodate those with disabilities and we get discounted tickets simply because there is really no choice of seats. We sit where they can accommodate us.

For Mamma Mia we were put on the end of a row of seats. I was asked to move the wheelchair to a specific spot away from the crowd. Understandable. But now think about it. Elle is in the end seat, not able to move her legs. The wheelchair is not in sight. People need to climb over her to get to their seats. There is less leg room than on an airliner. It’s a tight squeeze. When people see Elle they have no idea she is paralyzed. She appears to be very rude by not standing up and letting others pass. Even after Elle said, “I can’t stand.” One woman gave her a death glare and then finally climbed over her. As a teenager Elle doesn’t want to announce to total strangers -“I’m paralyzed thanks to a car accident seven years ago.” I certainly don’t want to embarrass her by speaking for her when she’s capable of speaking for herself. It’s a difficult situation.

The man who sat next to me actually saw the wheelchair. He saw Elle transfer to her seat. That’s why what he did thoroughly confused me. At intermission, I stood and climbed over Elle. It was my way of showing what needed to be done if anyone wanted to exit the row. Climb over her or go out the other end. I stood in the aisle behind Elle. The man that was next to me stood up. He looked at Elle. She had her legs crossed. He pointed to her top leg bent over a bit and said “Can you move that leg right there?”

I wanted to scream at him! Oh, the things I wanted to say to him. How dare he point at and almost touch her leg. Who does that? The lid was popped off my little compartment so fast I was shaking inside. I kept quiet but felt the tornado of emotion swirl inside me. I watched. Elle took her hands placed them on both sides of her leg and lifted her leg down to the floor. He climbed over. Shooting through my brain were thoughts of wanting to shake this man and tell him to get a clue mixed with thoughts of, he doesn’t understand, there’s no way for him to physically see her injury. He just made a mistake. He’ll learn better if I don’t give him a reason to get defensive. Still, the mom in me wanted to protect my daughter from the pain of his words. The mom in me wanted to tell him he was being an insensitive idiot. He obviously realized his mistake after seeing that Elle couldn’t move her legs without lifting them with her hands. On his way back he climbed over his chair from the row behind us.

At the end of the show he and his wife exited our row from the other end. He had seen the wheelchair when we arrived. Why did it take him humiliating my daughter before he had common courtesy? I can’t answer that other than to say his expectations combined with his selfishness stopped him from seeing that Elle was not trying to inconvenience him. There was nothing she could do.
The truth is, had this been the only uncomfortable incident on our trip, I wouldn’t have written about it. We have dealt with many dirty looks and ignorant remarks over the years. When we returned to our hotel that night I let Elle know some of the words I wanted to say to that man and we both laughed.

Little did we know what was coming on Saturday. Saturday was the day I made my doozie of a mistake with my daughter. Saturday was quite a day! To be continued…

Top 10 “Thank goodness I did that!” For Parents

Let’s face it. I was way too young when I started my family. I’ve made mistakes along the way. I’m still making mistakes. (Be sure to read my next blog for a real doozie.)

I have two teens in the house. One will be 18 in two months and eight days. This is time for refection. Here are the top 10 things I did right.  I really should say we did right. My husband deserves some credit. Why are they my top 10? Because I see what a positive difference these choices have made in my children.

For all the new moms out there this list is something to think about. I also must add one other choice I am extremely glad I made. I kept my daughter with her age group for kindergarten. I could have started her early. She was ready. At the time it was a real dilemma. Should I have her be the youngest in her class or one of the oldest? I chose oldest. Thank goodness because I’d have to say good-bye to her in a few weeks had it been based off readiness and not age. My selfishness aside, it’s worked out wonderfully for my daughter –  especially when it came time to get a license. If you’re struggling with the same issue you may want to check out Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers.

TOP 10 “Thank goodness I did that!” For Parents

1.  I connected with a group of moms and one dad when my oldest was in pre-school. We all put effort into our friendship and our children’s friendship over the years. Now we are family. Their support and their relationship with my children are invaluable.

2.  Family Vacations which included a trip to Europe

3.  Piano Lessons/Music Education

4.  School Involvement (I began volunteering when my oldest was in kindergarten.)

5.  High Expectations of Grades and an Arts Education

6.  Foster Parenting and Volunteer Work

7.  Fun Memorable Birthday Parties

8.  Taught “please and thank you” My kids have the best manners!

9. Family Dinners

10. Taught and will continue to teach: Positive Thinking

Out of curiosity I asked both my children what they liked about their childhood up to now. My daughter listed the play-group, specific family vacations, the arts schools she attended, wheelchair racing, and family dinners and movies. My son immediately named MARCATO the music group he belongs to, FSU jazz band camp, game nights, his i phone?, seeing Italy and Switzerland, and having pets. According to them I got numbers 1, 2, 3, 5 and 9 right.

Please feel free to leave comments with other great parenting ideas. I love comments and I love getting more dots on my map. (See my world map? Click on it – pretty cool!)

#3… Here’s Kai on his 13th birthday. All those piano lessons have paid off. He loves to play and I love to listen.


New York City Amazing!

I stood outside Columbia University with my suitcase. My mind was cloudy, my stomach sick and my eyes filled with tears. A black car pulled up and popped the trunk. I handed the man my suitcase and climbed in the backseat alone not fully understanding what I was feeling. I didn’t know saying good-bye would hurt so much. Or I did know and refused to face it. Either way it was happening and I was on my way home without my daughter. But that’s a blog for another day. Let me start at the happy beginning where mother and daughter arrive in New York City eager to explore and see Broadway shows.

We arrived at the Sheraton Thursday afternoon. Police with bomb sniffing dogs strolled the lobby. President Obama was going to arrive in a few hours. Perfect, we had enough time to eat and then get back for a picture of the President.

I took a step outside and felt the anxiety rush over me. I had forgotten about city life. Shoulder to shoulder with strangers, trying to scan the sidewalks and streets for large bumps that might catch Arielle off guard, lights flashing, sirens and horns blaring. I was studying our location and making sure I knew how to get back. We moved with the crowd. The sky was gray; misty rain dripped down on us. We were in another world far from our sunny, pedestrian-free Cape Coral.

Arielle found TKTS and I thought why not? We already had tickets to Spiderman, Catch Me if You Can, and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, but we didn’t have plans for Thursday night. Book of Mormon – no luck. We were able to get half price tickets to Mamma Mia and bonus – I knew all the music!

Planet Hollywood was close. We ate and then made our way back to the Sheraton. It was packed with police and onlookers hoping to get a glimpse of President Obama. One thing I love about New York City is that people talk to one another. It’s perfectly acceptable to strike up a conversation with a stranger on the street or in a restaurant. We waited and waited and learned about the lives of those around us but never saw the President. Oh well, we had a show to get to.

I am teased mercilessly for having been in musicals and not wanting to watch musicals. I am not the fan that my daughter is. She can spout off actors names, what they played in, if they’ve won awards and probably their favorite foods. I prefer plays to musicals especially thought provoking dramas. But this trip was for Arielle’s senior year and my only request was to see Robin Williams in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. Mama Mia was the perfect musical to begin our trip. Up-beat and fun the crowd danced and sang. I especially enjoyed the comedic acting of Stacia Fernandez, Lisa Brescia and Jennifer Perry. And then there was Jordan Dean… well, when he took his shirt off…

Friday morning by six am. we were at the Today Show to see Bruno Mars. The crowd was unbelievable. We heard Bruno Mars but could only see him through a small television screen the crew set up. Ann Curry had such a compassionate presence and she took the time to hug fans and pose for pictures. I got a glimpse into their world and saw how overwhelming it must be to have so many people snapping pictures, calling your name, and asking for autographs – every day of the week all year long.

After the Today Show taping my head was pounding. Traveling and lack of coffee had caught up to me. But we were in the city for only ninety six hours. I had to keep going. We made our way to Macy’s and spent our afternoon shopping. Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for Spiderman.

Arielle spouted off facts about Spiderman and Reeve Carney as we sat waiting for the show to begin. I was excited to hear U2’s music. A lifetime ago when I was in high school I jumped in a car with two friends for a road-trip to Philadelphia. The words U2 or BUST written on the windows.

Spiderman was incredible! It reminded me of a rock concert. Then there was the flying – wow! It’s an experience as much as it is a show. I loved it. Of course we had to wait outside for autographs afterwards. Reeve Carney posed for a picture with Arielle and I think that trumped everything else we had done so far on the trip.

Saturday’s agenda began with a tour of the Empire State building and sky ride, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, and then a late lunch at Lindy’s. Several wheelchair related dramas combined with the intensity of the play left Arielle and I a bit emotional at lunch (more about that in the next blog). We couldn’t talk about the play or the events leading to the play because the wounds were too fresh and we needed to lift ourselves up and enjoy the rest of the day. We had four hours until Catch Me if You Can so I suggested we take a peek at the Harry Potter Exhibit that happened to be right across the street. As we were making our way out of the restaurant I heard someone call my name. I turned and couldn’t believe it! A. H., a teacher I taught with at Edison Park was standing there smiling at me. We hadn’t seen each other in years and now here we both were in New York City! She too was having a mother-daughter weekend seeing Broadway shows. Amazing!

Catch Me if You Can blew me away. The talent of Aaron Tveit (another name I’ve heard a lot about), Tom Wopat and Norbert Leo Butz was as mouth dropping as Jordon Dean’s body. If you’re still reading this, I thought that would be more interesting than simply writing – awesome. Oh and thank you for still reading.

Aaron Tveit posed for a picture with Arielle and she was still smiling and talking about him Sunday morning while we prepared for our adventure to Columbia University.

We climbed in a cab and drove uptown to 116 and Amsterdam. Arielle was quiet. She was as nervous as I was. Parents and students with suitcases and cameras lined the sidewalk below us. At the far end of the giant stone stairway was a long metal ramp. Thank goodness. Ramps always make me happy. A kind man with a Columbia University shirt helped us with our bags. Blue and white balloons waved in the wind welcoming students. Arielle was quiet. They handed her the keys to her dorm. When we got off the elevator we were greeted by two smiling RA’s who had decorated the dorm area in a 70’s theme. Arielle’s name was written on a record that hung on her door. I helped her unpack and then we went off to explore Riverside Park and ate at an Indian Cafe. Delicious. I bought her some Wd40 for her wheels and extra towels and stopped for more pictures inside the University gates. Our mother-daughter New York City trip had come to an end and now it was time for Arielle to begin her college camp experience. I told her how proud I was of her and if she needed me for anything I’d be there in… three or four hours. We laughed. I picked up my suitcase and gave her one last hug.

As I stepped outside the building I saw a student collecting the balloons that had welcomed us. He let a few go. I watched as they drifted away. One more year until she graduates. One more year.

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Wasted Time?

How can time be wasted when it creates such beautiful memories and holds the promise of an unexplored future?

The Salt Life Birthday

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Celebrating birthdays in the Rausin house can be a complicated matter. We have Arielle who likes huge celebrations with lots of people and loud music. Kai who is never quite sure if he wants a party until a week before the actual date. Me who refuses to acknowledge that I’m any older than twenty-seven and tells Eric (husband) that it’s too stressful to give b-day gift ideas. I really don’t need or want anything except maybe a writing conference sometime in the future.( They’re expensive.) And then there’s Eric…

It’s almost as if he magically turns into a little boy every June 14th. I start sweating around May 14th because I know the pressure is on. His birthday cannot be just an ordinary low key day. It must include a “wow!” factor. Being the crafty person that I am, this year I suggested he go skydiving and we watch from the ground. I would take pictures. Nope, not good enough. It had to be a family activity.

Not long after, Eric was at Publix and a van pulled up beside him. Painted on the side of the van was a giant picture of a man windsurfing. Eric knew it was kismet and he made the reservation.

June 14th was a success! We drove to the Sanibel Causeway and I was reminded that we live in paradise. Arielle and I kayaked while Eric and Kai took windsurfing lessons. Of course I had my camera.

Thank goodness Eric insists on unusual birthdays. He reminds us all to step out of our routines and breathe in the salt life.

SummerTime and the Sub that Continues to Haunt Me!

Buying a six foot sub seemed like a great idea. We were celebrating the beginning of summer and the new seniors of North Fort Myers High School.

My daughter and I laughed as we explained to the young girl behind the meat counter that we were vegetarians and to put whatever meat she thought was good into the sub but please leave a small section with just cheese for us. Little did I know the cheese would come back to haunt me. And not in the way you may think.

The next day I was up early making cookies and vacuuming. I had precious few hours before I had to pick up my son at school, pick up the monster sub and come home to a house full of teens. While driving, Will Smith’s SummerTime, came on the radio. Immediately I was taken back to my last days of school at Elizabethtown Area High School. Kids rushing through the hallways, papers littered on the floor, lockers slamming and students loitering in the parking lot trying to decide where to congregate – the park or McDonalds? For a few minutes I felt the excitement, I remembered.

Next thing I knew I was pushing a cart with two three foot sections of sub stretching across the front, knocking into passersby. Kai, my son, refused to walk next to me because apparently a six foot sub is very embarrassing.

When Kai and I opened our front door carrying our sub and saw five teens sitting in the kitchen suddenly I felt the too much food panic. What was I going to do with all this meat? It’s a vegetarian’s nightmare! I immediately began cutting the sub into manageable pieces to store in the fridge. Teens sat around me talking but I was oblivious to their conversation. My mind was swirling, I was tired from two days of preparations for the party and now I had a massive amount of meat, cheese and bread to deal with. Oh and the DirecTV guy was knocking on the door. He told me he couldn’t complete his work on our TV and I offered him a sandwich.

After he left I went back to my cutting.  A familiar voice brought me out of my world. “It’s okay mom, I’ll do it. I’ll put the sub in the fridge.” Arielle gave me the look that clearly meant it was time for me to leave. This was a party for teenagers not moms. I disappeared wondering if the sub was really going to get wrapped properly and put away. Wondering if she noticed how beautifully I had decorated the dining room table with my homemade cookies, brownies, and tons of candy. Wondering what I was going to do for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Hours went by and I crept about my house occasionally texting my friend asking when she was planning on coming and keeping me company. I bribed her with…  guess what? A sandwich with meat and a refreshing Mike’s Lemonade.

If I heard voices by the pool, I would swoop downstairs for a covert cleaning operation in the kitchen. Cover exposed food, throw away paper plates and candy wrappers and wipe up the floor after wet feet and dripping bathing suits. Cars parked, teens came and went and still my fridge was packed with sections of sub.

Eventually my friend and her husband arrived to house full of teens, a snarling dog, and Heart and Soul being pounded out on our piano.  I came barreling down the stairs first to rescue them from my obnoxious  adult hating dog and then to hug them and thank them for keeping me company after five hours of hiding. They pointed to my ceiling. My air conditioning unit was dripping from all the humidity that was being let into the house but that was not the most important problem of the day. I smiled. “How about a sandwich?”

The next morning I came downstairs to kids sleeping on my couches and a very messy kitchen counter and dining room table. Arielle would be busy when she woke up. I started the coffee, opened the fridge and sighed. Still too much sandwich. Ollie and Nahla looked up at me with their pleading eyes. HMM. I grabbed some sub and tossed it to them. Ollie followed me upstairs.

Finally the house was quiet and I could write. Then Ollie began making a strange noise. I turned around and couldn’t believe it. He had taken the cheese from the sub and was trying to bury it in my carpet. I laughed because the famous bumper sticker came to mind: My dog is Smarter Than Your Honor Student. Well, maybe not Ollie.

I went to get a paper towel to clean up his mess and when I returned the cheese was gone. I know he didn’t eat it. He hid it. I searched my writing room – nothing. Oh great! Now,there is no ending  to my sub problem. Not until the day I stumble upon Ollie’s glob of moldy cheese. Next time, I’m ordering pizza.

To Spank or Not to Spank

Cold Stone was closed. We ventured next door to Evos and split a veggie burger. It had been an interesting weekend. Mother and teenage daughter together in Tampa; moods rising and falling like a rollercoaster track. It happens sometimes, fortunately not often. When it does we eventually talk it out.
By the time we got to Evos all was well. The Dixie Games were behind us and chocolate peanut butter cup ice-cream was in our future. It was our “sweet” day. We sat and waited for the magic twelve-o-clock hour and talked. My daughter shared a story about an incident that took place just an hour earlier. She started out with, “I almost cried, mom.”

My interest piqued. I knew somehow she wasn’t going to tell me a story about wheelchair racing. She asked me if I remembered seeing a certain little girl about nine years old wheeling around in a wheelchair that obviously wasn’t hers. I did. The little girl was two sizes too small for the wheelchair; a giveaway that it’s an able-bodied person having fun wheeling around. I thought it was adorable because she wanted to be like the many other kids and adults that were participating in the Dixie Games at the USF track. Every time I saw her, I smiled.

It was right before my daughter’s last race. She decided to use the restroom while I waited next to the track with her racing chair. I heard a last call for the 1500 meter race and got nervous. Where was she? Twice I thought about leaving to go get her. Twice I felt that inner pull, the little voice that says act, and twice I ignored it. In a few minutes my daughter returned just as they were calling her name. I admired her perfect timing and thought everything was okay. She got in her racing chair, I wished her luck and she joined the others lining up.

Sitting at Evos she told me what happened. While in the restroom my daughter saw the smiling little girl in the wheelchair. Then her mother appeared and grabbed her by the wrist and drug her yelling and crying into a bathroom stall where she told her to pull her pants down. My daughter listened to the little girl’s screams after each slap not knowing what to do. When it was over she saw the pain in the little girl’s eyes.

Anger shot through me as I listened to the story. I knew that had I been there, I would not have kept my mouth closed. Those who know me well, know that I’m calm and easy-going most of the time. I don’t get riled up by much. However, whenever I witness a child being hurt by an adult emotionally or physically, I cannot keep silent. I probably would have told the mom that she was spanking the self-esteem right out of her child. I probably would have told her to hit me because then at least she could get her anger out on an adult stranger instead of an innocent child that looked to her for safety. I probably would have made a fool out of myself but I would have done it to let that mom and child know that spanking is not accepted by everyone and there are healthier ways to discipline. Ways that don’t teach children to hit out of anger and don’t make children feel helpless and humiliated at the hands of another – someone who loves them.

I know there are many who disagree with me and think that spanking a child is normal and helps keep children well-behaved. To them I say, some of the most mature and well-behaved kids I know have never been spanked. To them I question whether or not they felt calm or full of anger while spanking their child? Did they have to justify their actions due to lingering guilt? Did they feel as though it was the only way to gain control of their child? Fear.

I find it interesting how many adults can remember being hit by their parents. Specific memories from childhood that instilled so much fear the memory stuck.
What will the little girl remember about the Dixie Games? How much fun she had rolling around in someone’s wheelchair? Maybe. Her mom beating her? Most likely. I know my daughter won’t forget the incident. It was a harsh life lesson that allowed her to see the situation from a victim’s perspective.

I really don’t understand how spanking teaches children self-control or the ability to communicate one’s feelings to another. I see it as a method of instilling fear in hopes that it will prevent future unwanted behavior. To me it seems this will only work in the most sensitive of children. Anyone who feels differently I welcome your comments. I think it’s a good discussion topic especially since this incident took place in public.

4:44 am (or is it really 4:20?)

Four forty four am. and the soft sounds of the morning traffic report interrupted my dreams. My usual routine is to shut off the alarm or better yet wake on my own, listening to the chirping outside my window and thinking thoughts of thankfulness before stepping out of bed. But yesterday morning only one thought prevailed – surgery. My daughter was having surgery in three hours and as much as I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t anything complicated, an out-patient procedure and we’d be home by noon, an uneasiness crept inside me like a fog drifting from my heart to my head.

We chatted all the way to Estero as if we were driving to the mall in search of the perfect, one-of-a-kind prom gown instead of a doctor’s office with fabric and shoelace gowns. The GPS sat in my glove compartment and I made two wrong turns – everything was normal.

Senior citizens packed the waiting room. How unfair that my daughter had to go through this experience as a teenager. Her name was called and we walked through a door and into a hidden world, one I was all too familiar with. My emotions burst through their own secret door buried deep in my memories; there were white sheets, IV bags filled with saline, metal trays with wheels and the thin curtain that made the high pitched clinking sound when pulled closed.

I stood there, smiled, and tried to make small talk with the kind nurse. Meanwhile, inside I could feel the fog within me rise to fill my eyes making them water. I told myself I was tired.  I hoped the nurse didn’t notice. My daughter wheeled away to get changed into her gown and I signed all the appropriate papers. Now I was feeling a roaring inside. It’s a helpless anger that makes me want to grab my daughter and run but my mind said stay, she wants the surgery, hopefully it will help, she will be okay. The nurse motioned for me to leave. Moms had to wait behind closed doors.

I joined the elderly in the waiting room and pretended to read my book while I listened to all the conversations around me. In the past, I’ve picked up words of wisdom from those with more life experience, but yesterday’s topic of conversation was Charlie Sheen. Not interested.

“Krista?” I looked up and saw a smiling nurse. Good sign. “I let your daughter sleep an extra fifteen minutes. She was really tired.”

There she was, upright in bed staring at me wide eyed. “Are you okay?” I had never seen such a funny gaze in my daughter’s eyes. She nodded and then burst out in laughter. The nurse read my confusion. “She’s high, mom.” Words I never thought I’d hear.

What was I supposed to say to that? Good? I guess it was. She wasn’t in pain. “Oh,” was all I could muster before going into teaching mode. I rubbed my daughter’s shoulder. “Honey, remember on That 70’s show when everyone sits in a circle and laughs? That’s kind of what you’re feeling. I think.” Her face scrunched up and I thought she was going to cry and then another burst of laughter shot out and soon both nurses were laughing too. We were having much more fun than the other seven patients in the room. The laughter cleared away my inner fog and I knew everything was okay.

Integration in Sports

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Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

Today is the first track meet of the season at North Fort Myers High. I’ll be working the concession stand and darting out to take pictures of all the high school athletes-and smiling. Arielle will be among them thanks to the FHSAA and CAF. (Florida High School Athletic Association and Challenged Athletes Foundation)

It is my hope that every year will bring more wheelchair athletes to our high school track programs. More teens across Florida with unique mobility abilities will have the opportunity to experience high school team sports. It is also my hope that those athletes who want to go on and accept the next challenge will be granted the same opportunity in college.

Thank you to everyone who helped and took the first steps in faith two years ago to make this happen. A special thank you to Rob at the Reeve Foundation who helped our voices be heard.

This year, information was sent out to all the Florida high school track coaches, telling them of the new opportunities for high school challenged athletes. Please help spread the word and give kids an opportunity that could change their life. It only takes two clicks to share this article with others.

If you live outside of Florida, you can still help.
There are only a handful of states that allow wheelchair racing in their high school track programs. A  little courage and some unified voices can create change.

If you want to check out some professional wheelchair athletes, take a peek at the University of Illinois team. Several of them will compete in the 2012 Paralympics.

Show and Tell Love

A teacher with her students.

Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. Always has been. Maybe it’s all the pretty red hearts, giving of cards, all the smiles, or maybe it’s the chocolate. Valentine’s Day always makes me feel joyful.

So that’s why I was frustrated when I couldn’t seem to come up with a topic for my Valentine’s Day blog. I love to write, I love Valentine’s Day… there shouldn’t have been a problem. I read poems, searched the internet, meditated, and completely stressed myself out with worrying about what to write. Finally, I reminded myself to take my own advice and “let go.” If I had something to say, it would come to me. This morning I received an email that sparked a topic. I did have something to say. Love = Kindness

Yesterday, while in a convenience store buying water after a long hot parade, I overheard the clerk say to a customer “I’m sorry that happened to you.” When the customer left, I said to the clerk “You were really kind, I’ll have to remember that phrase.” I’m not usually one for speaking to strangers but her words were genuine and the moment touched me. Then I saw the smile on the clerk’s face. My words had made a difference in her which in turn made me feel good. Kindness.

Earlier this month I went out to dinner with some teachers. One teacher told a story of how she had received a phone call from her son’s school. She felt instant dread. What had her son done to elicit such a call? Her son’s teacher surprised her and told her she was calling to say what a wonderful, kind, helpful boy, she had. Shocked, it made her feel so good to receive the call that she decided to do the same with her own students. The next day she called several parents to say positive things about their children. Afterwards, a student came and thanked her and said because of her phone call, his parents were taking him on a special fishing trip. Kindness.

The email I received this morning was from a teacher expressing to me how she was questioning her value to her students after many years of teaching. Unfortunately, this is a common feeling among teachers. The emotional stress of being in a classroom of students with varying abilities and personalities and being responsible for their success on standardized tests is incredible. Teachers can do one hundred tasks right and receive no acknowledgement but as soon as they make a mistake no matter how small, they can have parents and sometimes administration reprimand them, leaving them feeling very unappreciated. There is a lot more I could say on this subject but for Valentine’s Day, I’m going to ask parents and students to remember teachers-and teachers to remember students and parents. A simple sentence showing kindness or appreciation can make someone feel loved and that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. Well, feeling loved and eating chocolate! You can never have too much of either one.

Fire In the Heart by Deepak Chopra: I can remember words people told me years and years ago that changed how I saw myself. “You are a good person” is an incredibly powerful statement from the right person, someone you really respect. “You’re so thoughtful” or “I like the way you say things” or “I’m glad I can count on you” are all words of appreciation that someone wants to hear. When people sell a house and get more than they expected for it, they say it appreciated in value. The same is true for human beings. If you appreciate them, they will increase in value before your very eyes.

“I Hate You!” Parenting Teens

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of having your child mad at you. This precious being that you have devoted your life to and love more than they can comprehend, glares at you like you’re an evil sorcerer who has cast a spell of unhappiness upon them. Then the door slams and you’re left standing there asking yourself what happened. Didn’t you make yourself clear? Was there a better way to communicate, “The trashcans must be brought up from the curb as soon as you get home from school?” Or “Please clean your room by 4:oo pm.” Or “It is your responsibility to do and turn in all homework assignments.” So when these rules aren’t followed, there’s a consequence and somehow it always comes as a surprise. How dare I keep my word and follow through with what I said. This leaves me baffled. Was there a time when I was inconsistent and didn’t follow through with a consequence when a rule was broken? Did they think I wouldn’t notice the trashcans or the messy room?

Still the questioning, emptiness is there when I’m on the receiving end of a deadly glare. Even if I know I’m right and it’s my job as a parent to help my children learn how to be disciplined and responsible. Thank goodness for that old T.V. commercial where the parents practiced slamming a door in each others faces while screaming, “I hate you!” Be the parent the commercial stated-or something like that. Every time a door slams in our house, I remember the commercial. I’m not torturing my teen-I’m being the parent.

There was a time when I was very scared to have teens in my house. I’d look at my children when they were little and try to picture them in middle school or high school. I couldn’t do it. It felt as if it would be forever until they got that big. I was wrong. My son’s voice is deeper than my husbands and when he lounges in our Lazy Boy his legs drape off the sides and I am left staring at the size of his sneakers. Parenting is different. I have two budding adults and little time left to teach them how to be the happiest, most content people they can be. All the while still trying to learn how to be the best person I can be.

I took my teens to a Get Motivated seminar because I wanted them to hear speeches of individuals considered to have had significant leadership success in their life. General Colin Powell surprised me with having a great sense of humor and the ability to laugh at himself. He joked about missing his jet. He would walk the red carpet and wave to everyone as he boarded, someone would serve him a Diet Coke on a silver tray and as soon as the soda hit the table, the jet would take off. If that’s not an ego rush, I don’t know what is. And it was refreshing to see a man who held the positions of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State tell of how his wife was not all that excited when he retired and was not going to be getting up and going off to work every day. Or to hear him talk about trying to learn how to communicate with his sixteen year old grandson in a world of Facebook and Twitter. “Why is it called tweets and not twits?” General Powell refused to get a Facebook account until his grandson told him someone had set one up for him and he already had thousands of friends. Well, then it was okay, he joked. “Just because you possess a title doesn’t mean that you obtain the respect of those around you. True leaders gather a following through vision, determination, wisdom, expertise, compassion, and integrity.” General Powell.

As a parent, I am a leader responsible for the lives of two individuals. Even if they glare at me, slam doors or go for a day without speaking to me, it is my job as their leader to help them learn skills such as effort and self-discipline. I am not their best friend that title belongs to their peers. I am someone they can always count on for support and guidance. It is my job to learn how to set and enforce rules and still have the respect of my children. The great thing about teens is that you can talk to them like adults, explain your point of view and listen to theirs. Listening is key. One of my favorite times of day is after my kids get home from school. I make myself available to sit and listen to them talk about their day. As they talk, I am so thankful to have the time with them and I am constantly amazed at the incredible people they have already become. I wonder how I could have ever been scared to have teens in my house. They’re so much fun! And they can carry a lot of grocery bags. I no longer have to make several trips to the car. Bonus!

The message I heard most clearly from General Powell and the other speakers was that leaders know they are human. They have experienced failure and success. They question themselves and question others with opposing views before making a decision. They do not see themselves as dictators imposing rules because it supports an egoistic need. They see themselves as public servants. They have a vision and pursue that vision with great determination but never forget that those they are leading are valuable individuals that must be listened to and respected.

Feeling the uneasiness when my children are upset with me means I’m human and I’m questioning my parenting ability. As hard as it is to say “no” or take away a cell phone or video game, it is my job as a parent to help my children understand that there are consequences in life when rules are broken. Better it be a video game or a cell phone than a jail cell.
K.D. Rausin



My grandmother always had a camera in her hand. Thanks to her example the habit has been passed down to my mother, me and several cousins. We love taking pictures.

This year as I received many beautiful holiday cards with family portraits it came to my attention that we never created time for our family picture. I went to the computer and searched through files of this past year, trying to find the perfect three or four pictures to incorporate into a card. This seemed much easier than getting everyone dressed up, finding a location, and hoping we could remember how to set the timer on the camera. As I looked at picture after picture I realized how many brought forth dialogue and feelings from the exact moment it was taken. My quick search ended two hours later and my list of pictures for our card filled half a page. This is why my grandmother always had a camera in her hand. She wanted to capture those moments that brought feelings reminding her of the life she was living, the journey she was on, pictures that captured more than an image but a memory of what it means to be alive.

Here are a few of those moments that have special meaning to me.

Happy Holidays and may this new year bring many moments worth capturing, sharing and cherishing for years to come.

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Reviews of Children's Board Books, Picture Books, Activity Books, and Graphic Novels

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