11/25/2013

A for Independent








 It seems like not that long ago, we were staring down at our granddaughter’s face.  We were mesmerized by her delicate features, from her tiny toes, to her little ears all newborns have.  I could not help notice her high cheekbones though, so many in our family have those.

Like all Grandmas I was investigating closely to see if I can distinguish who she looked
more like, my daughter-in-law or my son. I determined quickly, neither!   Actually I saw signs of both and realized, like most of us do, in time it will become more evident.  And honestly, who cares as long as our grand-babies are healthy.

As little Ava grew, she became a carbon copy of her mommy. Personality wise,  I am told she also was a ditto of her mom.  But I, to this day, in her fantastic sense of humor, definitely hear remnants of the past when I see her act goofy and bring laughter to those around her.  She has the ability to make everyone happy just like her daddy. Mike, my son, has always enjoyed making others smile. I see that clearly in his daughter.  I like to think of that as the humor gene and Ava clearly has that characteristic from her dad.  Hopefully that comes from me. 

Ever since my granddaughter was born, pink has predominant in her wardrobe. First it was the color of choice by her mother. Then, when she was old enough to have a say, it was her preferred color also.    Perhaps we were destined to be close.   Ava was born while I was fighting breast cancer. This disease, as everyone knows, is specifically tied to the color pink.  Long before I ever wore pink, a color I chose to never wear or liked, became central in my life.  And one of the dearest people in my life wore pink consistently and still wears it. And yes, she broke down my walls and changed my mind about the color, her and the disease of breast cancer.  Pink can be beautiful and cancer takes bravery to fight. Therefore pink stands for being brave and being beautiful like Ava.    My bond with Ava is like my bond with pink, it will always stand for something unbreakable, a commitment to putting life ahead of all else.   

Ava started kindergarten this year.  Her independence has begun.  She is coming into her own now.  Breaking away from being a baby, a toddler, and now she is truly growing into a little girl.  She now yearns and runs instead to hang out with her little girlfriends from school and dance on a public outing when they are near.

I am 6 years old and growing strong!


Nowhere was that change more apparent than recently at her birthday party.  Turning six, gone is the little girl who shied away from others she did not know well.   She would flat out refuse to speak, not answer questions.  She is now becoming a social butterfly. And Ava is like a magnet that draws others to her also.  


My somewhat introverted granddaughter who seemed, at times, to only be outspoken and brave around us, family, as now broken out of her shell.  I can remember the days her mom and dad would lightly encourage her to stand up for herself, speak up and hold her own with other children.  Be not afraid, be brave and answer simple questions she is asked that she knows the answers too, e.g. your name.   Making friends is easy and a good thing to do.  Now she does it without hesitation.

I reviewed all the pictures taken from her birthday party to make the attached video to remember her sixth birthday.   Seeing the pictures, I couldn't help but notice there is none with Grandpa and me in it with my granddaughter. Suddenly, by age six, we are passe to Ava.  Wow, life does come at you fast.  Those first few years were very important ones.  I am so grateful we made the most of them. 




Now my granddaughter is truly beginning to come into her own.  She will begin the journey and will remain a brave inspiring little girl climbing more mountains until she reaches the peak. 

                                          Click here to play Ava's Celebration Video



11/16/2013

Change the Future, One Family in the Phillipines


The amount of lives affected by the typhoon that hit the Central Philippines on Nov. 8th is staggering, how could you possibly come up with a number.  They still can't quantify the death toll as they are discovering bodies, missing persons and people are walking around aimlessly unaccounted for, unreachable by conventional methods. 

It is hard to fathom the rebuilding process when we have so much and they have so little, not even a brick to start a foundation of a home. There are many outlets to help.  All are good provided you make sure they are legitimate and going to the rightful source, the people, aiding those that need it. 

This post is about one family in particular hard hit by Yolanda, the catastrophic typhoon. So let me back up a minute.  I met Jessa Santos this summer in Northern Kentucky, where she lives. She is from a large family and came over to the United States to try to provide a better life for herself and her young daughter Dawn.  All of her siblings still live there and have been directly impacted by this tragedy. Her step-father is trying to do all he can to bring awareness to the family from others that might offer some assistance.  Everyone that knows the family or hears of their plight is being asked to spread the word as he has created a funding account just for Elsie, his children and his grandchildren to receive aid via this special account.  The relief going into the country is limited and quite slow. 

His information is below.  If interested in helping, please give knowing that no gift is too small. Jessa's step-father is will keep anyone posted on how their kindness and generosity is helping his children in this time of dire need if they are interested, so please let him know when you mail in your gift.  

Pass this information on as well.  This is a good loving family.  They are proud people and are in desperate need of help. 

Thank you for taking time to reflect on their plight.  

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Please Help!
Family portrait - May 2010
To those of you who are moved to make a donation to help the victims of typhoon Yolanda in the
Philippines, I ask you to please help Elsie’s and my five children and five grandchildren there in
Tacloban who are victims of this terrible catastrophe. We now know that, by the grace of God, they all
survived (two of them miraculously, having been in Elsie’s house when the storm and surge struck).
Very sadly, all that each of them has now is their life, and the clothes they were wearing while enduring
this monster storm. They have lost everything else. 

Elsie's house (before typhoon Yolanda hit)

                                                                       



Elsie’s house, where three of her children lived, has
been totally destroyed, flattened to the ground by the ferocious wind and the 16 ft. storm surge. The same is true for the home of Elsie’s elder son, his wife and four children. All gone now. Wherever all of
them will go and whatever they will do, they will have to start their lives anew, for there is not one thing left of their lives before November 7th.

If you are so inclined, we will be forever grateful, as I am sure
will they, for a contribution of any amount to the fund we have set up for their welfare (“Elsie’s
Children Fund”). Should you do so, you will then know exactly whom your money will be helping to
recover from this disaster and that every penny will be benefiting them directly. May God bless you.

Mail donation to: Elsie’s Children Fund, c/o W. C. Roth, 134 Main Ave., Highland Heights, KY 41076
Please write email address on check.
.                                               
                                      

              +
            Yvette                                                     Blanche                                                    Ella           


             Bill                                                         Kim                                                    Jerome                     


       Joy Joy                                              Jessa Mae                                                      Jessel       


Clarence
                                 
                                                                         
General information on family members above:      

   Yvette, Elsie's daughter ("Net Net")
         Yvette's dog "Poochie" somehow survived the typhoon but now won't leave the wreckage that was Elsie's house, even though she has no food.

Blanche ("Che Che"), Elsie's daughter

Blanche's daughter, Ellacriss (named after Elsie's given name, "Criselda")

Bill, Elsie's son (Elsie calls him "Billingoi")

Kimberly ("Kim Kim"), Elsie's youngest daughter

Jerome ("Jing", "Rome"), Elsie's eldest child

Joy Joy, Jerome's eldest daughter (her debut was to be on her 18th birthday, this November 28th)

Jessa Mae, Jerome's daughter

Jessel, Jerome's daughter


Clarence, Jerome's son



     

11/03/2013

Pet Me Friends


These past few weeks, it has been difficult to get my head around writing a blog.  I keep waiting for that divine intervention of an idea, that perfect topic to come up to expand on, one that touches my heart and soul. The only thought to write about that keeps reoccurring is one that sort of leaves me emotionally feeling paralyzed.  That immobilization scares me. It also makes it indeed a challenge to convey my thoughts in writing. 

I have reflecting, these past few weeks, on the plight of several close friends paths in life.  I have been haunted by a few unfortunate turn of events. A few friends have had things in life happen where it is as if they took an unexpected drop off of a cliff and managed to hang on a thin ledge.  They cling there, bewildered, yet full of faith.  All the while, they are questioning, where were the friends that said they would forewarn them before they got that close to the edge?  And I wonder to myself also, where were they?  Does true honesty in most friendships not exist?  Are people unwilling to share feedback if it is unfavorable?    Why do others not extend more help or ideas to do what they can to help friends succeed?  Do friends not feel, in any way, vested in their friends success?  I think we all know the answer to this. Safely guard and nurture the friends that do!!!

During this same time frame, a few other friends have had wonderful news occurring in their life.   They indeed have been blessed and are celebrating their good fortune, as they should.   I am overjoyed for them, yet saddened that life could not have met somewhere in the middle so that both friends could have had a moment of satisfaction. But life doesn't work that way. It is God’s plan, not ours.  And we all must face our dark moments to get to and appreciate the light. 

As I have silently and pensively reflected on this paradox at home, my mood has been somber.  My dog Charley can sense this easily. He feels my pain, always has.  And he feels certain the best way to help me overcome my sadness and confusion is to focus my attention on him.  That can simply be best done by petting him.  To accomplish this feat, he bothers me relentlessly by doing whatever must be done to get me to pet him. This must be quite hard on him because it entails doing actions he has long since given up, head butting me on the legs, trying to jump on my lap when I am sitting, barking at me, laying his head on my lap, etc.   He is particularly fond of making a U turn so that his rear-end is facing me so I can scratch his backside as if to say “Yes, life can be pretty smelly but you still have me.” 

 I know that things will turn around for my friends that are struggling right now and that life will make a U turn for them in the days ahead.   And those that are rejoicing, they had their moments of despair and have been justly rewarded for their struggles.   My friendship will always be steadfast for all of my dear friends.   And the friends that should matter to all of them, no matter where they reside in the journey of life, will be devout.  As one friend said recently, “It is when things aren't going well; you look around and realize who your true friends are.”  So true.

We are not in this world alone for a reason, it is definitely by design.  We need to help each other, or as Charley implies, pet each other.  So maybe my darn dog is reinforcing something critically important to me.  I am not so helpless after all in any of friends’ plights of life’s letdowns.  I am doing something.  Just being a reinforcement as a friend, an unconditional supporter, can make a huge difference.  You don’t need to put your rear in someone’s face to create a positive change, like Charley, but you can certainly nudge them and let them know you are there. 

I apologize but I must sign off now. Someone is weaving in and out of my legs, at the moment, all 105 lbs. of him.   He is letting his presence be known, much like that friend that knows you and is assured that you will always take their call when they are in need.  Well, this friend, though aggravating at times, and most assuredly getting dog hair on my pants, is taking precedence over anything at the moment.  And that, as I hope my blog has clearly stated, is what good friendships are about.  Figure out who yours are and give them prominence in your life, support them in all ways!  Charley is one of mine.............




10/03/2013

Autism Changes Like the Seasons


 Fall is somewhat like spring in the north.  Forget about sweatshirts down here; you can still wear flip flops outside. Heck, in the south folks wear them year round, right through the dead of winter.  And on Sunday, the end of September was one of our typical beautiful days that make me fall in love all over again with middle Tennessee.


Last year we spent a wonderful day at Lucky Ladds Farm with the grandkids and their parents in Eaglesville, TN just south of Nashville.  Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, this year it was just fantastic! One more year of intense therapy for my two autistic grandsons, Jake and Ty Ry and the changes are unbelievable. I am not sure, sometimes they are even recognized as being ‘special needs’, especially our youngest one Jake. 

I smiled with pride as I stood back and watched them both on the Farm.  I snapped away with the camera every chance I got.  My friends, the Lameys say I am like a foreign tourist with my picture taking! With these kids, I want to show the world what a happy family looks like with autism in their life.  My son’s family refuses to let a diagnosis stop them from living life to the fullest.  

As we entered the farm, surrounded by a sea of pumpkins and people, my two grandsons walked on their own this year, no longer shy or having reservations about going someplace new  There were no meltdowns, no heads bent, nothing of the kind. They were as excited as every other kid in line waiting to begin their wild Sunday adventure.  Jake was taking it all in, saying a few words and sentences, at the age of three, much like some of his peers.  Ty was giggling and laughing, just like the happy boy he usually always is; he adapts now so much easier to change.  

Lucky Ladd Farm is stock full of things to see and do. There are farm animals fenced in to feed, a petting area, slides, corn maze, rides and other things beyond this.  Ava, the big sis, in one year’s time has dramatically improved her language skills.  Now she is keeping pass with her kindergarten class that we weren’t so sure she would be in last year.  She easily expresses herself, in no uncertain terms, like every other five or six year old emotional little girl. 


Oh, we stand back and try hard not to laugh, as her parents find ways to lay down the law to their strong willed daughter without breaking her spirit.  But, as grandparents, we cave in. “You want a horsey ride? Here is $5.00, pick out a horse to ride honey, and go for it! ” What are grandparents for? 


Last year, Ty was completely afraid of the animals.  His mom reminded me of this the other night.    This year, our courageous little grandson was amazing, a changed little boy. He was fascinated by all of the animals and could not take his eyes off of them.  He was engaging, feeding them and allowing his


daddy to hold him close so he could get clear access to their mouths and feed them from his hands.  Grandpa and I stood watching, forgetting most of the time to snap pictures.  We were in total disbelief. Where was our little frightened grandson? 

Gone are the two little boys who hated being near others.   This day, thanks to their parents and the therapists’ hard work, these kids mixed and mingled with everyone.  Whatever they wanted to do, climb or see, no one was going to stand in their way.  Anything they saw they wanted to do, they went for it. No tears, no fits, no whining. Even the highest slide was not off limits to these boys.  Each boy went down first with their daddy, my son, gently assuring them they were completely safe and could do it alone.  Next time, he sent them down alone asking them to help him count to three, and down they went!  Not a peep from either of them except as soon as they hit the bottom of the hill, round they ran to climb back up the hill for more.

There was a huge shelter area that had corn kernels in it.  Supposedly autistic children are funny about things on their hands, or people in their space.  Ah, Jake was in that area, front and center, dumping the bulldozer, filling the dump trucks and as far as being around the perimeter of the huge area, no he was not having that.  Even with all the children in there, he was determined to be dead center, and that is where he remained the entire time until I had to drag him out.   And I do mean physically pick him up to remove him because yelling his name did no good. He would ignore us and then respond occasionally with a “No Grandma” because I was not mommy or daddy so he knew he could get away with it!   


It was time for Jake to move out of the pit, so to speak and see more of the farm.  Slide time was now and his mother had instructed me his melt down recovery time had lessened and that he was not to always have his way. I braced myself. His fits in the past have been long and pretty loud and inconsolable. Well, Jake told me no loudly and started whimpering.  I promptly said yes to him, and walked in the middle of the corn pit, swiped him up in my arms, and told him we were going to the slide with mommy and daddy.  Those little feet and legs began kicking.  As soon as I said stop it, they did!  Wow, therapy really does work!  Shocked I put him down and off we went to the slide, with a smiling little guy with no tears to show any discontentment. 


Ty, once notorious for meltdowns, is now the calm little boy his daddy once was years ago.  When he breaks down in frustration, from being overstimulated or overly tired, he calms down quickly for the most part.  I have been instructed what to do and found out Sunday, it works right on cue.  On the top of the slide, I could tell he was getting ready to have a meltdown. When I tried to settle him down, he seemed more agitated with me. I could sense what was coming so did exactly what my son and daughter-in-law have told me to do in the past. I picked him up snugly and when he began kicking, swinging his head, and continued yelling,  I simply confined him up against my body tightly and walked him out away from everyone in a nice quiet area.  I put him down and he was immediately fine!  He literally looked up at me and smiled!  We walked over towards the swings and all was well with the world.   No more long extended meltdown.  What a big boy; I could not be prouder!

Standing out on the acres of Lucky Land Farm that was covered in gorgeous landscaped flowers and haystacks with scarecrows, it looked like a children’s and adult’s playground.  Gone were the worries of the world.  Also, gone were the labels that the world puts on children.    Those silly labels mean nothing; they are judgmental statements that need not apply. 

Please take a few moments and watch the video.  I made one last year also with my blog of the same trip.   It was to show the normalcy that exists in a family that, on the outside looking in, many people think is so different.  I also get asked a great deal how my grandsons are doing. This is an easy to way to let folks catch a glimpse of two very special boys and the loving family that is just as important to us as they are my two grandsons. Without the other three, those two would never thrive. 

This family, Mike, Rebekah, Ava, Ty and Jake have gone through tremendous growth this year. Major progress has been made in therapy. Ty who use to use some sign language, as he was told he would never speak, is defying the doctors. He is speaking some words now.    Hopefully, the images on the video reflect some of the changes in the boys.  Autism in the family requires this, continued work and continued growth.  It is a slow steady progress, with steps backwards, at times,  but more steps forward when things are going right.    It is a constant ever changing journey.

One of things I have learned from my family is that I can never totally comprehend what it is like, on a daily basis, to have autistic children in the home. The best I can do is try, try to understand.  If we all do that, as a family, as friends, as a church community and as a society, it helps. 

Recognize too, my kids never complain. They love their children and would not change a thing about any of them.  We would not, as grandparents, want to change anything either, not one hair on these darling children’s heads.  Our grandchildren are as God planned, like all children are. 

Many children do not have parents who can care and give them the alternative therapies these kids need.  We simply ask that others have compassion and pay attention to the legislation and the changes that need to be made to help these children, their families and the adults with autism to assimilate progressively to the world.  They deserve it.  Having proper therapy to be the best they can be and reach their full potential is imperative as a larger population is going to become an even greater segment of our adult demographics of the future. 



These children and their families deserve to feel like they do when it is a beautiful day in the fall and they are at a pumpkin farm.   Just like the video below conveys. At the end of the day, that is what they are.
                  
                                       CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO
                              

9/19/2013

Ashley's Time

There is a time for everything in life.  Like the cycles of the seasons, things in our life have a way of cycling around, like the development of childhood to teen-age years to the golden ages.   Things change and yet, the general rhythm of it stays the same. Life is funny that way.


Today is my youngest sister’s birthday.  I can still recall sharing a bedroom with her when she was just a baby. I was in about the sixth grade. I would be awoken by sounds of her either crying or cooing. Her crib was on one wall and my bed was on another wall.  She eventually learned how to stand up, peek over the headboard of her crib and stare at me. Something about that cute little baby girl staring at me made it hard to sleep. But also made me fall in love with her.  She had the darkest brown eyes with the cutest smile and spoke so cute when she began speaking. She, naturally, had the happiest disposition of all the babies I had known, when she was feeling good. I was the big sister, not the mother, thus I never had to deal with the hard stuff, doctor visits, feedings, cranky periods, discipline, teaching sharing,etc.  I just got the joys of playtime and could walk away whenever I wanted to.


Over the years, I saw my sister grow up. Many of those years, it was from afar, in some regards.  Our age gap was about 12 years.   I became a young mom myself so moved away when my sister was still quite young.   I still recall hearing her giggling at my first wedding. I am not sure if that is because she thought the marriage wouldn't last or she thought the idea of me being married was just plain silly.  Kids are brutally honest.   I think it was just her way of having a good time there; she was a happy girl in a pretty dress. 

Once my son was born, my sister, age 8, said she was the youngest aunt among her friends.  Not long after, my sister turned 10 and became an aunt again to a cute baby niece. My little baby girl was going to follow the same path of life I had watched play out with my younger sister.   Now, I was the one doing all the things I had recalled occurring when I was, years ago, lapsing in and out of my sister’s existence. I was taking the baby girl to the doctor, doing her night feedings, dealing with emotional little girl’s feelings.   I never remembered my sister being this emotional, but then again, from a young girls standpoint, things always look quite  different, especially when you don’t have the responsibility of another’s life in your hands.  But, the experience of it all, motherhood, I would not trade it for any other in the world.

It became so ironic at times to have a sister growing up and a daughter, just about ten years apart.  And in reality, so was I, growing and maturely, right there alongside of them.  My sister was so open and honest with me as her life unfolded with the various ups and downs. She appreciated my input, asked for it often and we laughed frequently over the stuff of life.

My youngest sister's wonderful family

My own daughter rejected my opinions.  She hated my line, "My goal in your life is not to be your best friend. Equally I heard,“Get a life” often than not during her formidable years.  When I began to listen was when I got divorced again.   Maybe she will realize, if she reads this, moms sometimes do actually listen to their teen age daughters for advice, even though it may not be intended that way.  I saw something in my daughter and in my sister that I had seen in myself years ago and I wanted back. That sparkle in their eyes, and I did find it.

The irony, at the time was having two young women in my life so very important to me that I loved, one who wanted me in their life and another who wanted me, most days,  to drop off a cliff and not be found until she turned 18.    Both provided me with so much laughter, learning lessons and memories to last a lifetime.  Both also provided me with glimpses of myself as I watched them grow and develop.

It seems like yesterday that my sister had a baby boy.  Her son was a total delight and to this day is one of the greatest joys in my life. There is something about him that just touches my heart strings in a way I truly can’t put into words. He was a small boy full of energy and magical charm. As my husband says to me, there is something about him that makes you love him as much as if he was your own.  He has a beautiful soul for a young man.   





Another child soon followed for my sister, after her son, with the same age gap as my children. Amazing how time changes but some things don’t. Our kids had the same age span and the same gender line up.  This daughter proved to be as challenging as mine.  Daughters, second born anyways, are not submissive personalities, in general.  But, they are, in our family anyways, driven to success, high achievers and have a will that is unbreakable. I am as proud of her as I am of my sister, my daughter and myself, all second born.




 It must be that my sister had even more love to give because she had another darling to bring into the world.  This last daughter, is the one that truly shows me the meaning of the circle of life. She also epitomizes all that is good in a family, wrapped up in one small child.

And thus began the life cycle of the youngest one in my youngest sister’s clan, the little baby girl who had big eyes, loved to coo and smile. This little girl has the temperament I remember her mommy having, from my perspective of the early days.  She is exceptional, her persona is just precious. She is graced with refreshing calmness, no pretense about her.  Always able to have a kind word for others, especially those in need, she was born with a kind soul beyond her years. She is like a breath of fresh air; refreshing and undaunted by the polluted air that surrounds her.   All the positive traits of the family were somehow rolled into one person, this little girl, without her knowledge. As she grows and develops over the seasons she may one day take the world by storm.  I watch for the flickers of reminders of my past; my sister’s and my daughter’s but know her path is a special one.
 
A cycle begins and continues. I am once more watching a girl develop, from afar.  When I see her, my niece, I am awe struck by some of her perfection at such a young age.  When I hear her voice on the phone, I am moved by her eagerness to engage.  When I see her face in pictures, I smile at how she lights up the screen with her willingness to embrace the world. 






Today, on my youngest sister’s birthday, I can’t help but reminisce.  All those years ago, there was this little head of long dark hair on this tiny baby girl. As I tried to sleep  I would wake up to hearing chattering in her bed. She was intent on getting my attention. I remember the times when I would have her out in public as a teenager and she would embarrass me by telling strangers I was her mother.  She was a character and knew how to enjoy life.  I see her youngest daughter going through this teasing with both her older siblings and I have to laugh; we all survive.

The little girl I knew grew up to be a beautiful woman.

The similarities of the life cycle for all of us is really more similar than not.  When I put together the attached video below, it was a trip down memory lane. It is, at first glance, a collection of photos of my niece.   But it is also one of all of us, my sister, my daughter and me.  It shows the similarities of us all; I can see periods in all of our lives through her eyes, my niece’s, her smile and her facial expressions.  But if you look close enough, and focus on the innocence of the pictures, it is a picture of everyone’s memory lane. 

These images recall times in life when the innocence was predominate in our eyes.   They show a child who has a joy of just being in the moment, over and over again.   My niece has a beautiful spirit and soul.  This is a blessing she has that I feel goes well beyond her years.  I too believe she is the one child I have met who will retain it.   I pray she is bigger and better than any of us that have come before her. 

May her images remind you of those moments in your life that you hold dear.  May you see in her eyes your times past that seemed fleeting but are actually etched in your memory. Maybe they just need to be pulled from the back of the closet, dusted off and put in a more prominent spot.   Photo albums are good ways to recapture our innocence.  Reminders of our past are like a history lesson, it helps us appreciate who we are and where we came from.   My niece is who she is because of my sister; I see my sister in every picture of her and her father too.


Though seasons change, and you as well, those memories of your growing up years are at the core of who you are and who you will always be.  

Life has so many rich experiences,
     The total collection must be treasured,
Don’t forget the small everyday moments
     Because their value cannot be measured.


Click here to go to Video Link


8/24/2013

Is Innocence Long Gone?



video






I remember in what used to be called junior high school a wonderful group that met for a while once every few weeks.  Mr. Otterbein, the school counselor,  pulled together a few girls, who were friends, so they were receptive to the idea. 

The rules were simple. Be open, be honest, be respectful and what is said does not leave the room. And surprisingly, for young teens, everyone did abide.  This group Mr. O, as we fondly called him, started was not about counseling per Se but about peer support. We started out wanting to talk about safe topics, boys we liked, girls we hated, clothes we loved, celebrities we knew wanted to kiss us, etc. It took time to break down the barrier.  But eventually the walls came down. When they did, little by little, we began to really see each other differently, more than just a fellow classmate, just another girl our age, but more as a whole person. 

The sharing brought out sometimes heart wrenching stories of what was going on in our lives, including loss, disappointment, frustration, despair, anger, and other emotions.  Going to class, to sports, boyfriends, and hanging out, these are not the places and kind of things teens normally share.  This group and setting allowed us to bring emotions to the forefront.  It provided a healthy forum to deal with them, help each other and also have an adult there to guide the conversation in a positive direction, if needed. Most times, it was not needed. We gave each other strength.  We found coping skills in our own situation from listening to others. We found blessings in our new found deep abiding friendships based on realities and not falsities. 
Today, the news is filled of stories of teens filled with some of the same emotions we brought to our sessions all those years ago.  Instead of sitting in a safe zone to discuss them with other teens, young confused teens are walking around with guns shooting folks. Afterwards, everyone is standing around looking shocked and saying they never saw this coming, what is wrong with the teens today. I am not sure it is all that different than before, is it?  Or are they just not being given tools to cope?   I don’t have the answers because my children are grown. But I do know my kids had sessions with me, so many in fact, they began to hate them probably.

I believe communication is key.  Talking and more importantly listening are essentially. If teens are not listened to, they are more inclined to act.  Sometimes that is the only way they can be heard.  We survived all the drama of middle school by having a great support system that kept us grounded.  I did not have such a group in high school and feel it was harder because of it.  I wish the kids that say they join gangs because they are bored had a group like I joined instead.  Are inner city schools even offered opportunities like that?  Is it cool? We were allowed to cut class to attend, how cool is that?   

Recently I watched a debate on why the violence is so prevalent with young people today.  One reason stated was there is an increase in mental illness.  Many young people are walking around with undiagnosed mental illness. That may be true.  My only concern here is that mental illness is treated with drugs.  Though violence and mental illness are extremely serious, it is scary to think that thousands of teens should be medicated. Is that the answer?


Many believe in what teens are saying that they are acting violent out of boredom. That is rather difficult to swallow.   It shows a total lack of consciousness towards life. Plus, who hasn't been bored as a teen?  Everyone experienced boredom at that age. How many of us felt compelled to kill someone because of it?   Seriously now, I do not believe this is the sole reason a teen (s) go out and kill someone.  Most folks, if bored, go out and indulge on food, go shopping, play sports, not grab a gun and go kill.

The one reason I did hear that makes the most sense is rage.  Teens, for multiple reasons, have inward hostility building up inside going unchecked, unnoticed.   There are telltale signs, in advance, with many of these kids that are just ignored. It can be school grades, Facebook post or other media outlets, friend choices, behavior at home, drug usage, violent interaction, etc…  The parents may notice but the last person a teen will listen to are the parents!  Parents are so often viewed as the enemy by rebellious teens, even non rebellious teens.  No one else seems to pay attention until these kids go over the edge. Then, all the sudden, they are all over the news and everyone is shocked and saying they didn't have a clue. I am with the experts that say, looking back, there usually always are clues. 

We, as a society, every one of us, needs to pay attention.  It may not be your teen, you may feel it is not your responsibility, as in my kids are grown up, but it is! All of us need to come together.  Stray bullets make no distinction.   Teens tend to not be good shooters.  Any of us could be a target for random violence.  Maybe all of us could try giving someone recognition so they know they count.  Make eye contact, be friendly.   Ask your school systems what they are doing to give teens an outlet, the ones that aren't involved in sports. Not everyone is a sports junkie, not everyone has parents involved in their life. Why should the teen be penalized if his parents both have to work and he/she need some other activity that is productive? 

I do believe change can happen. I think the innocence of our youth is still here, as it always was and will always be. I, unlike so many, am not willing to throw today’s teens under the bus and just accept it. I think they are looking for a change and do not know how to ask for it.  We are the adults and I refuse to let my grandchildren down. Maybe these grandiose acts of violence we are seeing in the news are acts of desperation and shallow thinking.   Their brains are not fully developed and they do not see that long term effects of their actions, and how they are limiting a future that could be promising for themselves. 

We need to create better paths for them to follow by providing more avenues of help, pre-violent acts.  Our little group at Spinning Hills in Mad River Township gave us a sense of pride in who we were, and what we could one day be.  We felt empowered for an exciting future that was limitless!  Every teen deserves to feel that way. As a community, we need to work towards that and not sit back and give up. 

8/11/2013

Dan Bronold Memorial Fund


Happy Birthday Son!



Looking Back…
                                   
New parents look down at the face of a newborn child and wish that their child will grow up happy, healthy and successful.   Such was the case for a couple in 1978 when they adopted a baby boy.  Daniel James Bronold was brought home from the hospital and began his life like so many children in America.  Two parents loved him and provided a good home with Christian values. Dan’s childhood went by fairly unscathed with fun times swimming, fishing, snowmobiling and a love of basketball.  

But when Dan became a teen things changed dramatically.  His efforts in school diminished and his respect for authority went downhill. By high school, he was skipping school frequently, smoking pot, hanging with a crowd of friends that were in to living in the moment like him.  His friends of the past were gone.  His anger towards authority, rules and regulations were playing havoc in the household and in his life.  His parents saw the signs of a life spiraling downhill and tried all paths to get him back on track but each avenue was met with outright defiance.  

Dan dropped out of school, and developed a lifetime habit of self-destruction.  He had brief periods where he would try to turn things around.  The moments of clarity, there would be amends made, and signs of hope but they were brief.  And then, he would drop back into his pattern even further and angrier than the time before, more depressed and more dysfunctional. 

As Dan’s step mother, it was plain for me to see, early on, that Dan’s father was a silent supporter of his son.  Countless times during calls and sporadic visits, he reiterated to his son that he had the power to change if he made the choice.  The pattern Dan developed was using his dad for the staple Dan was always in short supply of, money. The last few years of his life, Dan’s only calls to his dad were 911 calls “Dad, help me, I need money for bail, for rent, for drugs, for food, etc.” 

Gone were the meaningful dialogues between father and son. In its place now was deception, lies and a hunger to feed a lifestyle that was totally out of control.  When he couldn't manipulate his dad, he then tried working him through me. Dan had a sweet heart but he didn't let it guide his choices.   Inside, he needed help, and yet refused to go get it. His father loved him enough to step aside and not be part of the problem by only giving him money. His dad wanted to only give money to Dan if it was used as part of the solution, e.g. counseling, education. Their love was mutual, but the communication was gone.  Only Dan had the power to change and we prayed it would happen.

The waiting was over on March 19th, 2012; a change had come. The news that flashed on the local TV network simply showed a mug shot of a Hispanic young man, dead at 33 years old.  Dan Bronold was awaiting trial for tentative charges, hung himself in a jail cell after being in solitary confinement since early December 2011 and an investigation was underway to figure out how this happened in the Ingham County Jail.  Daniel James Bronold, he is gone from this earth but never ever forgotten. He lives in the life of those that love him and those he touched forever.

Moving On…

A special memorial is being started by Dan’s father to help young teens find their way out of this downward spiral before it is too late.  This situation with Dan and his parents is happening all over this country.  Young teens lose their live; parents lose control of their kids and run out of options.  This continues into adulthood, our prisons are full of such stories.  A decision was made on the anniversary of Dan’s death to commit to a special memorial fund and to ask others to consider it as well.  So much work needs to be done in this area and Dan’s story can give others the chance.  We feel Dan would want this, and would be proud to lend his name to the efforts for change.   

Thus, a tremendous amount of research went into finding just the right program within Michigan in remembrance of Dan.  We knew Michigan has a high incidence of issues in this area and as a state; they are hurting terribly for funding. We wanted to help a program that needed help, where our donation dollars would make a difference and be noticed.  

Midcourse Correction Challenge Camps stood out easily as the choice. It was started over 20 years ago for at-risk teens, ages 11-17. This is exactly the age where Dan began his descent and this is the critical time to get things turned around.  It has a military structure, so that the teens are able to learn self-control. The military aspect makes it highly structured and supervised, but also it’s positive, and unlike other camps, does not tear teens down.  

We quickly learned that this is not a camp that just barks orders. They teach teens to take responsibility for their actions, while learning tools for life.  They do a series of hands-on, group based activities that teach goal setting, trust, communication, doing hard things, depending on, and working with others, and how to respect themselves, and authority. The teens are shown where they are heading based on the choices that they are making. The teens will gain new levels of self-esteem as well as respect for others.  The program is tough, physically, but also mentally.  It really gets the teens to examine their choices and behavior, and where it will get them.  Too many teens lack motivation, make up rules as they go, and live in the moment.  Midcourse is designed to wake these teens up, and get them on the right path, and prevent as many of these Dan stories as they can.  Most of the teens that attend camp are forever changed.

Midcourse also provides outreach to the teens after they leave camp.  There is follow up with the teens to see how they are doing.  If they aren’t doing well, they will make house calls to the teen’s home, or have phone conversations with the teen to try and get them back on track.  They also have a mentoring program called Honor Company where the teens can come back and learn about things like; integrity, charity, relationships, and self-control.  They are very steadfast when it comes to not giving up on teens.  They also provide parenting classes to help bring some peace and stability into these homes; this program truly cares about results and the teens it mentors.   

We spoke to the director of Midcourse, Rich Wood, several times as well as a staff member. We found that Midcourse separates itself from so many other programs.  Rich has a strong Christian influence that helps him guide this mission.  Rich and the staff have a passion and conviction to make a difference in the lives of young people.  It was apparent that Midcourse runs on limited funds.  Any amount we can give or can draw to their program is needed and will be used to help a teen have a chance to better their live.  

Each year Midcourse has to turn away hundreds of kids, because their parents cannot afford the $425 to send them for the weekend camp.  If even one of these teens end up like Dan, that is one too many.  This will be an annual donation on Dan’s birthday, August 12th.  Please consider if this is a worthwhile contribution for you.  The youth of today are the true future of tomorrow, these teens, if not turned around are not going to be the good guys in society.

Most boot camps are unforgiving in nature. Most boot camps are extremely expensive.  This one is neither. Counseling is expensive and many teens won’t go.  This option does not involve either.  Counseling did not help Dan or save him from dying.  Dan never went to a camp like this. Getting teens out of their element and peer group and to this Camp can be critical.  Maybe a camp like this would have saved Dan; we will never know.  Giving a tax free donation in any amount to this program is a way to find out.   It is helping a parent that can’t afford to send a child to camp but needs to or a teen that is willing to go but can’t afford to.  Are you willing to throw money in the pot to make someone’s community safer?  

At-risk teens need to know that they can change. This needs to happen before they throw their lives away. This program brings about positive results. Maybe all kids can’t be saved, but maybe your dollar will be the one that saves a lost soul like Dan before the phone rings and brings news that he is not coming home again…ever.

Donations can be sent to:
Midcourse Correction
Attn: Dan Bronold Memorial Fund          
833 E Grand River Ave
Howell, MI 48843          * Note:  The opening page of the video should state the name of the                                                               camp as Midcourse Correction Challenge Camp.                                  
Make checks payable to :Midcourse Correction.
Put: Dan Bronold Memorial Fund in Memo  section of check or on note w/check (or can call directly to put on credit card for donating for this fund)              
Midcourse is a non-profit organization; your donations are tax deductible.
You will receive a receipt from MCC.  
Please contact them directly 810-227-0243 for CC Payments.