I don’t travel very often, but when I need to book a hotel, I use Hotwire.com. They offer wonderful hotels at a low rate; hotels that have extra rooms that they need to fill up. The catch is, you do not know the name of the hotel, just the “type” of hotels that are included in each category. Hotwire has never disappointed me, as they have always provided quality hotels at a greatly discounted price. This past weekend, I was scheduled to do a presentation for a large parents conference held at Perkins School for the Blind, about a two hour drive for me. Because the conference was scheduled to begin at 8:30 am, and I would be reimbursed for my travel expenses, I contacted Hotwire to book a hotel room. The least expensive one listed was $69, which was a real bargain because hotels in and around the Boston area are very pricey. I booked it on line, and awaited the name of the hotel. It was not a brand name I had ever heard of, so Google checked it out for me. It was listed as an “elite, boutique hotel”, and the least expensive price listed on their website for a room was $180! Now, I am definitely NOT elite, and have never visited a boutique before, but for $69 I was going to give it my all! Upon driving up to the hotel’s front door, I learned that valet parking was mandatory. I relinquished my “Best Mom” fake jeweled key chain to the parking attendant, (pardon me…to the VALET.) Politely and without comment, he struggled as I do to climb up into the driver’s seat of my large van, and drove away in my 2002, dented, dirty, 15 passenger with a raised roof and wheelchair lift van. He parked it right between a Rolls and a Jaguar, and it looked like a large, dirty, cheap piece of coal between 2 diamonds. Even my car was going to get a new experience! The lobby was gorgeous, as are so many in expensive hotels. Lots of fresh flowers, a water fountain cascaded down the wall, and a lovely tray of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Checking in was a pleasurable experience with a tuxedo clad clerk, who offered me a cookie. (I would have taken one anyway, so the fact that he offered was a bonus, although I would have preferred he offered me 10.) My 6th floor room, with the curtains open, had a breathtaking view of the Boston skyline at night. The room itself was definitely “boutique”… furniture with trim lines, a wood floor with plush, beautifully designed, throw rugs that added an elegant, clean look to the room. Because it was late in the day and I was tired, I put on my jammies, brushed my teeth, and climbed under the luxurious, fragrant, CLEAN sheets and comforter. I honestly felt as though I were laying on a cloud. In addition, there were four different types of pillows on the bed so that I could choose the one which would best facilitate a good night’s sleep. Ahhhhhh…..sleep….on a cloud overlooking the Boston skyline… The modern bathroom had a very large walk-in shower with huge round shower heads pointed in all directions. In the morning I took a shower, or, should I say, I EXPERIENCED a shower. It was all a new thing for me; hot water flowing over my body from all different angles. Do people really LIVE like that? The shampoo was ultra fragrant, with a conditioner and body wash that had complementary fragrances. (Think orchids, strawberries and oranges…) I felt like a fruit orchard, and it was a very unique feeling! (I guess that is what makes the hotel “boutique”.) As I finished showering and came through the frosted glass door of the shower, I shocked myself when I saw another dripping wet, old, fat, ugly naked woman coming towards me in the room. I screamed. I shuddered. I looked closer. It was ME. Reflected in the mirrored wall just outside the bathroom. Although breathing a sigh of relief, I was also filled with horror at the image in front of me. I don’t know about you, but I NEVER look at myself naked in a full mirror. Any illusions I may have had about my looks were proven false in that moment. Oh, well…it’s a good thing I feel beautiful on the INSIDE… After getting over my shock, I dressed and made myself a nice cup of tea with the provided Keurig. Now THAT is my idea of a boutique hotel…one that provides fresh tea to my liking. Now, if only I had a few of those chocolate chip cookies from downstairs… ************************ I would love to come and speak for your group or at your conference. I would do it for free, but would need the price of travel. For functions in the North East, that would be only gas money. Link to my book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11 The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/
Archive for the ‘happiness through adversity’ Category
I have been fortunate in that my mother loved to travel and she often took me and one of my kiddos “along for the ride.” One of my favorite spots was Discovery Cove, part of Sea World in Orlando. Discovery Cove offered a make believe coral reef with lots of beautiful fish swimming around and huge stingrays that would swim close and touch you. It was so amazing, and was as close to real snorkeling that I had ever been. With a life jacket, snorkel and mask on, Marie, (my 13 year old daughter who is profoundly deaf and has PTSD) and I spent the day swimming around, amazed at the many varieties of tropical fish. It was like being in another world. In one spot, there was a glass wall and you could swim next to sharks. Up until this point in my life, this was as close to real snorkeling, and SHARKS, that I would get! It was awesome!
Near the end of the day, Marie’s medication began to wear off as we had stayed later than I anticipated. She began to get anxious, but she didn’t want to leave. I told her one more swim around the coral reef and then we’d head back to the hotel. As had been happening all day, a stingray came up and touched Marie on her leg. In fact, she had been petting them for most of the day, calling them her “friends”. For some reason, this touch was different than the rest. She became frightened and had a full blown panic attack. She started SCREAMING her high pitched scream and she was signing (in American sign language,) “The fish is going to eat me!” (Why the fish would think she were any tastier later in the day than earlier, I don’t understand.) To get away from the stingray, she climbed onto my back. I tried to calm her down, but it was difficult to do sign language while trying to swim with a child on your back, and she was screaming so loud her eyes were shut and she couldn’t see what I was saying anyway! By this time, we were halfway around the coral reef and as far from the shore as you could possibly get. Marie decided she was not safe enough on my back because her toes were still in the water, so she climbed up on my shoulders to get completely out of the water! Unfortunately, that meant I’d have to sink UNDER the water for her to stay OUT of it. I started screaming along with her. (Albeit alternating choking with water and screaming.) She was truly frightened the fish was going to eat her and I was truly frightened I was going to drowned.
They have several life guards there and our dilemma was not hard to miss, with Marie standing upright and me bobbing in and out of the water choking. Because we were so far out, it took the lifeguards what seemed like an eternity to reach us. When they got to us, Marie refused to let the lifeguards touch her, screaming and kicking at them. (Good old Post Traumatic Stress Disorder shows up when you least expect it!) What three of the lifeguards ended up doing was supporting me in the water while she continued to stand on my shoulders and scream. Of course there was a huge crowd of onlookers on the beach, some taking photos. (We really were quite a sight!) Once on the beach both Marie and I collapsed into the sand. The life guards asked if we needed to go to the hospital, but I was still breathing and Marie had stopped screaming and was crying quietly, so that meant we had both survived unscathed. Well, maybe not totally unscathed, I’ve lost my wanderlust for snorkeling!
My job is a social worker for children who are blind includes coordinating both a summer and winter program for the children with whom we work. Last winter we went to an indoor water park during February vacation with about twenty-five children who are blind and “legally blind”. The children had a wonderful time playing in the water park, on the slides, in the wave runner surfing area, and in the pool, as well as participate in the regular activities that we plan, such as playing bingo and dancing. Getting together is a huge big deal for these children who are mainstreamed into regular classrooms in their neighborhood public schools where they might not ever see another student with a vision impairment. I began this program twenty two years ago when my oldest son, who is legally blind, was six years old.
The winter program was a huge success! Most notably for me, it was the first time my fourteen year old daughter who is profoundly deaf wanted to help out a group of younger girls who are blind. Each girl had their own staff person who amicably allowed Marie to join their group to help with the little girls. Despite the fact that she normally communicates in American Sign Language, she somehow managed to be very sociable and get along well with everyone. Having normally been obsessed with surfing at the wave runner attraction, and being a somewhat selfish young lady, I had expected she would help for a little while, but spend most of her time surfing. However, I was pleasantly amazed that she did not choose her own activity, but spent all of her time in the water park playing with the little girls, helping them on the slides, holding their hands to guide them around the park, showing them where the food was on their plates, and so forth. She was having a grand time, and the girls all seemed to adore her.
On the last night of this program. Marie was seated at a booth with two of the girls and their staff. One of the girls all of a sudden started waving her hands wildly in the air. Prone to seizures, her staff person asked her if she was okay. She said of COURSE she was okay, she was just TALKING to Marie!! The laughter started at their table and soon circled around the room as everyone realized what she had said…she was signing to her, of course!!!!
Parenthood can be a lot of work at times, especially with children with disabilities, but I always prefer to see the joyful side of parenthood for the following reasons:
- The sight of a sleeping child, no matter what age, melts my heart. We always take pictures of our children sleeping on Christmas Eve, so I have a collection of how their sweet sleeping faces look as they age. It never ceases to affect me and I smile at each and every one.
- When a child is in a school performance, from pre-school graduation, school plays, award ceremonies, right up to college graduation my pride soars. Tears always come to my eyes as my well dressed for the occasion child “does his/her thing.” Each child’s “thing” may be different…Steven, especially in the early years with his sensory integration deficit, would actually hide under the chair, (or the pew in church as was the case when he was supposed to make his first communion.) Francis would walk slowly looking down due to his visual impairment, and he would be hesitant about who to go to until he got close enough to see them. Dinora would “strut her stuff”, with us all excited at her accomplishment. Angel would put on his best “game show host” face and wave to the audience as if the event was entire for him. Marie would…well, I’ll save that for a later blog because that is a real interesting story!
- Each time a child learns a new skill, I am overcome with joy at their accomplishment. Not just the learning to walk or talk part, but the entire route to independence they take. My 2 oldest live on their own, have jobs and pay their own bills. Just the fact that they can pay their own bills causes me to leap in the air with happiness.
- Sitting around the table eating dinner together usually, (depending on how the kids are getting along,) fills me with the peace. I like sitting at the head of the table with my husband at the other end, and the kids in the middle. Holidays and special occasions are always extra nice when all 5 children are there.
- I feel a happiness only a mother could feel every time a child presents me with a gift they have made for me. Steven made me a wonderful 2 foot tall vase shaped like and alligator, (his favorite animal.) What mother wouldn’t be thrilled to receive an alligator vase? The color even matches the colors in my kitchen! Angel’s, who is 15 years old, has a child-like “part” that makes me jewelry. He presents it to me with great flourish, It is always gaudy and made of huge plastic “crystal” beads. When I wear it, I feel like I am wearing a chandelier, but I wear it with pride, (until I can get in my car alone and take it off on my drive to work.)
- Taking the children out for an activity like bowling, horseback riding, or go cart riding allows me to have an excuse and have fun like a kid myself.
- The times the children prepare breakfast for me is especially joyful, (even though the eggs are tough, the toast is burnt, and the tea has no sugar. Plus, the kitchen is a huge mess!) I always look on the bright side, and even if my eggs aren’t sunny side up, I am sunny inside!
- The biggest joy I get out of parenthood is the fact that I do not have time to clean the house…taking care of all of the children’s special needs, all of the therapy, counseling, medical, extra-curricular activities does not leave me any time to clean! We’ve long ago learned to settle for a “picked up house”, not a spotlessly clean house, (or even a “pretty clean” house.) I feel no guilt at all. I would much rather be spending time helping my children than washing the kitchen floor. I will never lay when I lay on my deathbed I wished I’d kept my house cleaner! There are so many more important things to do with the kids, so, sorry, don’t expect my house to be real clean! Ah, the joy of no housework!!!!
Parenting is a lot of fun and can be filled with joy. I try to always focus on the positives and downplay the negatives. It is the only way I remain sane!!!!
I was in family court today and while I waited my turn for my case to be called I sat there on a cold metal bench watching people around me. In the far corner was a group of family members there to celebrate the adoption of the most adorable blonde haired, blue eyed girl, dressed in a red velvet dress with a white lace top and red bows in her hair. There were at least 10 family members and a professional photographer. They were called into the courtroom first, as usually happens with the adoptions. They came out ten minutes later, the new mother crying, the new father proudly carrying his official new daughter. The family members were joyously hugging and congratulating them, which was completely incongruous to the rest of the mopey general public, myself included, waiting to be heard in court. (Not too many people smile or dress elegantly when waiting for court, and the judges and social workers all have their own private room so they don’t have to mingle with the rest of us!) Anyway, it reminded me of the 4 very different adoption courtroom experiences I’ve had with my children.
The one that comes closest to the scene I’d witnessed was when we adopted Dinora from Guatemala. Adopted at the age of 12 months, I did dress her is a frilly dress with a bow in her hair. Our 3 year old son came along dressed in a little vest and tie, and my husband and I proudly carried our children into court for our little one to become an official member of the family. We did not think to bring other family members around, (just as I did not want any other family members around when I giving birth, I guess!) We did take a few pictures, and then we all went out to Chuck E Cheese’s for pizza to celebrate. It was a lovely adoption! What a great experience!
Our third child, Steven, we had had since birth. I took him home from the hospital when he was one month old. They had trouble placing him because he had been born heroin and cocaine addicted to an alcoholic birth mother and anyone with any experience with these children know what serious difficulties they can have. Due to his exposure to drugs and alcohol, his brain appeared to be wired wrong, (my “formal” diagnosis.) He had excessive sensory integration deficit whereby he would scream if you touched him gently, or if there was a tag on his clothes, or it the tv was too loud, or if the room was too bright, and so forth. Plus, by the age of 2 he was super active and never slept. Joy! Joy! Nothing, however, could dim our love for him and we wanted to adopted him. (What held it up for several years was a reported birth father, in prison for life for murder, who would not release his custody. The funny thing was, Steven’s birth mom was Caucasian, light colored hair, blue eyes. His reported birth father was a red headed, blue eyed Irishman. Steven was obviously bi-racial with his dark skin and gorgeous curly black hair. Even though one might entertain the idea that it WAS theoretically possible that these two people could produce a child with Steven’s characteristics, the fact that the reported birth father was in prison when Steven was conceived should have given a clue that he was grasping at straws to obtain custody. Finally, after a forced court ordered DNA test, it was determined he was not the father and Steven was free for adoption. Our loving son could become a permanent family member!) His adoption courtroom experience was very memorable, but all for the wrong reasons. He was almost 4 and wild, wild, wild. He was taking Ritalin, which just took the “edge” off. He still had his sensory issues, and wearing clothes was a real challenge for him. During the adoption proceedings, I sat Steven on my lap, but he wriggled and cried and tried to get free. “Let him DOWN”, the judge said sweetly, and who can argue with a judge? So I let him down. He proceeded to run around in front of us and strip off his clothes piece by piece. The judge started talking faster and faster, trying to hurry the adoption process along. Steven finally was naked and he started to climb up the wood in front of the judge, just as the judge finalized the adoption. “Good luck,” the judge said to us, “I think you are going to need it!”
The adoption of our son Angel was semi-sweet. He loved to dress up, so he was wearing a suit and tie. The court had combined his adoption with the adoption of his five brothers and sisters who were being adopted by their aunt. The children were removed from their birth mother when Angel was born as he was also born to an alcoholic birth mother who was addicted to heroin and cocaine. The aunt agreed to adopt his siblings because they already had a family relationship, but Angel was a stranger to them all. His aunt, only twenty-eight years old herself, had five children of her own. They lived in the poorest part of town in a small apartment that could not rationally hold eleven people. She did not have a car,so we picked them all up to take them to the courthouse for the adoption. They were dressed in clean but tattered clothes. It was obvious that this mother was going to struggle with these children as several of the older, teenage ones were already showing signs of delinquency. The adoption process went smoothly in court, and we dropped them off at their home with a hope that things would work out. Then we happily went home to celebrate with Angel. Another family outing to Chuck E Cheese’s for pizza! (Angel has kept in touch with his siblings, whose adoption has since been rescinded by the adoptive mother. Two of his brothers are in prison, one in the training school for boys, one sister had died and the other sister has lived with several different foster families.)
Marie’s adoption was our final adoption. She had come to us as a foster child at the age of seven, having been picked up in the city streets at 4:00 am carrying her infant brother trying to find food for him. At her tender age, she had been the caretaker of this infant because her birth mother was incompetent and spent her nights out doing drugs of hooking up with guys. Marie was devastated when she and her brother were separated, and she worried and cried for months that he was going to die because she wasn’t there to take care of him. At the adoption proceedings, as in Angel’s case, her brother was to be adopted at the same time she was. By this time he was about four years old. When she saw him in the courtroom lobby she joyfully ran up to him to pick him up. He started to cry! He didn’t know who she was! His new adoptive mother held him and calmed down, but every time Marie came near him he’d start to cry again. Marie was devastated and tearful the whole time. The joy of her adoption was overshadowed by her sadness that the infant she had raised did not know who she was. (She managed to recover somewhat, however. After the proceedings, they let us go up and take a picture of the judge. In every picture, Marie snuck in “bunny ears” fingers over the judge’s head. So much for a memorable adoption picture!)
I would have to say that no two adoption courtroom proceedings are exactly alike. The only thing that is alike in all of them is a deep love of the adoptive parents for their new child/children. For me, in each case, it matched the love I experienced during the birth of my first child. That is a joyful thing!