Tribute to “Special”: A Gem

Welcome everyone! Happy fourth (?) day of Christmas–assuming you observe and/or celebrate, and depending on when you start counting ;). I was blessed to share another wonderful Eve and Day with Hubby (Christmas #21–who woulda thunk it?); our boys; our moms, family and friends. Can I ask for better?

It’s so important to hold on to joy, folks, and to make memories when we can. We never know when we’ll do that ‘last’ thing. Here’s one reason why:

“Special” means so many things, especially when one works in an educational setting.

When it comes to ‘Jewel’ it takes on more than one.

‘Jewel’ (not her real name) was truly a gem. In school, both as a child as an adult, she was often referred to as ‘special,’ perhaps minus the higher IQ that society uses to classify someone as ‘not special.’ A kind spirit, a simpler soul: soaring in goodness and the understanding of function. Did I mention she could play some beautiful pieces on the piano and had no problem kicking out a song too? And how she reportedly devised clever ways around eating the fun foods relative to celebrations her religion restricts?

Jewel didn’t drive. She walked, took the bus or got the occasional ride from staff member(s) or her senior mother—with whom she lived and with whom she is said to be the best of friends.

We go back, Jewel and I. Twenty-two years, if I remember correctly; personal aide for the one of my first six students in the district that now employs me. She never lacked for dedication.

Some other things that made Jewel special:

She was rarely without her smile. Her hearty laugh was always at the ready. Jewel joked and teased without ever hurting a feeling. If a piano was nearby and the timing was right, she played and often sang, too. More times than I can count, our conversations morphed seamlessly into songs with related lyrics. At the end of last school year she auditioned for our school’s first (?) talent show, fretting for a few weeks on whether or not Gladys Night and the Pips’ Midnight Train to Georgia was an appropriate choice for elementary school-aged kids.

She shied away from technology, but learned enough of the basics to help her students make use of it when necessary. Despite that, she knew how to foster function and independence in her charges, often the most physically challenged kids. She cared for them with her strength and with her heart.

Pairing Jewel with her current student—a very physically-challenged child—was the logical choice. They got along well and had a lot of fun. (We all did. You couldn’t help having fun when Jewel was around.) Chances are, Jewel’s heart led her to attend her that student’s holiday concert just ten days before Christmas. After the performance, she took off for home, a mere few blocks from the school.

It was to be the last thing she did.

She never made it home. Jewel was struck by a truck while crossing the street and died of her injuries en route to the trauma center. Reports we heard or read suggest that poor timing ultimately caused the accident.

I’m not quite sure how to wrap this one up, so I’ll share what I told Jewel’s mother at the wake: “Your daughter made people happy.” And in my sadness, I still feel happy, because all my memories of her make me smile.  Jewel is one of those folks whose spirit will be consciously with me more often than not. I will miss her terribly, in many ways like the friend I wrote about several weeks ago.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my special friend. If you are so inclined, please pray for her mother, whose new reality leaves her without daughter, roommate and best friend in the day-to-day we tend to take for granted.

Hug, hold and love those with whom you make your memories.

Happy New Year,

Joanna

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Post-A-Day Inspired–Handmade Gifts

Happy Wednesday and week before Thanksgiving, reader-friends. This year, the holiday is so late, the season will be right up our heels in no time at all.

Very special thanks to my new followers–I am humbled, grateful and truly appreciative of all of you! And to those of you who have been around a while and always faithful and kind enough to leave those comments–well, you know. (Hugs.)

This post is in response to WordPress editor Ben Huberman’s Post-A-Day.

The prompt: What’s the best present you’ve ever received that was handmade by the giver, not store bought?

Coincidentally enough, this prompt originally aired on November 14, which just happens to be the EIGHTEENTH anniversary of Older Son’s birth, and ties into the homemade gift referred to here.

Long story short: At the baby shower my mom hosted when Older Son had yet to make his debut, I received a blue-and-white crocheted, zigzag pattern blanket. (Hubby, who somehow had managed to keep from me the results of my ultrasound, shared his knowledge with everyone else he knew. That, however, is beside the point.)

The blanket, given to me by Hubby’s stepmother, gave away that “secret.”

About ten (?) years later, Hubby’s stepmom asked us to pick up something from her cousin, a shut-in who lived alone less than a mile from my home, in a senior housing building.

At that time, we were busy working, caring for two young boys, keeping up with their sports schedules—you know: typical parent stuff. We didn’t mind doing Hubby’s stepmother a favor, but Hubby voiced some initial concerns about ‘getting involved’ and ‘winding up’ caregivers to this woman. Due to a horrid car (?) accident that had occurred a long while before we met, she was blind in one eye and lived with a colostomy. She also had fairly severe arthritis. Her support system consisted of a few friends and a brother she often complained about. She couldn’t drive, and her ability to walk was limited to her tiny, two-room apartment, and only with a walker for support.

Over the next few years, this lovely lady and I developed a strong friendship. She, who had every reason to be depressed, angry and/or bitter about how life had treated her and the confinement of her days, was always upbeat. Physically impaired as she was, she often cared for her health-aide’s 10-year-old daughter, with whom she shared a very strong bond. This woman offered to sit with my boys so that I could have time to myself. And when I felt down, or overwhelmed or frustrated beyond reason, I called her. She never failed to put things in perspective and remind me how “the good Lord this” or “the good Lord that.” I always hung up the phone inspired.

Among the ways she kept herself busy, she crocheted, mostly zigzag-pattern afghans of varied sizes. Gifts of love she gave to those who asked, or to whom she offered. She offered to make each of my boys one for their beds. She made a green-and-white lap-sized/crib-sized one, which I treasure.

afghan--Barb G

For some reason, I remembered the blue-and-white one I received at my baby shower. (It’s in the garage, in a container of baby things.) The connections came together in my head, and I realized she had crafted that one too, for Hubby’s stepmom to give as her gift.

That wonderful woman wound up with a severe infection that took her life about five years ago. I still miss her and wish I could call her. I’m teary-eyed as I draft this post. But I am ridiculously grateful to know that her handmade gifts will be part of us always, and that my sons have a connection to her too through those blankets. (Younger Son gets the green-and-white one someday.)

So…I now ask you Ben Huberman’s question: What’s the best present you’ve ever received that was handmade by the giver, not store bought?

Thanks to all of you for your time! Have a great day.

Joanna

The Good Ol’ Days

Greetings! How is everyone?

Yep. We are two-plus weeks into August, folks. Summer has a way of flyin’ by. US Open Tennis Championship qualifying rounds are getting underway. Translation: last week of the month is almost upon us. 😦

“These are the good old days,” says my hubby of nineteen years.

Many times, Hubby talks about looking back on “the good old days,” but when we really stop and think about it, aren’t we living them? Don’t our todays pile into the weeks that amass into the months and years upon which we will reflect and dub “the good old days?”

Hubby got me thinking. When my kids were younger and the days much more mommy-intense, I’d look ahead to the time when they wouldn’t need constant supervision. I would have more time for me. It always bugged me though, to feel I was wishing away not only their childhood but my younger years as well.

Nic n Kev with Kitty small Kitty–aka, Screweball–gave us quite the scare about 10 days ago. I’m happy to report she seems to be back to her 15+-year-old self.

My teenage boys (17 and 15) are quite the independent young men in so many ways. Older Son drives, has a job and can even cook for himself a bit. Younger Son will take off on the bike to go to football practice or just to the convenience store for his Gatorade vs. ask for a ride from either me or his dad. (He’s venturing into cooking but might need a little help in that department.) Alone-time with Hubby is almost the norm.

photo 3 Selfie taken during vacation. (I hate selfies.)

So now I get choked up when I pass a playground and see parents keeping their little ones safe on the equipment. I remember walking behind the boys as they rode their bikes and waited for me to catch up at the end of the block. Occasionally there is a game night, but no more stories read just before bed. They don’t need mom or dad to help with showers, brush teeth, make sure they get to bed on time.

The days when we don’t know how many kids will show for dinner are much more sparse, when Older Son was in middle school. Teens still show and hang out, but not as often—or for as long—as they did before drivers’ licenses became a permanent addition to their wallets and handbags. Luckily, they occasionally seem to enjoy the tennis court—though the regular players nearby might not consider themselves all that fortunate when Older Son’s crowd attempts doubles play.

Joanna 8-2014

I’ve shared holidays with family and just plain ol’ spur-of-the-moment great days. Pulled off one of those just last week, with an impromptu visit to a sister-in-law’s home a few blocks from the bay. Hot dogs, the pool, a bike ride near the water and homemade eggplant parm–eggplant direct from brother-in-law’s garden–gathered into a nice day that will be long remembered.

photo (60)

Hubby was right. Most days are “the good old days.” Sometimes I have to remember I don’t have to recall them. I’m living them.

Diane Lang Counts Her Blessings

Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, friends. Courtesy of my great friend, life coach and counselor Diane Lang, and as we re-settle into the ‘normal’ that goes along with this busiest time of the calendar year, please allow me to slow down a second and share these wonderful reminders of what  brings true peace to my heart.

As always, Diane, I thank you for passing these on:

This list is just a reminder of all the abundance we have in our lives at any moment. This is a reminder to live in the here and now. We are our happiest when we live in the moment. This is a start of a list of all we have to be Thankful for. Keep adding in all your blessings.

1.  The clear sky with its bright blue coloring

2.  The sun shining

3.  The warmth that I feel on my skin on this sunny beautiful day

4.  The breeze that cooled me off

5.  The green grass that feels cool on my feet

6.  The beautiful surroundings that make me smile every time I look around me

7.  A sense of higher power: looking around at all this beauty there has to be something bigger than us

8  My adorable 12-year-old golden retriever who doesn’t seem to realize he is aging while he nudges me with his ball

9.  The local libraries that offer me free books, movies and magazines which I took advantage of on this beautiful, lazy day

10. The ability to read my books and use my creativity and imagination to a get a full view of the characters and the story I’m reading. There is nothing like visualizing!

11.  The freedom to choose what I want to do with my time and my life. I’m lucky to have the freedom to take the day off and enjoy it the way I please

12.   The ability to change my perspective at any time. I have the ability to see the glass half full or empty – I choose full!

13.  The ability to laugh and smile

14.  The ability to enjoy my family and friends.

15.  To give and receive love

16.  The wonderful food on my dinning room table that I can share with my friends and family.

   Give yourself and/or a friend the gift of balance: Order Diane’s book, Creating Balance and Finding Happiness (available only in print).

Diane Lang, MA    Positive Living Expert/Educator   www.dlcounseling.com

Thanks so much, Diane. Looking forward to posting your ‘updated list’ next week!

And, as always, I thank all of you for stopping by.

Have a great day,

Joanna