Jul 122017
 

By now we all know that Wonder Woman possesses superhuman strength and speed.What are YOUR super powers?

Ellen Elwell has some Mom marketing mojo under her superwoman cape, and Linda Joy’s Visionary Female Authors all seem to have some special magic related to women and their personal power. But, in my humble opinion, none of us can hold a candle to Mattisa Moorer, also known as Kerstin’s Mom.

Shortly after Kerstin was born, she was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, Hip Dysplasia and lung-threatening Scoliosis. When she was 13, she weighed just 40 pounds, necessitating a permanent GI (feeding) tube.  Almost three years later, after multiple surgeries, she is a healthy 80 pounds, but will never be able to walk, talk, or take care of herself.

The greatest act of faith some days is to simply get up and face another day. - Amy Gatliff Click To Tweet

On a typical day, Mattisa and Kerstin pile in and out of their 16-year-old SUV countless times as they go to work, run errands, or visit with family members.

Even more important, are the non-stop appointments with Kerstin’s doctors, therapists, and other medical specialists. They live in a small, rural town, so no trip is “nearby.” The closest cities are  Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham – 35, 45 and 125 miles away respectively. On “appointment days” they can easily add 250 miles to an odometer that already reflects more than  300,000 miles of back-breaking work. It’s tired — and is not equipped with a wheelchair lift.

Mattisa lifts her now 80-pound daughter into and out of her car seat all day long. It’s a difficult and frightening task: multiple surgeries fused Kerstin’s spine, and a bad jolt could put her back in Children’s Hospital of Alabama.

They are in desperate need of a newer vehicle with a wheelchair lift. But, as Mattisa says, “buying one is a million miles away from our “budget.” I’m a single mom with a limited income. I have a part-time job that lets me keep Kerstin with me; her medical needs just don’t leave enough hours in the week to work full-time. A wheelchair-accessible van would answer most of our prayers and be, literally, a life-saving miracle for Kerstin.”

I “met” Mattisa and Kerstin by way of my long-time Twitter-friend Ellen Elwell. Like many of you, Ellen and I share a passion for helping moms who face extra obstacles. Ellen wrote to ask for help creating an online “buzz” for Mattisa’s fundraising campaign.

We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced. — Malala Y. Click To Tweet

Being a parent is rarely easy, but can you imagine lifting an 80-pound girl in and out of a broken-down, 16-year-old, broken-down van all day, every day, year in and year out?

Mattisa and Kerstin desperately need a van with a wheelchair lift. It would change their lives more than you can imagine.

In her note to me, Ellen was clear this was not a request for money. Maybe it should be: Can we find 1,000 people to chip in $30 each?

Our power is in our ability to decide. — B. Fuller #wheelchairvanforkirsten Click To Tweet

This is an incredible opportunity to reach out with love and any super power you may possess: share this story with your followers, contribute $5 and ask others to do the same, write your own blog post about the power of sisterhood, share a great idea, connect Ellen or Mattisa with a foundation or a creative and generous auto dealer, or help spread the hashtag #wheelchairvanforkerstin.

The possibilities are endless. Let’s combine our super powers and see what kind of miracles we can make.

Mattisa’s GoFundMe Page http://bit.ly/2qU4MoY #wheelchairvanforkirsten Click To Tweet

 

 

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 July 12, 2017  Posted by  Parenting, Special Topics 8 Responses »
Jun 282017
 

America’s opioid crisis has become a common topic in the media and in conversations with friends. Surprisingly, much of the coverage has started to focus on families: stories about individual addicts are now being given a context and that context includes the family members who suffer right along with them. Debates about criminality versus medical condition continues to take up too much space but, just like individuals and families struggling with addiction, we can’t fix what we don’t acknowledge.

We can't fix what we don't acknowledge. #addiction #families Click To Tweet

I’m glad we’re finally talking about it. I worked in the addictions field and was part of one of the first residential treatment programs for families of people with chemical dependency issues. Addiction — in all of its forms — can be devastating to families.

And, according to a number of experts in the field, it can also come from many forms devastation in families: abuse, neglect, addiction, divorce, abandonment, and violence. Such circumstances are now being termed ACE: Adverse Childhood Experiences. And, while most people have at least one such adverse experience, those with multiples are deemed high risk for a variety of health crises ranging from addiction to heart disease. (You can get your ACE score here.)

 

Back when I was developing addiction awareness programs for parents, we used to ask, “Why do teens use drugs?” The answer? “Because they work.” What that answer assumed was common sense that is now becoming part of the mainstream awareness: people use drugs to feel better. (I know, “duh.” Right?)

Why do people need to feel better? #addiction #ACEs #opioids Click To Tweet

So why do people need to feel better? We could all fill volumes on the overwhelming pain and difficulties so many people face on a daily basis. And if we work at it together, we could probably fill an equal number of volumes about compassion, resilience, and prevention.

And, while opiate abuse has reached epidemic status, there are still simple things parents and grandparents, friends and neighbors can do for those who are closest to them.

  • Set a good example
  • Maintain rituals and
  • Incorporate spiritual practice into your family life.

As much as most of us would like to guarantee good health and success for the young people we care about, the best we can do is try to stack the odds in their favor.  Safety, security, and skills are a great place to start. Any work to decrease risk factors improves their odds.

The best we can do is try to stack the odds in their favor. #parents #prevention #opioids… Click To Tweet

In addition to creating a list of resources for families, I’ve put together this small list of resources to help families facing addiction. Please download and invite your friends to do so as well. In the meantime, please share stories about individual and community efforts that area working to enhance resilience and decrease risk. Thanks.

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 June 28, 2017  Posted by  E, Parenting, Special Topics 11 Responses »
May 172017
 

lilacs in bloomIt was the second Sunday in May, a lifetime ago. I had developed solid relationships with many of the women in the locked facility so, standing in front of the entire patient community, I sensed the need. And, as was the habit of most women in mandatory addiction treatment, they were prepared for disappointment.

“Good morning ladies. Before we start, I need to get something off my chest.” I rarely addressed the group this way. I had their attention.

“I have concluded that, despite any evidence to the contrary, Mothers’ Day was invented by a man. After all, no woman could be oblivious enough to come up with something so powerful it makes us feel like inadequate mothers AND crappy daughters at the same time.”

...so powerful we feel like lousy mothers AND crappy daughters at the same time. Click To Tweet

About a hundred women let go of the tense, collective breath that hung heavy over us all. Some nodded. Some giggled. Almost everyone in the room relaxed: they were neither going to have to pretend to feel wonderful nor would they be expected to spill their guts about painful experiences on this Mothers’ Day.

And, although it has been some years since I consulted to that facility, I think of those women every Mothers’ Day, especially when I’m on social media. This year, in addition to addicts in treatment, I thought about many other women.

How cruel is the social media environment for women who have lost a portion, if not all, of their motherness through miscarriage, illness, accident, addiction, or other tragedy? Do those who care for them ignore their grief and loss? Or, still worse, try to fix it by offering well-intended faux-comfort pearls like “everything happens for a reason,” or “they’re probably better off.”person with face in hand

And what about parent-child pairs who are burdened by separation: incarceration, institutionalization, some adoptions, homelessness, violence, or the foster care system? Or those who are denied legal protection for their families simply because they are gay?

Do they offer well-intended faux-comfort pearls like “everything happens for a reason”? Click To Tweet

Although there are facts to contradict my initial statements, I’m convinced that Anna Jarvis, the holiday’s founder, would approve of my rant.

I’m not anti-Mothers’ Day — like most people, I’ve participated in wonderful celebrations and some awful ones. What I *am* opposed to is making things harder for people who already struggle. Or exclusions that border on exile. And extreme insensitivity. Are women who choose childlessness the selfish, driven stereotypes often portrayed in our media? Or, are they simply people who exercised choice about how to allocate the time allotted on the planet? Unfortunately, it’s tempting to point to exceptional contributions that have birthed movements or nurtured companies. Why unfortunate? A woman does not have to be an outlier to validate her choices.

At some point this Mothers’ Day I thought about the women who hoped their children’s demons (violence, poverty, health) would take enough of a day off to allow a casual coffee date or an upbeat phone call. I thought about adult women who no longer have wonderful mothers… and the adult survivors of abuse. Both can turn to total shut-down mode to make a cheerful-sounding call, a brave form of denial to keep them safe.

And how should we honor those who became mothers through rape or incest? What must any of those women be feeling on this, the largest of commercial high holy days? How does a woman manage the intricate mental and emotional gymnastics linking violence and violation to an innocent child? Does she have to go a little bit crazy in that process?

How should we best honor those who became mothers through rape or incest? Click To Tweet

During the first half of May, there is little evidence that such people exist. Many of us have drunk the commercial cool-aide and vigorously post our parental highlight reels for our friends, fans, and followers.

I can’t help wondering what Anna Jarvis would have done with social media. Back in the early 1900’s, she spent three years and a lot of her own money lobbying for a holiday honoring mothers and their contribution to society.

And, soon after that happened? She dedicated much of the rest of her life and her wealth trying to stop the commercial juggernaut. A Jarvis researcher tells us she thinks Miss Anna would be pleased for the holiday’s popularity… and equally horrified by the associated commercialism. (By the way, she was reportedly equally appalled by charities that tried to leverage the day.)

Several years ago, many of our family members collaborated in a decision to cut holiday stress. We replaced obligatory gift-buying with experiences and the occasional spontaneous “I thought you’d love this” gift. And while we sometimes choose to go against another tide and skip certain holiday travel nightmare scenarios, somehow we’re all finding more ways and times and places to connect. More “Hi, how are things?” phone calls.

I love being a mother and a mentor and a grandma and an auntie, but it may be time to stop the madness. Whether we consider connections to our mothers or those from our own children, what’s so special about the second Sunday in May? How can we better honor one another on other days?

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Andrea Patten’s first book, What Kids Need to Succeed: Four Foundations of Adult Achievement, was written with all parents in mind. Her most recent release is The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head.  Both are available on Amazon.

 

 May 17, 2017  Posted by  Parenting, Self care, Thinking 8 Responses »
Aug 172016
 

This video of family members spontaneously drumming makes me ridiculously happy. I don’t know if it’s the actual drumming, the spontaneity… maybe it’s just that fact that I remembered to use the phone’s video feature for a change… but it makes me laugh out loud, every time I see it.

It was insanely hot but why wouldn’t it be? It was summertime and we were visiting a theme park in Florida. It’s a family activity that gives a whole new meaning to the word “hot.” But, so far, Uncle Lou has only been able to visit in the summer and he wanted to see the sites with his little niece. He’s always interested in doing whatever he can to strengthen his ties with the American side of his family; the nieces and nephew are his only tie with very small people.

As Mom 2.0 in an extraordinarily blended family, I love the moments like this. They are moments of mindfulness, joy, and volition. They are the moments we choose to love and connect. They are moments that help us all grow in some of the best ways.

I would be surprised if the grandgirl remembers this trip. I would also be surprised if she didn’t remember that Uncle Lou loves and enjoys her. And that they always have fun.

 August 17, 2016  Posted by  E, Happiness, Parenting No Responses »
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