Monday, April 29, 2013

Apocalypse Now

"Dad, what's a zombie?" Crafty asked from the back seat. We were driving to my parents house and the kids were talking about legends and myths. We had discussed Big Foot, who we decided might actually be Dude (he has huge feet and smells bad, apparently) and The Loch Ness Monster and vampires. Now it was the zombie question.

"Well, zombies aren't real. But people say they are people who aren't dead but they aren't really alive either. They just eat and grunt and don't really know how to interact with others." Mr. Awesome answered.

"Remind you of anyone?" I snickered. Mr. Awesome nodded and laughed.

Dude had had his face in his iPod for an hour and a half. We had tried to engage him in conversation but all we got out of him were a few random grunts. The only time he'd spoken real words to us on the drive was to ask when we were having lunch. He was surly, distant and rude. I was annoyed.

Zombies and kids. Zombies and kids. There's something there ...

Here's what I know about zombies. They breath and move and take care of their basic survival needs, like eating, but they aren't really living. They don't acknowledge others around them, unless they are being bothered by them. In that case their 'acknowledgement' is harsh, rude and self serving. They are temperamental and spend a lot of time hunting and killing the weak and vulnerable.

Hmmm ... sounds vaguely familiar.

Here's what I know about teens. They are alive but aren't living in our world, for the most part. They spend their days disconnected with real, living people in favour of virtual realities. Their minds are engaged with building virtual worlds, hunting and killing virtual animals, people and even zombies. The bulk of their interactions with the other Unalive is in the form of text shorthand and, more often than not, they are sitting in the same room as them. When you do finally get one of these teen creatures to lift their heads from their devices what you often get is a temperamental, self-serving and rude interaction.

We are living in a zombie apocalypse right now. Only its not some random virus that has claimed our brains ... its technology.

Seriously, think about the last time you were waiting for a table at a restaurant, waiting in a doctor's office or, well, just plain waiting anywhere. What were the other waiting people doing? You can't recall? You probably missed it because you were doing what they were doing. Playing on your phone. Checking emails and text messages. Trying to get to the next level in Candy Crush. You were in your own world. And so was everyone else around you.

What happened to people watching? To having random conversations with strangers? To being okay with having a quiet mind?

I totally get the need to shut your mind off for a while. I enjoy a good round of Candy Crush as much as the next person but what concerns me is that our kids aren't learning the art of conversation. For instance, I was recently having a conversation with a man who teaches Sunday School to a group of junior high boys. He was exasperated because no matter how hard he tries, he can't engage them in conversation. His statement to me was, "I don't even think they know how to talk to each other."

Sad but true.

Technology is great, it is convenient and connects us in ways that we were never able to connect before. But if we're not careful, it can disconnect us in ways that can be so detrimental to our sense of community. We need people. We were created for relationship. And just to be clear, relationship is not a status on your Facebook page.

Relationship is a living breathing thing. It thrives under care, communication and time. It requires face to face human contact. It requires a measure of selflessness. It requires an interest in others. It also requires intention. We need to be intentional about building relationships and teaching our kids how to build relationships. They need to see us interacting with one another, caring about the people in our world and spending time cultivating friendship. They need to see it so that means we have to do it and we need to call their attention to it. We need to pry their Unalive hands off their lifeless devices and engage them in the world around them. We need to wake them up to the wonderful thing that is this life!

We are living in a zombie apocalypse right now but its not too late. We can reclaim the Unalive, whether adult or child. We can teach them how to live again. We can build relationships and waken them to the magnificent thing that is community!

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.
~Albert Einstein

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Broken Pieces

We've been in the process of packing up the kids' rooms to do a little bedroom swap. We've been in this process for a year. Just when we get one kid's room sorted and packed another kid will have started unpacking their room in search of some precious 'lost' item. And in the midst of all the packing and unpacking we've been distracted by vacations and the start of school and the end of school and Christmas and Groundhog Day and lazy Saturdays and busy Wednesdays and all the random chaos life brings. So, its been a year since we've started this process and we still haven't moved one kid or painted one wall.

But still, we're in the process.

Crafty and I have recently started packing up her room ... again. This has required me to step into the Hoarder's Paradise that is her wee den and begin the monumental task of sorting trash from treasure. As we have been tossing scraps of paper and saving assorted glittery bits of girly goodness we have come across tiny bits of broken seashells. The first few I found I threw away but Crafty soon busted me.

"Don't! I need those!"

"Need what?"

"My seashells! They're special to me. They're my collection."

"But these are just the broken pieces, not the whole shells. I won't throw out the whole shells."

"You won't throw out the broken pieces either. They are just as special!"

"But they're broken. You can't even tell what kind of shell they are from and all those sharp edges could hurt someone."

"But they are mine and I can make something new and beautiful out of them."

Well, I couldn't argue with that so as we sorted through her room we began putting the broken pieces in a jar. As we cleaned and sorted her collection of broken pieces grew. The more pieces we added to the jar, the more beautiful her collection became. I didn't notice the sharp edges as much, instead I began to see how the light reflecting off one piece and on to another created the most beautiful shades of pearly pink and watery blue.

We still have a lot of sorting and packing to do in Crafty's room and I'm sure we'll be adding to the collection along the way but it occurred to me, as I looked at the jar of broken pieces, how we are so like those pieces.

Things happen in life, things that chip away at our original shape and beauty. We get hurt and damaged and we end up with a lot of raw, sharp edges and on our own, unprotected we can be dangerous and ugly and seemingly, without value. But all that changes when we are picked up, placed in the protection of a jar and surrounded with other imperfect yet beautiful pieces. We become a collection that reflects and enhances the beauty around us.

Life is messy and people can be unkind but when we choose to live in community with one another anyway, when we choose the risk of relationship over the security of isolation amazing things happen. We gently rub the sharp edges off of each other, we sand down the roughness. We draw out a deeper, richer beauty from each other than we ever possessed alone.

Don't write people off because they're broken. Don't discard them because they are rough around the edges. Don't wait for perfection before you offer friendship ... or accept it. Don't discount your own value because all you see is brokenness.

There is divine beauty in the broken. And there is wholeness to be found in community.

We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That's what connects us--that we're all broken, all beautifully imperfect. 
~Emilio Esteves 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Price of Acceptance

"Why can't adults see what kids do to each other?"

That was Crafty's question after watch the documentary Bully. I had no answer for her. My heart was breaking. We had spent an hour and a half watching a documentary of kids being abused, marginalized and let down by the adults in their world. This was the third time I had watched the documentary but it wasn't getting any easier.

The first time I watched this film I was crying 14 minutes into it. I was devastated by the blatant acts of violence and cruelty kids were committing against each other. I was horrified that the adults in the situations seemed so ill-equipped to deal with what was happening and I was heart broken because I knew that this wasn't a work of fiction, that this was real life for far too many kids, for far too many kids in our own community.

I then watched the film again with Dude and Crafty separately. I wanted to hear their unbiased take on the film and I wanted to give them opportunity to process and talk about the similarities and differences from the film to their own school experiences. 

Dude and I had a lengthy discussion about fear and intimidation. We talked about how being targeted changes who you are and how you see yourself. We also talked about suicide and impulsive, destructive acts that leave a wake of devastation. We talked about what has happened to him this year and reviewed some of the plans we had made to help him get help when he needs it.

When I watched the documentary with Crafty I was surprised at how many of the same scenes that caught Dude's attention also affected her but her perspective was often very different. In one scene a boy is walking through a school yard and another boy comes up to him and punches him. The boy who was punched then follows the one who punched him. When Dude watched that he yelled at the TV, "Don't go, you're not safe!" When Crafty watched she quietly said, "That's the first kid to even notice him, no wonder he followed him."

So when the film finished and Crafty asked why adults don't see what kids do to each other I asked for clarification. I asked her if she felt that the adults in her world don't see when kids are being aggressive and harmful to each other. 

"They see when we hurt each other, like the hitting and kicking and stuff but I don't think they see how kids torture each other with popularity."

Wow. Out of the mouth of babes.

I knew exactly what she meant. We had had many conversations and brainstorming sessions in recent weeks surrounding this very topic. Crafty and her pal Ace are often roadkill on the highway to middle school popularity. They have been run over by peers eager to climb the social ladder, they have jumped on the bus in a desperate attempt to survive only to discover that the bus they were on was taking them further from who they really are and far too many insults and put downs have been flung at them from those racing along in pursuit of their own position of belonging. 

Crafty and I sat for a long time and talked about the price of being accepted, the true cost of inclusion. She said that she wasn't looking to be popular, just accepted for who she is and who her friends are. She doesn't want to be front and centre, she wants to be part of the crowd, just one of the group. But even the price for baseline acceptance can be steep.

She cried as she told me how she has been caught up in gossip, how she has been pressured to abandon her friendship with Ace, how she has behaved in ways that she's not entirely comfortable with just so she can earn a seat at the lunchroom table, literally. His experience has been no different but despite mocking, gossip and cruelty these two pals have stuck it out.

Yesterday, as I watched Ace and Crafty walk off toward his house I marvelled at the resiliency of friendship. These two, like many other independent souls, have walked a hard road this year and yet when they are walking side by side they find an ease in their stride. Their burden is lighter when shared under the banner of acceptance and their hope is strengthened in the safety of unspoken promise to remain loyal pals.

I don't think its enough to teach our kids to be kind to one another. I think we also have to teach them to respect friendship wherever they see it, even if they don't 'get it.' I think they need to understand that being a good friend isn't just about being friendly to the people you like but its about  accepting that everyone desires friendship and the friendship they find should never be a target for ridicule.

But that's just what I think.

If I was king of the United States, I'd make it so there was no popularity. I'd make it where everyone was equal.
~Trey, The Bully Project


for more information about The Bully Project watch this trailer and check out the website mentioned.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

One of the Girls?

I'm an avid podcast watcher/listener. And I'm a little bit crazy.

This combination has lead me to believe, with my whole heart, that given the chance I could be best friends with my favourite chick preachers. I know Charlotte Gambill, Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, Lisa Bevere, Holly Wagner and I would get along great. I'd watch National Geographic lion documentaries with Lisa, my kids could hang out with Priscilla's kids, Holly and I would bond over our inability to sing, Charlotte and I would wander through Nordstroms together and Chris (yes, Chris not Christine, that's how tight we are) and I would spend hours chatting over some Starbucks. Yep, I love these gals and I know that they would love me.

Okay, so I'm slightly mental. But in all seriousness my admiration for these ladies and a whole host of other female powerhouse preachers comes from not only their ability to teach and inspire with their words but by their desire to lead by example. I follow all of these gals on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (okay, now I'm sounding like a stalker, but for serious, I'm harmless) and what has absolutely rocked my world and changed my very heart is seeing how this group of ladies esteems, supports and encourages each other.

On any given day I can click on to any social media site and see this one tweeting about that one's latest book or another one sending words of encouragement to one who is speaking at a conference or a picture of a group of them hanging out together, building friendships. And it inspires me. It makes me jealous for the same kind of friendships in my own life. It challenges me to be that kind of friend.

For years I struggled through my own insecurities. I constantly compared myself to my cousins, acquaintances at church and the 'cool' kids at school. I never, ever measured up. I was tall, dorky, overweight, not musical and any time I spoke in front of people I stuttered. I was inadequate in most every way that mattered by my estimation and this caused me to be very jealous and nasty when it came to recognizing talents in other people.

If someone was beautiful, I knew they were shallow. If someone was musical, I knew they were stuck up. If someone was athletic, I knew they were felt superior. If someone was artistic, I knew they were elitist. And Lord help the person who had similar talents to me! If someone proved crafty with words or could spin a good tale I was downright mean spirited and borderline vicious. I was afraid that their ability, when compared with mine, would further diminish me. So I always went on the attack. My own insecurities stopped me from learning, from growing and most importantly, from having relationship with some very fantastic people.

Its only been in the last couple of years that I have come to understand a truth that is so simple, so clear and yet so easy to miss. I am who I am and no one can add to me or take away from me without my permission. I'm responsible for me. I can either celebrate the strengths in others, and learn from them or I can hoard my own talent away like a miser and wither away in my loneliness. Its just that simple.

Thankfully, I had the God given sense to loosen the grip on my insecurities and start to learn from those around me. I still struggle with feeling less than I should be but I own that. Its all on me. When I feel that way its because I have allowed myself to go down that road. No one pushed me. Sure people say and do jerky things, mostly out of their own insecurities, but I get to choose if and how its going to affect me. I get to choose.

Since opening myself to others I have become a better mother, a better wife, a better writer and a better person. And most definitely, a better friend.  I have come to realized that the gift in someone else does not diminish the gift in me. Just as one candle does not lessen the light from another, it adds to it, making the power of the light multiply.

So, these days I love bragging about my friends. The writers, the singers, the artists, the crafters, the mothers, the volunteers, the teachers, the business people, the actors, the scientists and my fantasy friends (you know, Chris and the gals). I try to seize every opportunity I can to celebrate the magnificent women in my world. I love hearing about their success, I love seeing their great big generous hearts in action, I love basking in the glow of their achievements for what one mighty women accomplishes lights the path for all others to follow.

We are women. We are sisters. We are in this together. Let us learn from each other, let us grow side by side. Let us celebrate all that we are!

Sisterhood: (noun) The relationship between sisters. The feeling of kinship and closeness to a group of women or all women

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Falling in Love with Me

There's a video floating around Facebook that has haunted me since I watched it a couple of days ago. Have a watch and we'll chat on the other side.

The first time I watched this I cried. I cried because I know how painful it would be for me to sit down and describe my appearance to a stranger. My appearance is something I don't like to think about. I look in the mirror each morning to tame my bed head and to do my best to combat the dark circles under my eyes and that's it. I try not to think about how I look and yet I do. Often.

I cringe whenever a camera is pointed at me. I am self conscious any time I have to stand alongside other women. I hide behind my kids, behind my husband, behind anything I can get my hands on every chance I get. The only part of my body that I can honestly say that I love is my scars. My ugly scars are my medals of honour for surviving the battle for my life and that makes them beautiful. Everything else? Blah.

So I watched the video for the first time and cried. I watched it for the second time and cried again.

This time my tears ran for my daughter, for her friends, for my mother, my sister, my friends. I cried for every woman I know because there is not one that who could confidently and honestly say that they love their appearance in its entirety, that they accept themselves and love themselves just as they are. I cried for all of us who have believed the lie that we are less than we should be.

So I watched the video for a third time and I cried again.

This time I cried for the confusion of our husbands, for the sadness of our fathers and for the bewilderment of our friends. And I cried for the broken heart of our Creator. To these, we are perfect and lovely and acceptable. To these we are all that we should be, lacking in nothing. To these we are precious. So why can't we be these wonderful things for ourselves?

Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why to we shrug off compliments? Why do we steel ourselves with a false sense of confidence instead of allowing real confidence to grow? Why are we so unkind to the person who needs our kindness the most? Why have we bought into the lie of inadequacy?

My beautiful, magnificent friends ... when I look at you I don't see age spots, freckles, moles, stretch marks or double chins. I see everything good and nothing lacking. I see your courageous heart, your glorious smile, your fearless love and your indescribable strength. When I look at you I see creativity, wisdom and power. When I look at you, I see beauty, grace and joy. When I look at you I see every perfect thing in your heart shining through your eyes, pouring out of your smile, spilling out of every pore. I see the history of your love and courage written in perfect script across your very being and it is beautiful.

So I watched the video for a fourth time. This time there were no tears. This time I made a promise to myself. This time I whispered an impromptu pledge to my own heart.

I will be kinder than necessary. I will allow the truth of who I am to reflect from those who love me most into my very heart. I will extend grace to this magnificent body that has comforted  friends in need, brought life to my children, felt the love of my husband and returned that same depth of love to him, carried me through illness, heartache, joy and triumph. I will celebrate who I am, all that I am and I will love me, every bit of me, better each day.


Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them.
~David Hume

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Changing the Culture

"What do you think is the main difference between our culture and American culture?"

Mr. Awesome unknowingly asked the question at almost the exact hour that the bombings occurred in Boston yesterday. We were out running errands and discussing a familiar topic; kids. We are working on a community project that will affect all the kids in our community in a positive way ... hopefully. After a lag in the conversation Mr. Awesome posed that question and my answer was immediate.


We have often discussed the different vibe each culture puts off, the reputations each country has internationally and the top priorities of each citizenship as topics play out in the media.  When you turn on Canadian news the lead stories are often about policy, political agendas and environmental concerns. In The States lead stories are almost always crime reports, violent crime reports with high death tolls and gruesome details. And the slant on the reporting, in my opinion, fuel fear. And out of fear comes isolation, people pull away from each other and begin to fear the unknown, fear what is different. They begin to fear each other.

Violent crimes happen in Canada. Natural disasters, horrible highway collisions and freak accidents all happen in Canada and they are often reported in the news but somehow the same measure of fear is not infused into the reporting and therefore is not part of our cultural tone. Or because fear isn't part of our cultural tone, its not accepted in our reporting? Either way, Canadians, by and large, do not operate from a basis of fear. Its just not how we roll.

For instance, take a look at this picture

Both images are from The Huffington Post. Both are from today. Can you guess which one is from the Canadian coverage and which is from the American? The Canadian coverage, on the top, makes a declaration of the future. The American coverage, below, seems stuck in the moment of devastation. The Canadian cover quotes the Mayor of Boston's declaration of community. The American cover doesn't. Which would you choose to focus on?

I have many American friends, some of whom are authors. I know them to be kind hearted, hopeful and loving people and most of them have used their fame and success to advocate kindness and humanity. Most of them are involved in their communities and they spend their time and influence on social media to spread messages of hope, peace and acceptance. One author friend is very involved with animal rescue, another is planning an anti-bullying conference (Less Than Three) and still another has taken her voice into prisons to help women rehabilitate and reconnect with their children. They could have chosen to let fear keep them in the prison of their own experiences but they chose to be beacons of hope where they are with what they have. They have stepped beyond their fear and into community.

Bad things are going to happen. Fear is going to creep around the edges of our mind, looking for a weakness but we have a choice. We can indulge our fears and build barriers that will keep us prisoners to our fear or we can declare that in the face of fear there is hope. We can isolate ourselves or we can embrace our neighbour and face our fears together, as a community. We can hide alone or we can borrow strength from each other.

Here's another picture to ponder ...

No matter where you live, what culture you are from or what your natural tendencies are, you can always choose hope. You can always choose light over darkness. You can always choose to be a Helper instead of a victim. You can always choose community over lonliness. You can always choose.

No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster.
~Dalai Lama XIV

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Evolution of a Superhero

Last night we had dinner with friends. Over the course of the evening the story of us, Mr. Awesome and I, came tumbling out. I love sharing our story because its unique and quirky and beautiful. Mr. Awesome feels a little awkward sharing our story because of the weird looks and general confusion that follows our opening line, "We never dated."

Its true. The condensed version of This Random Love Story is that Mr. Awesome and I met, became friends, became best friends then I moved three provinces away for school. When I had been gone for about three weeks he called me and said, "I think you should come home and we should get married."

I hung up the phone.

He called back. A month later I was on a plane heading home, we got engaged at the airport and eight months later we were married. Now, 16 years later we are married with three Wee Wonders. We are truly, madly, deeply in love with each other. We are partners in every sense of the word. He is first and still my best friend.

And he is a superhero.

I started calling him 'Mr. Awesome' one day when he was being anything but awesome. It was during my dark period. Sarcasm and snark were my crutches. I had been battered by Life for a couple of years. We had lost two babies, our house was falling down around us, I had some weird medical things going on and Mr. Awesome was recovering from brain damage after a fall off our roof. We were a mess. I was depressed and angry and nothing, NOTHING he did was right. So in a fit of sarcasm I called him 'Mr. Awesome.'

And then I called him that again and again. And then I called him 'Mr. Awesome' without any sarcasm in my tone. And then the weirdest thing started to happen, he started becoming awesome. For serious! Or he was awesome the whole time and I just didn't recognize it for what it was. Kind of like the chicken and the egg. Either way, he was awesome and I was calling it like I was seeing it.

Its been about 5 years since I first called him Mr. Awesome and this has been the best 5 years of our marriage. Coincidence? I don't think so. When I started focusing on the best parts of my partner, on the best parts of our life together my depression and anger began to lift. I no longer needed sarcasm and snark as my crutches. Instead I enveloped myself with joy and thankfulness for This One Life I get to live and This One Life became amazing.

Clearly, life still has challenges. I still had cancer and went through treatment. Mr. Awesome still does things that annoy me. My kids still disobey. I still make mistakes and disappoint people. Life still happens but I choose to celebrate the good and walk through the bad with as much grace and dignity as I can.

Seeing my life and the transformation that has occurred in each one of us when we chose to focus on the good and call what isn't as though it were has inspired me to carry this idea beyond This Random House. I have tried to look past the irritating behaviours of people in my world and focus on their strengths. I have tried to see beyond who they are to who they could be, who they want to be and you know what? My world is full of superheroes!

These capeless wonders are walking the halls of my schools, driving the streets of my town, sitting in the pews of my church. Magnificent people with joy and hope and kindness are everywhere!  People capable of super human feats of grace, generosity and forgiveness are everywhere I look. They are resilient, they are strong, they are beautiful ... but they are hidden in their everyday humanness.

You have to look through grace to see them, but they're there.

And so am I.

“Don't go on discussing what a good person should be. Just be one.”
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

Friday, April 12, 2013

Stop Being Nice

I often joke that Mr. Awesome is nicer than I am. What I really mean is that he is more patient, more compassionate and more accepting than I am. But he's not nice. No joke.

The idea of 'niceness' is one that has pestered me for a long time. It seemed just off of what we should be but I couldn't ever put my finger on exactly why nice was wrong. So I started studying 'nice'. I read a few books on being nice, I studied people who others said were nice. I questioned myself whenever I was being nice. Then I went to my two favourite books; Webster's Dictionary and The Bible.

Here's what Webster's had to say; Nice means agreeable, polite and appropriate. It also means coy and trivial.

Here's what the Bible had to say; "Sorry, we didn't find any results for your search." The word 'nice' doesn't appear in The Bible. At all.

Instead, my Bible search engines kept redirecting me to another word. Kind. There were dozens of Bible verses that spoke of being kind. I looked that word up in Webster's. Here's what it had to say; Kind means having a sympathetic and helpful nature or acting from a thoughtful, gentle or attentive character. It also means loving.

So why wouldn't the Bible have any references to being nice? Nice is nice, isn't it? Not really. Nice is about appearance. Kind is about the heart. Nice is surface. Kind goes deep. Nice can cover your true feelings. Kind changes your perspective.

See the difference?

What if we stopped appearing 'okay' and we really started being okay? What if we stopped behaving right and tuned our hearts into living right, loving right? What if we went deeper than surface Christianese and good citizenship and really became all the good stuff we are capable of becoming?

What if?

What kind of world would we live in then?

I wonder ...

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another ...
Ephesians 4:32

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hug Me!

There is a change occurring. Something I never would have predicted and something I certainly didn't seek out. This change isn't sudden, its been creeping up on me for a while but I didn't take notice. I didn't acknowledge it for what it was. I explained it away based on circumstance and who was involved but there's no denying it now. I've outed myself in front of my friends too often for trite explanations to cover for me. And last Sunday, as I stood in front of my friend who I had just surprised by this change, I knew the transformation was complete.

I am. I have become. A Hugger.

I've never enjoyed outward displays of affection. My parents didn't hug me a lot as a kid. Not because they didn't love me or didn't want to but because I would stiffen like a board and squirm awkwardly until they released me. I've always know this is hard for my mom in particular because she is a hugger so as I matured I tried to initiate hugs more often. I don't think even that effort was much of a success.

When Mr. Awesome and I got together I realized that if this marriage thing was going to work I probably shouldn't cringe every time he tried to hug me. Gradually I got used to his huggy nature and eventually I came to enjoy his hugs ... on a limited basis.

Then came Dude. And Crafty. And Mischief. Then I understood what it was like to want to hug and be hugged. I couldn't get enough of those pudgy baby arms, those sticky toddler embraces, those awkward teen squeezes. With my kids I am a hard core hugger and I grab them every chance I get ... whether they're into it or not.

I have had friends who have spent a lot of time breaking the hug barrier. These pals have been patient and understanding and have put up with my crazy very well. They have hugged me through many of my darkest days and I have always felt safe and accepted in their embrace but I always thought that that  sense of safety had everything to do with who they were and nothing to do with the hug itself.

During the past year I have come to understand something that I previously had thought was only true for maternal affection and those chosen few hugger pals; hugs have power where words fail. Hugs transfer strength and hope. Hugs surround and protect. Hugs break down barriers. Hugs build connection. Hugs bring hearts together, physically and emotionally.

Many times during my cancer battle, it was a hug that spoke to my soul much louder than words. It was feeling the strength and warmth of those who cared about me so close that community became a tangible thing that carried me through. It was literally being embraced by my friends and neighbours that finally made me feel connected to them.

National Hug day is traditionally in January but I'm declaring today National New Huggers Day.  Hug someone today. Communicate community, friendship and acceptance through a quick squeeze. Pull down your barriers and let someone feel the power of your heartbeat. Overcome your awkwardness to give someone else your strength.

Millions and millions of years would still not give me half enough time to describe that tiny instant of all eternity when you put your arms around me and I put my arms around you.  ~Jacques PrĂ©vert

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

50 Shades of Blue

Today is World Autism Awareness Day!

Truth be told, everyday seems like world autism awareness day in our house because everyday our world revolves around the awareness of the needs our kids with Autism have. But today we celebrate. Today we love all that Autism has brought to our world. Today we are loud and proud that, in our world, Autism is not a disability but a different ability. That's our world.

When I talk with people about Autism I usually hear one of two stereotypes. Either the image of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, a socially awkward genius, comes to mind or I hear stories about how someone had an unpleasant experience in a restaurant or movie theatre because of a non-verbal yet extremely disruptive social misfit. While both can be true of people with Autism there are a million shades of blue in between and that's where most people living with Autism reside.

Autism, in all its forms, is a spectrum disorder, meaning that there is a large umbrella that covers a variety of symptoms and characteristics. No two people with Autism are the same ... just as no two people are the same. What is true for Dude rarely applies to Crafty but they both are 'on The Spectrum.' And while Dude and his best buddy Kent both have Asperger's Syndrome, both have excellent memories and both love Lego they couldn't be more different in other ways.

I think that today, of all days, as we celebrate people with Autism and all that they are, we need to understand that before the disorder, before the symptoms and challenges, before the stereotypes that they are above all else, individuals. Each person with Autism is a person. They are more than surface behaviour, quirks and ticks. Each person with Autism has gifts, talent and abilities. They have the capacity to love and be loved. They have emotions and feelings, even if they can't always express them appropriately. They have beauty and light and life. They have endless potential.

This video shows some of the challenges, hope and diversity of people with Autism ...

Blue is the traditional colour for Autism Awareness and today, World Autism Awareness Day, people across the globe are donning the blue in support of people with Autism and so are we.

Dude has been having a rough year at school. He has been the target of bullies because of his 'disability' and there are days that he feels worthless and hopeless. We, as a family, are working to help him see the positives, to work towards success and to surround him with people who respect and value him. In an effort to lift his spirits today I'm asking people to take a picture of themselves, in blue, and post it to Twitter or Instagram with the tag #BlueforGavin. Its my plan to show him the pictures when he get home from school today so that he can see that he, and kids like him, have value and are loved and respected, too.


What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.
~Temple Grandin