Another year, another birthday, and hopefully…another year wiser.
In 2016 I resolved to pay more attention to what life was teaching me, and to follow in the footsteps of my now-deceased Mimi who never stopped learning. Most bloggers have already turned their attention to 2017, but 2016 taught me a lot, so I’m not quite ready to wave goodbye to it yet – and some of those lessons might just be helpful to some of you.
1. Some people embrace inclusion only if it doesn’t cost them too much.
Our kids participate in typical activities they like – as far as is practical. Sarah Kate put us on that path years ago when she asked to do swim team and as nervous as each new endeavor may have made us, we pushed those feelings aside and embraced theater, softball, t-ball, and the like. We’ve never been turned away, which I attributed to our southern small-town culture, the kids themselves, and my unflagging determination to always offer up honey, not vinegar.
But in 2016 I learned that not being turned away isn’t the same as being welcomed unconditionally. It stung. The blessing that came from those bad experiences, though, gave me a deeper appreciation for the people that do see past the disability to the person and are happy to take a few extra steps to welcome a kid who is a little bit different.
2. Sometimes big problems have very simple solutions.
In the fall of 2015, I began feeling like crap – a lot. I’ve had migraines for over two decades, but only once or twice a year – they were coming fast and furious and knocking me down on a regular basis. At first I ignored it, but when I went in for my annual checkup in the spring, I unloaded on my doctor. He ran a battery of blood tests, found that I was deficient in Vitamin D, and put me on an 8-week high-dose regimen with instructions to continue at a lesser dosage basically forever. I was skeptical that Vitamin D would make a difference, or even that I was THAT deficient – I mean, I run outside all the time, etc.
Y’ALL. The difference was unmistakable. At the end of the first week, I ran a half marathon and felt great from start to finish – I could have run another one. My migraines went back to being rare, and I’ve seen other improvements, as well. I always always ALWAYS get sick right after Christmas, but this year? Not even a sniffle even though we’re well into January and the holiday season was a lot more stressful than usual.
3. I like books that show me a world very different from my own.
I read 71 books in 2016, and for the first time I kept a journal of what I read. For each title, I wrote down the genre, a rating from 1-5 stars, the date I completed it, and any thoughts I had or quotes I liked. What I found when looking back over the list at the end of the year is that I’m not a fan of novels with contemporary settings, especially if they involve people that seem like they could be my neighbors and friends; I prefer to read about a world that’s unlike my own. I enjoyed books like the post-apocalyptic The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey, the World War II nonfiction narrative The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, and of course, all of the Harry Potter series (longtime readers will recall that I read them all in an eleven day span in December of 2015, but I reread some this year), but felt MEH about Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood, even though they were dearly loved by just about everyone.
4. Sarah Kate will have to exercise consistently forever, but she won’t always have to see doctors.
I knew in my head that these things were true, but in the past year I’ve come to believe it. When she wasn’t swimming last winter and spring, things went off the rails really quickly. In late spring she began working out, and then swam again in the summer and fall, and the difference was dramatic. She said goodbye to her orthopedist (probably forever) on January 3, and her physical therapist said last week that she probably won’t see her for much longer. We’re going to the gym together now, and that’s where she’ll be concentrating her efforts going forward.
5. There is no magic bullet for Nathan’s wandering.
It doesn’t happen very often, but it still happens: Nathan sneaks away from the house when he is confident we are distracted, and when he does he heads straight up the main street of our subdivision toward the busy road that runs past it. A lot of people have made suggestions about how to protect him: put latches up high on the doors (he would get a stool – anything high enough where he couldn’t reach it with a stool, Sarah Kate and I couldn’t reach, either), put a RoadID on him (he has one but he takes it off), check into a service like AngelSense (would help us get him back quickly, but won’t stop a car from running him over). After a terrifying incident this fall, we had a security system installed in our house to at least alert us when someone opens and closes outer doors. It’s worked so far, but it hasn’t made me any less vigilant.
6. I need to do more teaching here and less preaching.
I used to write more here about issues – prenatal testing, the R word, and so on, but I quit awhile back because it made me tired and I wondered if anyone – other than the diehard believers – was paying attention. In 2016, my questioning was confirmed on a broader level; lots of people spent a lot of time preaching, but no one took the time to listen – people don’t want to be scolded and if that’s what they perceive you’re doing, they stop listening. I may still blog from time to time about things that I feel people need to know more about, but in general, this space is going to be more of a window into our lives and experiences with disability. I believe that knowing and understanding us as people will do a lot more good than lectures on the R word.
If you haven’t completely turned your attention to the new year yet, tell me what you learned in 2016.
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