To The Top of The Mountain

This is a note I wrote a few months ago after returning from a vacation to the beautiful Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with what I typically blog about, but in reality it has everything to do with it. It’s truly about how we see things, our perspective and attitude. It’s all about appreciating everything and everyone, seeing the worth and value in every place and every person. Everything and everyone is perfect, just the way they are!

A few days ago I claimed to have just gotten back from visiting God at the top of the mountain where I found peace, tranquility, satisfaction, joy and perfection. As one friend described it, “I could see within my heart”, which I believe is just exactly what happened. From the hot desert in Phoenix Arizona to the cool Colorado Rocky Mountains I traveled with my husband and 15-year-old son, Zach. It was a trip that would last 8 days, and bring me new found clarity as well as raise new questions to explore.

The 3 of us climbed to over 11,000 feet to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. There were 3 lakes along the hike, each a little different and with a beauty and perfection all their own. The mountain trail ended at Emerald Lake, which was a milky green color, still and quiet, surrounded by towering mountains on all side and a large peak directly in front of us. I stood in awe of the magnificence and perfection of that location. I began climbing the rocks that surrounded the lake just to find a quieter place away from all the hikers that were resting after their long trek. I wondered what each was thinking as they were socializing with their companions. Did they take this place for granted or did they just want to conquer the mountain? Did they see the perfection, the beauty, the splendor of this divine location? I soon put their thoughts out of my mind as I soaked up the beauty from the rock I claimed as I climbed to a more private location beyond the end of the trail.

The perfection I saw in that location I thought could be no less than the work of the divine. It was filled with serenity, peacefulness, inspiration, and wonder. It evoked imagination, creativity, deep thought and the feeling of being so small and minute in the immenseness of all creation. I also had the feeling of oneness, of being a part of the whole, and I felt a connection to the universe. Everything there seemed to have its place in making this location, this one tiny but vast scene perfect, whole and breathtaking!

It reminded me of life—everyday life—with all its activity and chaos and change and routine, and all we take for granted. Why is it that wherever I am I don’t see this same perfection? Why did it take this place to open my eyes to all that is possible? If I felt peace, tranquility, satisfaction, joy and perfection here in this beautiful setting, then why is it that I didn’t see that wherever I was? Could it be that the same questions I pondered of those around me as I reached that summit were the same questions I needed to ask myself every day? Do I take my own life for granted? Do I see the beauty of everything and everyone around me every day? Do I just want to conquer the next thing on my “to do” or “bucket” list? Do I see the perfection, the beauty, the splendor and the divine in every location, every situation, every opportunity?
I left with a feeling of wholeness; of having acquired a new found appreciation for all that is wonderful in this universe. Every person is perfect and whole, every part of nature is heavenly. Just as nature is perfect for its inhabitants so is each city built to function as a whole to create an environment that fulfills each person living there. Just as we rely on others, so do others rely on us, thus making us all unique but all a part of the whole; the oneness of the universe. Quality of life exists in the mind, as does inspiration, imagination and creativity, peace, and love. The greatest gift we were given is our ability to choose how we see our world, how we react to those around us, how we treat others and ourselves. We create all that is in our own life and we have the ability to make our life truly great. I choose peace, love, tranquility, satisfaction, joy and perfection!

Peace and love to all,

Pam

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Hospital to Home: The Road to Appreciation

In my early twenties I began having migraine headaches, and occasional loss of vision. As the headaches gained intensity and frequency I began experiencing unusual crawling sensations on my face followed by the feeling of ice or water dripping down my cheek, although nothing was there. I knew something was not right and began my five-year-long search for a diagnosis. After a long battery of tests I got the answer, “there is nothing wrong”, followed finally by “you need to seek counseling”. They convinced me this was “all in my head” and I scheduled the appointment with the psychologist. As I sat in the psychologist’s office I wondered why I was seeking counseling, and what was I supposed to say.

I happened to find a psychologist that got into the business, I believe, because he needed help himself. Week after week I would sit in his office and he would tell me HIS problems. “This is interesting” I thought to myself, but I’m paying for this, and getting nowhere (he doesn’t even seem to be getting better after spilling his problems to me). The headaches continued and now I was experiencing seizures. The psychologist, in one of his clearer moments, finally referred me to a neurologist. The neurologist also felt I was fine, but he would order a CT scan to ease my mind. Finally, there was a doctor who was willing to humor me, even though he just wanted to prove me wrong. We proceeded with the first of what would be a long series of scans. This was the beginning of my mistrust for the medical community, and my first experience with self-advocacy, which later would prove useful in advocating for my children.

The final diagnosis: brain tumor. The next week would be life altering. I was put through a series of tests, from physical to psychological to get a pre-surgery evaluation. The same testing would be performed following surgery to see how the surgery had affected my abilities.  Although the surgery was lengthy, the tumor turned out to be benign and no further treatment following the initial recovery would be necessary. This is what they tell you, and perhaps it’s true for many people. But trauma to the brain comes in many forms from traumatic brain injury to surgery, and the recovery process continues today, decades later. During or shortly after the surgery I experienced a stroke which I did not find out about until many years later. Due to the brain trauma I was unable to feel emotions. I knew on an intellectual level that I SHOULD feel, but I could not actually feel emotion. I felt no sadness, no anger, no happiness, nothing. This soon passed and was followed by intense feelings of anger, depression, and fear.

After my ten day stay in the hospital I was able to return home, ninety pounds, bald and swollen to finish recovering, with much help from my family. I would return to the hospital with meningitis a week later. It was on the trip home from this hospital stay that I first realized all I have taken for granted. Ordinary things caught my attention and I realized how lucky most of us are to be able to do the ordinary, mundane, boring, tedious every day things we do. I noticed construction workers with jack hammers able to work incredibly hard, men on top of tall buildings creating new sky scrapers, children walking along side their mothers picking up leaves from the ground, people riding bicycles, walking their dogs and driving cars. The grass was greener, the sky bluer, the clouds more pronounced, and I was in awe. I remember thinking that if I ever recovered I would appreciate life much more, spend more quality time with my children, family and friends, stop to smell the roses, and help others to see all that is perfect with the world. The truth is it would take me a long time to recover and many more years to learn to appreciate all I had in spite of the small deficits. Many people close to me don’t know that I have forgotten large portions of my life, especially my elementary through high school years. Math has become more difficult, and my artistic skills have been lost, although my appreciation of art remains. It takes me longer to comprehend what I read, and I continue to have weakness on one side, but I’ve learned to adapt and no one really notices these things about me.

It is because of this experience that I first thought of welcoming children with special needs into my life. Meeting Melissa, as I’ve said before was life changing, and she has become my greatest teacher. I admire her attitude, unconditional love, fighting spirit and love for life. She is much more of a survivor than I ever was. She refused to give up where I would weary of fighting. She adapted where I was stagnant, was brave where I was fearful, and was happy where I was miserable. She has taught me more than words can express, and showed me how to love, laugh and appreciate life again. My challenges have made me stronger and happier, and I’ve learned not to take anything for granted. I truly appreciate and am grateful for each day that I wake up and know I am incredibly blessed.

Many blessings,

Pam

Communication and the Nonverbal Child

In a nation which yearns for self-expression and the constitution ensures freedom of speech, the society demands and embraces communication through numerous means. The world thrives through the use of phones, email, texts, faxes, websites, social networking sites, blogs, and live video messaging. Connections are made with people around the world in seconds and from numerous locations from private homes to automobiles, trains, hotel rooms and airplanes. People demand technologically advanced means of correspondence with very little patience when their “device” fails to work promptly.

Imagine, for a moment, being trapped within and not being able to communicate even the most basic needs or desires, either spoken, written or in a manner the average person understands. Parents of nonverbal children would give anything to hear them speak, and spend endless hours, days, even years trying to figure out their child’s most basic requests. It is exhausting for both parent and child. A child’s attempt to express themselves often turns to frustration and is commonly treated as a behavioral problem. Communication devices have come a long way in this day of advanced technology, and many children with special needs are now able to use these effectively. Many children though, will grow into adulthood never mastering any form of communication peers will understand.

It’s important to recognize that communication comes in many forms and almost everyone is able to express themselves. It takes great patience, compassion and awareness to understand unspoken messages and may be as subtle as the blink of an eye, the turn of a head, facial expression, sounds or tone, or sign language. Emotions are a strong guide; even seemingly inappropriate reactions can lead to an understanding of what a nonverbal child is trying to express. In a society that demands rapid feedback it is important to remember that everyone uses a different means to communicate. With patience, perseverance and respect, communicating with the nonverbal child is possible, gives them a “voice” and creates value.

In Gratitude,

Pam