Search This Blog

Friday, February 28, 2014

How I Deal With Depression

Someone hurt me today.  I never saw it coming.  I offered my help to a friend over a possible obstacle that they might need to surmount, and I was shot down.  Crash. Boom.

Confused, upset, a bit bloody from the fray, I did what I do when things like this happen.  Rather than crawling into a metaphorical hole and “licking my wounds,” I went on the web, typed in the url which tonight will be my salvation, and go to YouTube.

Weird, huh?  Not really.  I always start out with a heavy dose of Adam Lambert: I click through all of his appearances on Idol and then switch on to The Ten Commandments. I always start with Is Anybody Listening? I can’t breathe when Adam Lambert sings.  I find myself holding my breath.  Never have I heard a voice like this, and for a little while, I’m more concerned for Adam than myself:  Will he begin to branch out?  Will he become the icon I know he can be you know, the kind who crosses every genre in music?  I listen, I savor, and congratulate myself on finding this on YouTubeThe Ten Commandments. That’s a good one because Val Kilmer is in it too, so I get a double dose of anti-depression.  I then move on to Britain’s Got Talent and once again revel in the triumph of Susan Boyle, Paul Potts and listen to the magic of  Jonathan and Charlotte, relishing, savoring Jonathan’s triumph over prejudice as his amazing voice soars through the speakers of my computer.  I like it when the odd one out wins.  I like it very much. Next, Clay Aiken.  I love the way he sings Solitaire, and so I slip into a calmer state and on to my next “fix.”

Calmed a bit now, I move on to the funny pet videos and fall in love with one animal after another.  Sweet, little Denver, the guilty dog, so torn up because he was a bad boy.  I want to pet him and say, “It’s all right, Love.  We all mess up from time to time.”

It makes me feel better, but it doesn’t take away the hurt.  It makes it possible for me to sleep.  Instead of rude words and hurtful sentences, I can think about the kitten who wants to snuggle with the baby.  Denver, sweet boy, and how I know his owner (in my world we are known as slaves) who apparently loves Denver unconditionally, will put down the camera and comfort his friend.  Or I can think of Susan Boyle and the look on everyone’s face after just a few notes emit from her golden throat.  Overweight, dowdy, absolutely no one’s idea of a star, she loosens her soul and sings, seemingly effortlessly, shocking everyone…except herself.

Jonathan and his friend Charlotte, who has helped him on this voyage:  overweight, shy Jonathan, beaten down by society because he doesn’t “fit” its idea of who is acceptable, opens his mouth and pure magic peals forth; Charlotte, a beautiful, young woman, looking at her friend, nodding, encouraging, helping him to triumph.

Paul Potts, with the face of a little boy so eager to please and not sure that he will, bringing the audience to their feet.  With his triumph I feel renewed hope in mankind.

I sit and watch over and over.  Distracted, calmed perhaps now I can sleep.

©2014 Debra Shiveley Welch

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Your Son is Incapable of Learning

I sat for a minute, looking at the counselor who had requested the meeting, trying to decide if I had heard her correctly. I felt my left hand press against my pounding heart.

"Did you say, 'incapable of learning?'" I queried. "Yes," she responded, and proceeded to mouth paragraphs of jargon, which my confused brain was incapable of comprehending let alone translating.
Stupefied, near panic, I fought for coherent thought. Slowly, however, a heat began to rise from my trip-hammering heart and to suffuse my face. Rage replaced terror.

"Incapable of learning?" I cried! "Incapable?" I repeated loudly. "How can you say that? How can you doom a child of three years of age to that kind of diagnosis? He taught himself the alphabet at two! How can you say that?" I raged.

I have to admit that there were times when I believed I was either incapable of understanding what was going on in my son's little head or reluctant to admit that there was a problem, but this I knew: Chris could learn. He had indeed taught himself the alphabet. I had purchased a wooden alphabet puzzle in lower case letters. Christopher would bring them up to me, one-by-one, and I would say, for instance, "a - apple." It didn't take me long to realize that he was actually learning the alphabet.

Then, I purchased an additional puzzle with upper case letters. Sure enough, within a week, Chris was able to bring me the a or the d or the m, but I would designate the big A or the little c and he was correct every time.

Of course, I realize that I was teaching him. But, the "game" was initiated by Chris, and it demonstrated a desire on his part to know, a wish to learn. This initiation on his part was indeed a form of self-teaching. Chris made the move. Chris wanted to know.

Incapable of learning! As my mother used to say, "bull hockey!" I thought of my friend Sue and her daughter Gretchen. Born with Williams Syndrome, Gretchen was an adorable, pixyish young woman with a sweetness of soul that made her a joy to know. At birth, Sue was told that Gretchen would never be able to dress, feed, or take care of herself. Sue had refused to believe it, and proceeded to patiently teach her daughter as she would any child. The end result was a charming young woman, who admittedly was mentally challenged, but was happy, had friends, and held down a full time job, far from the diagnosis her mother was given at the time of Gretchen's birth.

"Where are the people who know where the people are?"2

I removed Chris from the school and entered him into a church-run pre-school; Chris began to show progress. It was in Pre-Kindergarten that an inability to focus caused his teachers to mention the possibility of Central Auditory Processing Disorder. CAPD affects the ability to process what you hear. I set up an appointment immediately to have him tested. The results were negative. Chris passed with flying colors.

Next came testing for Attention Deficit Disorder. Although diagnosed with ADD, none of the medications, covering everything from Adderall to Welbuterin, had any affect whatsoever.

More years passed and still we tried to understand Chris' particular issues. Aspberger's was mentioned as well as epilepsy. We didn't know where to turn until, finally, an educator suggested we take Chris to a neurological psychologist. Chris was diagnosed with ADD, Dysgraphia, Working Memory Deficit and Executive Function Deficit.

Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder, which interferes with the fine motor skills needed in the physical act of writing. For instance, when Chris puts pen or pencil to paper, some letters will "float": they will be too high or too low, and his penmanship is generally too large or too small, and very difficult to read. In addition, because it is so difficult, Chris cannot write his thoughts with as much fluidity as he can when dictating or typing.

He also confuses some words, using "tell" instead of "ask," and "never" instead of "ever," and has trouble tying his shoes.

Math is problematic because of difficulty in seeing the numbers in columns and graph paper is used.
Working Memory Deficit affects short-term memory, and Executive Function Deficit can manifest in problems with test taking.

At last, we had a diagnosis. It was not easy to accept, but coping strategies could be taught to help Chris learn, and that was the key word! Learn! Yes, he would learn!

Learning Differences - Not Learning Disabilities

Christopher has worked hard to overcome his learning differences - yes, differences. It isn't that he is not able to learn, he simply learns differently.

We have worked with our son by being active in his school work, at school and at home. When necessary, tutors are hired.

Chris plays guitar and is now the proud owner of an acoustic, six string electric and a bass guitar. He plays excellently after a mere eight months of lessons. He has asked for a mandolin and wants to take piano lessons as well.

Chris is an excellent swimmer, gardener, is becoming an accomplished cook and is working with me on a cookbook.

This year, Chris finished the ninth grade with glowing reports! Not one teacher referenced focusing problems. A master speller and a budding essayist and poet, Chris has received excellent grades in his written assignments, which are typed. The following is from his teacher Megan Mosholder:
"Chris, you are receiving the passing grade of Exceeds Expectations. Wow, Chris! Excellent job on this class! I am so glad you were able to figure out what works best for you because you have really excelled. I think that you did a great job on your sketchbook and I think the drawings you created in class were also really good. You have shown to me how well you can do when you put your mind to it. Oh, and you also did an excellent job on those reading assignments. Nice work, kid! I very much hope that I have the opportunity to work with you next year."

As I finish this article, I am awaiting an email from his publisher as to when his second book will be released. Yes, my boy who was diagnosed as "incapable of learning" is a twice traditionally published author.

I think back and can't help but send out a thank you prayer to my friend Sue, whose example helped me to help my son. She taught me to listen to my heart, to believe in my son and his abilities, and to trust in his desire to learn and to grow.

Update 2014

Since first writing this article, my son has accomplished many things.  He is now a sought after bass player and has been since age 16. He plays nine instruments.  He graduated high school and is now attending Columbus State.

In 2011 Chris was hired as a sushi chef.  Trained by a master, he is highly respected both for his artistry and his work ethic.

His memoir Just Chris, a companion book to my Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher, has been a best seller on Amazon many times.  

Debra Shiveley Welch - author, Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher

[1] Excerpts from Son of My Soul - the Adoption of Christopher, Debra Shiveley Welch, Saga Books
[2] Joan Plowright as Eva Krichinsky Avalon 1990, written and directed by Barry Levinson

Warning: All poems/articles/works by the author are protected by copyright laws against the risk of plagiarism. To safeguard the author, a regular search of the Internet is provided to ensure this law has not been broken! Any Website/Blog/Forum which displays Debra's work MUST have received her permission to do so. (Permission to adopt statement given by its creator, Debbie Stevens.)
Excerpt from Son of My Soul -The Adoption of Christopher ISBN: 1894936930 Debra Shiveley Welch, Saga Books ©2007

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Face Only a Mother Could Love?

Recently I read an email from a young mother of a one month old baby born with cleft lip and palate. Her tearful post recounted a scene in her local grocery store earlier that day. As I read her account of what had taken place, I remembered a similar incident which happened to me and my son, and the anger began to build.

First, let me say that we mothers of children born with craniofacial anomalies are as proud and in love with our babies as any other mother. With today's sonograms and diagnostics, a mother often knows quite early in the pregnancy that her child will be born cleft affected. She has time during the pregnancy to mourn the loss of the child she envisioned and to accept that the baby she will bear will not be "perfect." And so, as she labors to bring forth her child, like most mothers giving birth, she is mainly concerned with birthing a living, healthy baby.

To those of us who adopt, our image of our little one changes many times with each attempt and failure at adoption until, finally, our baby is placed in our arms. When we first look into the face of our child, we see just that - our child. So it was with me when I first beheld my Christopher. To me, he was so beautiful, and I couldn't wait to show him off.

I remember the day I took my son to the grocery store to introduce him to my friends there. I had been shopping at this particular store for many years and the employees and customers had gone through each adoption attempt and failure with me. I had received a call from the manager congratulating my husband and me on our good fortune and was told that everyone at the store was anxious to finally meet the "Kroger Baby." I placed my two-week old son in the protective seat attached to the grocery cart and wheeled Chris and cart through the doors. I did not push the cart down the isles; I strutted behind it. I was a mother! Look at what I have! We did it! Isn't he beautiful! Isn't he wonderful! Isn't he glorious! Look! Already you can see how smart he is! Isn't he the most gorgeous baby you've ever seen?

Soon we were surrounded by stock clerks, baggers, the managers and shoppers with whom I often talked to in the store. There were smiles, clapping of hands, tears. All exclaimed over their joy in our happiness and insisted on holding or kissing my new son. My triumph was complete.

Slowly the crowd began to disburse as people returned to their duties. One of the managers was just turning to leave when a voice broke the spell:

"What'd you bring that thing out of the house for! Haven't you got more sense then to make decent folks look at that thing?"

I was frozen to the spot where I had stopped to face the speaker. Mouth open, eyes wide in disbelief, I stared at what appeared to be a normal, middle-aged woman whose eyes glared with loathing upon my beautiful son. There was a gasp, a stirring and, still speechless, I watched the manager and two clerks escort the woman out of the store with the admonition to never return.

The faithfulness of my friends helped, but the pain of coming face to face with such ignorance and hate cut deep. Immediately I realized that my son, my sweet baby, would suffer because of people like this woman and my heart broke. Years later, I still felt the wound from that encounter and now, here before me, was the anguished account of a mother who had suffered from the same cruelty:

"He said, 'Why didn't you abort that monster! Get him out of here!' Why would someone say that about my baby? Why would he do that?"

The wound in my heart reopened and bled as the memory of the anger and hurt I had felt resurfaced. I could feel her pain, her misery, her grief. How could people be so blind to the beauty of a child? Couldn't they see the large, beautiful eyes, the tiny, starlike hands, the soft baby skin, the fine, delicate curls? What was wrong with them that they could not see the glory of a new life?

I sat back from my keyboard. The tears were now flowing as they had the day it happened to me and Chris. I searched for words of comfort. I desperately needed to ease her pain, to tell her it was all right. But how can you tell a mother that things will be fine when you know the world is full of such meanness, prejudice and hate? What words can change the hard fact that many people cannot see loveliness unless it conforms to society's definition of beauty?

I began to compose an answer to her post and felt my anger slowly dissolve into sadness and even pity: sadness for the people who allow fear and bigotry to rule their lives; pity for the man blind enough to be unable to see the beauty of a newborn life; pity for the woman who, years ago, displayed her own stupidity and a fear so consuming that she could attack an infant.

I wrote to the young mother and told her of these things. I knew that soon her pain and sorrow would be replaced with determination and courage: determination to teach her son that he is beautiful, that true beauty cannot be defined in clumsy, grammatical terms and that ignorance is a sickness. And courage - the courage to face that ignorance and say "You are wrong!" and try to educate the victims of that pernicious sickness.

Finally, I shared with her the quote that I wrote and placed on the adoption site I ran which encourages the adoption of children with craniofacial anomalies:

"The Perfect Child is the One in Your Arms."

She agreed.

©2006 Debra Shiveley Welch
Warning: All poems/articles/works by the author are protected by copyright laws against the risk of plagiarism. To safeguard the author, a regular search of the Internet is provided to ensure this law has not been broken! Any Website/Blog/Forum which displays Debra's work MUST have received her permission to do so.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Miss-Adventure, Skiing for Love

Shakespeare said, "The course of true love never did run smooth." I was about to find out just how accurate these words were.

My true love was a real "jock," the type that can excel in any sport. I am the opposite: clumsy, off balance, awkward. I started ballet lessons when I was nine, but my teacher soon noted my tendency to fall down and suggested that I take up tumbling instead. If I ignored her advice, she predicted, I would never live to see twelve. Thankfully, I listened and survived several tumbles down stairs, missteps off curbs, and close-encounters with various hard surfaces. Surviving past the predicted time of my demise to my then age of 32, encouraged me to agree to an excursion, which I knew in my heart, was asking for trouble. My true love was taking me skiing.

I knew that I had to prepare carefully for this adventure if I were to survive, so I took great care in planning for my new experience. I went shopping.

My theory was that if I looked good enough, no one would notice that I could not ski! I pictured myself on the slopes in my new scarlet and gray ski jacket, my pert little woolen hat, my long, blond hair streaming behind me as I performed a perfect downhill run.

The fateful day dawned clear and crisp with the smell of impending snow in the air. "Perfect skiing weather!" Mark exclaimed, as he loaded our gear onto the top of his "Copper Kettle," the nickname he had fondly given his brown, 1979 Toyota Celica.

Snow arrived just as Mark pulled into the parking lot. He retrieved our equipment, stacked skis and poles against a metal railing and took me into the lodge. Now, this is nice! I thought to myself, quite pleased with the smell of hot chocolate, coffee and the site of a crackling fire. This won't be so bad after all! Mark made short work of paying our fees and escorting me to the slopes.

I knew I was in trouble when I saw that I had to use a towrope. Operated by a motorized winch, this contraption pulled people to the top of the hill. One would grab on with both hands, bend their knees, and "ski" to the top. I might have been okay had I not been behind an eight-year-old who decided to let go. Tumbling downhill, entangled with a preadolescent snowball, I was plopped into the center of the large, all-encompassing branches of a huge pine tree. Suddenly, I remembered that I was allergic to evergreens.

Sneezing my brains out, hair snarled by hundreds of sticky needles, and trying to extricate myself from a pine needle prison, I finally crawled free, skis dragging behind me, to the merriment of those who had witnessed my struggles. Mark, laughing with the others, informed me that I had to try the towrope again.

Taking a deep breath and grabbing hold a second time, I began my ascent to the top. Eyes darting wildly, so intent was I upon scouting for my eight-year-old nemesis, I forgot to release my hold. Someone was shouting, "Let go! Let go!" It was Mark. I was coming perilously close to the top pulley through which the rope was threaded. I found myself suspended above the ground by God knows how many feet. I let go, landing, to my astonished relief, without injury. Straightening, I attempted a dignified waddle, skis still miraculously intact, to the top of what Mark called the "Bunny Hill."

Bunny Hill? Below me stretched an almost vertical slope of deep, glistening snow. Scattered about this dazzling visage of white were pine trees, tall with dark trunks, their branches reaching out to entrap me once again. Frost-tipped air pinched my nostrils, causing my eyes to tear. I felt dizzy, and belatedly, remembered that I was also afraid of heights. I immediately had an asthma attack.

I had also forgotten to take into consideration that I suffer from four types of asthma: allergy, exertion, stress and temperature-induced. Mixed with my innate clumsiness, my tendency to fall over for no reason, and a general lack of balance, it became quite clear to me that my new outfit might not be enough to carry the day.

Okay, Debra, you can do this, I whispered to myself. I made the sign of the cross, sent a plea to Jehovah, asked Allah to guide me, fingered my rabbit's foot and down I went.

I think I'm going to make it! I thought, as I slowly worked my way downhill. I was feeling quite cocky until I heard Mark scream "Turn, turn!" Confused, I started to look back and then I heard someone else scream "Stump!" I felt a jolt and was airborne. My pert little woolen hat flew off and I landed with a thud. Years of tumbling saved me once again as I landed in what, to me, was a very comfortable position.

Now, I have sat in the W position all of my life. Turning my legs outward instead of inward, I can touch my heels to my hips when sitting or lying on the floor. I guess the skier who had just slammed into me did not know this, because when he got up and saw my skis nestled against my ears, he threw up.

It certainly had not been a smooth run and at this point I was rather upset with my true love, but I think the final straw was when I saw a two-year-old on skis a foot long, skipping by me like she was strolling through the park. I decided immediately that the best part of skiing was the hot chocolate (with peppermint schnapps) and the cozy fireplace in the lodge. My cute little ski outfit would look great in the lodge ... if I could just manage to get there.

© 2009 Debra Shiveley Welch

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Courage Smells Like a Hospital

We walk into Children's Hospital holding hands. You are terrified. You have already endured numerous operations, but at age eight, this is the first one you have faced with some idea of what is happening.

You are trembling.

Minutes seem like hours. They test your oxygen level, take your blood pressure, ask a million questions. I have kept as much of this as possible from you, but you sense my distress. I have told you that you will have an operation. I will not lie to you, but you intuit that I haven't given you the entire story.

You cling to me.

The smell is all pervasive. It is an antiseptic smell, an indefinable "no smell": cleaning fluids, anesthetic, rubbing alcohol, all mixed into one. It almost hurts to breathe it in, like too clean air invading my lungs, leaving them empty. I know you will remember it. In future, something will trigger the memory of it, and you will relive the terror of today.

They take us to pre-op. Here the smell is more definable: sharp, astringent -- like sandpaper as it rakes past my nostrils.

You look at me and your eyes well with unshed tears. You know that this is one of the "biggies." They will take a large portion of bone from your tiny hip and replace the missing bone in you upper gum line: the alveolar ridge. You sense that it will hurt.

You are afraid.

The smell is starting to make me ill. Or is it fear? Once again I will be turning you, my baby, my little love, over to strangers.

They will cut.

The anesthesiologist arrives and takes your hand. You look at me with glistening, tear filled eyes, and smile. Your back straightens. Your chin lifts and just as those big, double doors swing shut, you raise your hand and sign, "I love you."

Excerpt from Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher ISBN: 1894936930 Debra Shiveley Welch, Saga Books  http://goo.gl/MWKYrB

©2007Debra Shiveley Welch

Warning: All poems/articles/works by the author are protected by copyright laws against the risk of plagiarism. To safeguard the author, a regular search of the Internet is provided to ensure this law has not been broken! Any Website/Blog/Forum which displays Debra's work MUST have received her permission to do so. (Permission to adopt statement given by its creator, Debbie Stevens.)

Friday, February 14, 2014

To My Husband of 27 Years

  To Mark

Are you a mere man, or a god,
Sent to mortal woman as a gift?
Beloved of the Gods,
Divinely tall and divinely fair.

Will Zeus envy Adonis
His earthly tryst,
Or will he smile
And allow Elysium to rule on earth?

© 2008 Debra Shiveley Welch 
excerpt from Son of My Soul - the Adoption of Christopher