Mother’s Day 2015 – One Day Early and Nineteen Years in the Making

Yesterday was the day before Mother’s Day.  We decided to celebrate a day early by going out for breakfast.

I would imagine most of you figure that’s no big deal.  People go out to eat breakfast all the time.

Cathy's daughter.

Cathy’s daughter.

That’s true for most people, but not for my family.

As it happens, yesterday was the first time my husband, our nineteen-year old daughter and I ate in a restaurant as a family and completed a meal.

Yes, you read that correctly. It was the first time ever.

Eating out as a family is something so typical that I imagine most people take it for granted.

As the mom of a young adult with “special needs,” many of our activities are not typical.

My daughter is autistic.  She is developmentally delayed.  She is essentially non-verbal.  She is a loving person who can get rattled easily because she doesn’t process the world in the same way as most people.

Is she “special?”  Is my family “special?”

I don’t know about that.  In fact, I’d say, no, we’re not.

We’re just an ordinary family that has to face challenges every day because my daughter has a number of limitations. One thing we had never been able to do was to enjoy a meal in a restaurant.

Stressful situations can cause Cathy's daughter to exhibit strong reactions.  Over time her daughter has been learning to cope with everyday challenges.

Stressful situations can cause Cathy’s daughter to exhibit strong reactions. Over time her daughter has been learning to cope with everyday challenges.

There’s nothing special about that.

Unfamiliar situations could cause our daughter extreme stress, which in the past meant our daughter would (check all that apply):

– Cover herself with a blanket and start screaming.

– After the blanket was gone, start screaming, and begin extreme, uncontrollable rocking or spinning.

– Cry uncontrollably.

– Scratch.

– Bite.

– Throw herself on the floor.

– Refuse to eat. This is an extreme behavior with a medical and behavioral component, this is not just a kid who’d being stubborn.

– Tune out the world, i. e. zone out so that her eyes lost focus.

– Other ___________ (Just fill in the blank because some days there were surprises.)

One of her favorite activities is horseback riding.  There is a horse handler as well as two side walkers to ensure the safety of all special riders.

One of her favorite activities is horseback riding. There is a horse handler as well as two side walkers to ensure the safety of all special riders.

Needless to say, if we were in a restaurant we would barely get through ordering a meal, let alone have food served to us.

When my husband made the suggestion that we go to a restaurant for Mother’s Day I was hopeful.  I realized our daughter has made tremendous strides in the past couple of years; she’s had quite a bit of assistance to learn appropriate behavior in social situations.

More on that assistance in a bit.

My husband also knew that this was something I always wanted to do, I just wanted to enjoy a simple meal.

We looked at each other and realized with a bit of planning that we could do this!

We decided to celebrate a Mother’s Day meal on Saturday because Sunday would be too crowded.  No need to cause additional stress.  We also packed a small item that my daughter would enjoys in case she started to get restless.

On the way to the restaurant our daughter was puzzled but she remained calm.

Cathy's husband and daughter wait for breakfast.

Cathy’s husband and daughter wait for breakfast.

We arrived at the restaurant and were seated in a booth.

My husband and daughter sat across from me.  When my husband and I picked up the menus that were on the table our daughter took them away from us then laid them back on the table in their original places.  We picked them up again and told her it was alright for us to look at them.  I handed her my phone so she could look at pictures.  It redirected her for a few seconds so it took her mind off the menus.

We ordered our meals, then after the waiter walked away, I traded spots with my husband so he could snap some photos of his two girls.

She was patient, looking out the window, smiling.

Cathy's daughter looks out the window while waiting for breakfast.  This seemed to keep her attention for a time.

Cathy’s daughter looks out the window while waiting for breakfast. This seemed to keep her attention for a time.

The waiter was a bit puzzled when he saw we’d rearranged ourselves.  We asked him to just place our food on the table and we’d take care of it!  He had a friendly smile and was very accommodating.

For the most part our daughter enjoyed her breakfast.  She sipped her orange juice and made a face. We realized she didn’t like the sensation because it had pulp.  She just set it aside.  It wasn’t a crisis.  She was a little bit restless after she finished eating but she calmed down when we pulled a small bag of candy from my purse.

Here’s the thing.  My daughter doesn’t eat this candy.  She likes the color and texture of the bag. The sensation and sound of the pieces of candy moving in the little package calm her.  She discards it when the bag is crinkled to the point that the texture changes.   Such a simple thing, and yet such a lifesaver!  It was my husband’s brilliant idea to take the candy with us.

Well, earlier in this post I mentioned that my daughter’s had quite a bit of help in recent times.  You see, this one simple meal could not have happened without all the people who have assisted her.

Left to right: Our daughter in church, receiving her first Communion.  Our daughter with her speech therapist.

Left to right: Our daughter in church, receiving her first Communion. Our daughter with her speech therapist.

 

Families in a similar situation to ours will understand what I’m expressing.  There is a small army of people behind the scenes who have supported us at various times.   They have worked with my daughter and with our family so that my daughter could be part of everyday society.  This is not an exaggeration.  It’s a fact.

Left to right:  Our daughter with her ABA therapist.  The instructor for our daughter's Special Needs Faith Class.

Left to right: Our daughter with her ABA therapist. The instructor for our daughter’s Special Needs Faith Class.

 

…the speech therapist …occupational therapist…applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapists… physical therapist…a variety of doctors and medical practitioners…educators…advocates…equine therapists …the recreational therapist who recently is providing a bit of respite for us while taking our daughter out into the community…countless people…

There is our hairstylist and friend who has helped us with our daughter’s grooming, and has helped our daughter to be patient, and more social.

Left to right:  Our daughter enjoys a manicure. In addition to medical and social services, we have also benefited from the services of an advocacy specialist.  Our daughter enjoys her therapeutic horseback riding.

Left to right: Our daughter enjoys a manicure. In addition to medical and social services, we have also benefited from the services of an advocacy specialist. Our daughter enjoys her therapeutic horseback riding.

There is the middle school teacher who told us that our daughter did challenge her, but also taught her to be more loving.

There are the teacher and aides in her Special Needs Sunday school class who remind us we are ALL made in God’s image; a reminder so powerful because we’ve learned that when we see our children, all our children, we see the face of God.

Cathy's best buddy and husband, Al.  There is neither time nor space to describe all that he does.

Cathy’s best buddy and husband, Al. There is neither time nor space to describe all that he does.

There is my husband, who has always called himself the butler, the chauffeur, the bodyguard, the cook, the laundry guy, the court jester.  He is our daughter’s primary advocate. He is my truest partner, my heart, my strength, and my funny bone.  We both understand that we will be our daughter’s voice, and that we will protect her with a fierceness which requires no words between us.

There was so much leading up to this quiet, peaceful moment.  Once we finished breakfast, we simply went about our day as we planned.

I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

My husband took our daughter to her riding lesson.  I went to the gym and had a great workout and training session.

We looked back on the morning and realized that this was the start of something new for us.  We were excited to think we can finally enjoy eating out as a family; and this may be an activity that may help our daughter feel safe in new settings.

Mom and daughter share a light-hearted moment at breakfast.

Mom and daughter share a light-hearted moment at breakfast.

Yes, this simple meal had an impact on me.

It left me grateful that my husband remembered my wish to share a meal.

It was nineteen years in the making.

It was a gift that left me completely content.

Just an ordinary family.

Just an ordinary family.

 

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Posted in 2015

Wall of Fame

The weekly Photo Challenge is “Wall.”

The Wall of Fame at Cathy's local gym.

The Wall of Fame at Cathy’s local gym.

There’s a wall at my local gym that acknowledges the achievement of a few individuals who rose to the challenge to take control of their health and personal fitness.

I’ve walked by that wall four to six times a week, every week, for the past twenty-seven months.

It’s called the Wall of Fame.

Many of you are aware that over the past two years I battled a number of obstacles in relation to my own health.

Yes, Cathy's been through quite a few changes in the past two years!  She's wearing a shirt that is two year old!

Yes, Cathy’s been through quite a few changes in the past two years! She’s wearing a shirt that is two year old!

I’ve changed so much during this time. That’s the understatement of the day!

If I didn’t have the photos to prove it, some folks don’t believe my story. I’m saying this because some individuals who have just met me remark that I must not have any idea what it’s like to struggle with my health, with my weight, or with my level of fitness.

When that occurs I respectfully beg to differ, and I take the opportunity to share my story.

I’ve come a long way from the time when I walked with a significant limp, my leg sometimes buckling out underneath me. I moved slowly, deliberately, often painfully. I wanted to be active but, frankly, I was limited. My health was beginning to show other signs of decline in a number of areas.

Making a conscious decision to regain my health was one of the most significant decisions I’ve made in recent times.

In order to execute this decision, I made a commitment to strengthen my leg(s) and to gain improvements in my blood work. Anything else that resulted from this would be gravy.

This entailed working with a trainer to help me improve my level of activity, and, making changes in my eating habits. Note, I’ve never called it a diet. For me, this is not what it was; still isn’t.

Cathy and Al enjoy an afternoon out!

Cathy and Al enjoy an afternoon out!

Committing to these actions had a domino effect into numerous aspects of my everyday activities.

My husband was completely onboard with my decision.

He took an active part in my journey by participating in nutrition classes with me, especially since he’s the family cook. More importantly, he encouraged me, and always let me know that he loved me. It didn’t matter if I was tired, achy, cranky, exhilarated or contemplative. He’s always been there for me.

Honestly, it was a long, hard haul, especially during the first year, peppered with a lot of discovery and motivating moments.

The results have been more than worth it. More on that in a bit.

Meet Dan, the trainer who worked with Cathy for nearly two years, and, who nominated her to be on "The Wall."

Meet Dan, the trainer who worked with Cathy for nearly two years, and, who nominated her to be on “The Wall.”

There are many vignettes that flash through my mind.

Dan, the trainer who guided me once joked, “It took a small army to get you where you needed to be!”

He was right. In addition to his services, I was monitored by my doctor and a chiropractor.  I also consulted with nutritionists and other service providers.

Oh yeah, folks, I was serious about this!

Dan’s services were beyond significant. He compiled a rather thick file on my progress, altering workouts based on need and progress. I have an incredible amount of respect for his skill and expertise. I will always be grateful for his role in my journey.

One day Dan mentioned to me that he had his own goal in mind for me. He told me that he was going to submit a request for me “to be on the wall.”

Really? Me? His statement took me aback but I also appreciated that in addition to my own accomplishments, it would also be a way to recognize our partnership, teamwork and commitment to my own progress.

Cathy and Dan's Photo has been added to the Wall of Fame at her local gym!  It was quite an achievement!

Cathy and Dan’s Photo has been added to the Wall of Fame at her local gym! It was quite an achievement!

Well, I now look at that wall a bit differently than before.

There are still very few stories there, but mine happens to be one of them!

For me, this wall is a concrete reminder of hard work, dedication, consistency, passion, diligence, resolve, determination, and frankly, the mettle to see this journey reach its next level.

It’s also a reminder of specific results.

I no longer take several medications…My blood work is now normal…My body is stronger…My mind is more at peace than it’s been in a long time…

You see, I’ve never been one to take short cuts.  Good things, and great things, take time.

Oh yeah…and that gravy I mentioned earlier?  I’ve lost 8 clothing sizes…I don’t know (and don’t need to know) where they went! I’m not planning on finding them any time soon!

I’m appreciative that Dan took the time to recognize this success, and I am grateful to my husband and the small army that helped me to attain this milestone.

I also know the journey doesn’t end here because there is still so much to do!

*********************

Cathy took this photo on the day she wrote this blog.  She's come a long way and is looking forward to continuing her journey!

Cathy took this photo on the day she wrote this blog. She’s come a long way and is looking forward to continuing her journey!

If you’d like to read more about Cathy’s journey to regain her health, here’s a link where you can find more posts.

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Posted in 2015

Scale: The Elephant and the Turtle

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Scale.

I’m excited about this challenge because I’ve got some photos that I’ve been waiting to use.  I just hadn’t found the right spot for them, until now!

My parent’s house often reminds me of a museum.  My dad has more collectibles than I’m able to mention. 

Amongst his many collections, are a series of turtles and elephants. 

They are found both inside and outside the house.

There are two that are quite unique, and, they are also a pair.

Here is the turtle.

Among all the mosaic, can you see the dragonfly on its side, and the ladybug on its back?

Highly detailed mosaic covers one of Cathy's dad's collectible turtles.  The details covers the entire body, including the toes, tail, eyes and underbelly.

Highly detailed mosaic covers one of Cathy’s dad’s collectible turtles. The details covers the entire body, including the toes, tail, eyes and underbelly.

Here’s another view.

Top view of the turtle, showing the detail of a ladybug  and dragonflies on its shell.

Top view of the turtle, showing the detail of a ladybug and dragonflies on its shell.

Now here’s the elephant.  Can you see the butterfly on its side?

Here is the elephant set in the same mosaic style as the turtle.  He almost appears to be animated as he's' taking a step, and his trunk is curled upward.

Here is the elephant set in the same mosaic style as the turtle. He almost appears to be animated as he’s’ taking a step, and his trunk is curled upward.

Here’s another view.  I love the detail of the elephant on his back as well as the other butterflies.

Another view of the elephant reveals a portrait of an elephant on his back!  The portraits is surrounded by four butterflies.

Another view of the elephant reveals a portrait of an elephant on his back! The portraits is surrounded by four butterflies.

As you can see thy make quite a pair, with the turtle understandably smaller than the elephant.

Here they are side by side.

Here they are side by side.

So why did I chose this pair of figurines for this challenge?

Well…

I chose them

because the true size of them will help you to appreciate the level of skill of the artist and what he has accomplished!

A pencil shows the size and scale of the elephant and the turtle.  Without the pencil the two figurines appear to be much larger due to the level of detail on their bodies.

A pencil shows the size and scale of the elephant and the turtle. Without the pencil the two figurines appear to be much larger due to the level of detail on their bodies.

I think they’re delightful. 

The turtle and the elephant are turned lengthwise against the pencil.  They appear to be walking away!

The turtle and the elephant are turned lengthwise against the pencil. They appear to be walking away!

…and every time I look at them I see something new.

 

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Posted in Uncategorized

Shadows on a Walk

The Weekly Photo Challenge is “Shadowed.”

I opted to take this theme literally as I enjoy taking photos of shadows when walking.

In the photo below I took a brief stroll during a break from work on a crisp fall afternoon.

As I continued down a paved circular path I noticed my shadow intersected the trees.

I walked several rounds on the path when I finally decided it was photo time.

Cathy enjoys a stroll while on a break from work.  It's a cool day.  Cathy is wearing mittens, and the shadows show trees with minimal leaves.

Cathy enjoys a stroll while on a break from work. It’s a cool day. Cathy is wearing mittens, and the shadows show trees with minimal leaves.

In the next series my daughter and I enjoy a three mile cardio walk in our neighborhood.

We and our shadows are moving at a pretty good clip at this point.

I always chuckle when I observe these shadows as they’re long, much longer than my daughter and I.

We’re what you call petite.

I’m slightly taller than my daughter, and I top out at “5 feet nothing.”

Cathy and her daughter enjoy an active walk in their neighborhood.

Cathy and her daughter enjoy a cardio walk in their neighborhood. They and their shadows are moving at a fairly active pace.

Last but not least is our family shadow.

My husband, daughter and I enjoy another walk.  It’s a regular activity for us.

Most of the times, because of the time of day, our shadows lead the way.

A family of shadows heads out for a walk!

A family of shadows heads out for a walk!

We happily follow.

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Posted in 2015

Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist

 I took a stroll in my father’s garden…peacefully appreciative of his skill…

…and the care he gives his lovely charges…

Vibrant red blossom faces the light.

Vibrant red blossom faces the light.

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist.

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Posted in 2014, Uncategorized

Peace Challenge: The Woman in the Mirror

Months  ago our friend Kozo challenged us to post about our truest self, our grandest self, or about the self we would like to be.  Who was the person each of us faced in the mirror?  What did that reflection say to you?

Even though I didn’t write a post at that time, the topic has always stayed with me.

I decided it was finally time to post my thoughts as I reach certain milestones and close out (or perhaps start?) some chapters in my life.

Anyone who’s known me for at least a couple of years can visibly see that I’ve physically changed in many ways.  People who haven’t seen me in a while may walk right by me because they don’t recognize me.

That said, the deepest parts of me haven’t really changed.

For me, that’s the interesting part.

Here are photos of Cathy taken on the same date for the 2012, 2013, and, 2014.  She's been through substantial physical changes.  She also had plenty of help to be able to achieve this.  Oh, and yes, she plans on maintaining that support in order to continue her journey!

Here are photos of Cathy taken on the same date for the 2012, 2013, and, 2014. She’s been through substantial physical changes. She also had plenty of help to be able to achieve this. Oh, and yes, she plans on maintaining that support in order to continue her journey!

The way I see it, because my health and stamina have improved substantially, I’ve finally been able to achieve milestones that previously were out of my reach.

Being healthier and stronger has allowed “dormant” parts of me to start coming forward.

Parts of me that are creative….

Cathy finally finished a comfy shawl that she crocheted over a long period of time.  She'd do just a little bit at a time until it was complete!  Good things may not happen overnight!  Sometimes good things come one step at a time!

Cathy finally finished a comfy shawl that she crocheted over a long period of time. She’d do just a little bit at a time until it was complete! Good things may not happen overnight! Sometimes good things come one step at a time!

Fun loving…

Cathy reacts to a love note that her hubby put in her lunch!  Sometimes the best parts of your day are unexpected surprises!  Enjoy those moments, and, be sure to pass the love forward!

Cathy reacts to a love note that her hubby put in her lunch! Sometimes the best parts of your day are unexpected surprises! Enjoy those moments, and, be sure to pass the love forward!

Vibrant…

Cathy takes a private moment to play her guitar and sing!  This is a part of her that resonates very deep within her.  When  you listen closely you'll discover a part of her that often isn't seen or heard.

Cathy takes a private moment to play her guitar and sing! This is a part of her that resonates very deep within her. When you listen closely you’ll discover a part of her that often isn’t seen or heard.

Parts of me that are becoming stronger…

Stronger in body…

As you know from her story, Cathy's been working with a personal trainer to help her achieve numerous fitness goals. She's asked for more challenges, and she hasn't been disappointed! She's now able to reach for, and, achieve milestones that two years ago were not in her line of sight!

As you know from her story, Cathy’s been working with a personal trainer to help her achieve numerous fitness goals. She’s asked for more challenges, and she hasn’t been disappointed! She’s now able to reach for, and, achieve milestones that two years ago were not in her line of sight!

Stronger in mind…

Sometimes when the going gets tough, it's important to take a pause, and, just breathe.  Cathy take a moment to be still during a particularly hectic day...

Sometimes when the going gets tough, it’s important to take a pause, and, just breathe. Cathy take a moment to be still during a particularly hectic day…

Stronger in soul and spirit…

Cathy, her daughter, and husband share a family moment in church.

Cathy, her daughter, and husband share a family moment in church.

Parts of me that are able to dream and enjoy a sense of wonder.

Cathy takes a second to just dream, to be grateful, and, to wonder about all that's happened.  In the midst of a hectic world, it's important to take the time to do this.

Cathy takes a second to just dream, to be grateful, and, to wonder about all that’s happened. In the midst of a hectic world, it’s important to take the time to do this.

It’s  been hard work, but it’s been worth it.  I can’t express that any other way!

My blog byline is still true.

Yes, I’m still sipping tea…

Cathy's favorite teapot.  Wonderful aromatic beverages are brewed there!

Cathy’s favorite teapot. Wonderful aromatic beverages are brewed there!

…and I am still learning from the past, looking forward to the future, and learning to be still in every day life.

Cathy balances in "star pose." The photo is significant not only to represent a sense of balance, but to show that Cathy is able, after many months of work, to balance for short periods of time on her right leg which was injured quite some time ago!

Cathy balances in “star pose.” The photo is significant not only to represent a sense of balance, but to show that Cathy is able, after many months of work, to balance for short periods of time on her right leg which was injured quite some time ago!

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Posted in 2014, B4Peace, Uncategorized

Signs

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Signs.

A few years ago I made a visit to my folks house with the intent of scanning family photos.

I came across a unique piece of family memorabilia.

When I asked my mother about it I was astounded to learn what it was.

There, in an envelope was a little piece of cloth tape with writing on it.

How little?

About one-inch square (two and a half centimeters).

There was a lot of information written on its tiny surface!

A little sign with large significance to Cathy's family!

A little sign with large significance to Cathy’s family!

My mother explained at the time when she was born, the nursery staff would write pertinent information on a little piece of cloth tape, then they’d stick the tape on the babies’ backs in order to identify them!

Apparently all the babies had these little signs on them to show who they were, and to whom they belonged!

There were no hospital bracelets, just the little pieces of tape!

Here is my mother’s information:

#121- 685

Lopez, Female

Wt. 6# 6oz.

Mother, Carmen

#121- 681

Born, 1:02 p. m.

8-31-30

A one-of-a kind miniature sign with special significance for my family!

Cathy's grandmother, Carmen, and her mom, Mary, early 1930's.

Cathy’s grandmother, Carmen, and her mom, Mary, early 1930’s.

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Posted in 2014, Family history

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Hubby took this #photo a couple of days ago... #chiilin just like #today after #hittinthegym ! #happy #4thofjuly 🎆 #thankful for my husband's service to our country. 💑 Thank-you  to all who serve and to our veterans.👏👏👏 #PhotoGrid #satx #sanantonio #texas #igphoto #motivation #womenwholift #fitgirls #health #fitness #fitfam #fitfamsa #gym #gymrat #bestrong #goldsgym #latergram #yellow #petites #petitelady #goodday #today Started with #spinning then challenged myself to do #bodypump next! Felt #strong  and #happy with progress. Had a massage and then a regular maintenance chiro adjustment..should sleep very well tonight!! LOL 
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