Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Do You Really Want To?

Hey there!

Thanks for clicking to read.  

No, really.  Thank you.

I wouldn't make the effort to post each Wednesday (or soon after) if I thought nobody was reading this.  But you are.  So thanks.

With your dedication -- weekly or otherwise -- I want you to ask yourself why.  "Hey, (myself), why do I read this blog?"

Do you know the answer right away?  

Do you personally know and love Braeden and me, and this is how you stay connected?  Do you know and love someone with Down syndrome and enjoy the camaraderie?  Do you love Copper Harbor?  Did you read my last blog, A Little Slice of da Harbor, and habitually switch over because you enjoy my writing?  Did a friend show you this blog?

You don't have to tell me.  Unless you want to.  But I just want you to look inside yourself, and ask why you do this one little thing.  Really, it's best to do that with everything you do, but we will start with this.

For now.

Okay,  thanks for that introspective moment.

I have had a very introspective winter.  For years I was a social butterfly, and I overextended myself for others when it was actually zapping my energy.  I just felt like I should do it all for others.  Even though I physically couldn't.  

Nobody can.

But I have been sober for over a year.  I find comfort in meaningful conversations instead of surface chatter.  I find power in telling people 'no' when their request does not fall in line with my purpose.

Because I need all the energy I can get to help save the world. To help raise the consciousness of humanity to its highest potential.  But before I do that, I have to do it within myself!

So I am working on it.  It is starkly revealing at times.  It can also be difficult to face.  But at the same time, it is empowering and liberating.  My old friends and family might not understand it, but it is a beautiful transition in my life.

It's as though I've been uprooted from my old habits and plunked into fresh soil.  Soil with great potential for growth.  But in order to soak up the energy, I need to focus on the sun.  And the rain.  And the darkness and mystery of what my roots are now pushing into and through.

I just need to believe.

My heart can feel that it's right.

I am grateful.

Okay, so thanks for exploring the inner world of Amanda for a moment.

Do you ever do that with yourself?  Just like I asked you why you read this blog, I would encourage you to ask yourself "Why am I doing this?" about more things.

If your answer is usually "Because I want to, and it helps me fulfill my purpose," then you are on the right track, my friend. 

If your answer is, "Because I have to," or "Someone is making me," or "This is just what I have always done," then please take it a step further and notice how it feels to realize that.

How does it feel to be forced?  To feel like you have no other option?  To follow old habits out of "comfort?"  Just sit with that feeling.

*Please note: some things you have to do, like biological functions and taking care of people and animals you are responsible for.  But you can ponder ways to do these things in ways that they work best for you.

Now think about something you love to do.  "I love to (fill in the blank), and it makes me feel (fill in the blank)."

Now feel it.  Really feel it.

Feel the difference in your body when you focus on those two different frequencies.  I don't even have to tell you which one is better.  You already know.  And only you can feel it fully.  Because it is part of you.

So right now, you are either thinking, "Hmm, this is very interesting.  I will do this more in my daily life."  Or you are thinking, "Where are the pictures of Braeden in all this snow we just got?  This is boring."

And that's okay.

Like I mentioned in a previous post, this blog is full of surprises and variety.  But all of them have the same purpose: to help make a difference in this world.

Thanks for reading.  But only if you want to....

Braeden stomps in puddles because he wants to

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Little Chucker

When deciding on Braeden's middle name, I first picked Charles.  That was my Grandpa Wilbur's middle name.  

The May before Braeden was born, I was in North Dakota, the state where Grandpa Wilbur lived and passed in 1986.  I didn't know him very well because I was so young, but he came to visit me that May of 2014 while I slept on my aunt and uncle's couch.

It was Grandpa's 100th birthday, and my mom and I went to visit his grave that day.  I felt a coolness behind me as I tried to sleep on my side with a little bun in my oven.  I knew instantly that it was him.

He told me I was having a boy.

I smiled.

So when Braeden was born, I had the inclination to brand his middle name after Grandpa Wilbur Charles.  However, my own father is still alive.  My wonderful Daddio Philip.  I figured he would be honored, too, so I switched it to Braeden Philip to carry on that legacy.  All from the convenience of my hospital bed.

Why am I telling you this?

Because "Chuck" lives on in Braeden.  He is a rock chucker to the max.  He chucks each rock enthusiastically and deliberately.  Like each one is his first and last.

Double-fisting before the double chucker

Luckily Bryce has a beach nearby where we can go, so Brady P. can satisfy his obsession... in April!  There is no place to sit on a rock beach near open water in the Harbor right now.  I have looked.

Thanks Bryce, for finding a beach, chucking with us and capturing the moments (all photos on this post courtesy of Bryce).

Watching Braeden do this is inspiring.  He is in his element, no doubt.  The moment he sits (or stands) on the beach, he  scoops up a rock and tosses is in.  Giddily.  Merrily. Seriously.  Like he means it.

It's so inspiring, that anyone around has to join in for a few.

B and me in rock-tossing bliss

Over and over and over and over again.  The other day we sat out for almost two hours, and he still disagreed when we said it was time to leave.

"Three more rocks, Braeden," is always my cue to inform him that we are about to leave.  Then we have to say good-bye to the rocks and lake, so he knows that we are really leaving.

He still disagrees.

And that is a nice way to say that sometimes he throws himself into the rocks and screams in protest.  Sometimes he comes reluctantly.  But he always disagrees.  At minimum.

I can't blame him.  Who wants to leave Lake Superior?  Who wants to leave the beach?  Who wants to stop doing their favorite thing in the world?

Certainly not Braeden.

He could sit there all day in mild to warm weather.  He doesn't even know he is hungry until we get inside.

I really wonder if he might be the first Major League baseball pitcher with Down syndrome.  Not that we watch sports, but he's got mad skills.

It is in him.  My little Chuck.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Say Whaaat?

Well, spring break is over, and I got my little boy back.  I haven't worked my life around a spring break since I was in college, and now, here I am, planning around my little boy's school.

Because he is in school -- for the most part.

And he is learning.  A lot.

For much of his life, he's been living with only me.  Unless we are visiting family, I feel like it's just been B and me.  I know he thinks I am cool, and he loves me, but I am his mom.  He needs to branch out.  See other faces.  Hear other voices.  Receive different perspectives.

School has been awesome for that.  He sees and interacts with other kids.  He works with other teachers.  He is part of a social hierarchy, if you will, whether he knows it or not (because, as the youngest, he is on the bottom.  Ha!).

He is working so hard on talking.  So hard.  He will now imitate me and others as they slowly speak a word to him.  He intently moves his mouth and voice while he watches their lips and listens to their sounds.

He can say some short words and even some people's names! And he certainly enjoys the thunderous applause when he nails a word.  

I'm so proud of him.

Of all the areas a child with special needs gets tested in, speech was his weakest.  And actually, it is the only area in which he qualifies for continuing special education because his current level is less than half where a normal child would be.

His struggle to speak does not come as a surprise.  In fact, I started sign language with him at two months old in preparation.  He used his first sign just before he turned one. "More," he signed when he wanted more food.

I nearly fell off my chair.

But here's where the struggle is apparent in him.  He is so smart.  So smart.  He can point to nearly any color, shape, letter, number, animal, object or person you ask.  But he can't say it himself.

So when he wants one of those things, he can't always express it, unless he has a sign or a combination of sounds that someone recognizes.

It frustrates him.

But even more than that, I think he feels a bit inadequate about it.  He sees other kids (sometimes younger) say what they want.  He watches adults converse.  He knows exactly what he wants, but can't always convey it.

And let me tell you, when he knows exactly what he wants, that is exactly what he wants, and nothing else will do.  For those things, I make sure he has a way to communicate to me, or he would probably spend time pounding his fists on the floor in a tantrum.  Luckily, that is rare.

And luckily, he is trying and learning at an accelerated rate.  His ability to even try a sound has taken off in the last few months.  His ability to make the sound correctly has doubled.  And his desire to try each word someone might say is remarkable.

For all this, I thank his speech therapist, Miss Dawn.  I thank his grammies and grampies who work so hard with him.  I thank his teachers who work with him one-on-one.  I thanks the students who take extra time to learn his signs, interact with him and speak clearly to him.  I thank each person who has watched him in my absence because they take that time to learn his signs and make him feel comfortable.

I also have to thank myself.  It's been a lot.  Trial and error for extra programs.  Learning some sign language myself.  Using extra patience to pay close attention to that magical little boy who just wants to be heard.

It's  a lot for everyone involved, but it's so rewarding.

And someday, he will tell us all about it.  He will blow our minds with the things he has to say... the things he knows... because there is much wisdom in his eyes.

Thanks for reading and learning with me.  As a present, here is a picture of him splashing in puddles.

Splashing through the puddles

Friday, March 30, 2018


Hey!  There you are!

I've been traveling this week.  See you next Wednesday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018



I never knew a day existed to celebrate Down syndrome until I had a child of my own with the extra 21st chromosome.  When I learned it was on March 21st, the first day of spring (well, this used to be the first day of spring!), I thought that was perfect.

Spring represents a new beginning.  A waking up from our long hibernation.  So to celebrate a condition that used to be left in the dark and cast in the shadows with the light of a new beginning sounds like a fantastic parallel.

Also, the earth is in perfect balance between darkness and light.  Between the shortest and longest days of the year.

I took that idea a step further, and remembered what Martha Beck wrote in her memoir Expecting Adam (a fantastic read, by the way).  To start the book, Martha was speaking with a psychic.  Martha's son, Adam (a three-year-old with the extra chromosome), was coming through the psychic to tell his mother to relax a bit.  That it was all going to be okay.

What struck me most was when the psychic said, "He's on both sides of the veil." (*I am paraphrasing this section, as I am unable to find my copy of the book for confirmation.)

Now, I don't know what you believe about spirituality or religion, and I'm not going to tell you what I think you should believe.  But what this woman was saying was that Adam, a small child with Down syndrome, was both on this earth in physical form and lingering in the spiritual realm beyond what we can see.  

At the same time.

I instantly thought about Braeden when I read that.  His wholeness, wisdom and ability to connect with everyone had me believe that my own son was on both sides of the veil as well.  And still is.  And probably, so are all people with this extra chromosome.

They know, see and feel more than most people.  

They are in perfect balance.  Just like the earth at this time.

I cried when I learned all those things.

And now I celebrate today with a joyful and purposeful heart...

And CrAzY socks!

One way to raise awareness for Down syndrome is to wear crazy socks today.  Show them off.  Take a picture of your wildly clad feet and post it on the internet.  Get together in the office or school or grocery store with all the other people wearing crazy socks and hang it on a billboard.

The school kids in their crazy socks!

Because Down syndrome is cool, man.  It's really cool.

I am down with Down syndrome.

Below is a video that totally jerked my heart strings.  50 mums and 50 4-year-olds with Down syndrome doing karaoke in their car.  They are lip syncing and signing the words instead of singing.

Seriously.  Take 4 1/2 minutes of your day and check it out.    It's World Down Syndrome Day!  

What really got me was seeing the moms' reactions to their children.  The beaming pride.  The deep, genuine love.  The spontaneous laughter from spontaneous goofiness.

I experience those things with Braeden everyday.  And maybe all moms of all types of children do!  I can't really compare because I am only Braeden's mom.  That is what I know.  

It is also something I love.

And I would not trade it for anything else.  You couldn't offer me anything in this whole world that would make me want to take away my son's extra chromosome.  It is truly a gift.  A gift that gives love everyday.

A gift in perfect balance.  A gift of a new beginning.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Extra, Extra!

If you've been with me for the last few months, you know I like to switch it up.  One week you'll get adventure pictures, the next you get a lecture on love and kindness, the next you get school updates, etcetera, etcetera.

Today we are going to go a little deeper again.

Into the realm of what it's like to be a parent of someone with "extra" needs.  

I prefer to use the term extra.  "Special" needs doesn't seem to cut it for me.  We all have special needs.  Needs that are unique to us as individuals.

What are some of yours?

Braeden, to me, has extra needs.

We are learning another language together (American Sign Language), so we can communicate effectively with each other.  Within that, we are also able to share that language with others -- expanding their horizons and opening communication with others that use ASL daily.

To me, that is extra.  It's a bonus.

I have to drive Braeden "to town," which is anywhere from 36-52 miles from our house, a couple times each month for therapy.

He has speech therapy in Calumet and physical therapy in Houghton.  Let me tell you, I am not a fan of driving to town, especially in the winter with a morning appointment and a blizzard.

But it is important that he gets assessed.  That I am given tips for further progression.  That he is praised for what he has achieved in the last month.  That we keep wow-ing his therapists.

The drive and the praise are extra.  And they are both worth it.

Braeden has extra medical needs.  Besides a yearly well-child checkup, he gets his blood drawn to check his thyroid levels and make sure his thyroid medication is at the right dose.  Extra appointments and extra number checking for me to make sure that what the doctor says matches what I believe.

He had open-heart surgery at 4 1/2 months old.  This May we go to see his cardiologist for a two year check-up to see how that operation is holding up.  He will also see his urologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan this summer to make sure his urethra surgery is still keeping things clear.

I believe he is fine in both these areas, but I will go the extra (700) miles to make sure.  For a half an hour appointment.

These are the things I've been doing from the beginning.  Luckily, with the physical and emotional time and energy of grammies and grampies along the way.  But to me it's "normal" until I realize how extra it really is.

The other day, Braeden came up to me, expressed his cuteness, turned around and walked away.  But there was something about that moment.

Wow, I thought.  I am raising that little boy.  And he has Down syndrome.  I am just doing that.  Not everybody would do that.

And it's true.  Not everybody would.  It is a choice I make everyday.  Not just to keep a small child alive, but to keep on top of all his appointments, all his medical records, all his therapies, all his progress.

To make sure we get out each day to bask in the glory of the snow or the sunshine or the lake.  To have extra giggles while we have our dance party.  To take extra time to show him my mouth while I sound out words that I know he wants to say.  To clap extra loud when he actually does.

Having Brady P. in my life has taught me a lot.  A lot, a lot.  And I am grateful for the schooling that only he could bring.  

He might be extra work, but he is so worth it.  If you ever meet him, or you already know him, you know this to be true.  

If you have someone extra in your life, I hope you know you are fortunate.  And they are fortunate to have you.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Splashers and Woofers

Even though we had a teaser of spring, it is still winter.  The fresh few inches of still falling snow just keep proving it.  But hey, it's the Keweenaw.  What do we expect?

Braeden and I expect to make the best of it.  Today is the first day I had to bundle him in his one-piece snow suit since he's been back from Wisconsin.  Otherwise he had the freedom of his lined nylon pants and jacket.  Room to run, run, run!

And run he did.

On Friday he ran and pushed his wagon almost the whole way from the Lake Fanny Hooe boat launch back into town.  At one point we stopped to listen to a wood pecker in a tree, and I realized he was panting.  Really panting like he was working hard.

For a child who had open-heart surgery three years ago, the panting, rosy cheeks and energy to sustain his pace was a miracle to me.  He is doing awesome!

He has also been running along the road to get to the creek in my love's neck of the woods.  We'll run to the creek, then find a nice spot to watch the sunset.  Sweet Bryce will stomp off chunks of snow to throw and sploosh into one of the few spots of open water on Lake Superior's shore (from the running creek).  I make dramatic splooshing sounds, and Braeden throws his arms around like a splashing wild man.


"More," he signs after each snowy boulder splashes and busts apart in the shallow water.  Bryce stomps off another edge of the banks.

I admire him as he exerts all that energy to stomp boulders of snow for Braeden's entertainment -- the bigger the better in Brady P's eyes.  Then he climbs up the snow mound and lifts a dripping snow chunk over his head.

"Are you ready, Braeden?" he asks.  

Braeden smacks his head for a yes while his mouth opens in extreme excitement at the size of the next chunk.  I am amazed myself.

"Kasploosha kapew kapew bawoowoowoosh!" I shout as the splashing commences.

Braeden flails in delight.  And signs more.

Mama and Brady P. watching a sploosher

Bryce even took our picture during a sploosher.  Pretty nice view for splashing in the creek!

On Saturday, the Copper Dog came to our town.  The block was nuts.  It was like Fourth of July in Winter.  My body went slightly into panic mode as I saw all the people moving about.  

But Braeden didn't seem to notice.  He just held my hand, looked straight down at the icy slush his feet were stomping through and marched straight ahead.  He only looked up to point when he heard a dog barking.

After a walk through the crowd (and his nap) we came back to try the dogsled ride.  One of the mushers ran his six-dog team that afternoon in the midst of three days of racing 150 miles to let 50 kids take a ride, two at a time.  Bless his heart.

Braeden didn't want to go.  

I asked him two dozen times.  "Do you want to ride with the puppies?" 

He shook his head no each time.  So we waited in a nearby bank, so he could at least watch the dogs and be next to them.

Rosy cheeks waiting for the doggies

The dog team is in the upper right corner under the cedar trees.  But this was the only picture where Braeden was smiling, so I used it!

Sooner than I thought, it was his turn to ride with his friend Maddie from school.  He kicked and screamed.

"He can go with you next round, Mom," the helper told me. I was relieved -- for B and Maddie.

At our turn, I plopped down and set him on my lap, half expecting him to cry and flail.  But the dogs started running right away, and he had no time to figure out how he felt about the situation.  He was instantly excited to be moving and see the puppies running ahead of us.

He pointed and squealed in delight the whole way.  We had a great ride around the park.  Whew!  And another new experience under his belt.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

He's Back!

Boy is that ever true when it comes to Brady P. and me.

As I drove away from that little boy last week, I felt such a relief.  Like I could finally take some time for myself.  That brought on the feeling of guilt, of course, because I'm his mama!  But I'm his mama all the time unless he's safely with his grandparents or one of the two wonderful sitters I currently have in town.

(In case you are not aware, Aaron and I are getting divorced, and he works in Arkansas for the winter.  Kind of a big thing, so I wanted my "single mom" comments to make sense.)

While driving away that day, I thought about all the duties and projects I lined up for myself back home.  And I was grateful that I had one week to do it all without my little pant leg tugger asking for attention.

Then I had another guilty thought.  "I wonder how many days -- or weeks -- it will take before I truly miss Braeden enough to want him to come back and take most of my time.  I thought it might even take months as I remembered some of the frustrating times when I felt ready to give him away.

That is really hard to admit.  But it is real.  Being a single mom of a three-year-old with an extra chromosome is very trying.  I bet that co-parenting a "normal" three-year-old is even frustrating at times.  And my sweet boyfriend will always remind me of that.

"Talk to other moms, Amanda," he will say as he holds my hand while I cry.  "I'm sure you're not the only mom to feel this way."  He assures me that I need a break once in a while, and I don't have to feel guilty.  His caring and understanding is truly a gift to Braeden and me.

So do you want to know how long it took for me to really miss my little boy?

After three days, I started looking more longingly at Braeden's pictures.  "Too soon," I thought.  "I can't really miss him yet.  I have too much left to do."

After five days I spent the evening watching videos of him before I fell asleep... with a tear in my eye.  

At seven days my heart was a puddle.  I just wanted him home.  I didn't care if I was only able to do any non-mom things during naps and while he played by himself.

I was truly ready to be a mom again.

And during his first day back, I was so grateful to have him with me.  I felt great joy being a mom.  Not just that I am a mom, but that I really enjoy it.  It feels so purposeful to raise my little superhero like nobody else is able to do.

Because right now, that's what I am here to do.  And I must always remember that.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Freedom on Ice

Braeden is visiting his Grammies and Grampies... so I forgot what day it was!

As the 24/7 caregiver of a miniature superhero, a break really means a lot.  It means having time to tie up loose ends in other parts of my life.  It means digging into projects that cannot be tackled during his nap time.  It means taking my own nap when I feel gravity taking over.  It means sleeping through the night.  

And today, it meant strapping on my snowshoes, sliding my ice picks through my jacket sleeves, and trekking across the frozen harbor to Porter's Island -- a place I haven't been since Brady P. was in my belly, and place I've been longing to visit for those three years.

Since I just got back in to town, I asked a couple locals how the ice was because I am not ready to die yet.  "It's been locked in for a while now." Marty confirmed.  "I was out with Fern a couple days ago," Staci assured.

Sweet.  That was just what I wanted to hear.

The sun was blasting over Brockway Mountain, the skies were blue and the wind was whipping from the west.  I battened my hatches, slid down the Harbor Haus landing and pointed every fiber of my being to the west end of Porter's -- where the ice volcanoes sat dormant.

Here is a panoramic view looking back toward the harbor.

The south side pan

It always looks different when you put 180 degrees worth of scenery into a 2-D picture, but that's East Bluff on the left, Brockway below the sunshine and Hunter's Point on the right.

This picture doesn't even show the ice covering the branches of the trees on Brockway Mountain.  That was gorgeous.

When I rounded the corner through the gap, I saw it.  I saw the ice volcano I've been eyeing up for weeks.  I'm astonished that it was still there.

The top of the 20 foot ice volcano

Then I slid down and walked around to see this part of it shining like a wind-struck mammoth jewel!

The glistening foothill

There's part of my shadow at the bottom for perspective, but it was a pretty grand sight.  All of it was.

I was so grateful to be out on the ice.  In the sun.  Following my curiosity.  Staying above the water.  And prancing around like a little kid.

That is freedom for a mama.

So I thanked the lake and blew her a kiss.  Then I giddily trekked back to the shore, eager to tell you about my adventure.  Just like the good ol' days...

Walking back from The Gap
(The biggest volcano is not visible in this picture)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"The Talk"

Hey!  I got to give my talk about Down syndrome at the Copper Harbor school this week.  It felt great!

I held the students' interest for the most part.  And the teachers learned some new things too!

But the most surprising part to me was this: After I asked all the students what they were born with that makes them different from most people, I asked if they knew what makes Braeden different.

None of them knew.

None of them knew!

Either they were being shy, their parents never told them, they forgot or they just really didn't notice.  For some reason, I thought that at least one of the students already knew.  But they didn't notice my little boy was different than them.

Then we got a little sciency and talked about chromosomes.  We got a little serious as I talked about his heart surgery.  We got a little giggly when I told them that sometimes his body feels like a wet noodle.

I think a few things clicked for them.  Like when I told him why he still drools and why he doesn't talk yet.  And how they already know he is a cool kid and loves to have friends like they do.

The students have always been nice to him, but I think that now they have a little more understanding about some of the differences they subconsciously noticed.

Like I said before, I am not just trying to promote acceptance for my son.  I want to promote it for every decent human being on this planet.  Because we are here for a reason, and the more we are understood, accepted and loved, the more we can thrive in that direction.

I look forward to doing these talks more and more.  I'll be looking for venues in the future.  If you have an idea for me, please let me know!

And in the meantime, spread a little love today. XOXO

Here is a smile from Mr. Inspirational himself.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Chance to Teach

The teacher at the Copper Harbor school just asked me to do a talk about Down syndrome to the class.

Heck yeah!

I am fired up about it.  Thoughts, facts and things I've learned first hand are flooding my brain.  I just wrote a brief outline about the points I want to cover, so I don't forget them all.  I'm glad to get the opportunity to take some time to really think about what I want to say.

Because it is really important.

It is about my son.

But on another level, it is about everyone.  We are all different, and that is how I plan to start my talk.

Details aside, let me also say this:

It is starting.

My chance to advocate for Braeden and everyone on the planet is starting.  It starts small like this, but it is starting.  This is my path now, and I need avenues in order to get the word out.

I am excited to share my knowledge with the kids.  I hope they enjoy learning about it.  I hope they are surprised by what is possible.

And then I look forward to telling you how it went!  Stay tuned!

Do you?

Just another note about this picture.  We all came into this world with our own specific gifts, tools, characteristics and handicaps.  What we do with them, and how we view ourselves on this planet are truly what define us -- more than what we think we "gain" while we are here.

Think about that for a minute.  See you next week!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"Dis" and "Dat" Ability

Today we are going to have a lesson.  Let me start with this:

What are you really good at?  Seriously, take a moment and think about it. Maybe you already know because you live out your gift passionately.  Maybe you are currently trying to figure it out.  Maybe you think you are hopeless, and you aren't good at anything.

But you are.  Keep looking.  Keep feeling.  Keep living.

What are you really good at?  What is your gift?  When did you figure this out?  Do you notice how good you feel when you get a chance to do it?  Do you notice how stifled and useless you feel when you don't get to do it?

I notice that with myself, and I notice it with Braeden.

We all can't do it all.  That's why we are all so different!  If we all did it all, we would all be really stressed out because that's a lot of pressure.  Instead, if we are able to harness the power of our talents and gifts, and use them daily, we are then able to thrive.  Not just live from day to day, but feel powerful and purposeful because we are doing what we love and do well.

Here is a little video to help illustrate this.

See?  We can't do it all, but we can do something.  Once we find out what our something is, we NEED to do it.  From our very core.  It is how we help others on this planet.  It makes us feel alive and worthy.

When I watch Braeden at school, it is apparent that he can't do all the things the other kids are doing.  He doesn't talk.  He can't eat his meatloaf with a fork all by himself.  He doesn't tell me when he needs to poop (or even admit that he just did it in his pants!).

However, I believe that he will be able to do all of these things some day.  These are merely milestones in a child's life.

There are other things that he can do that don't have to do with his age.  If he sees someone crying, he will either cry too, or give them a hug.  If you ask him to help you with something he is capable of, he will usually help happily.  When he smiles, your heart melts.  He is always very proud of himself for accomplishing something new or old.

Besides, he is a genius.

If you've been keeping up with this blog, you have read about many of the the things he can do.  Like, blow-your-mind kind of stuff for a three-year-old in general.

But genius and worldly knowledge aside, he is much more than that.  He brings a softness to this world.  He emanates a love that penetrates the darkest of hearts.  He shines a light so bright that it transformed my misguided thoughts instantly.

Brady P. dropping snow bombs on the porch

Just look at the light in those eyes.  He is pumped.  He drops that ice chunk over and over because I say "Katunk!" and he laughs.

Okay, so one more thing to tie this all together.

You have thought about what makes you awesome and special on this planet.  I have told you what makes Braeden awesome and special.

Now I want you to think about someone you know who you may have previously deemed "disabled."  Or less than a person.  Or perhaps not even worthy of life.  I bet you can think of someone.  Even saints have probably felt this way about someone.

Next think about why you thought that way about that person.   Is there something you don't understand about them?  How did they get in their current position?  What if you were in their shoes?

Okay, there's a little glimpse into finding compassion.

Now for the big question.  What do you think their gift could be?  Have you seen it yourself?  What potential do they have? Can you help bring it out in them?  Can somebody else?


Can you focus on that?  You can notice where they are now, yes, but know that they are here for something greater.

Just like Braeden.

Just like me.

Just like everybody.

Just like you.