The disabilities, or rather abilities of those in my life

It’s love

I once again haven’t written in a long time. But it’s hard now because I work at an actual company and there are HIPAA guidelines I have to follow. I really can’t go into any detail at all regarding any of my kids. I can’t tell you their names or what they look like. I can’t tell you the things we work on. I can’t tell you much at all. 

But I can tell you that my biggest challenge has become one of my favorite parts of my day. I can tell you that I’ve had the opportunity to watch these kids make enormous strides and accomplish incredible things. I can tell you that one of my kiddos has Megan Day. And he waits for it. And he says “There’s Megan day!” When he sees the exit they take to get to me. And he saves his hugs all morning for me. 

And I can tell you that it’s been so challenging. And so frustrating. And there were times that I was pretty sure I couldn’t do it and wouldn’t survive it. But my kids are doing the coolest things and I get to say “Hey I taught him that!”, and that’s pretty damn awesome. 

So my plan B is working out immeasurably better than I could’ve ever hoped or dreamed. And the rest of my life is really falling in place too. And even if I never make $100,000 a year, or graduate with a masters degree, I have all of these kids and people who are so thankful for the accomplishments I’ve facilitated. And I am so incredibly proud of me, and them, and all of this that I’ve done. 

So I love them. And my job. Even on the bad days. Even on the worst of the worst days. These kids and this job have really taught me to appreciate the good days, and to hold on to that feeling when I’ll need it the most. And to remember that it always gets better.

And I am so happy, my heart might explode. 

Two years!

  I really have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it’s been two entire years since I met this amazing family and this incredible little girl. I can’t believe how insanely lucky I am to be able to play the role I am in her life and see her as much as I do. 

The last year has been filled with ups and downs beyond what I can even say. It’s been a huge year for this little lady. First off, MJ turned 5! She also had her tonsils and adenoids out in hopes of some better sleep, got hearing aids, went through cochlear implant surgery, had her implant turned on, and finally got a new, amazing, really awesome wheelchair. Oh and she’s grown. A lot. I can’t believe how much. Did I mention she’s still cancer free? 
On August 8th, Meredith heard my voice for the first time ever. I can’t even explain how amazing it is just to know she can hear me (and everything else) and to watch her reactions to all of the new things around her. It’s impossible to put into words. 

  
Over the last two years I’ve learned even more about myself through this 5 year old than I could’ve ever imagined. I’ve learned so much about the person I want to be and the things I want to do with my life. I’ve learned so much about love and how precious life can be.

More than anything, over the last two years, I’ve gotten to know Meredith. I’ve gotten to be there for the good and the bad. I’ve seen her at her best, and her not so great. I know her laughs and cries, her happy noises, sad noises, angry noises. I know when she’s going to give me a hard time during bed time. I know the little smirk she gives me just before she falls asleep. I know when she’s actually upset or just wants me to hold her. I know how incredibly strong MJ is, honestly the strongest person I know. And I know that no matter how hard I try, no “job” from here on out will ever be the same, because nothing could possibly compare to this. 

And I’ve loved her. So much. Every single day. For the last 730 days of my life. More than I’ll ever be able to find the words to say. More than I ever thought I could love someone who’s not even mine. Sometimes I think my heart might explode. 

And I’ve developed such a wonderful relationship with her entire family. You’ll have to take my word for it, but I think they might be some of the greatest people there are in this world. MJ’s big brother and sister make me laugh, keep me sane, and remind me that good kids exist. They are so smart and kind and loving. It’s been a pleasure watching them grow up. 

Over the last two years, because of one message on a babysitting website, I gained a second family. I am forever greatful, honestly eternally thankful to have these people in my life. To know them. To love them. 

It’s like winning the lottery, except better. 

Happy 2 Years, Meredith. Your Megan loves you so much. 

  

I wrote a while back that I had started an ABA Tech job with a company. That company ended up not working and I subsequently got the exact same job with an amazing company.

I’ve now been there for almost three months and while this is everything I’ve always wanted to do, it’s not exactly everything I expected it to be. It’s really hard. There’s a lot more to doing ABA than I ever thought. Anyone who is on the ABA Hate train really has no idea how much goes into it or how wonderful it is for kids on the spectrum. For the first two weeks of my job I was “shadowing” which is essentially watching the other ABA techs work with their kids, asking questions, and them explaining what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. I then went through a short phase of running programs with other Techs kids to get some practice before my kids start.

I’ve had my own kid for two months now and then received my other two kids about a month later. My first kid is giving me a major run for my money and ensuring he tests my patience every single day. I also experienced my first catastrophic violent meltdown, which, while wasn’t pleasant was an awesome learning experience. 

The thing is, it’s weird how you can be so absolutely 100% sure about something and be completely wrong. To say I was bummed about not being accepted into Grand Valley’s School Psychology program is an understatement. While I moved on to my plan B, which I’m currently living out, I was sure my entire life had been put on hold for a year while I waited to re-apply. Through this job I’ve gotten to see first hand what BCBA’s do and what their job is all about and it’s really not what I thought. It also isn’t really that much what I want to do. And while being an ABA Tech is wonderful and so unbelievably rewarding, it’s also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I didn’t really imagine myself getting so frustrated at times, which is hard for me to admit. I pride myself on my patience with this type of thing. And then I was given my first kid, and everything I’ve ever known about myself and autism went out the window. He is hands down the most stubborn child I’ve ever met in my life. We’ve basically started from the bottom and taught him how to learn. He’s made absolutely amazing progress and we’ve been able to start teaching him some signs and I even taught him to say Hi and Bye. I think I can actually say that getting declined from Grand Valley was a blessing in disguise. At least right now. For me. At this point in time. 

What I know right now is I still have an imeasurable passion for helping children. I still have an immense desire to better the world for them. I will always always always work with children with special needs. I’m just not sure what pathway I’ll take right now or what the next two or five years has in store for me. For the first time in my entire life, I don’t really have an immediate plan. And as absolutely terrifying as that is, it feels kind of good to not have such high expectations for myself to meet. It feels nice. 

For right now, I’m challenging myself, I’m learning about life, love, autism and myself. I’m learning about the kind of person I want to be and not be. And I’m doing something I love. 

And that makes it all okay. 

I know you’ve seen the articles. You know like

http://www.scarymommy.com/articles/10-things-divorced-parents-should-do-to-avoid-fucking-up-their-kids?section=single-parenting

http://thoughtcatalog.com/maya-kachroo-levine/2015/01/15-reasons-children-of-divorce-are-terrified-of-getting-married/

oh and this one

http://thoughtcatalog.com/jamie-varon/2015/02/just-a-kid/

Take a minute to read those and then come back to me

Now forget everything you just read.

I don’t know where it came from, and I really really wish with all my heart that it would go away, but for some reason right now there is a huge fad/trend with the “my parents are divorced woe is me everything sucks I hate life”. It’s become a teenage fad to constantly complain about your parents divorce and even take it a step further to say that your life would somehow be better if they hadn’t gotten divorced. The second article goes through all the reasons why children of divorced parents are afraid to get married, and I think it’s complete and total crap.

My parents got divorced when I was in 2nd grade and up until then things weren’t real great either. They didn’t get along, fought a lot, and were overall just not happy. So my dad moved out and we went through the friend of the court and ended up with my mom having full custody and my dad having us every other weekend. I would be 100% lying if I said it didn’t suck not getting to see my dad every day. I would be lying if I said the divorce wasn’t extremely hard on both me and my brother. I would be lying if I said I never told my mom I wished they could be back together, when I was 8. However, I am 22 years old and a rational adult who can understand why things happen and why things need to happen. So here’s what I’ve learned from my parents divorce and why it in no way negatively impacts my life right now.

1. We are ALL happier.
I would say 100% of the time, divorces happen because someone isn’t happy. It’s also pretty logical to assume if one person isn’t happy, the other person isn’t happy. If neither parents are happy, they’re probably fighting a lot and then the kids aren’t happy. My parents did what they needed to do in order for my brother and I to have a better life. That meant being apart and not being married anymore. And guess what? My life turned out just fine.

2. Two holidays.
Silver lining? Two birthday parties, two Christmas’, two Easter’s, Two Thanksgivings, TWO OF EVERYTHING! I know some angsty teenagers would argue that they just wish they only had to have one of everything and that their parents could somehow magically get along so everyone could be at their birthday. That’s ridiculous, not logical, and never going to happen. Having two different Christmas’ each year just means I got to develop new traditions with each parent and enjoy one on one time with each of them. It meant twice the love, twice the presents, and the festivities go all day long. Not to mention, I would never force my parents to feel uncomfortable in the same room and in turn make everyone else uncomfortable. It’s not worth it and two parties is the most insane thing in the world to complain about.

3. Bonus Parents.
This isn’t to say that everyone’s step parents are going to be awesome. But for those of us lucky enough to be blessed with an awesome step parent, be thankful. My step dad has been my best friend since the day he walked into my life. He backs me up when my mom is being crazy, always took me to taco bell for dinner, and taught me how to swear in 6th grade. I could never and would never complain about having a second dad to love me.

4. Love.
The second article I mentioned infuriated me for this reason. Separate bank accounts are normal, married people even have them. Just because my parents marriage didn’t work out, doesn’t mean I don’t know what a functional marriage looks like. Just because children of divorced are more likely to also get divorced doesn’t mean I will. Push yourself not to be a statistic. Also, just because my parents got divorced doesn’t mean I won’t take marriage seriously. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t doubt two people can spend the rest of their lives together… It literally happens all the time… This isn’t baggage, it’s just life.

5. My relationship.
My parent’s relationship or divorce in absolutely no way shape or form affects the relationship I’m in. I’ve learned a lot about how to love a person from my mom and my dad and they didn’t need to be together to teach me that. My dad taught me everything a gentlemen should be by treating me like I deserve to be treated and my mom taught me everything I needed to know about being a lady and how to make sure I get the love I deserve. My relationship is absolutely wonderful because he respects me, cares about me, takes care of me, and loves me the way I deserve to be loved. I also think it takes a whole lot of love for yourself to know when to walk away and when to fight and stay.

I once read a story about a dad who was an alcoholic. He had two sons. One son looked at his dad and thought he would never amount to more than what his dad was and grew up to also be an alcoholic. The other son looked at his dad and knew he could be better and grew up to have no addiction and be a great person.
The same principle applies. I can look at my parents divorce with a negative light and think I will never be better than that and I won’t. Or I can look at their divorce and know that I can do better and make better choices with my life. If I do end up getting divorced down the road, it won’t be my parents fault. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we want them too, and that’s okay.

I’m still doing it

About a month ago, I wrote about the places I’m going. At that point in time, I wasn’t really quite sure where I was going, but knew without a doubt that it would be somewhere great.

A month later I am happy ecstatic to to announce that I have been offered and accepted an amazing position through a health care company doing exactly what I want to do for my entire life; Applied Behavior Analysis.

I have missed working with kids in the spectrum so much that it almost hurts. It’s been almost a year since I started working with Mr. M and over a year since I finished my work with my Autism Practicum class. While I have been working with Evan on social skills training, it’s not exactly the same as he is very much a “typical” 17 year old. 

I’m still going through training, which involves about 40 hours of online videos on everything I could ever need to know about Autism and HIPAA and so on. Once I finish I will go to an in office training and then I’ll be assigned my first case and begin ABA trials with a child 18 months-6 years old in their home. I am so so so very excited to begin this part of my journey. I can’t wait to watch this child I haven’t even met grow and learn. I can’t wait to use all of my schooling and training and everything I’ve worked so hard to learn. I can’t wait to live this life I’ve created for myself. 

It’s a wonderful feeling graduating from college with a job in your field of study and even more a job you’ve been dreaming about for 4 years. 

I love my life so much. 

Time… 

A couple months ago I wrote a post about not spending my time and energy on negative people. And time has been on my mind more and more lately. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m really growing up. Maybe it’s because the kids I work with are growing up. Maybe it’s just because I’m being reminded every day how important it is.

But time. It’s so precious. It can happen so fast you don’t even have the chance to realize it’s happening. 

So spend your time on people that matter. Spend your days, minutes, seconds on people you love. On people who love you back. Make it count. Be happy. Do what you love. Be who you want to be. We only get so much time here, and I hate to say it but the clock is constantly ticking. I try to remember this even on days when I’m exhausted. I tell myself this when Meredith refuses to sleep or when she’s having a bad day and just wants to be held. She’s getting bigger and I only have so much time left to rock her and hold her and kiss her. There’s just only so much time. And it’s precious. Those moments are the moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life. So I cherish them. And I hold her a little tighter. And I kiss her little cheeks one more time. And I fall in love a little more…

So go spend time doing something you love. Spend time with someone who matters. Don’t waste it worrying about people and things that don’t deserve your time.

Make it count. 

People have been reading me the book “oh the places you’ll go” probably since I started preschool. And it’s always been that I’m going to go to all of these wonderful places and do these amazing things and it just hit me, right now, at 10:36 on a Friday night that it’s happening. It’s not in the future. I’m going to amazing places and doing incredible things and it’s my life now.

It’s a really surreal and bittersweet feeling. Sweet because I’m doing great things, bitter because what I’m doing right now wasn’t my plan A. I didn’t plan on not getting into graduate school. I didn’t plan on having to take this year off. I’m not bitter about the way it’s happened because things do happen for a reason and it’s in no way going to stop me from doing great things or helping people or being the best person I can be. But it wasn’t plan A. It wasn’t my dream. And that’s okay.

So in two weeks, I graduate from College. I get to be the second person (after my older brother), to graduate from a university. And as much as it sucks that I don’t get to start school again in the fall and continue my education at Grand Valley, I refuse to let that take away from my day. I refuse to let myself feel like walking across that stage isn’t an immense accomplishment, because there were a lot of people who didn’t think it would happen.

I’m graduating. I did it. While working 4 jobs. While missing home. While taking hard classes. When I wanted to quit because it was too hard. I did it. But don’t let me fool you, I didn’t do this on my own.

I wouldn’t be here without my mom constantly pushing me my entire life to do things I didn’t want to do. Without her setting an example of the kind of person I want to be. Without her making me go to Grand Valley, which turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. I couldn’t have done it without weekly phone calls from my dad who constantly keeps me grounded and sane. Without my Meredith who reminds me that life is worth fighting for. Without the people who let me spend so much time with their kids, reminding me why I’m working so hard to do this. And without Andrew, the love of my life who just makes me want to be better. Because I’m getting this degree for them. For all of them. And for myself, because I’m going to make an amazing life for myself. Because I deserve that. Because I worked really damn hard for this.

So really. This was a team effort. I can’t even put into words how much I love my team.