Don’t Accept Me, Expect Me

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One Red Fish Surrounded By Blue Fish.

I did it once. I gave in to my disability. I was struggling in college: juggling a double major, a part-time job, a sorority, and track season was right around the corner. My schedule was a breeze when going through manic mode. But when dealing with the low side of bi-polar, the battle was uphill and the finish line looked a lot farther than the 400m sprint I was used to training for.  So I gave in.

It was the end of my 8 am class and I went to my professor. It was just a general education course and I was only a semester away from graduation. I did what I had never done for any class. I told the professor about my disability. I chalked it up for all it was worth. I explained that I was dealing with med changes and my schedule was full. None of it was really a lie.

I don’t regret telling my professor that I have bi-polar disorder, but I do regret why I told him. I was looking for a way out; a way to make the day easier. The class didn’t really matter. It was just a nuisance class I had to take to graduate. I wanted an easy A and I knew that by gaining a little sympathy it would be possible.

Just to be clear, the one perk of having a disability is to use sympathy for our advantage. But taking that one gesture toward sympathy sets us two steps back in our abilities. That day when I told the professor about my disability, I was screaming for the professor to accept me for my differences. What he really did was even better; he expected me for being the same.

It’s not difficult to spin into the acceptance trend. Short or tall, red or blue, we want people to take us how we are. But when it comes to rising up to a challenge, we can be quick to remind others of our faults and excuse ourselves from rising to the top. We are no longer expected and we sink ourselves back down to the minority that is comfortable and safe.

As we gear up for the back to school season, I want to encourage all parents and teachers to not provide students with a letter of acceptance, but with an impression of expectance. There are many times that we say as novices that “we can’t” when the fact is that “we won’t”. When we decide that we won’t do something because our disabilities hold us back, then we will never really reach our full potential.

I got an A in that class. Though I told the professor about my disability for the wrong reasons, he was gracious in letting me take my time to learn in a way that was right for me. I didn’t go to class every day, but I studied, and I felt as though I earned the A.

The Rocky Road To Independence

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This blog is a little out of date from when it should have been written, but trust me, it’s still good! On Monday of last week, our family packed up one of our business buses with luggage, kindles, dvds, and whatever else we could find to pass the time on our 12 hour drive to the cheese state. Here are some things that kept our wheels turning on our adventure within our journey through a special world.

Why Wisconsin?–24 years ago my parents left their dairy farm of about 250 cows to move to Ohio. About twice a year we take a trip to the dairy land to see my dad’s seven brothers and sisters, my 22 cousins, my 28 second cousins, and of course my brother, sister-in-law, and my two adorable nephews. (We also saw my mom’s four sisters. And if you think my dad’s side of the family is huge, you should see my mom’s side!)

On the Road Again

The little guys—On this adventure, we picked up a couple of mini hitch-hikers. If you read my previous blogs, you know that I have a brother that passed away about 7 years ago. He also left behind two adorable boys, Sam, age 9, and Seth, age 7. This year we took the little guys to see their giant family that they have no memory of.

The drive alone was a riot! Ok just imagine, four adventurous boys cooped up in a bus for twelve hours. Luckily, I was stuck in the middle of it all… Eric was singing at the top of his lungs because he couldn’t hear how loud he was with his headphones on. Levi was yelling “hi-Ya” every time a power ranger did a roundhouse kick to the villains trapped in his portable dvd player. And the other two played level after level of “Where’s my Perry” on the kindle fire. We had breakfast at McDonalds, lunch at Culvers, Dinner at McDonalds (again), various bathroom breaks and gas fill ups, oh and a couple stops to fill up on Green Bay Packer gear and Duck Dynasty attire. And we finally arrived at my brother’s house.

Just when I took a deep breath from the trip, I realized the adventure had just begun!

Side Note: I haven’t talked a lot about my oldest brother, but let me give you a quick run-through on their journey through a special world. A few years back, my brother and his family moved back to Wisconsin so he could drive his souped up Peterbilt truck for my uncle. (Long story short, when my dad left Wisconsin, the family farm began to focus entirely on grain processing. Now the farm is a multi-million dollar corporation with 11,000 acres of land.) Ok back to their story. My brother and his wife have two adorable sons, Zach, age 12, and Cody, 8, both of which have autism. As far as schooling, these boys are right on track. The oldest is definitely above average when it comes to the finest details in plumbing and electric. Zach has given me an entire run-through of what every pipe in the basement is for, and he has invented an eyeglass washing system that he presented to his class. Oh and both the little guys love music. I stayed with them last summer for a couple weeks and they definitely helped me prepare for my college senior recital. I had to give them a presentation everyday!

The biggest day of our little journey was July 4th. While we were in Wisconsin we used the convenience of everyone being in town for the holiday to have another graduation party for Eric and Levi.

Independence

Since we had the boys’ party on the 4th, I couldn’t help but notice the importance of this celebration. Obviously it is Independence Day, the day that we celebrate being a free country. It is a government for the people, by the people. (okay I’m done with the third grade history lesson) But we were also celebrating my little brothers’ graduation. It is a commemoration of their independence from school. And I just have to say I am so glad that I have watched them grow into the strong and independent boys that they are. They have their own apartment together, they do all of their own laundry, they clean, they cook, they are independent, but that still took work.

I also thought about Sam and Seth. This was their first time traveling back to Wisconsin in five years, and they were without their parents. (My sister-in-law has remarried since) They were away from what they knew, in an independent situation from what is their norm. But they still depended on our guidance.

Then there is Zach and Cody. Zach doesn’t need any guidance with creating his unique inventions, and the two of them certainly have no difficulty filling their knowledge with YouTube videos on plumbing and electric. I see them turning into the strong and independent boys that I know are within them. I can see them owning their own engineering business or something because they are so smart! But how much guidance will they need before they can become that independent?

Then there is my Grandma. We celebrated her 95th birthday while we were in Wisconsin. She is a strong and brilliant woman. All of her intelligence is still there. (In fact she can tell you all the names and birthdays of her children and their spouses, grandchildren and their spouses, and great grandchildren!) But she has lost nearly all of her sight, she has trouble walking; she is deteriorating. It has to be difficult to have done so many things that she used to do independently, but now these tasks are slowly sneaking out of her grasp.

The fact is, we can grow our independence in many areas, but we still have little things that we must depend on others for. I depend on the knowledge of my professors so I can complete my business degree. My parents depend on employees to keep our corporation running smoothly. I’m sure you can think of something you depend on too. But there is one thing that we can depend on that will never steer us wrong: God. I can say there are many things where we ask Him, “What were You thinking there?!” But overtime we can see the importance behind his zany yet brilliant plans. Romans 8:28 says, In all things, God works for the good of those who love Him.

And back to July 4th. On that day in 1776, we became an independent nation from Great Britain, and we designed a nation of the people, by the people, but it was also a nation built under God. I think our forefathers were right on key here. No matter what you run from or fight for, you always have something that you must lean on.

Build Your House on the Rock

24 z“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like aa wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” –Matthew 7:24-27.

Making Memories

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Today my little brothers celebrated their graduation from high school. Just to test my theory on how big of an impact these dynamos have on the people around them, I asked everyone to explain any memory they had of Eric and Levi. These are the results!

1. 1st let me say congrats to Eric and Levi! I have a memory of Eric… I walked into the men’s room at church and there was Eric holding a DVD of Veggie-Tales. I told Eric that I liked Veggies (which I totally do!) And his reply was “Oh really? You can have them then!” He then threw the DVD in the urinal and flushed it. Only later did I find out it was Levi’s DVD!

2.  I just enjoy being around your brothers…from having them in kids church for a few years, to having them help at Day Camp…watching them around the farm…they’ve made me smile, laugh, and hunt for them, lol!

3.  My sweetest memory is the way they loved on each other during church service. It was precious.

4.  Eric came to me at church said I need to pray for you..that was so very touching to me…God always knows what we need when we need it…what a blessing he is…

5. Congrats guys!!!!! The memory I have of them is when I was at your house and they were making fun of my lack of control when trying to touch a chicken! 

6. Congrats Eric and Levi!!!! They were two of my funniest students ever. Eric was supposed to do mouth exercises for speech but oh man did he hate it. Most of the time he would look at me with a grumpy face and just not really do them! It was so hard to not laugh and just let him get away with it. LOL!

7.  Levi always ratted me out when I was late for church…LOL. Try as I might to sneak in unnoticed, there was always a cheerful, “Hi Chelle!” I also remember how he liked to jam out in my car to “Jesus Freak.” And oh my, Eric. I remember babysitting you 3 for the first time after getting Eric. It’s a good thing that you were helpful with Levi, because Eric gave me a run for my money, that’s for sure.

8. How about Levi putting all the animals in the trunk of my car and then deciding I needed a baby goat too. The said baby goat climbed on top of my car and as you and I are trying to get all the animals out of my car your mom walks by with someone and says to them “oh that’s normal around here!” … Eric and Levi locking me out of the upstairs bathroom while taking a bath during your parent’s Bible study and Eric yelling “no worries Meggie. Eric under control.”…Levi calling Ed and I “Egg and Bacon” for almost two years… Eric calling Gabe repeatedly after locking me out of the house yelling “Help Gabe! Meggie mean!”

9. Congrats guys! U made it! I loved seeing u guys at church, you were always happy and you enjoyed seeing people!

10.  I remember them as tiny little people in our church! My, how they have grown!!! 

11. Congrats to both of them! Miss their hugs…will always remember Power Rangers, singing on the swing and Eric riding up and down the driveway on the scooter with Jess!<3

12.  I think it’s awesome how unique the guys’ senses of humor are! Eric once spent a good chunk of time just ‘sneaking up’ on me to tickle me, just so he could laugh about it. 

13. Congratulations to Eric and Levi! We are proud of both of you! I have a memory of Eric wanting to give me lots of hugs and following me around to make sure he got one more!

14. Congrats to Eric and Levi!!!! One of the many memories I have of them is taking Levi and Eric to Jr. Prom with Ken. During dinner, Eric kept flirting and I asked him “Are you trying to steal Ken’s date?” He replies “Yes,” looks at Ken and then says to him daringly “What are you going to do about it?!?!” lol

15A.  I do remember Eric coming to percussion class at [my college] and being one very cool dude!

15B. He did! I was there! I’m pretty sure his paradiddle was better than mine. I was jealous.

16. Eric and Levi were the best thing in our classroom. It was a great day when greeted by both boys. I will miss them dearly and never forget them. Good Luck! 

17. This story was not written down, but I was reminded of it by someone at their gathering. Eric, Levi and I went to the zoo with some family friends. Eric and one of the friends went to use the bathroom. While in the stall, Eric reached under and grabbed the leg of the man in the stall next to him. He had never met the man in his life!

It was amazing to see how many people came to support these two boys. Some of them I had talked to maybe once or twice, but my brothers had left a legacy for their lifetime!

When meeting someone who has special needs, it is easy to think, “what can I teach them?” But the more and more I spend time with my brothers, God has shown me to look at how much they have taught me! It’s obvious by the responses above that I’m not the only one Eric and Levi have impacted. They live, laugh, love, learn, and leave a legacy– without effort, without complication, just to take each person they meet on a journey through our special world.