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jaelpn

jaelpn

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  1. jaelpn

    The Same Kind of Different as Me

    "What's it like having a brother that is 'different?' ... was a question that I was asked many times by other kids who were curious. As a child, sometimes we never know what is normal from what is strange until an adult opens our eyes to the world of prejudice. I understood what they meant, though. Dustin wasn't the normal child; he was 'different'... he had a hard time paying attention in class, he had nervous tics. He was a kid without a worry in the world...sometimes a world only he seemed to understand. He was diagnosed with being mildly autistic at the young age of 3. My mom had developed a close relationship with Dustin's preschool teacher; every day they'd write back and forth in a notebook to give insight on how his day went. Sometimes he'd be so hyper it would be hard for him to stay seated long enough to hear a story. Many nights my mother cried silently, not knowing what else to do for her little boy. Her first four children were healthy and normal... and Dustin came along with a challenge. Sometimes challenges are what keeps a family going. My mother took him under her wing, and patiently taught him on his own time. He had a hard time grasping how to tie his shoes... and instead of being scolded like many parents will do out of impatience, my mother bought him velcro shoes. The first time he tied his shoes at the age of 12, my mom took him to the store and let him pick out his own pair of shoes (buzz lightyear...). He didn't have concept of time or season during those early years. One summer, he wore his winter boots. He didn't want to take them off... he ran around the house with these boots on all summer. My mother eventually gave up and shrugged it off as just a little challenge. He was an eager child. He loved going to school. Early one morning, he woke up and got himself dressed for school and ran to the bus stop a block away... at 5 in the morning. Another challenge, another lock placed on the door. These were the few challenges my parents faced... from buying a new lock, child gates, to sleeping with one eye open. His blue eyes took in the world with a new understanding. He didn't see people the way we see them. We see someone different and somehow judge them; he sees them smile and smiles back at them. As he grew older, he learned to ride his bike. He would spend all day on his bike. The first time he wrecked his bike, he came home with tears running down his face. My mom put her hand under his chin, brought his face up and asked him what was wrong. "I wrecked my bike..." he said. "I ran into a parked car..." She assured him everything was fine, and wiped his tears away. Dustin grew up to be a smart kid. He was a perfect student- always willing to learn. Anytime he came upon a challenge with his school work, he learned to overcome the obstacle. He ended up being on honor roll, winning an award for best personality. He was a shy boy, and yet when he would get home he'd talk up a storm. He once told me that he knew that Jesus was real because he could feel him in his heart. Most people live their lives questioning the existence of God... he simply believed because he felt him. Dustin is now 20 years old. He has overcome many obstacles in his life. He has graduated from highschool. My mother taught him patiently how to drive and he received his drivers license. He has not let autism hold him back from the experience of life. He is full of hope and love. He has taught many people that you are not any more different than what others make you out to be.... as far as he is concerned, you are the same kind of different as me. The world is a much better place because I've seen first-hand that hope and faith is stronger than any kind of judgement from others. Everyone is different in their own way... as long as you believe in yourself, anything is possible. Thank you Dustin for teaching me that whenever I feel like I have lost hope in this world... that you continue to believe that the world isn't as bad of a place as many people think. Sometimes we need to open our hearts a little more, and understand that not everyone is the same. I wish there were more kids like you in the world... maybe we would have a little more hope in each other. ...what's it like to have a brother that is different? It means all the difference in the world.
  2. "I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection." -- Sigmund Freud My father was the head of the household, the man that you did not want to disrespect. We were taught discipline at a young age. I only recall a handful of times that I did something worth deserving a switching. He worked well into the night and came home in time to make sure all of us kids were up and ready for school. He helped my mother with the housework, he mowed the lawn and kept the family safe. He never once complained... he was the kind of father that would always choose to be the pitcher while my siblings and I got to hit the wiffle ball and run around the yard to all the bases and act like he couldn't quite catch the ball so we'd feel like we had won fair and square. The kind of father who would have all five of us kids sprawled out on the bed waiting in suspense as he would tell us ghost stories, while we munched on popcorn and soda pop. As we all grew older, he was the man who told us "no" and we never questioned why. He was the one who had enough courage to teach me how to drive for the first time, how to control the car in snow.... or the man who called the tow truck when I backed into a ditch. The man that taught me about responsibility as I handed the tow truck man my hard earned money. This past year, my father nearly died. He had gone in for a cardiac cath, and ended up having tubes down his throat and was put on a ventilator after going through flash pulmonary edema. It was the longest 48 hours of my life. The strongest man I've ever known was at the mercy of the hands of nurses. He couldn't respond. We watched as he struggled to breathe. It was one of the most scariest moments my family has had to endure. We came together as a family and we sat in our own chairs silently... most of us probably thinking of years past and hoping that the man who had been able to see each of us experience life for the first time would not have to see the experience end for him. I thought about all the times that I never got to say that I loved him... or that I never said "thank you"... about all the times that I had disobeyed him when I knew he was doing what was best for me. The man who gave me the chance to learn what hard work is, and yet never complained of taking care of his family. He always did what was best for us children and my mother, and he would step back and watch the experience unfold. ...as we heard the news that he was able to have the breathing tubes out and he was able to breathe on his own, there was a moment for all of us that gave us a glimpse of how precious life really is. He is back at working hard and giving us more insight to what is most important in life. I wish everyone could have a father as strong as my own father... a man who appreciates the small things in life and knows what is best for each of his children, even when we sometimes don't realize it. Life is fragile. But the strongest man I'll ever know also has a heart that has reached many people of this world, eyes that sparkle and a laugh that I'll never forget. Thank you dad, for all that you have taught me. I'm a much better person because you taught me what is most important in life- to always work hard, to tell the truth and above all- that love perseveres.
  3. jaelpn

    Paperweight

    My older sister's friends wanted to hold my hands and play helicopter with me by swinging me around in circles in the front yard and eventually letting go. This resulting in me flying across the yard and eventually landing. It was fun...sometimes. I'd play in the yard, doing cartwheels and run barefooted. I'd get stung by a bee most every year, and my mom would fix it up with either baking soda or meat tenderizer- whichever she found in the cabinet. (lovely home remedies...) In fifth grade I introduced myself to a new girl that just moved to town, and was in my class. No one else took the opportunity to say hi, and I was always one that was friendly to everyone. We became great friends and would spend a lot of time on the jungle gym singing songs and trying new tricks of hanging upside down. That year, I lost most of my friends. They didn't understand why I was hanging out with that girl and decided they didn't want to be associated with me if I was hanging out with that "nerdy" girl. I was devastated. I soon was the one that everyone decided to pick last for kickball because they decided that I was not cool enough anymore to be on their team. This threw me into a whirlwind depression by sixth grade. I couldn't eat without feeling like I was going to throw up. I was depressed, nervous and most of all just plain lonely. My parents couldn't afford much but I had what I needed and that is all that mattered to me. Kids were cruel back then; they'd laugh because I would be wearing shoes from walmart while they had their Nikes and Adidas shoes on. I remember my teacher calling our names out asking who was going to be getting lunch at school that day (and others brought their lunch); my hand was never raised. Everything I tried to keep down wouldn't; I didn't eat much because I felt sick all the time. My mom took me to the doctor because she thought that I had ulcers- but what I really had was a broken heart. When you're a child, your friends mean a lot to you. When I was made fun of for being friends with someone that no one gave a chance to, or made fun of because I was wearing hand me down clothes someone else had sold at their yardsale- I thought I was worthless. I was a wreck that year. The doctor eventually scared me out of my nervous stomach problem. I began to gain weight. By the time I reached 8th grade, I was healthy and happy. I started to gain friends back and started wearing makeup and thought that I was finally living the life of a normal happy kid. I was still thin throughout my highschool years but I never felt beautiful. All the girls would always talk about how thin I was and how they wished they had a body like mine. A guy in my art class would always talk to me and he would talk about how sexy my body was. Of course I never felt beautiful and I'd just shrug him off because he never got to know me. I was never one to show off my body like some girls would. I just tried to study hard and I'd put my focus into writing. I had a group of friends that I spent time with, we'd listen to music, laugh and just go bowling on the weekends. I had my first boyfriend sophomore year and he broke my heart. Five years after graduating, I started to put on weight. I thought it was the typical college weight that I was gaining. Diagnosed with hypothyroidism and was put on synthroid for the rest of my life. I was having trouble finding clothes that fit and just felt downright ugly. I hated going to the store because people would come up to me and say things like "oh wow... you've sure put on the weight" and patting my stomach as if it was amusing to them. Now- I still struggle with my weight. I'm trying hard to lose it. I feel like a paperweight. I feel as if everything inside of me weighs me down. I am a nurse now- and I have found that beauty is more on what is in the inside of others. I have believed this all along. No one ever gave me the chance to shine- they always talked about how thin (or now how much more hefty) I am. We all have our struggles in our lives. When I was thin I never carried myself the way these young girls now do. They act as if they wear these tight pants and a shirt that shows cleavage- they will be loved by a man....who will eventually use them and break their heart. We have to work on our hearts, first. Our bodies are the shells to our soul. I've been working out a lot lately because I do want to shed some of this weight off- I want to get healthy. I don't want to dig into the potato chips to make myself feel better with the comfort food. I want to have a strong healthy heart and to be able to just feel better about myself. Life is too short to worry about the small things. We have to learn to love ourselves before someone else makes us believe we are not worth it. Even as I sit here and tears run down my eyes because I think of my past and how cruel those kids were, I know that I have become a stronger more independent person because of it. I can finally look in the mirror, smile and know that I have found my true inner happiness.
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