Tag Archives: inspiration

Goodbye WEGO Health Challenge, Hello Blogathon

1 May

In April I participated in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I published a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

I am now participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

When I first started Running For Autism a little over two years ago, my blogging was an airy-fairy kind of affair. My original intent was for this to primarily be a running blog, but it morphed very quickly into far more than that. Running is such an important part of who I am, and it is frequently difficult to squeeze it in with all of the other responsibilities I have, and I found impossible to write about it without adding the context of my life. For example, how could I write about running to raise funds for autism without trying to raise some awareness about the impact of autism on my life?

And so my subject matter started expanding to include posts about parenting and autism. As my wedding day approached and I started feeling the typical angst of a bride-to-be, my blog became a place for me to vent about my stress and toss around ideas for how to plan a wedding that both of my children could be fully involved in. At some point I started to try my hand at fiction in the Indie Ink writing challenges. A little while after that, I felt a little glimmer of bravery that allowed me to tentatively start discussing my struggles with depression.

Even as I cast my net of topics wider and grew my audience, I found it difficult to prioritize my blogging. I have a lot on my plate. I am a wife and mother. I have a child with autism. I have a full-time job outside of the home that involves two hours of commuting each day. I help my husband with his business and take care of making sure bills are paid and taxes are filed. I run. I have a commitment to write three articles a week for an ezine.

Inevitably, blogging took a back seat to all of this, and I was posting once or twice a week if I was lucky.

When WEGO Health sent me an email inviting me to participate in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to see it through to completion. I mean, we were talking about a blog post every day for a month. In the end I signed up, spurred on by the fact that the challenge coincided with Autism Awareness Month. This seemed like a great opportunity not only to give my writing a boost, but to spread the word about autism and offer some hope and encouragement to parents feeling overwhelmed by a newly acquired diagnosis.

We have now reached the end of what turned out to be a very successful challenge. The prompts that were provided offered new ways for me to think about the health focuses that matter most to me – autism, mental health and running. I had to really dig deep and be honest with myself and with the world – or at least, the corner of the world that reads my blog. I had some moments of soul-searching, and I found myself addressing questions that I’ve never had the courage to ask before.

There were two days on which the prompts just couldn’t work for me. Try as I might, I could not get past the writer’s block. The challenge rules allowed two “get out of post free” days, but I was loathe to use them. Instead, I turned to the list of bonus prompts that were provided just for occasions like that. As a result, I published a post every day in April.

Through this challenge, I gained some new readers, and some great new blogs to follow. I read some incredible stories of courage and perseverance. So many aspects of health were covered in this challenge: diabetes, cancer, mental illness, special needs parenting, and so many others.

When you read so many stories of people fighting to survive, going to the ends of the earth for their children, and using their own painful experiences to help their fellow man, it really gives you renewed faith in the awesomeness of humankind.

Thank you to WEGO Health for putting this challenge out there. Thank you to my fellow bloggers for taking me on journeys that I could never have otherwise imagined. And thank you to everyone who reads my blog, who leaves comments or clicks the “like” button, or who shares my posts on Facebook or Twitter. It means a lot to me to know that my voice is being heard.

I am compiling a list of fellow bloggers who took the challenge, and when my new website is launched, they will be on the blogroll.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mariareyesmcdavis/2890706354/. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

A Week Of Inspiration: What I’m Taking Away

7 Jan

As 2011 drew to a close, a gave myself a mission to start off 2012 on the right note. To do that, I would approach some women who I found to be inspirational, and I would ask them to post something on my blog that would send a positive message. It started off as a simple resolution for me to start the year in a positive way to get myself out of the funk I have been in. By the time I was scheduling the posts, it had become a project to help everyone: I realized that many people – including a couple of the writers – were in need of a dose of the good stuff that life has to offer.

This would be my small way of trying to make the world a better, happier place filled with possibilities and motivation.

I took something valuable away from all of the posts this week – things that I will take forward with me as I navigate my way through the jungle of life in 2012. For that, I want to give heartfelt thanks to all of my contributors.

I am battling with some personal demons right now, and it’s hard. There are days when I can barely see my way through to getting out of bed. Ultimately, though, I have support. I have my family, I have friends, and I am in good enough health to put on running shoes and pound the hell out of the pavement when I need relief from the stress. On Monday, Kerry White gave us a reminder on perspective. It does me good to remind myself that no matter how difficult things may be, I will muddle my way through it all, aided by the support system that I have around me.

A few minutes ago, my son George – autistic, eight years old, and very long and lanky – clambered into my lap for a hug and a cuddle. As I held this treasure in my arms, I reflected on the fact that special needs parenting is sometimes as hard as hell, but life without this amazing child is just unfathomable. Sara Morgan expressed this on Tuesday, when she said that yeah, we have kids with autism, but at least we have them.

How easy is it for us to just lie down and quit when we’re faced with a personal tragedy? On Wednesday, Phaedra Kennedy took us through her heartbreaking unsuccessful quest to have a baby, and her subsequent resolve to make 2011 the best year of her life. Not only does Phaedra’s tale inspire me to set goals for this year and really work towards them, I am honoured to have her mentoring me through my next stage of evolution as a runner.

Perhaps there is truth to the idea that the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings can ultimately cause a storm on the other side of the world. In the same way, a handful of women blogging about motherhood can result in impoverished children receiving life-saving vaccinations, and fewer babies dying of pneumonia. On Thursday, Jennifer Burden told us about an idea that started small and morphed into something huge. Over the next year, I will endeavour to follow my dreams, no matter how silly they may seem. Who knows where they will take me?

There have been times in the past, when things have been rough, that I have succumbed to the temptation to just let myself go. I have asked myself what the point of it all is. If Margie Bryant had given in to that kind of negative self-talk, where would she be today? She survived addiction, a string of meaningless, emotionally empty relationships, and time in a federal prison. She kicked low self-esteem in the butt, and has turned her life around. She leads a life anyone could be proud of, and she’s found true love to boot. If she could make that kind of U-turn, surely I have it in me to control the direction of my own life.

My personal mission this year is to focus on taking care of myself. I am going to find some balance in my life and do more things that I want to do.

Will this take away the time and energy that I have always unquestioningly devoted to my husband and children? Or will doings things for myself inject me with more energy, and lead to a more enriched, satisfying life for all of us?

(Thank you again to Kerry, Sara, Phaedra, Jennifer and Margie. I am sure your tales of inspiration have touched the lives of many people reading this blog.)



Give me a place to stand…

8 Nov

Last week I stepped out of the real world for a few days while I attended the 2010 Geneva Centre for Autism symposium, here in Toronto. It was a phenomenal event – it was much more than I had expected it would be. When the conference ended on Friday afternoon, I literally felt as if I had to step out of a bubble back into my life. But I resumed my life with an altered perspective, and a deep new understanding of my son.

For three days, I was in the presence of true greatness. I had the opportunity to listen to presentations by professionals in the field of autism, such as Tony Attwood and Nancy Minshew.  I heard talks by individuals who have lived with autism themselves, who have made successful lives for themselves – people like Temple Grandin and Stephen Shore. I listened to the beautiful music of two people with autism, Michael Moon and Samantha Mutis, which brought tears to my eyes. I was surrounded by hundreds of delegates – teachers, therapists, other parents like myself – who were all gathered together for the sole purpose of learning how to help and support people with autism, and thereby make the world a better place.

Going into the conference, I expected to learn some new stuff. That was, after all, my reason for going. I wanted to get some insights, hear about new research, learn about possible ways of doing things differently and more effectively for George. Did I accomplish this goal? Let me put it this way. Not only did I learn more about autism than I would have thought possible in three days, I actually feel as if I got to step into my son’s mind. Listening to the speakers, many of whom live their lives on the spectrum, I got to step into the world of autism in a way that I have, until now, not been able to accomplish.

I feel honoured that these individuals allowed me into their world and shared of themselves so freely. These people, for whom life has been a series of challenges that most of us will never understand, have collectively turned me into a better person and a better Mom.  They have, through their willingness to share their experiences and give hope to parents of children with autism, created a landscape in which my son can have a better, more productive, more fulfilling life. What an opportunity that is.  What a gift those people have given to me and my family.  I feel truly blessed to have been there.

I learned that in order to teach social communication, we need to teach social thinking, and that in too many instances we focus on the diagnosis – the word “autism” – rather than on the specific challenges of the individual. I heard about how in all of us – especially people with autism – negative emotions may manifest as anger, and that we should always dig deep and look for the real underlying emotion. I have learned to use the phrases “expected” and “unexpected” when describing behaviour because the terms “appropriate” and “inappropriate” imply a value judgment that doesn’t help anyone. I now know that instead of fighting George’s fascination with garage doors and writing it off as an autistic obsession, I should use it as a stepping stone to help him learn and accomplish new things. And much more.  So much more.  I am still internally processing everything.

I left the symposium with the knowledge that so much is possible. I can see a whole new world opening up for my boy.  It is up to me and Gerard to ease the path for him, to help him see where he can go and what he can achieve.

While I was at the conference, I bought myself a piece of autism awareness jewellery.  It is a chain with a puzzle piece on it, the puzzle piece being the universal symbol for autism awareness. Behind the puzzle piece is a circular disk with a quote engraved on it. The quote is a perfect reflection of the possibilities that lie ahead for George, if he is given the right support along the way.

“Give me a place to stand and I can move the world”  ~ Archimedes ~