How to live more fully: 4 lessons my father taught me

coping live fully Mar 02, 2018

Exactly one year ago this week my father marked his 100th birthday. Lots of family and friends attended his “party” to celebrate this huge milestone and to wish him well.

 My father’s good health and mental sharpness were certainly contributing factors to him becoming a centenarian. While I certainly didn’t take that for granted, we had every reason to believe that there would be another party in five years to celebrate his 105th birthday.

On that day, it seemed he would live forever. So when that didn’t happen last November, I was completely unprepared.

His passing has caused me a lot of pain and resulted in much soul searching.

Jan and I were the only family who lived nearby – on the same street, actually. Being raised by his immigrant parents, my father knew well the importance of family and he instilled those values in me.

So, we naturally did whatever we could to ensure his twilight years were fulfilling and comfortable despite...

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The Top 3 Attitude-Busters to Create Something Positive

coping Jan 22, 2018

Without sounding too presumptuous, I know that I speak for a lot of families impacted by a disability when I say that life is complicated. Some days it just sucks.  There’s very little that can be classified as carefree.

On the weekend, I took some time to try and figure out how things got this way. It was sparked by the recent passing of my father. Somehow death has a way of shaking things up.

I tried to think back to when Ben’s brother was born. Jan and I were so young. When he came into the world, he was clean and pure, having knowledge of absolutely nothing except, perhaps, Jan’s voice.

As he grew and became old enough to listen, we, his family, his teachers encouraged him to believe that he could become just about anything they wanted to be.

I expect that’s similar to what plays out in many families.

But you know as well as I do that as kids grow older, and life gets more complicated – they get in with the wrong crowd, they are...

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Life Lesson #17: Learn to use well the good we have been given

coping Jan 13, 2018

As a battle-hardened parent, I've been shown a lot over the last 25 years, often more than I want. Actually, it's really my son, Ben, who has shown me a lot. 

He has been on a roll of great days. Nearly 10 straight weeks without a seizure. In our world, a day without a seizure is what we call a great day.

No one can explain why he’s been seizure-free during these last two+ months. A lot of assumptions and maybes are made to try to explain it. No one can predict what tomorrow will bring, either. But 10 weeks … we’ll take it!

There is a strange symbiosis between Ben’s demeanour and mine. When he is happy, I am happy. When he smiles, I can smile all day long. In reality, I can’t smile without him. Even the smallest of grins is contagious.

With this many great days under his belt, I sense a bump in his confidence, too. Before Christmas, he had his final exam that was worth 35% of his final mark. It was going to be tough—a...

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What does freedom really look like?

caregiving coping Jan 05, 2018

Earlier today, a friend of mine posted on his Facebook page, “Cruise booked!

I scoffed and rolled my eyes. The only way that would ever happen in my life would be if all the planets and stars aligned.

First, we’d need to book caregivers to cover each day we were away, and that means 24 hours per day, along with a backup plan if one of them couldn’t keep their shift or we got delayed coming home.

Second, we’d need Ben to be healthy leading up to our departure. No seizures. No strange behaviour. Obviously, it would be impossible to predict any of that months in advance.

Third, we’d need a way to get home quickly in an emergency. Floating on the open waters would make cruising just about impossible.

And last but not least, we’d have to be able to afford it. Or rather, is a cruise where we want to spend our money and do we want it bad enough to go through all this prep work?

I have to be honest. My first reaction to reading about his upcoming...

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How to keep your child safe without being annoying

caregiving Dec 15, 2017

Keeping your child safe is a no-brainer. As parents, this is front and centre especially when our children are young.

Safety is also a trump card. How can you argue about not being safe? But if exploited, it can be used to create fear and uncertainty.

Here’s a quick example …

When Ben was in his second year of high school, we pushed to have a structured schedule in place to help him develop his physical skills.

We believed that if we didn’t give him every opportunity to stand and walk, he would never learn how to do either.

I mean, that’s just common sense, right?

How can you learn a skill if you’re never taught and given the opportunity to practice?

But including standing and walking into his daily routine required the expertise of healthcare professionals to assist the school staff.

Unfortunately, most of the therapists we encountered didn’t believe that Ben could ever learn how to do either.

And when it came time to provide any recommendations...

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Why letting go is good for you

caregiving coping Dec 08, 2017

I remember going to our very first appointment to talk about getting a wheelchair for Ben. It was with the Remedial Seating department at the IWK Children’s Hospital in Halifax.

I remember feeling rather unsettled that we had reached that stage with Ben. 

The simple Perego stroller and ethafoam insert wasn’t doing the trick for him anymore. The only realistic option was to transition to a paediatric wheelchair.

But I didn’t want to go there since it was an admission that Ben’s physical disabilities were becoming more complex, and we were losing control.

Somehow it seemed like we had failed.

I didn’t mind our weird looking stroller. Sure, some people stared. But having to use a wheelchair took weirdness to a whole other level, and it would mean just about everyone would be staring at Ben and us, no matter where we went.

We were presented with different types of wheelchairs along with a list of add-ons and options and needed to make some decisions.

...

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Why taking a News Holiday can build your Coping Fitness

coping Nov 29, 2017

I don’t know about you but I’ve grown weary of the 24-hour news cycle. It used to give me a rush but not anymore. I include all social media channels in the “news cycle” category, too, since they often bombard us with a lot of useless and distracting information.

Admittedly, my attention to the news cycle was heightened after the 2016 U.S. election. The stories that came out were so absurd and eye catching it was nearly impossible not to notice them.

But a year later, these stories have become almost soap opera-like, where I can skip a whole month of episodes and still know what’s going on.

In reality, the minutiae of the “top story”, of what’s fake and what isn’t, doesn’t really matter. It adds nothing worthwhile to my life and certainly doesn’t contribute to helping me support Ben.

The only thing it does is agitate me and instill a dose of fear. Too much of that negatively affects my mood – I’ve...

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Every Parent’s Kryptonite and What To Do About It

coping Nov 22, 2017

From the moment that Ben entered our lives 25 years ago, we have always felt a tinge of fear. By far, it is the number one issue we deal with on a regular basis … along with just about every family we’ve met who have been impacted by a disability.

It is the most common obstacle that holds people back and prevents them from living the life they dream of living, disability or not.

Fear has this knack for never really going away, simmering just below the surface.

It is every parent’s Kryptonite.

No matter how strong you think you are, fear will take you down. It has a way of surrounding you and waging war with your mind.

It will cloud your view of the world and control your thoughts and behaviour.

By its very nature, it is designed to paralyze, attacking your confidence, your competence, your self-worth, and your energy.

Some families have shared with us that their biggest fear is that they will fail their children in some way.

Somewhere along the line it...

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The Absolute Best Way to Create a Great Caregiver Relationship

caregiving Nov 02, 2017

We’ve hired a lot of caregivers over the years. I guess when you’re looking at a 25-year run, that’s pretty much how things go.

Some have stayed with us a long time. Some too long. And some haven’t lasted 6 months. Unfortunately, turnover is unavoidable despite best efforts mainly because caregiving is a tough job.

Looking back, I would say that each of Ben’s caregivers brought a slightly different set of skills to the role.  They, also, portrayed different levels of confidence, and brought a different feel to the role.

Some have had a really strong work ethic. These are the keepers. They anticipate what needs to be done and just do it without being asked.

Some have brought a high level of positive energy that is contagious. These people can pick up anyone’s spirits.

Others have faked their way through it. They are good at looking good but they aren’t really engaged or interested in making a difference. They excel at doing the bare...

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The Secret to Building Your Coping Fitness

coping Oct 26, 2017

Whenever any one of us get sick, we rely on our body’s immune system to combat whatever virus or bacteria we have contracted. Sometimes we need an extra boost, like an antibiotic, an anti-viral, or a flu shot, to complement our immune system so we can get better more easily.

A person’s physical fitness level also plays a big role in how well he/she can fight off the infection. But I’m sure you already know that.

When we are faced with adversity, such as the sudden loss of our job or learning that our child has a disability or health issues, our immune system really can’t help us much. Our physical fitness level can keep us moving but it is our emotional strength and coping mechanisms that allow us to combat this adversity and “get better”.

Your Coping Fitness

Put another way, our “coping fitness” determines how much stress, anxiety, and emotional trauma we can handle and how well we will recover. If it’s in good shape, we can...

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