Sunday, January 2, 2011

five goals for a new year

2011 is underway, and it's time yet again for me to spill my guts about what I would like to accomplish this year. While I do that, enjoy some photos of my kids well into their yearly semester at PJU (Pajama University). This year's course of studies includes Robotics, Electronics, Physical Education, African Wildlife Study, and The Art of Doodling.

Goal #1 -- Pick up the missing therapy pieces.

Zoo Boy is still in need of Speech Therapy -- we spent all of 2010 trying to get services with the facility we've used in the past, but with absolutely no luck -- Zoo Boy didn't have a single speech therapy session all year. Needless to say, that didn't help his speech issues one bit. In fact, I can honestly say he's much harder to understand now than he was at the beginning of last year. And it's just got to stop! This week, in fact. I'm going for a meeting with the therapist we're hoping to use this year.

Of course, Zoo Boy says he speaks perfectly and doesn't need speech. Ahem. I finally got him to agree to meet with the new therapist, and do some of her games (tests), and then if she agrees with him that he speaks perfectly, then he doesn't have to have therapy. He was satisfied with that answer, so that will at least get him through the door to start with. It won't be ideal, because they don't have occupational therapy in the same building, and he's MUCH more receptive to speech sessions when they are done along with OT. But I've already wasted a year chasing after ideal, it's time to move on to "next best".

J seems to be working through the issues I was concerned with for most of 2010, which is his difficulty expressing himself verbally and what that means for him socially (he has trouble holding an actual conversation with someone). However, as of late, I've noticed a lot of improvement, and I'm not sure he actually NEEDS help with it anymore. But I've already got something lined up for him (see yesterday's post about the Social Thinking curriculum we're going to try out), and I think that the "group" (one other boy he already knows) therapy sessions are going to be benefit him in the area of facilitated friendship as well, so I'm all for forging ahead with this and seeing where it gets us.

As for OT, we dropped that altogether, and I'm going to have to stay on top of things to make sure that the boys get what they need in terms of sensory integration work. Especially Zoo Boy, given that J is pretty well served with all the dance he does (especially ballet, which he'll be dancing even more of this coming year). The Map Man and I have big plans, so stay tune to see what we come up with to ensure Zoo Boy's cooperation with sensory integration work. And I need to get back to working on the food issues -- another thing we were promised all year at therapy that we never even got a single session of work on. We'll be back to our weekly Kids in the Kitchen project once we have our Winter Semester schedule figured out, and we'll be back to making them try new foods every day, which we've slacked off on lately (just because it takes so much danged effort).

So, that's that! Of course, if anything else crops up, I'll address that too (for instance, I'm starting to wonder about Zoo Boy's propensity to reverse letters and number if they aren't worked on every single day, and I have a lot of questions about his eyesight, which will be addressed in part at his physical on Monday!).

Which sort of segues into my next goal:

Goal #2 -- PAY ATTENTION!!

Several years ago, I put Mindfulness on my goal list for the year. Mindfulness is about living in the moment and making conscious choices by paying attention to what is going on within and around me. At the time, I had meant Mindfulness in regards to my children and family. But recently the universe gave me a proverbial slap in the face (a rather large one, in fact), and made me realize that there's more than just my kids and hubby that need my awareness. It was a great, big, karmic scream of "PAY ATTENTION!" and I have no intention of ignoring it! So I'm doing my best to avoid "zoning out" and "going with the flow", trying instead to notice and make a mental note of all those things going on around me. I think I've just grown complacent with how generally awesome my life is, and it's allowed me to take some things for granted. Or maybe I've just gotten lazy. Either way, that won't be happening anymore, or at least when it does, I'll recognize it and get myself back on a more mindful course.

Which has a direct tie-in with my next goal:

Goal #3 -- Make more human/humane connections.

This fall I read the book "In a Heartbeat," by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy. This is the auto-biography of the family featured in the movie "The Blind Side," and was a fairly inspirational read (although, like everything, there were things I loved and things I completely disagreed with in the book). Mostly I read it because I love football and the Tuohy's adopted son Michael plays in the NFL (for the Baltimore Ravens), and played college ball with one of my current favorite Patriots players (running back Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, who is actually mentioned in the book!). One of the Tuohy's main messages in the book was to notice, to truly notice, the people around us. To make eye contact with the people you'd rather not make eye contact with. Because noticing them, each and every one of them, matters, and even if that is the only thing you are able to do for someone else, it makes a difference. Every person deserves to be seen.

The message resounded in me. I realized that there are many situations where it is uncomfortable for me to make eye contact with someone. Of particular note, because I catch myself doing it even now, is that rarely can I recognize our waitress when we go out to eat. Even after waiting on us and bringing us our food, if I need to ask her for something, I have to ask my companions which one was our waitress. How incredibly rude! And sad. What makes me not care about the person that is spending their time taking care of me and my friends/family?? I care enough to make sure she gets a good tip. I need to care enough to make sure that I actually NOTICE her for who she is. To make that human connection with another human being.

I've been putting this into practice, as often as I can remember to do it. (I'm hoping over this coming year it will become habit and I won't have to actively think about it in order to do it.) Among other situations where I would normally avoid eye contact: I am now making eye contact with strange men crossing a parking lot late at night. People pumping gasoline at the neighboring pump. Grumpy women in line behind me at the supermarket. Fellow travelers in the car next to mine at the stoplight. And as I do, I take a moment to think about their lives -- do they have families? Jobs? Troubles? Are they having a good day or a bad day? Are they up or down on their luck?

It's actually amazed me how many times I've gotten a smile, just for making eye contact. Not a weird, scary smile -- just a small, polite smile to recognize the fact that I noticed them. Inevitably, I smile back. I've yet to feel freaked out or worried about the wrong message being sent (which was the reason why I never made eye contact before). Instead, I feel intensly human, like a connected, integral part of the larger tribe of the human race.

Do an experiment -- next time you feel like looking away or avoiding eye contact, instead fight the instinct and look the person in the eye. See how it makes you feel. And notice how it makes them feel. You might be surprised. And maybe you'll join me on this goal for 2011. I honestly think if we all took the minuscule effort to actually notice, really see the people living in the world around us, the world would be a better place.

Goal #4 -- Work toward transforming our house into the home I'd like to live in.

Ok, so this is just a souped-up way of putting decluttering and organizing back on my goal list. (And how amusing is it that the photo to the left shows my house in it's current state of insanity??) But I think it's a bit of a more positive way to say that, so maybe I won't feel so much like a total organizational failure if I get to the end of 2011 and am not living in a perfectly organized, clean house. Because, let's face it, I've yet to feel good about that goal. Yet, every year I get a little bit closer to living the way I want to live. (Ok, this past year, not so much....) So if I can focus on little successes rather than a great big failure, my end of year review might be a little more fun to read.

Goal #5 -- Run a 5K.

Every year I come up with one goal that is a little bit surprising, at least to me if to nobody else, and little bit selfish. This is this year's. I'm not even sure that running a 5K is a reasonable goal for myself. I've never run before. But I do know that making goals to lose weight or get more exercise are going to leave me laughing (or crying!) by year's end when I am yet again at the same weight. Instead, I'm going to focus on this concrete goal -- running a 5K.

I've found an 8 week long walk-to-run program that looks just right for me, and have a next-door neighbor who is willing to get up at 5 am and do it with me. And if I manage to actually get to the point where I can comfortable run over 2 miles, I'm bound to be in better shape than I am now.

I guess that's enough to work on for one year! Tune in on Dec 31 to see how I've done with accomplishing these goals!

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