Monday, January 28, 2013

Commander Mommy - Drill Sargent

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Makes perfect sense right? As a adults that's what most of us do on a daily basis. We get into a routine. A routine that gets us from A to B, from Monday to Friday, from the beginning to the end of a long day. Even all things "routine" can get a bit too repetitive, a lot boring and quickly stale. Imagine the same 5 meals for dinner every week. Mystery meat Monday, taco Tuesday.... you get the picture. Eventually that gets old. Seriously old. Soooo we follow the so called schedule in terms of doing the same things in general everyday, but thank God macaroni and cheese isn't the side item every Thursday. Unless you live at my house...

Boring - maybe. Monotonous - definitely. Effective - Abso-freakin-lutely!

You've heard the line "creatures of habit"...well Jackson is definitely a creature of habit. He could literally do, eat, yes I said eat and play the same things the same way everyday and perfectly content with that. Great, easy enough! That makes it very easy right? Wrong. Not even close. I'll be the first to admit that we are on a schedule, a strict one at that and I try not to veer from it unless necessary, and that's not always easy! He's as stubborn as mule when it comes to changing the "routine". So we stick to whenever possible in every fashion. Especially when I'm a one woman show and John's traveling. The TV stays off, the kids are in bed at 8 on the dot and I'm marking off checklists like a soldier. It's kinda becoming the only way I know how to operate these days (at least if I want to keep my sanity). Jackson is very much a visual learner. I can tell him something 10 times but I might as well ask the door to do what I'm asking. But if I show him or give him something visual and colored to reference, he gets it. It's like "Jackson language". Which is cool. So in an effort to not have the nighttime routine be such a struggle, I made him a visual nighttime chart. Yep, you guessed it. Pictures that are color coded for every task. He can associate the color with each thing on the list and knowing that it's time to move on to the next color and picture really helps him. Come to think of it, doesn't that help us all??? (Even Hallie likes to be instructional on the color block he's on at the moment, ha!) And without further delay... our trusty chart! (sorry for the crappy quality, I am obviously photo challenged today but you get the idea here)

I am in the process of making these charts for everything we do! That's very good in a way, but also means Mom is WAY ACCOUNTABLE for hitting every item on the list! (no pressure there) Here's the other side of that. Yes, these charts are super duper helpful. Yes, they help Jackson. However, I don't want him to only live by those charts and have everything come crashing down heaven forbid we miss something (because let's be real, at some point that will happen). Sneaky Mommy, teacher, drill sargent, care-giver extraordinaire to  the rescue! (ok ok just plain ole Mom doing what she thinks is best for her monkey to the rescue is more like it)

In learning as we go along, I'm finding little things everyday that seem to help Jackson whether it be at home, school, public, self help, whatever. So he operates on a tight schedule, fantastic. Newsflash! Life is not a set schedule! If it was, we'd all have it wayyy to easy anyway. So life happens, you take it as it comes. It's called  change. What was that I said Jackson was no good at? Oh yeah, change! Here's where the "meet me in the middle" strategy comes in.

Have it your way Jackson.... we are going to continue on the visual schedule rigmarole, I can roll with that. What I can't roll with is him depending on those forever. My plan. We'll stick to these "tight, same everyday routine" deals for the next little bit. Then my plan is to start incorporating and teaching him things from these visually. Like... making choices. So our schedules may go from one color block to two color blocks side by side with two different activities and HE will have to decide what he wants to do next, which path to take. It will teach him visually, it will force him to learn to make decisions, it puts him in control and gives him some empowerment. It will force him to communicate his decisions and most of all, it will teach him that he can be a part of his "schedule" and that things don't have to be exactly the same every day. Seem like common sense? Well, it's not.

No blog, book, medical webpage or any other crap resource out there suggested that one. There is no help manual or book titled "Autism Just for Your Kid" out there. So I'm writing my own manual. And apparently, my chart making skills will be stellar by the end of this too. Yes, it's time consuming to make all these schedules and add visual pictures to them that he can actually understand, but if it helps him, it's worth it to me. I hope through doing this to eventually add steps on the schedule that are blank boxes. Meaning there is no schedule. There is no certain thing to do. I hope this will teach him how to cope with change and welcome it. I hope it will teach him to "go with the flow" and be flexible. I hope that it will teach him that he can make his own decisions and feel good about his decisions without a pretty colored box to tell him what to do. See where I'm going with this? I want him to learn how to deal with life, but learn in Jackson terms. I want him to feel like he has been empowered to learn these skills because forcing Jackson with anything has never produced a positive outcome. He is definitely beating to his own drum and that's perfectly okay. My so-called manual may not help any other kid, but it could help lots of kids I don't know. I just know I have said many times that I plan to give him every tool I can to be successful and I that is what I am going to do.

I know this will be a slow process and we will have to go at "Jackson pace" but hey slow and steady wins the race. I'm going to be working with the school too, to incorporate this subtly into his day too. It's not that I mind if the other kids notice, but normalcy at school is key for every kid, so the less noticeable the better for the moment I think. I'll be sure to post updates on how my drill sargent and scheduled ways succeed or fail. I'm not worried if they do fail though. It will just mean we need to take another path. Everything is worth a shot in hopes for a better tomorrow. I wish I had a pretty visual chart to help me sometimes! Ha! I guess in a way, this will be my pretty chart that helps me too.

I have had people ask me, why I am so strict and stubborn about Jackson's schedule. Here's my brutally honest, um polite response to that.... IF at ANY time you think you would like to take Jackson for a couple of days and just go with the flow, you are welcome to do it! I guarantee you will be SPRINTING to bring him back and begging for a schedule at that! Trust me when I say for my sanity (and yours, lol) it's in everyones best interest for Jackson to stay on a productive and clear schedule! And for now,  I'm commander in chief and that's the way it's gonna go!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's Out There, Sorta...

For those of you who read my blog, it's out there, you know about Jackson. You read first hand my take on this experience. But there's another side of the story. A whole other side. Other parents. Other peers. Namely at Jackson's school. I'm not sure anyone there knows except his teachers and some staff. As for the rest of the gang in his class... not so much (I don't think). Is there a right time to tell? How do I tell? Do I even tell? Will it spawn whispers in the corner? No. That's not what I'm worried about. I'm not really worried at all actually. And I don't think anyone will judge him at all. But it's not like I can send home cute monogramed postcards to all the kids to deliver the message either. (Can you even imagine getting that message on a postcard???)

The golden questions still remains. How do I bring them in on the situation? I have mentioned before that we have every intention on Jackson staying at his school so long as he is accepted, progressing at a good pace for him and successful. I think he will be. But with that, part of his success depends on the people he is around, his peers. He spends just as much time with his school mates as he does with us, so it's important that everyone knows. Not because its a reason to treat him any differently, just more so they can understand him and be part of our support team, just as we support all the other kids the same way. I know other parents have to see his differences. But maybe they don't either. Just when I think someone might get a hint, I can't be sure. And taking a step back to put things in perspective (I do that a lot these days), if I were in their shoes and I noticed anything, I wouldn't know what to say or ask. Honestly, I probably wouldn't even want to ask for a fear of upsetting someone's feelings or sticking my nose where it doesn't belong. 

I have learned through this entire process that we all react differently to things that affect us both directly and indirectly. And that's ok. I used to be so quick to judge and think that people didn't understand or get what I was trying to tell them, which is hard to admit. The truth is, they didn't react the way I wanted them to. Cue the perspective... hello Ericka! It's not about how YOU want people to react. It's about allowing other people to take in information and process it for themselves and accept that people need time to be accepting on their own terms. Can we say Oprah Ah-ha moment!?! 

My mission now is to connect the dots. Connect Jackson's autism to the other parents and students at Jackson's school and understand that it's going to take time and a whole slew of "reactions" before everyone can fully understand. Of course I think we will be supported, of course I think they will still love my sweet Jackson just the same, but Jackson also affects the other students as well. It's not all just about Jackson. I have to think about that. I don't mean that in a negative way at all. He will teach them and they will teach him. But there will be times that he will not have the same reactions to his peers. There will be times he gets frustrated with his school work and may act out. There may be times he will be overwhelmed and need a sensory break. How do I know that? Because I we have been there, done that, got the t-shirt folks. 

Although I'm still not sure how it will all "come out" to everyone I'll just take it one step at a time. I'm going to talk to the school and maybe reach out to some support groups for advice and ask other parents who have been down the same road as us. I'm also open and all ears to anyone with advice on this. As my little monkey teaches me something new every day, he has definitely taught me to think outside the box of acceptance and comprehension. No one ever goes from A to B the same way, we take our own path and share our experiences with each other. That's how we learn, that's how we process, that's what makes us who we are.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Mummy Test

Ahhhhhh... the MLK holiday. Yes, I was off work and yes I spent the entire day with my two little monkeys.  I don't get too many days at home with them (which may be good for my sanity to some degree, ha) but I often take then time with them when I can and love every minute of it. We stayed in our pajamas til noon, yep noon. Can't say I do that too often either, but trust me, I'm not complaining about having a few lazy hours.

Jackson had a birthday party to go to on Monday for his friend Peter, so at 2pm we headed out to Pump it Up to celebrate and exude some energy for a little bit. Jackson was having a good time for about the first 45 minutes, but a room full of wild boys, bouncing blow-up slides and pegging heads with bouncy balls and you can probably guess how that was bound to end.

Before we reached that point, it was time to leave and head to the doctor. (Phew! Crisis meltdown averted!) Jackson had a EEG (more on EEG here) test scheduled for 4pm. Don't think I got off that easy however. A full on meltdown over missing the cake at the party was the meltdown culprit all the way to the doctor. Ugh... some days I need a raising window in the car. You know like the ones in limos so people can block out the sound from the back to the front. I would have given my left arm for one of those windows during that car ride. We got to Dr. Eastmead's office in Midtown and in we went. Normally I don't like to take Hallie with me, but on Monday she was in tow since John was out of town for work. I was instructed not to give him any caffeine 24 hours before the test, no this, no that blah blah blah, but let's be serious. Jackson is like an operating caffeinated jack-rabbit without the caffeine. Do you really think I give him that stuff doctors??? Really!?!? Ok ok, back to the test. Just had to get that out there. We didn't wait but maybe 3 minutes before they called us back to get started. Lots of gooey gunk, a bazillion wires later and a full mummy headdress and we were ready to go. 

Not to my surprise, Miss Hallie felt the need to be right up in the middle of the action. She held Jackson's hand the whole time and told him, "You're doing reawllly good Jack". I was so proud of her. Only 3, but man she is well beyond her years. She amazes me everyday with how mature she is for her age. She never faltered the entire test. In a way I felt like she relieved me of some of my Mommy duties for this test. She was being the strong warrior for us both and honestly, I let her. It lasted about an hour-ish and Jackson ultimately fell asleep during the test, which he was suppose to do for the latter part of the test. 

As the technician warmed water in the microwave Hallie continued to ask questions and be involved. "What are you going to do with that?", she asked the technician. She told Hallie that was to help remove the sticky stuff from Jackson's hair. Even though that was the answer, she still stared a hole through the technician through the whole process. (ha, my little protective one) Even the technician mentioned how "aware" she seemed to be during the whole process. Normally I don't post pictures from any testing but I feel like this is all part of the journey, so.... head wrapped "mummy style" and another test we can check off the list, here's my little mummy during his EEG. 

Poor thing, he was NOT a happy camper by the end of this experience. I tried to explain that it was just some wrap and that it's ok, but huge shocker here... he didn't care (or even understand). All he knew was that he wanted off that gurney and he wanted that head wrap off! And fast! So fast, that he tried to "assist" in the removal process, which was all but a huge fail of frustration for him.  

On a lighter note, Jackson's latest trick of the trade is to name every female he meets "Woman". So as he was being set free from the mummy gear, he was yelling at the tech saying, "I don't like this you Woman!!!" (lol) Even though it's not funny, we were both laughing at the moment. It was cute, sweet, innocent and typical Jackson in every way. I am more than pooped this week and it's only Wednesday. The results from this EEG will be like most of the other testing, we'll be waiting for a bit to hear results. (big shocker there) Oh well. Glad to have this one out of the way and I think my little dude would second that.  

This will sound silly, but I'm glad Hallie was there on Monday, even if she is 3. I talk to her about Jackson a lot because believe or not, I think she gets it. My very own little pint-sized shrink ha! So thanks to my little peanut for being my rock on Monday. She's the best!


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Just When you Least Expect It

Words. Ohhhh the words. I can't find them. I've had a mean case of writer's block this past week (maybe by inadvertent choice to some degree) But I need to find them. I have been searching for them all week. Multiple times I have thought I was ready to write it all out. A thought or two will come to my mind and I think about writing it down, but end up forgetting the thought 10 minutes later. A good indication I wasn't ready to say what I'm thinking or feeling.  I've wanted to put it all on "paper", but I haven't been ready. Today, I'm trying to be ready. Since our last appointment on January 10th, our lives have changed forever.

The whole idea of "for better or worse" at the alter on the day you marry your best friend never includes the fine print of life. Today I'm living the fine print. All the things that no one tells you will be part of your marriage or life together. All the things that no one can predict or guarantee from day to day. That's where I find myself right now. The best part? I AM NOT ALONE. Because "for better or worse" I have the best man by my side. My partner in crime, my partner in love, my partner for life. 

And with that partnership comes this post. Together. I usually write all of these myself, but today I need my other half to help me. So here we go...

Sitting here in tears, the both of us, John and I write to you. To say thank you for your support. To say thank you for your continued love. To say thank you for reminding us that WE are not alone. A dear friend of John's told him this past week, "God never gives you more than you can handle". Those words are so true. As people we all handle life's trials and tribulations in our own ways, we all react and process differently. That's what makes us who we are. That's what makes Jackson who he is. 

Going in with the expectation of "every appointment is a waiting game" I had no idea we were going to leave there with answers that same cold day on January 10. The neurologist asked me what I thought Jackson had. My reply, "Oh, I don't know" He said, "Yes you do, now tell me." I said, "I think he is somewhere on the autism spectrum and maybe some form of ADD. He replied, "You would be correct". 

His words, "Jackson has Autism. ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)-High functioning. (but he didn't stop there) He also has ADHD, OCD tendencies and Asperger's". Holy Sh*t. Didn't see all that coming. (I know Aspergers is commonly known as a form of autism, but our neurologist told us it will soon become a completely separate diagnosis away from the autism spectrum all together and Jackson has all the signs of both, independently and together all in one, but we'll sift through those details in another post). As Jackson and I left the office with reading materials, appointment slips, a prescription paper and more appointments scheduled, I felt frozen. Frozen in that moment. How long have we waited for someone to tell us what we have felt for so long. And how does it feel now that I not only am I hearing it, but it's on paper. I sat in the car for about 10 minutes in complete silence staring at that paper before I called John to tell him. I felt relief, I felt overwhelmed and I felt scared. 

(John's beginning) We have been keeping this very quiet since that day only telling our immediate family and a couple of very close friends.  Not being quite ready to reveal this to all of our other friends, coworkers, extended family, we have been coming to grips that we have a SPECIAL needs son.  The reality of the situation is still sinking in, but we need to be open about our feelings so we can properly handle the situation going forward.  Jackson is SPECIAL.  I mean that in every way possible.  He is truly remarkable.  He makes us laugh hysterically, cry, angry, frustrated & happy.  He is exceptional at memorizing movie lines (gets that from good ole Dad), putting together puzzles (thanks Mom), painting (well, art in general), loves sports, working electronics (future engineer, maybe??), giving the best hugs, and so much more.  It is our purpose in life to make sure that he is given every opportunity to maximize his enormous potential.  Thanks to my best friend and loving wife, Jackson has already starting down this path.  I don't know what I would do without her leading the way with all of the testing and therapy Jackson has undergone up until this point.  There will be more therapy going forward, and we are convinced that this will all pay off in the end.  Speech, Occupational, & Behavioral Therapies are just the starters, but we are so fortunate to have some great people to work with at the Dr. offices and at Jackson's school. 

It is such a relief that we finally have answers (some not surprising, others a little surprising).  For example, I didn't think Jackson would have Aspergers (neither did Ericka), but the more that I have read into it, the more it makes sense.  While I'm sure that we will have more ups and downs along Jackson's path, it just reminds us that we are blessed with such a sweet, caring, lovable son.  As a dad, you never want to have your son/daughter go through anything too trying at a young age as it is hard to comprehend/deal with later in life, but with Jackson, he processes things much different than most the rest of us, and I think he is completely oblivious that his path will appear much different than his friends.  In a way, I think this is a really good thing.  I don't want him feeling "different" than everyone else.  There is a difference between "knowing" you're different and "feeling" different.  

Okay, going to be protective dad here for a minute.  My biggest fear is that other kids will tease/make fun of Jackson through life because he is different or because he reacts to situations completely different than them.  But even more importantly, I don't want Jackson to lose any self-confidence.  There is a time in our lives when we feel like we can "do anything" "be anyone" we want to be, and I don't want Jackson to use his hardships as an out, but rather, I want him to own his uniqueness and channel it to being the best he can be.  I know he has all the potential in the world, and as parents, we plan to give him all the tools necessary to get to the top of the mountain. (John's done typing now, lol)

So, there you have it. Feeling as though our journey has been going on forever (because it HAS), our journey is just beginning. Just when we least expected it, we have answers, just when we least expected it, we are ready to finally put it all out there today. Our story will continue and I hope that through this experience with our little superhero we can inspire you to share our story with other people and to always fight for your children and to stand by them through every part of their lives. Thank you to my amazing husband, who agreed to put some of his thoughts in this post. "For better or worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part" my friend.

Blessed are you who take the time to listen to difficult speech,
If I persevere, I can be understood.
Blessed are you who never bid me to "hurry up"
Or take my tasks from me and do them for me.
For I often need time, rather than help.
Blessed are you who stand beside me as I enter new and untried ventures, Myself and You.
Blessed are you who ask for my help.
For my greatest need is to be needed.
Blessed are you who, with a smile encourage me to try once more.
Blessed are you who never remind me
That today I ask the same question twice.
Blessed are you who respect me and love me just as I am.
-Author Unknown 

To our sweet Jackson: We will stand by you forever. You amaze us everyday. We love you.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

It all happened so fast

For such a long haul process of insurance company debacles, answering machines and more paperwork than I care to admit that I have filled out, our appointment today was anything but a process. There is a good and a bad to that. Scratch that. There is a good and a shock to that! But before we get to that, I feel like it's important to record our experience leading up to this morning.

Last night I was on Skype with two of my besties (and btw we need serious chat connection help, HA) After we finished up I got the kids ready for bed and Jackson was unusually really awake last night. So awake that it was almost 12:30am before he finally conked out.

Also playing the role of insomniac last night, 2am rolled around and I found myself tossing and turning. Staring at two little monkeys that sleep with me when our sweet Daddy is out of town for work. I finally fell asleep and got up this morning to get everyone ready. My hands were literally shaking as I was brushing my teeth, my neck was hurting and my body was stiff. Translation: I WAS STRESSED. I have known for a long time that this time would come, but today came quick.

We dropped off Hallie and off to Midtown we went. Once we got to the office, I was asking someone for help on which floor we were headed to and little did I know, my little monkey was already on the elevator and the door shut before I could stop it!!! Seriously!?! Thank goodness we were early and had some extra time, but more importantly where was my CHILD? Well... he took a trip to the 12th floor where a nurse found him and grabbed him, stuck him back on the elevator and brought him back down to the security desk before I had too much time to really PANIC. Of course Jackson was giggly and couldn't have cared less that he took a trip on his own. I was just thankful he didn't pull a typical stunt of hitting every floor in the elevator and causing a full blown search party this morning.

So, we finally head to the 14th floor for our appointment and the wait to be called back. Jackson did NOT like the office or the place so he was laying in the floor...whatever. One small comfort was he wasn't the only one laying in the floor or lingering in strange corners of the office. I'm pretty sure everyone in that waiting room today was there for something close to the same reasons we were. We finished up about 2 and a half hours later, but it seemed like five minutes. The whole appointment and time with Dr. Eastmead happened so fast, almost like your wedding day where you are there but almost out of body and before you know it your day is over and all you have is the blur of memories you created along the way.

I'll kick in the buzz kill here and say I am not quite ready to spill the beans on our appointment today. I need some time for our visit with Dr. Eastmead to sink in. I'm not sure how long it will take me to divulge it all, but we do have results. The marathon is finished, the race is over and together Jackson and I held hands leaving that office. We crossed the finish line.

Today is bitter sweet. It's the end to a long fought battle and the beginning of the rest of Jackson's life. Stay tuned for the results, but right now, I just need time.

So proud of Jackson and so happy to be his Mom. I'm a lucky lady...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It's Time.

I'm a bag of emotion today, so bear with me. I need to walk down memory lane for a minute, so grab your vino and come along. Let's rewind some years ago to May 22, 2006 at 9:54pm. After 27 hours of labor and  an emergency delivery... a 7lb. 7oz., 19.5 inches long blonde hair blue-eyed baby boy was brought into our lives forever. My Jackson. Our Jackson. One of my two sweetest blessings in my life. This photo was taken just after he was born. I can think back to that experience of delivery and let me say it was and EXPERIENCE! This isn't going to turn into a TLC Baby Story so we'll just leave that at that and just say that I am so thankful he is in this world with us and a beautiful healthy little boy. It's so crazy to me to think that day is fast approaching 7 years ago. 

I knew that day had changed my life but I don't think I ever fully understood until recently just how much God really works in mysterious ways and that ultimately, HE is in control. If anyone told me that day on May 22, 2006, that we would be where we are today, I would said they are nuts. 

What I am learning is that he is destined for so many great things. What will he be when he grows up? What mistakes will he make along the way? What will he teach us as we live life? I don't know. And I don't care today. Today I am just focusing on the present. Today is what my life is about. One day, hell, one hour at a time is all that matters to me right now.

The time has come for Jackson's neurology testing to begin tomorrow with Dr. Eastmead with the Memphis Neurology Group. The day we have waited for, for soooo long. I have heard absolutely wonderful things about him but I'm not sure I am ready for all this. I mean we have been through, denial, anger, questioning, fighting for years... not to mention the best stage of all and that is acceptance of where we are today. Acceptance of the present. And although I am at the stage of acceptance, I am scared. Tomorrow begins the downhill stretch - the final mile of the marathon we have been running for so long. I know it will be a process and I'm sure it will take time to have results, I just hope I am ready for those results. 

Does he have some form of Autism? Does he have ADHD? I don't know, I'm not a doctor. Honestly, I have no IDEA what our results will be (I have my feelings and opinion of course), but I just know one way or another I am ready to hear them or at least I hope so. I don't know what my reaction will be. I don't know what Jackson will think when we talk about it. He may not even care (and probably won't). I don't know how our family and friends will react. The tunnel of "answers" is quite dark today for me. 

Shining at the end of that tunnel is a light though. That light is Jackson. Such a loving little boy and so full of mystery and wonder. I wonder what he is thinking. We have talked about the testing a little bit because I don't what him to be so overwhelmed tomorrow, but I haven't wanted it to be all we focus on either.  

Swallowing your pride and doing what is right for your child is not easy. It's never easy to think about learning disabilities and admitting to yourself that something is just not "all there" for your perfect angel. I think that is how all parents see their kids, as perfect. I know I do. Even though he is not a Soccer MVP or coolest kid in the class, I think my kiddo is pretty awesome. 

Sometimes when you need support and help, no one can help you fill those needs if you don't let down the walls and allow your vulnerable side to show. Today my vulnerability is out there and my walls are down. I don't ask a lot from other people, I certainly don't ask for any sympathy. 

Today I am asking for a prayers. Prayers of love and support and mostly for Jackson. 

Tomorrow we will take a full load of "ammo" (aka tests, artwork, schoolwork, teachers notes, etc) to this appointment and one more thing... our angel, Jackson's Grandma Peggy. I know she will be with us and I have found myself today leaning on her for support and asking her to watch over us tomorrow. As Jackson leans all the time, today I am leaning on the power or prayer and support. I pray for answers for Jackson, no matter what the answers are, just answers. I don't know what tomorrow holds for our future, but today I'm holding his hand  and tomorrow it's downhill to that finish line!

All my love and thanks for your continued support and prayers. I can never repay the support we have received, but just know from the bottom of my being, I am truely thankful.

I love you Jackson and you will be great tomorrow monkey! Love, Mom 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Day I'll Never Forget

Just before the holiday season of 2012, a cloud of sad and somber seemed to linger I think. From the many children and adults in New Town, CT that did not survive the horrible Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting to the fallen police woman here in Memphis, it just seemed like death and sorrow was all around just before the season often referred to as "the most wonderful time of the year" was fast approaching. I'll be the first to admit that I have never had the lifelong dream of becoming a police officer, firefighter or anything involving a uniform for that matter. But I do have the upmost respect for all the people that serve our communities and wonderful country to keep us safe every day of our lives. There will never be enough thank you's or money to justify what those people give so selflessly for the greater good. 

On Friday, December 21, 2012, I was headed out to lunch to meet my hubby and Jackson. As I was driving down Germantown Parkway to meet my boys I noticed two firetrucks parked on both sided of the roads and they were raising the American flag. I wasn't sure if there was maybe going to be a Christmas parade over the weekend or something, so I just went on my way. After lunch I headed back down Germantown Parkway and soon figured out the reason that flag was flying high in the air. Traffic had come to a complete standstill, which isn't and wasn't necessarily a surprise on G'town Parkway, but that Friday it was backed up further than I could see going forward and backwards. As I sat there my first thought was there was a wreck. Ok, 15 minutes later and still hadn't moved. Starting to think it must have been a bad wreck. Then came the lights. 

I then realized what was going on. It was the beginning of the funeral procession for the fallen police woman and mother, Martoiya Lang. I rolled down my window and watched the whole thing. I have never seen so many police officers or longer funeral procession in my entire life. Motorcycle after motorcycle passed along with ambulances  and more unmarked cars than I could count went by. 

The moment was almost surreal. It's was like the whole thing went by in slow motion. People started to put their cars in park, myself included and stand outside to watch the solemn scene that was in a way "parading" by us. 
My mind was blank. All I could think about was a woman that lost her life just a week before, four children that lost their Mommy all too soon and the abundance of tissues I could see through the windows of the officers driving by. Most of them had their windows down. 

As her car passed, the family cars followed behind. At that moment, I could not do a thing but cry. And by cry, I mean balling ugly cry. The moment was so sad and so real I just broke down. And I wasn't the only one. I looked around me and a lot of people were crying. I imagined those four beautiful children in a state of shock and devastation. I couldn't even begin to feel their pain. I was parked on Germantown Parkway for an entire hour before the entire procession passed. I cried the whole time.  Why I feel compelled to share this I have no idea. Maybe it's my way of paying my respects to her? A small thank you for risking her life to serve and protect only to fight the fight she ultimately lost in a terrible way. 

Maybe it was just a good dose of perspective for me? It made me so thankful for my children and my husband and my family. It reminded me that we are never guaranteed tomorrow and that we should really count our blessings every day. I know we all face our own struggles and journeys everyday, just like my sweet Jackson may be facing, but it also reminds me to be thankful that I am here to be a part of that journey and that life is so precious. Somehow all my so called "problems" seemed like nothing that day.  

I hope, pray and wish for the young Mother, officer, Martoiya Lang (who was only 32) to rest in peace and that her children will feel the love and support that I am positive they are surrounded by. 

As the procession ended and I headed back to my office, I saw the American flag flying above the road I had seen on my way to lunch. I saw them take down the flag just as I saw them hanging it up when I first started out to lunch. For some reason it just symbolized to me that everything in our life has a beginning and an end and that time moves so fast, sometimes faster than we want it to. 

Counted my blessings and prayed more times than I could count that day. Rest in peace beautiful lady and thank you for your dedication to serving others. 

Definitely a day I'll never forget...
(read more of Martoiya Lang's funeral service story here)