#DaMotivatedMom

Those of us who have a disability or care for someone who is disabled and travel around our communities know how difficult it can be.  We must look for smooth pavement or aprons if we use a walker or wheelchair, we must search out handrails, ramps and avoid large curbs and steps.  Sometimes there are no sidewalks at all and heaven forbid no elevators, only stairs or escalators. Want to set me off real quick, let me pull up to a doctor’s office or any other establishment and they have no apron in the parking lot, I’m going to hear my girls groan, because I’m looking for the manager to tell him/her how dumb it is for them to have handicapped van parking with no apron.

When we first began this journey, if it was a place I was not familiar with, I would call to see if they were handicapped accessible.  On some occasions, I would go there beforehand and see for myself, because my definition of handicapped accessible may not be the same as theirs. It is a bad feeling when you get ready and arrive at a destination that is not accessible.  For example, we attended a production at a neighborhood theatre who said they were handicapped accessible, but actually only had room for her in the aisle which had a steep incline, she said she felt as though she was on a rollercoaster and held her arms up as if she was at Six Flags throughout the whole play. Once we attended a leadership meeting held by a sorority where we had to clear the bushes to reach the ramp. Once inside, to enter the building, they had one step. I asked the group leader, you told me you were wheelchair accessible, she says we are, we have a ramp, duh?

One way I prepared my girls is by applying for them a paratransit card when they were 14 years old. Paratransit is special transportation services for people with disabilities provided as a supplement to fixed-route bus and rail systems by public transit agencies (GCRTA.com). Dominique began working a summer job, and because I don’t have a wheelchair accessible vehicle, I had to figure out a way for her to get there.  I would book a ride and teach them how to wait for the bus, enter, pay and exit. If they were going somewhere new, I would go with them the first time, check out the scene or drive and meet them there and show them what to do and see the drop-off point.  Their first trip was to the church, which was about a mile from our house.  I told them to call me when they got there and told them what to do when they got there. I was so nervous, I drove there and hid in the parking lot and watched them.  When they saw me hiding, Jasmine said: “for real Mom, for real!”

Another trip I planned for them was to the grocery store, about 20 minutes from home. I gave them a note and money for three specific items. Again, I was really nervous!  They called me in no time and said, we finished a little early with money left over and have time before our bus comes, so we stopped next door at Subway and are sitting in here eating a sandwich.

Slowly, steady, but surely, we are changing the world and making it more adaptable to our needs.  When we are visible, when we make suggestions, when we complain, we make a change.  Keep changing the world!

You can also connect with me at advocate4youblog.wordpress.com or email me at advocate4you17@gmail.com

I Got Very Luck!😍2 Loving Dads

On my 21st birthday, my birth dad, Big Daddy, was dying from cancer, we all knew that his day was number… One of my gifts was a dress that my dad's handpicked out for me, he had made me promise him that I must save this dress for something extraordinary and not for his funeral. A year and haft later, the first Mob-Con cocktail party took at the Mob Experience at the Tropicana was coming up. It was a perfect occasion to wear the dress. While there I met a man by the name, Ronald Fino, who later on give me a home when I need it. Now, I am proud to say that he’s my Dad, getting ready to adopt me as his own daughter, Amanda Fino. To me, my Dad did have a hand helping me beating my demos. Dad helped me embrace my cerebral palsy. He had sat me down, one day, to really explain what my cerebral palsy was and encourage me to be who I am and what I am today.  To me wearing that dress, as my Big Daddy told me, was some kind of sign because I’ve met the man that God gave me as a Dad for taking my real dad to heaven too soon.

My TWO dad has been my greatest strength in my life. Happy Father's Day to both of my Dads! You guy's made me the woman that I am today! Like in the song by Will Smith ‘Just the Two of Us’ being with this dear and a beloved statement from Smith's son, Trey. Before the song starts, Trey says, "Now, dad, this is a very sensitive subject."

 

I’m Living My Best Life. Are you?

I think by now we have all heard, at least the chorus, of the popular song “Smile” by comedian Lil Duval and Snoop Dogg.  He says, “I’m living my best life, ain’t goin’ back and forth with you,” you know the rest, it has some expletives, but we are going to sing the clean version.  He also says, “you got a lot to be smiling for,” and “it’s evident, I’m hot as a crock pot.”

Sometimes, no, most of the time, we get caught up with the day to day routine of life, being a parent, daughter, son, friend, caregiver, wife, husband, and all the other titles that are placed on us, we forget “we got a lot to be smiling for!”

Chile, I’m hot like a “crockpot,” but I didn’t always think this way, as a matter of fact, I have to remind myself of this daily. Hey, I’m a work in progress, for 20 years, all I’ve looked at myself is…as a mother. Don’t get me wrong, that title means the world to me, I cherish it. It is the most important title that God could ever bestow on me.

Being a mother of special needs twins, I am always in fight mode, in champion mode, advocate mode. Fighting the school system, the doctor’s, the insurance company, hell, the world. You stay in that stance constantly, carrying the world on your shoulders, so this world will be better for your children, someone else’s children, for fairness, for justice, for equality. But during these battles, you often lose yourself, you get swallowed up, you forget you only pass through this here life one time, and forget you should be “living your best life.”

 

I woke up one morning and realized, you are more than a conqueror, have some fun, laugh out loud, live life to the fullest, (you know that cliché), it’s passing you by. I want you to fight for your kids, that’s what we do, but I want you to have some fun, live a little, you deserve it.

This is what I did. Switched up my routine. I signed up for school, some said I was crazy, I just kept going.  I stepped way out of my box and joined a couple of organizations, a new church which lead to new ministries, new people, and newfound interests. My circle of influence changed, which brought on new ideas and improved my self-esteem and mental health. I gained new ideas and treaded into territory that improved my life and my daughter’s lives. I even had the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia for three weeks (which truly changed my life) and my family survived without me!

So I want you to do this, say no to some things without feeling guilty (I haven’t quite mastered that, I said I am a work in progress), you don’t have to go to the grocery store every Saturday at 10:00 a.m., instead grab a sandwich and your favorite magazine and head to the park, window shop, sign up for a cooking class, buy a bike a ride it, join an organization, meet new people, switch up that circle of influence, some of those folks are sucking the life right out of you anyway. It is perfectly fine to make new friends. You are already the best caregiver there is, but just remember to take care of you, your mind body and soul, and remember you are “hot as a crockpot!”  Live your best life!!

 

Connect with Carol at advocate4youblog.wordpress.com or advocate4you17@gmail.com

Why Me?

I just met a little boy while at work, who is 3 years of age and has Cerebral Palsy. He was crying. And the cry reminded me so much of my son D’Jonte when he used to cry at that age. It was a non-stop type of cry, and me rocking him with my knee or taking him to sit outside would always calm him down. Seeing that little boy and when his momma picked him up made me miss my son that much more. Before my son became so big I would carry him everywhere, man I wish I could just pick him up and hug on him right now.

I was touched so much by the little boy and his mother that I couldn’t stay around them any longer, I had to walk away.

I went back downstairs to where the children I was taking care of and I started to cry. Not a little tear but honey hardcore tears streaming down both cheeks, eyes hurting afterward crying. Not knowing why I was crying, I began to realize that I am so full of hurt, what ifs, regret, and guilt. I wanted to scream. I thought about texting or calling my husband or mother, but I am still shy or uncomfortable when expressing my feelings regarding my son and I knew that would only make me cry harder. So instead I pulled out my laptop and started typing away.

I love my son with all that is in me and I made sure he knew he was loved! But because I lacked the support and resources, therefore I wasn’t equipped with everything I needed to care for him medically.

I started a non-profit Their Voice of Greater Cincinnati last year and it wasn’t by my doing, it was all God. But it is my way of being able to equip those who also lack the resources to make sure that they are able to care for their loved ones at home and just in general. I want to make sure that they don’t lack the mental, physical or emotional support that is needed to care for your loved one with Cerebral Palsy or disability in general. I want them to have a place where they know that they are loved and that someone else gets it and understand what they are going through.

But knowing that this is my purpose it still brings me to my question of Why Me?

Working as a full-time nurse who takes care of kids who have disabilities is hard in general. Having this non-profit I have realized that I will be meeting a lot of families with kids just like my Tae and how am I going to be able to deal with it? Am I going to cry every time I meet a kid who reminds me of Tae? Why did God choose this as my life’s purpose? Am I really strong enough for what is about to come? He must have thought I could handle this or I don’t think he would have me doing this and he definitely wouldn’t have blessed me with my son. So all I can say after crying a river of tears is, I am ready Lord and I trust you.

These tears are what make me. Every time I shed a tear I feel that much more determined to help others. My son gave me my testimony and although at times I feel like I failed him, I promise I will not fail him again!

Please go to my website to learn more about Their Voice and if your heart leads you to, please donate to the cause, no donation is too small. It is greatly appreciated.

Theirvoice95@gmail.com

DIVA & LAVA

Making friends can be tough for our Diva.  She loves to touch and hug and pull on people.  This doesn’t always go over well with everyone.  Two years ago our family was given the opportunity to meet Lava, a Canine Companion who hasn’t left her side since day one.

Some of the programs that offer Service Canines are expensive and have extremely long waiting list.  Usually 5 or more years.   Some canines are specifically trained to detect seizures, low sugar, and self-injurious behaviors.  Each program is different and should be researched for individual needs.
Our family applied to www.CCI.org (Canine Companions for Independence). After two years of waiting we were blessed with our newest family member Miss Lava. 

Lava continues to amaze our family on how smart she is when it comes to our Diva.  When she initially came to our family she knew well over 80 commands.  Since arriving in our home, our non-verbal daughter now commands her to eat and drink in a language all her own. Watching these two will have you in stitches some days. Diva is always getting into trouble whether its with flour from the kitchen or unrolling tissue from the bathroom. Lava is always right beside her.

To our amazement and delight Lava will now find mom & dad if Diva is not safe. We didn’t teach Lava that she has developed this connection with our daughter over the years. During what I call “hospital 101” period in our lives. There was a year our family seem to always be at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Whether it was for tests, therapy, operations or an emergency admittance, Lava laid right beside our girl on the floor as she slept in her hospital bed. Any time Diva would move Lava would stand and check on her.

During our hospital stays the medical staff taking care of our daughter didn’t even realize Lava was in the room until she stood or moved. Which is exactly how a service canine should be. I love how these two are in sync with one another which melts my heart.

Lava participates in all things Diva. I do mean EVERYTHING. Halloween costumes (yes we put Lava in a ridiculous outfit), opening birthday presents, bath time, dinner time, Thanksgiving & Christmas. Our Diva expects her friend to be with her as soon as her eyes pop open in the morning . Lava expects to be with Diva. That type of love can’t be taught.

Lava relaxing by the pool as she waits for DIVA to finish therapy

Accepting DIVA’s Diagnosis

Diva is deep thought about her next move

Anyone that has been on Facebook or Instagram has already seen the infamous phrase “God never gives you more than you can handle.” 

I personally can’t stand this sentiment and often frown when its shared. I’m freely admitting I often have more than I can handle with DIVA and often find myself seeking solace in my husband’s arms or calling my mother or brother.

The poem Welcome to Holland by Emily Kingsley, more accurately describes what my life has become. I really thought after the birth of my youngest I would be flying to Italy first class.

Diva is my youngest child and has mommy’s heart. She often is the source of most of my stress (good or bad).  I come from a long line of over achievers and was taught never to give up despite my circumstances.  Raising a child with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy was not in my carefully laid out plans for my life.

I’ve struggled for years to confront my discomfort of DIVA’s diagnosis. In the midst of asking others to be accepting and inclusive of her, I’m still struggling to accept her condition.  As her mother, I want only the absolute best for my child, which can’t always be achieved in an instant. Instead I have to the patience of Job. I have to sit back and watch the magic of DIVA happen.

I can’t change her diagnosis BUT most days I wish I could.  After almost 11 years on this journey I find myself still crying some days as she struggles to transfer from her stair lift to her wheelchair.  I watch and offer encouraging words, so she doesn’t give up.  Some days she’s successful other days not so much. Then she flashes that SMILE and I melt and say “Come on Pumpkin just a little more you got this, push back and turn and sit.”

Working each day to combat her never ending tightening muscles of Cerebral Palsy, I’d trade places with my child any day of the week. I can’t change her condition, I can’t change her continuous struggle to move, I can’t change her.  I CAN’T CHANGE HER.   Some days I repeat this with a smile and other days I repeat this and cry.   

Love my DIVA 

It’s Okay to NOT be Okay!

It’s okay not to be okay!  A lot of parents who care for children with special needs suffer from depression and anxiety.  The stress that comes from taking care of a child with special needs causes high anxiety, depression and sometimes PTSD.

Parents sometimes will not speak up about what they are experiencing in fear of their children being taken as well as the stigma that comes with the potential diagnosis.  Parents may not even tell their family and close friends because they don’t want to be judged.  Sometimes family and friends may think you aren’t stable enough to take care of your child.

Here’s great news, you are not alone. You are not the only one that suffers from anxiety and or depression.  I try to explain what’s going on inside of my head, however, it’s difficult when you are explaining this to those who don’t walk my journey.  This lifestyle that I lead is very stressful and the emotions are unpredictable and are a moment by moment thing. We could literally be ok and the next moment something could go left. 

It’s hard to make plans while in this particular type of lifestyle.  If you are able to keep plans, that’s considered to be a HUGE accomplishment lol. Typically, we have to depend on others in order to conquer the plans we’ve set and unfortunately, we all know how that is relying on others!  Typically when we aren’t able to keep plans, it’s due to someone else not coming through or the child becoming suddenly ill forcing you to stay home.

Sometimes folks don’t understand why I have to cancel so soon and sometimes that causes me to shutdown. It’s not like I do not want to go out and enjoy myself, however, there are times when it just doesn’t permit.

What people don’t know is, each time Jaylen gets a new diagnosis, it sends me into a blank space and I am forced to work through it.  What I’ve come to realize is, those feelings are okay to have and I should allow them to send me to a dark place. Now, I don’t stay in the dark space I just acknowledge what I am feeling so I can move forward with healing. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to be NOT ok.  

It takes me time to remember that I have been chosen for this task and I have no right to quit as long as long as Jaylen isn’t quitting. Jaylen doesn’t allow his diagnosis to stop him, I will not allow my anxiety and depression stop me. I know with professional assistance I can conquer depression and anxiety. I encourage anyone that has depression and anxiety to seek medical attention so you can get on track and led a peaceful life. 

Grief

Grief, what is it?

Grief is a feeling of deep sorrow, especially that is caused by someone’s death. Why do we have to acquire so much pain from death? It comes from knowing that a loved one is gone. You will not be able to touch, hug, kiss or talk to them in the flesh. I could imagine the pain but I never quite understood it or truly knew what it felt like. That it was an unbearable overwhelming, can’t breathe type of pain. When I met my husband I learned more about it than I ever could imagine. And didn’t realize God was preparing me for that pain.

When we started dating in 2007, it had been 6 years since he had buried his 5-year-old son, who also had been diagnosed with Cerebral palsy. He would sometimes break down in tears, saying how much he missed his son. Of course, I would comfort him, but in my mind, I was thinking, “Dude really? It’s been 6 years why are you crying”? I am just speaking my truth because I didn’t understand that something so painful as the loss of your son could go on forever. I had never lost someone that close to me so I was oblivious to his pain. This is why it is so important for me to touch on this subject.

At one point or another, we will all go through grief. There are 5 stages of grief and they can come at any time during the grieving process. Grief doesn’t follow a timeline that is one thing people who have never grieved don’t quite understand.

-Five Stages:
1) Denial
2) Anger
3) Bargaining
4) Depression
5) Acceptance

Everyone grieves differently, but at some point, we will feel each one of these emotions. Although I don’t know if I ever felt the denial stage, then again maybe I have. I never could form my lips to say my son is “dead”. That just seems so final or made it seem real. So instead I always say that I loss my son. Just recently I have started saying he has “passed” away. 3 months after he passed away, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I remember looking at my mom and husband and saying, I have no idea where this little baby is going to sleep because she can’t have Tae room. I was in denial; I refused at first to move his things to make room for another baby. Moving his items would feel as if I was forgetting about him. As if I was trying to erase his memory and I couldn’t do that. Eventually, as my due date got closer I was able to rearrange his room for her. One side had his name on the wall and I refused to paint over it, so one wall had his name and the other wall had her name on it.

A lot of the anger comes from wondering what could I have done differently? Why did God take my son away? Why me Lord? And for me, I feel angry because at the time of my son’s death he was in a facility. I had told him in December that he was coming home soon but January he passed away and never made it back to our home. So I hold a lot of guilt, which can turn into anger for me.

Months later after feeling fine and going through life, the grief process hits you again. And don’t let someone who doesn’t “get it” come in contact with you when you are feeling any of these emotions, then they start to say the dumbest remarks, like. “ “He is in a better place” or “he was sick right”, or “Its been 6 months you still grieving”? “Think about the good times”

I get it you mean well, but sometimes being silent is more helpful than those comments. Seriously, and it’s not me being mean or sensitive it’s me being real. We don’t want to hear that our loved one is in a better place when we prefer him/her to be right here with us. We know we have great memories, but we want to make more! I want to hug and kiss on my son and tell him in his ear how much I love him.

People think that you only grieve right after a death and then it should be over. Negative! My son passed away 8 years ago and it feels like yesterday. That day replays over in my mind more than I want it to. The pain/ grief hits me when I least expect it. I can be driving in my car and bam, tears start rolling down my face, and then depression sets in. I can be cooking dinner for my family and then an overwhelming feeling of sadness hits me.

I cry, scream, pray and then the acceptance that my son is gone sets in. For me, bargaining usually comes around the same time as depression and acceptance. I ask God, “ Why couldn’t my son be here for me to live out my purpose”? “Why couldn’t he be here with me”? “Why did he have to move on for me to have a testimony?” “I wish his sister could have met him” etc.

So I am saying all this to say, grief has no time limit. I will always feel the emptiness of my son not being here and the pain in my heart. What I can say is, as time goes on those who have dealt with a loss, will learn how to deal with the grief better. Every day gets better, and you may go without any feelings of grief longer than before. I just want people to understand that they should always be careful with their words and be more sensitive to those who are dealing with a loss. That pain of a loved one is strong and it never goes away, some of us learn how to cope with that pain and others allow that depression to set in. We are all different and we all handle situations differently, so please be kind. You never know what we are feeling, just because we are smiling on the outside our insides are crying. Try to understand. Call us. Check in on us, especially on their birthdays, holidays and their anniversaries.

Grief is a forever process, don’t you forget that. The better you understand it the more you can help us. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but do be afraid to say dumb remarks like the ones I mentioned above because we just might snap. LOL

GRIEF will forever change a person. Never expect them to be the same afterwards. 

To learn more about how I have dealt with the loss of my son or my husband please order a copy of our book, “Life Before and After Cerebral Palsy, We Are Their Voices”
Available on Amazon, Barnes& Noble, Google Play or iTunes

Calming a DIVA

When they invented the term “Busy Bee” they truly had our daughter in mind.  She is in constant motion from the moment she pops her eyes open, until she closes them at night.  To most parents this seems normal and expected of any 10 year who enjoys life.

Our daughter has Spastic Cerebral Palsy (it affects all her limbs) and Epilepsy that causes her to have seizures.  With these two diagnoses every day is blessing to have her alive.  Often, I think Diva knows she has many miles to go and not much time to get it done which is why she is in constant motion.

As the mother to DIVA I must find the middle ground of letting her be a free spirit and being “THAT” parent who dishes out a stern warning to their child.  So, what do you do?  How exactly should you discipline a special needs child?  In our household we treat Diva as if she was cut from the same cloth as her siblings.  We do not “dumb” down our conversations.  We always make them age appropriate for her. Minus a few slip ups.

We decided a long time ago that Diva deserves to be treated with respect and with respect comes the time out corner.  The length of time for the corner is based on her age. So now that Diva is 10, yep you guessed it she completes 10 mins in the corner when she is out of order.

In “True Diva” fashion she complains and even pitches a slight fit, but she never leaves the corner and anxiously waits for the buzzer to ring. We use a buzzer to indicate when her time is up from activities. Initially Diva ignored it, but as time went on we were consistent and she finally got it.

As her parents we find those moments when our DIVA is acting because she needs a big hug and some calming music. I’ve questioned my self in those moments “Would I do this if she was typical?”  The answer is I DON’T KNOW.  What I do know is that for now I Love my DIVA and have my running shoes ready…However she always one wheelchair ahead of me.

Who Am I…

Tammy Westmoreland - D'Jonte's Voice
Qute Cosmetics  

Who Am I?

This is a question a lot of us still do not know the answer to. We think we know who we are and then something happens that smacks us into reality.

Hello, My name is Tammy Floyd- Westmoreland, and up until recently, I wasn’t sure who I was or what purpose I had on this earth.

WE all go through life hoping for the best. Not knowing what life lessons or trials or errors we will occur. I never knew why I had been dealt the cards I had, but I just did my best to make that hand work. Not knowing that I had a full hand of Queens, Kings and Ace's and could lay them down at any time to get my reward or blessings.

November 8, 1995, I gave birth to my first and oldest son D’Jonte. I was only 15 years old.
Fast forward to January 3, 2011, when I was 30 and he was 15 years of age he passed away.

My life changed forever! I didn’t know what to do or where I would go next. I had at that time, an almost 10-year-old son and did my best to be strong for him and push through. I was an LPN and didn’t know if I wanted to continue on as a nurse. I was scheduled to meet with an Advisor for RN school the same day my son passed away. So RN school was no longer my focus. Trying to survive and live life after death became my mission. Literally...

Fast forward to now March 2019.
It has been 8 years and 2 months since my son passed away. Since then I gave birth to my baby girl who is now 7 years old. And I got married to my best friend; my soul mate and it will be 7 years for us in July. I now have two businesses, a cosmetics company and a non-profit which both I use to raise money and awareness for families affected by Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities. I never imagined me doing any of the things that I am doing now. I am a motivational speaker and author. I don’t understand and it’s not meant for me to, know what God’s plans are or why he chose to give me my son for only a short period of time. What I do know is that my son’s life on earth was meant for a reason. He taught me about unconditional love, strength and that no matter what goes on in your life you stand tall and smile.

We all are on this earth for a reason, and God has given us a gift of purpose. It's up to us to figure out what that gift or purpose is.

I learned that although my son couldn’t walk or talk, he gave me my reason to live. He gave me my PURPOSE and an amazing TESTIMONY. Purpose to be the voice that he never had. To be the voice for many other families just like us that have been affected by Cerebral Palsy. To uplift, inspire and encourage those who have a voice but don’t know how to quite use it.

I now Know who I am. I am Tammy Floyd-Westomoreland. I AM HIS VOICE.