Friday, November 12, 2010

A Touching Veteran's Day 2010 Adventure

Another weekend is here!  As eBay informed me when I logged in to check my account a few moments ago, there are just 43 days left until Christmas.  YIKES!  

Running an online dolls, bears and collectibles business, this is the time of year when we totally need to step up our game to compete with so many other vendors that are out there throwing out huge sales promotions to gobble up consumer dollars.  I've been spending a lot of time analyzing our business and trying to figure out how to maximize our time and effort.  At the same time, I want to make sure at home, we're not focused on commercialism and that we celebrate and teach our sons the reason for the season!

What I keep concluding business-wise is that I need to not bite off more than I can chew (there are only two of us running Count Your Beans), I need to work smarter, I need to create my own luck, I need to pray and I need to continually be prepared to expect the unexpected.  

The unexpected for some is often the expected in our household.

For example, these two distractions are fairly typical:

1) Our 4 year old is home with "the noisies" when the phone rings from a potential or current customer.  Coincidentally when the phone rings is just the moment he needs to share about an exciting development on Sprout TV or the fact that he needs toileting assistance.

2) Trying to work with J's Christmas carol playlist (of very few songs) running in the background over and over and over.  We've been enjoying the spirit since November 3rd...  Now don't get me wrong, I really enjoy Christmas music.  I just enjoy it more after Thanksgiving.  It could be worse.  It could be heavy metal!



This is the time of year we all need to stay healthy to be productive and happy so when Ryan came down with a cold earlier this week, I worried that the cold and flu cycle would start cycling around our house like it has the past couple of years.  I'm feeling a little under the weather right now and have been having headaches for days.  Hopefully it will pass without getting worse or passing around to Justin or John.

This school year has actually been very good for us as far as the boys (all three) staying healthy.  Usually September, October and November include at least a couple absences for colds or flu but so far we're having a record year for attendance.  Ryan was off today and man, was he miffed we didn't send him to school.  The ickier one feels in this house, the larger the scale of the meltdown.  Today Ryan had a very icky day.

We chose to pass up getting the flu shot this school year as last year after we all got the shot, we were sick for weeks afterwards. Yeah, yeah, I know... you're not supposed to be able to get the flu from the flu SHOT.  All I know is that in the years that we've had the shot, we've shortly thereafter gotten the flu... and not a quick version either.  Maybe it's a coincidence.  Maybe it's a conspiracy. (Kidding!) I'm not going to go down that road right now because I have a special story I wanted to share with you.



Yesterday Veteran's Day was celebrated here in the USA.  I made reference to it in my November 10th blog, Ryan's Research Study Comes To A Close.  My husband is a veteran of the US Navy and my dad is a veteran of the US Air Force. There are other relatives in the extended family who have served or are serving as well.  To those who have served our country with honor, it was a day to give thanks and appreciation.

I would have blogged yesterday but I knew that it would be important for John to blog about his thoughts and experiences and I wanted to show respect to him and let him share his version of the story first.  If you have time, feel free to check out his Veteran's Day 2010 blog post:


Justin was part of a group of 8 local Boy Scouts who volunteered to participate in a special Veteran's Day flag ceremony at an Independent and Assisted Living Facility called Merrill Gardens at the Orchard Village in Vancouver, Washington.


We almost didn't make it there in time (or so we thought).  The thing about using a GPS in our vehicle is that we're supposed to upgrade the software every couple years or so.  This cost money obviously and we figured since we got our Honda Odyssey in 2008 that we could still go awhile without having to fork out extra cash.

John had the address written on a piece of paper and I tried plugging it into the GPS system.  The address was on 18th Avenue but the GPS only had one option and that was simply 18th.

One thing about living here in Washington that personally I find confusing is that a lot of the streets and avenues are numbers instead of names. (i.e. 18th Avenue versus Grant Avenue) Streets run one way, avenues run another.  You may be on a certain numbered street and it will stop only to pick up again at another part in the city.  Don't get me started on the NW, NE, SW, SE options!

Ask me to give you street names for the city I grew up in and I can go quite far from my childhood home.  Ask me to give you street names around the home we live in now and it's much more difficult for me because most of them are numbered circles, courts, avenues and streets that are similar to one another and often are not logical.  Although I enjoy numbers and appreciate patterns, something just isn't clicking with me for memorizing the numbered streets in my area.  Fortunately I have my four year old son whose visual memory is incredible and whose favorite iPad app is Google maps.  He knows our area very well!

But I digress...

I tried entering the number for the 18th Avenue address into the GPS and it wasn't taking the whole thing. My first thought (sorry John) was that maybe John had written the number down incorrectly so we entered something close and figured if we were on the right street, we'd be able to find it.

We were already running late at this point.  The ceremony was at 10:30 a.m. but the boys were expected at 10:00 a.m. to practice.  It was about 9:40 a.m. and our GPS was showing us that the location was 21 minutes away.  Vancouver is a very spread out city.

John followed the directions and eventually we hit the area that the GPS indicated we should be in.  Unfortunately, that was in a very large field near somebody's home.  Assuming that the community we were going to was indeed visible to the human eye, we knew something was wrong.  Amazingly, there was little edginess in our vehicle.  Getting lost isn't usually a crowd pleaser in the Krejcha household.  Just ask John about trying to find Yellowstone in 2008...

John didn't have the phone number of the person coordinating the event or the name of the place we were going to.  He just had the address.  Fortunately, he did have a couple scouting contacts listed in his iPad. We had brought the iPad to keep Ryan entertained and calm during the Veteran's Day ceremony.  As it turned out, it was a very good thing we did because after a couple of calls, John was able to get the information we needed and we were back on our way.  Yippee!

Of course at this point, it was about 10:16 a.m. and we were missing practice and the ceremony was due to start so there was a little tension in the car since we don't like being late.  At about 10:22 a.m. we pulled into the parking lot, got out and hurriedly entered the main building.  By the way, I'm pretty sure the reason that 18th Avenue was not in our GPS was that it appeared to be created for this community and the community was fairly new.

So we went into the lobby area and didn't see any other scouts.  Hmm...  well, maybe they were in another room practicing... even though the flag was outside... 

We smiled at a few of the seniors hanging out in one of the commons areas and John and Justin started to head toward what looked like a reception area.  As they walked that way, another lady who I believe was the Activity Coordinator at the site and a mother of 3 Boy Scouts came toward John and gave him a quizzical look. 

"You're early!" (Early???)

"The ceremony isn't until 11:30 a.m. and the boys aren't supposed to be here until 11:00 a.m." (Oh...)

"You'll need to leave and come back."

Well, didn't we feel a bit silly.  But hey, it's MUCH better to be early than late.  We left and drove around a little bit to see if we could find a place that had a winter coat for Ryan since his other one was too small and the temperatures here are starting to drop.  We took care of that fairly quickly and then headed back.  This time when we got there, a few scouts were ahead of us.  John and Justin did their thing and Ryan and I hung out together in the lobby playing with the iPad.  

Shortly thereafter, the boys all headed outside to practice and Ryan and I joined them and sat on a nearby bench.  Ryan spied Full Bites in my purse, a tasty snack that has protein and is gluten-free (good for him, good for me) and so he began munching while I alternated between watching Justin and making sure Ryan was doing well.

At a little before 11:30 a.m., many residents of the community started coming outside to prepare for the ceremony.  Some were in wheelchairs and some were in uniform.  Even though it was relatively small in scale, the ceremony was huge in heart.  I felt tears well up and I was so proud of Justin for participating and so proud of John for his service to our country.  I was also proud that Ryan had a calm body during the ceremony.  He was a little antsy but there was no rushing into the middle of the ceremony and trying to upstage the scouts so all was very good! (He had done something similar before at a Blue & Gold Ceremony not just once but twice!)

Here are a few pictures I wanted to share.







The ceremony went very well and I think it was enjoyed by all who attended.  Afterwards, the boys were invited inside to mingle with the veterans, families and ceremony attendees while they had their lunch.

It was only to be for a few minutes but Justin got very scared.  It quickly turned into a meltdown moment with Justin, John, Ryan and I together in the lobby while the other scouts were inside the eating area.  Having Asperger's, Justin often has a challenge with social skills and he was very nervous about having to participate in this part of the activity.  He went into a mode where he felt blocked and although I can usually melt the block away, my Supermom powers just weren't performing.  He sat on my lap.  I offered to hold his hand, I offered to walk with him and be by his side but there just wasn't anything I could say or do that worked.  I could tell that John was getting frustrated and embarrassed.

The thing is that having Asperger's myself, I could totally get where Justin was coming from.  I felt for him. I wanted to make things right but I understood his anxiety and how hard it can be to break down that block when it occurs. His heart was in the right place in wanting to show honor to the veterans but he was frozen inside his own little world and no ice pick was going to set him free.  Only he had the magic melting key inside.

It was a sad moment because we realized that we were going to have to leave.  Justin had done so well in the flag ceremony.  We didn't want the experience to end on a sour note.  After some wiped tears and a big hug telling him I loved him, Justin got up and we started to exit.

It was at that moment I believe God stepped in.  A lady in her early 70's named Maridel who had been at the ceremony and who was wearing a flag shirt caught my eye, smiled and made a motion with her hand asking if it was okay for her to come over.  She asked me if it was okay if she asked Justin a favor.  Justin stood up straight and looked her in the eye as she told her story.

Her husband Warren was a veteran of the US Air Force.  Unfortunately, he was too sick to be able to leave his bed and attend the day's service.  Maridel had been praying to God that one of the scouts would be able to come up to her room and say Happy Veteran's Day to her husband.  All of the other scouts were in the dining room and she was nervous on how to approach them.  She saw Justin and thought that he would be the perfect choice to pay a visit to Warren.  She asked him if it was okay with his parents (which it was) if he and we went up to their apartment and Justin spent a few minutes with Warren.  Justin enthusiastically said that he would.  The ice block was instantly melted and our caring thoughtful son was back again.

As we rode up in the elevator, Maridel told us a little about her husband.  He had been in the Air Force during the Korean War and had flown planes that added fuel to other planes and also blocked enemy radar.  It was a dangerous job and certainly this man was to be honored.

When we got into the apartment, John, Ryan and I stood back in the kitchen area while Maridel took Justin into the bedroom to see Warren.  Justin saluted him and wished him a Happy Veteran's Day.  He stood and listened a few minutes while Maridel spoke to both of them, narrating a bit about the earlier flag ceremony and sharing with Justin what Warren's role was in the Air Force.

I could hear everything from where I was standing and it brought tears to my eyes.  It was so touching that Justin could be a part of this and I think it will remain in Justin's memory for a long time as a good turn that he did for someone else.  You see, as Maridel walked us down the hall afterwards back to the elevator and down to the lobby, she told me that her husband was sick and had both Parkinson's and another condition which made it very difficult for him to communicate and be social.  She said she had been praying to God that he would bring someone today that could visit with her husband and show him Veteran's Day respect.

I shared with her that our son was on the autism spectrum with Asperger's and that it was often difficult for him to communicate as well.  On this day, God worked his magic and through a series of what could have been misfortunes, something magnificent happened as a result and the Veteran's Day flag ceremony ended on a higher note than we ever imagined.

Incidentally, John and I learned later that one of the reasons that Justin was afraid to go into the dining area was that he was under the impression he was going to have to eat with the veterans and was afraid there wouldn't be anything he liked to eat and didn't want to embarrass himself.  It was a key component in the puzzle we were missing because had we known about this fear, we would have let him know the boys weren't there to eat, just mingle and he might have ended up going in after all.  As it turns out, everything fit into place just perfectly.  Justin was where he needed to be at just the right time.

Thank you to Maridel and to Warren for making a special connection that will be with me for a very long time and now through this blog will be shared with the world as well.



Congratulations to Justin for letting his light shine!
Best wishes for a wonderful weekend,
Karen

4 comments:

  1. Oh, Man! You need to put a kleenex warning on a story like that! LOL! What a beautiful and touching story! Justin did a very special thing for Maridel and her husband and what a proud moment for you! Thanks for sharing it with us! God had a special job for Justin that day!

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  2. Hi June!
    Thanks so much for your kind words! :-) The transformation that came over Justin once he was asked to do Maridel that special favor for Warren was nothing short of amazing. I can't do it justice in words. He did such a wonderful job up there in their room. I wanted to make sure to blog about it so that I would never forget.

    Thanks for stopping by! :-)
    Karen

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  3. Win-win-win-win situation for your son, you, your husband, Maridel and Warren. It is sometimes the simplest acts that touch us so deeply. Children with autism often give and show love in different ways than other children but their love is just as strong if not more so because it often takes them extra effort to express their feelings. Your son is a remarkable young man. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

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  4. Hello Anonymous,
    I've never been the parent of a child that was not on the autism spectrum and being on the spectrum myself, my observations on love and the ability to show love are based on different experiences than the parent of a typically developing child. I do agree with what you have to say though!

    At one point when Ryan was two, I wondered if I would ever hear him say, "I love you, Mommy" but I needn't have worried because he shows his love and light in so many ways. It doesn't have to be verbal.

    Justin has always been very huggy and loving with immediate family and has had good relationships with adults. Peers are more challenging. This is the way I was as well growing up.

    My boys are very capable of showing loving actions and there is something special in each of them which allows them to shine. Showing empathy for others is something that is a challenge, especially for our youngest but it is an emerging skill. Sympathy seems to be better understood.

    I appreciate your kind words. Justin really came through on Thursday in showing the loving boy that he aspires to be.

    Thanks for stopping by! Hope to hear from you again!

    Karen

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