Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Channel Cat




This may look like an ordinary cat. I assure you, it isn't.

This is a channel-cat.

This is a tell-Charley-I-said-so cat.

Yep...Gizmo's the name...Charley's the game.

You see, there are those times when Charley pushes me to my limit. And, yes, when I push him to his limit.

This means we enter a no-talking zone. I'm not speaking to him, and he's not speaking to me. Brad is at work, so there is no buffer. No one to pawn each other off on.

That's where Gizmo comes in.

We each tell him what we want the other to hear. It goes like this...

Gizmo, tell Charley to take his shower.

Gizmo, tell Mom I'm busy here. I'm watchin' my TV.

Gizmo, tell Charley he can watch TV after his shower.

Gizmo, tell Mom I said no.

Gizmo, tell Charley to get in the shower or else I'm taking his clicker. And...tell him to use soap!

And Gizmo goes back and forth, between the two of us, channeling the message. That's not so unusual though, seeing show Gizmo's always a bit wired.

Even so, Poor Gizmo. He's a ping pong ball with whiskers. Boing. Boing. Until he collapses on the floor as if to say, "Enough, already."

You'd think he'd have learned the art of hiding behind the couch by now. But he just keeps coming back for more.

Fortunately, Charley and I haven't been in the no-speak zone for a while. But today was one of those days. And Gizmo offered himself up as the channel cat.

Some days this channeling thing works better than others.

This afternoon Charley came out of his room. I had the TV on. He said, "Mom, what channel you on?"

I said, "I'm on the Gizmo network."

Guess Charley thought I was getting ready to tell Gizmo to tell him to do something I wanted him to do, because he leaned over and said, "Gizmo, tell Mom not now."


Friday, August 8, 2014

Big Dreamers



This is the face of a super sweet young lady. Charley knows it, too. Every Sunday he says, "Tiffanie comin' church!"

I tell him that sometimes Tiffanie will be there and sometimes not. She has a job that doesn't always let us borrow her on Sunday mornings.

That doesn't stop him from running to the car, anticipating, hoping, talking about her on the way there, then bolting from the car to find her once we land in the parking lot.

I do my best to prepare him, just in case she's working.
"Don't get your hopes up, Son. She might not be here."

He says, "Yes eyare. I told her." Meaning, Tiffanie is to be at church. She is NOT to be at work. Her real job is to sit with me.

And why? Because when Tiffanie is there, he feels like a somebody.

When Tiffanie is there, he is not odd man out. Someone is there for him. Someone enjoys him. Someone puts him on equal footing.

We all need that, don't we? To be around those who make us feel like somebody. Those who never makes us feel less.

Some people such as Tiffanie (and Charley's other friend, Jordan), know how to reach across the boundaries and into the world of Down syndrome. In doing so, crossing that line pulls Charley into the parallel universe of "normal." A world that says, I'm just like you.

Most people Tiffanie's age wouldn't give Charley a second thought. Most people would go on their way, worrying about what's next for them. Most might say to themselves...Who cares if the Charley's of this world have something to look forward to? Not my problem. Dream on, big dreamer, I'm in college now. I've arrived. 

But here's the thing. Tiffanie doesn't see Charley as a problem. And she includes him in her list of important things to do. She views him as friend. Charley knows it. And to him, it's everything.

How is it that some people care more about the Charley's of this world than they do about their own agenda? I wish I could clone Tiffanie (and Jordan), and put them everywhere. How wonderful that would be for the special needs people in our communities. How less isolated. How less lonely. How less different.

Study this face. This is a beautiful rare young woman. This is the face of one who sees past developmental challenges and into the heart. That's what makes the heart beat, you know. It's not what you do, how much you have, how physically attractive you are, or how much money you make that makes Charley gush. It's how you make him feel.

She is off to college in a couple of weeks, full of hopes and dreams for the future. Agendas, studies, classes, making new friends. Life is fixing to change for Tiffanie.

Now look at the face sitting beside her. This is the face of a dreamer. He may not be able to process the future, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have hopes. And dreams. Big dreams.

Today is Sunday, and this morning he's dreaming they'll come face to face.

Of course, a trip to the Chinese buffet after church with this smiling face across the table wouldn't hurt his feelings either.

Ah...such is the stuff dreams are made of.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Puppy Love



This may not look like a puppy to you, but I assure you it is, and it’s lovesick.

Charley was quite pleased with himself when he asked Jordan to the movies. (Never mind that she already has a boyfriend. That's him, Austin - the one in the blue shirt. Charley may not know it, but Austin is a class act all the way - lending his girlfriend to my son, so he can have a date too, and God, please rain favor on him for that.)

Here’s how Charley put it…

“I, me, Jordan, movies, eat, fun.”

And that’s what happened. Jordan picked him up in her car, and off to the movies they went.

According to Charley, he had a “GWEAT” time. The next morning he came out of his bedroom, and sat beside me on the couch. I could tell something was bothering him, but what?

“What’s up, Son?” I said.

“My bwoke is heart.”

“Your heart is broken?”

"Yeah."

“By who?”

 He looked at me, like you know who. Duh.

“What did she do to break your heart?”

He sighed a gut-wrenched lung clearing exasperated, well of a sigh.  

“I love her much, Mom,” he said.

“Who? Jordan?”

“Yeah, I love her much.”

Then, he said, “I MAD!”

“Why? Didn’t you have fun?”

“Yes.”

“Then why are you mad?”

He looked at me kind of weepy.  “She bwought me home.”

Ruff.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Is there a Nurse...I Mean, a Doctor in the House?



Sometimes there's not enough Kleenex in the world. You know what I mean...when your nose is feeling like:

It's fixing to fall off
It's fixing to blow
You wish it would fall off
All of the above

But then. A blond haired, blue-eyed nurse tells you to bare your arm, she's going to take your blood pressure, totally unaware that sometimes this is all it takes to get your blood pumping, and miracle cure, someone is feeling better (at least for the moment), and what was dying on the examining table is suddenly sitting wide-eyed. Imagine that.

I need to take your blood pressure, she says.

The shirt is ripped off the body like David Beckham’s in the house.
See my muscle shirt?

Nice shirt, she says.

The blood pressure cuff is wrapped around the arm.

Relax your arm.

I da Hulk, he says.

I do believe he's turning green, I say.

He shoots me a look, like, shut up, shut, up, already.

The nurse is pumping the thingy that squeezes the arm.

She looks down. He looks at me like, "Owe!" He looks at her, like, “ata-girl.”

Wow, you did great, she says.

The Doctor will be in to see you soon. The door closes.

He watches the door, hoping to catch one more glimpse of the pretty "blondt" nurse, and who can blame him?

The door opens and the Doctor walks in. He introduces himself.

The shoulders that were so proud moments ago deflate like a punctured balloon.

We're dying again.

Open your mouth. Say ahh.

There's a tongue depressor in the mouth.

How long has this been going on?

Well, it was there, then it went away, then it came back again about two minutes ago when the nurse left. The doctor smiles.
So, he’s not so impressed with me? The doctor says.

Sorry, Doc, you’re the wrong gender.

Now, Charles, I'm going to look in your ears. He pokes a thingy in the ear.

Are there any brains in there, Doctor?

The patient scowls.

The diagnosis: bronchitis.
I'll write a prescription, he says. You can pick it up on your way out.

Could you write a prescription for stubbornness while you're at it?

The Dr. smiles again. The patient scowls again.

The door closes. The patient is fading. Oh, ooooh, I sick, Mom.

I pat his hand. You will be better soon, I promise.

No not, I SICK. Meaning, can I stay home today?

Well then, I guess you won't be able to see that nurse on your way out.

Presto! The shoes are on, the jacket is on, and the muscle man is out the door.

Bye Charley, says the nurse.

Bye, Purty.

I look at this child of mine. This funny little Hulk. On Friday he is supposed to see a heart specialist (it's common to have routine tests performed on individuals who take the kind of medicine he takes).

He'll go to the appointment, God willing, if he's feeling better.

The waiting room is filled. Not a seat to spare. On the way out my young man says hi to every last person in the room.

Someone sneezes.
You better soon, I promise...he says, waving.

Sometimes there's just not enough Charley in the world. And I promise you, there's not a thing wrong with his heart.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What Matters...



In the words of DaddyBrad…

My Blackburn College friend Bruce Truitt has announced that his beloved Son Cody is brain dead. They have decided to donate his organs in the next few days. Prayers go out to his family during this critical time. I did not know Cody, but in his honor let us stop worrying about anything and just love our children and recognize the gifts that they are. Oh yes, we worry about their grades, their choices, their futures. But that is all piffle really. What matters is that they know they are loved. And that when they walk into a room, our eyes brighten and there is nobody more important than they are to us. There is no greater honor in this life than to be a parent. Prayers today for the extended Truitt family And Blessings to all. 

And Charley, your Dad loves you so very much.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Live on, JFK

I'm a winner!
Because of the Kennedy legacy, people like my Charley are able to call themselves athletes. In my house, it sounds like this:

"Close you eyes, Mom."

I close my eyes.

"Put out hand."

I open my hand, holding it in front of me.

"No peeking."

Something metal is placed in my hand.

"Okay, eyes open."

There, in my hand, is a silver Special Olympics medal.

"Wow! Did you win this today?"

"Yep! I play basketbalt!"


"Remember, Charley, it's not the medal that makes you a winner. You are a winner because you are you."

"Yep, I am." He's beaming with pride.

He takes the medal out of my hand, puts it around my neck, and kisses my cheek.

"I'll never take it off," I tell him.

I have the Kennedy's to thank for that. Because the Kennedy's unlocked the door of disabilities, reached through the portal of possibilities, and reminded us that, "We all breathe the same air," people like Charley have been welcomed with opened arms and lifted up with open hearts.

Today brings with it memories for those of us who learned of the assassination of President Kennedy 50 years ago. I was in the fourth grade sitting at my desk thinking about throwing a spit-wad into the beehive on my teacher's head when a woman stepped into the classroom and made the announcement. Little did I know at the time, that she was talking about someone who's pioneering family would have such an effect on my own, so many years later, in the form of Special Olympics.

For those who may not know, Special Olympics was born as the result of Eunice Kennedy Shriver starting a camp for special needs people in her back yard. A place where they could run and play, and be themselves. A place where they were accepted exactly as they were, encouraged to be the best they could be, were taught to encourage others, and were celebrated for their accomplishments. I am humbled and inspired by difference makers.

Because of the Special Olympics, people like my Charley know the roar of a cheering crowd. The anticipation of starting the race. The thunder of clapping hands. The excitement of the finish line. The happiness of a teammate's arm around a shoulder. The pride of hanging a medal around a mother's neck.

Yes, President John F. Kennedy died too young, and today we pause and reflect. It was a tragic day in the life of our nation and we remember his family in our prayers.

But in the backdrop, isn't it nice to know that he lives on every time a Special Olympian's tennis shoes hit the racetrack. Every time the swimmer's arms make another splash. Every time the volleyball is launched over the net. Every time a parent looks into the face of their special needs child and says, "Congratulations!" Every time an athlete feels like a winner.

Rest in peace, JFK. 


Remind us to breathe the same air.

Compete with pride, Special Olympians.

Inspire us to be the best we can be.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Pledge


 
Not sure what brought this on, but when Charley got off the van yesterday (the one that takes him to and from the Sertoma Center every day), he burst through the door, went to Brad's recliner and plopped.

"How was your day, Son?" I asked.

"Humph."

He handed me a red slip of paper that had instructions for basketball Special Olympics. "Wead dis, Mom."

I held the paper up and said, "Special Olympics is tomorrow."

"Mo-om, I no he-wit." (Meaning, read it out loud.)

I did. I read every word. By then he'd peeled off his shirt and stood in front of me with his hand over his heart.

"I pwedz wegens, fwag..."

"Shouldn't you put a shirt on for this?" I asked. “It just doesn’t seem appropriate…”

"Mom, FOCUS."

Yesterday he told me to breathe. And with good reason.

What should have been a nice, relaxing break for us (Charley was at camp) turned into a bulldozing frenzy. More specific, Brad submarined his room, carrying out everything imaginable (and unimaginable). Into the trash it went. That's what you do with a hoarder. You wait for the opportunity, which in our case meant we waited until Charley was out of the house for a few days.

Not that we haven't tried. We've beg, pleaded, bribed, withheld privileges, scolded, sweet- talked and shamed him.

And oh, the fights. They sound like this:

"Charles Benjamin, you are NOT to throw trash on the floor."

"Clean up your room!"

"My God! Look at this mess! If you don’t clean it up, it’s going in the trash."

In the end, he's going to be who he's going to be. Not all people with Down syndrome hoard. But from what I’ve read, a good many do. Which means ambushing him when he's gone. Mostly by Brad and his cast iron stomach. (I couldn’t help much because of my busted leg. Not sure whether to dissolve into guilt or sing the hallelujah chorus.)

Disgusting? Yes. Gross. Vile. Boy funk. You name it.

Brad and I braced ourselves for the explosion when he returned home.

"He's going to freak when he sees we've been in his room."

"Hold onto your panty girdle, it won't be pretty."

What we expected was a temper tantrum. What we got was relief.  He even said "Kank-u." But not before trying to change it back. It took all of 30 seconds before we heard tables being moved, things being shoved around, like, you’ve had your fun, Mom and Dad, but don’t you know to leave things the way you found them? I opened the door and peeked in.

Well, that did it. A moment later I stood in the middle of his room and began the lecture from you-know-where. You know the one. The don't-even-think-of-doing-what-ever-it-is-you-are-thinking-of-doing lecture. The one that's too late because it's already done. Yep, that's the one.

"Charley Palmer. Your Dad worked hard on this room. And YOU, are not wrecking it. Period."

He stood up, put his hands in front of him and pushed them down and out to his sides, sort of like a whoosh, and said, "Breathe."

Oh. Was I not brea-thing? "Mom, you face is wed." I guess so, I was fixing to blow.

"Bweathe, Mom. Camp said so."

"Did they teach you that at camp?"

"Yeah."

He demonstrated again how to take a deep breath.

It helped. I left the room, laughed, and returned with a smile. Here was my son, telling me not to sweat the small stuff. (Not that his mess is ever small stuff). He was home, back from camp, safe, happy, not melting down over his gutted room, but simply moving the table closer to his bed so he could reach the TV. (Heaven forbid he should have to move one inch to operate the DVD player.)

I helped him. We fixed the table – the one that’s falling apart. “Don’t breathe on it,” I said. “I’m out of duck tape.”
“Okay, Mom.” He was grinning.
We arranged the cords so they wouldn't get all tangled up like before. I wagged my finger at him. "A clear path around the bed. This is NOT negotiable," I said. "And the trash BETTER find its way to the trash can. And we BETTER not find any trash under the bed."

"I got it, Mom. G
eeze!"
 
"We're calling you on the carpet, Son. Consider this your first and final warning." (Just call me hash tag #nag.)
 
He's been home since Sunday. Today is Wednesday. Every morning Brad and I do the Palmer-Patrol. We walk around the bed inspecting the floor for any signs of trash.
 
But just to be fair, we laid out the ground rules:
 
  • One piece of trash equals one DVD gone from his bed.
  • One chicken nugget on the floor equals the remote control in our possession for the day.
  • One coke can or milk carton on the floor equals the TV locked in the trunk of the car.
"Do you understand?"
 
"I got dis, Daddy."
 
He's been doing pretty good. So far. The Sermon Man (that’s Brad) reminds himself to breathe. The nag reminds herself to breathe. Meantime, it doesn't hurt to remind him too.
 
So I stand, put my hand over my heart, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance with him.
 
"Repeat after me, Son."
 
I pledge allegiance to my room
Of the United States of America.
And to the carpet on which it stands.
One piece of trash, under the bed
equals misery and justice for all.
 
Amen.
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Procrastinating Mommies


Waiting for Trick-or-Treaters

Procrastinating mommies are easy to spot.  Those of us who wait until there’s no hope of getting a Halloween costume, then park as close to the door as possible, and stampede into the store, hoping not to hurt anyone in the process. 

We meet every year in the costume aisle at Wal-Mart about a half hour before the official Trick or Treat thing is to begin. That’s the way we like it.  It works for us.  This way, we don’t have to worry about what to do when we get there.  We already know what’s left...nothing.  

Still, we are there to do the mommy thing.  Also, there’s the thrill of the hunt, and we can prove it.  Shoulder to shoulder us procrastinating mommies stand, crammed into the same aisle, attempting not to invade each other’s body space, holding up bits and pieces of costumes that have been trampled underfoot. We hope for a miracle, which would consist of actually finding a costume that accommodates our children’s body sizes, without causing us to mortgage our homes to pay for the goofy things. Then, we discover what we already knew we would discover, which is the crabby reality there is no way we are going to pay that, not when our kid is going to wear it once we move on to plan B.

Plan B. Reconsider. Impress the neighbors if you have to, but cue for the chocolate. The candy that matters. The ones you don’t let your kids have before bedtime while you count the minutes until dreamland visits the premises and you can be alone with the Kit Kat bars. Twix. Mini packet of M & Ms. So what if you pay the ten bucks? You could go to the candy aisle, purchase your own Snickers minis, and be known as the one who hands out the good stuff, or you can pay your ten bucks for the costume like the rest of the procrastinators and get the free stuff.

Plan C.  Snap back to the moment. Fuss about the lack of choices as if it isn’t our own fault.  “Can you believe this pitiful selection?”  Some of us mouthy moms approach the poor sales ladies at the store. “Pardon me, ma’am, but do you perhaps have a Batman costume in a size 6?”  This of course, puts the poor saleswoman in the position of having to maintain a poker face while hee-hawing on the inside from her own self-talk (What a dweeb.  Reality check, ma’am, its 10 minutes before Halloween is to begin. Get a life honey, nothing’s left).  These sales ladies are good, though; they manage sympathetic smiles while walking over to the costume rack to help us look for what we all know isn’t there.


Plan D. Drive to Rite Aide to see what they have left.  Even though there’s virtually nothing there either, we do have reason to smile.  Why?  Because we have the aisle to ourselves.  At least, for approximately 30 seconds before the rest of the mommies burst through the front door.  It appears the other mommies have had the same light drizzle (you can’t exactly call it a brainstorm).  Perhaps there will be something, anything at Rite Aide that might come close to resembling a costume.  Which brings us to Plan E.

Plan E.  This is where the real creativity of us procrastinating mommies begins to percolate.  We strategically place ourselves in front of the cashier at the Rite Aid counter, holding a piece of what used to be a costume, which has been dismantled from its price tag, hoping that the cashier will have a sudden case of mental pause and not remember the price.  Perhaps, we think to ourselves, the lady will see the panic on our faces, look at the clock and realize there’s only 10 minutes till the door-to-door candy campaign, and mark the price down because the store doesn’t want to get stuck with it. 

“How much?” I heard myself ask, only to add “If you give me a good price on it, I’ll take it off your hands.” 

Wishful thinking.  Fat chance. 

“That piece is $9.99," she answers.  

“For this?” “There’s nothing to it.  It’s a red thing.  The material alone at a fine fabric store would have cost me 50 cents.”  It appears that I’m not going to wind up with the red thing.  There’s absolutely no way I am going to spend $9.99 on a red thing.  The cashier is not a bit concerned.  She knows only too well that the mommy standing behind me in the check out lane is salivating, hoping I will put it back so she can get it for her kid.

Plan F. Run at top speed back to the car, drive back to Walmart, circle for the closest parking space, and rush to the aisle that has little boy’s sweat pants.  Buy a black pair of sweat pants for $4.95, and a black sweatshirt with a hood for $4.95. Race home and convince your kid that he is going trick or treating as Darth Vader.  I was one of the lucky mommies.  My child fell for it.  I also had a pair of sweat pants and a sweatshirt left from the big night that could be used as pajamas or an every day play outfit.  And it only cost $9.90. Nine cents less than the $9.99 I refused to pay. I win.

Procrastinating mommies understand each other.  We know we don’t have to worry about our nerves, because they’re already shot. We know that no matter how good our intentions, we will still find ourselves in Walmart 10 minutes before Trick or Treat time next year.  How do I know?  Because while I was standing there some woman looked over at me and said, “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”  Of course she had.  “That’s funny,” I grinned.  “I was just thinking the same thing about you.”

I am happy to report that I only succumbed to this Procrastinating Mommy routine a total of seven times before it hit me that Charley didn’t even like Halloween. He was terrified of the scary music people played at their houses. He was afraid of the goblins he met on the sidewalks. He cried and hid in the back seat of the car while we routed through his pumpkin bucket.

 Plan G: Let the kid decide.

And he did. At eight years old, Charley stood outside with his Batman cape and waited for what he called the “wittle kids.”

To this day, without fail, he announces, “I hate Hoween.” And at twenty-three years old, he still hands out the candy.

Well, minus a few Kit Kat bars.
 
Handing out the Candy


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Come On Out

This is Charley in his blanket. It's a red stadium blanket that once belonged to my grandmother, Florence McQuiston. In the morning Charley comes down the hallway with the blanket over his head. He then plops his rear end onto Brad's chair. "Find me Daddy," he says. 

What he wants is for Brad to open the front door and say, "Charley where are you?"

Charley sits under the blanket making not a sound.

Brad then runs around the room acting like he can't find him. "Charley, Charley, I can't find Charley. Come out, come out, wherever you are."

The blanket then gets flung off his head, and with a big wide grin, he says, "Here I are, Daddy. See?" And then he tackles Brad. And Brad braces for impact.

At 23 years old, Charley still plays. It's one of the things I love about him the most. He reminds us in the midst of everyday life that play is important. He works at his play, thinking up ways to play tricks on us, ways to get a good belly laugh. Like when he grabs Brad's feet and tickles them until Brad is screaming for mercy (he's left my feet alone since I hurt my leg - I guess there are some perks to a broken bone after all). But there is no mercy. It's a matter of getting the best yell out of Brad. Old Yeller, anyone?

On those days when Brad is quiet, pensive, or too tired to play (rare, I know), Charley shrugs his shoulders. "Weller boke" (yeller's broke), he says, which means he retreats to his room to plot. To think up something else that can get at Brad. You can't buy entertainment like that.

Did we know we'd signed up for this 23 years ago? Probably not. Did we know we'd wake up to find the dining room table set with our wedding china on those mornings when he couldn't sleep? Probably not. Did we know he would hide our car keys? Probably not. And had we had known, would we have gotten in line? The only answer to that is, yes.

23 years ago today, a 20 year old college student walked into an emergency room and gave birth to the rest of our lives.

Other 23 year olds are serving their country. Getting an education. Working. Getting married. 

Where won't you find most 23 year olds? You sure won't find them hiding underneath a stadium blanket. Or playing with their Daddy. 

23 years ago today, we were looking. He was waiting. We wanted to be parents. He needed a home.

We are all searching. Looking for that one thing. That thing that gives us a reason to get out of bed in the morning. That thing that wraps itself around us. That thing that hugs us when we can't hug ourselves. That thing that turns life on its head, making us see the world in a different way. That thing that calls us out of ourselves. 

Amy Grant sings my favorite song, "Out in the Open."

         Come on out come on out 
         Come on out come on out 
         Out in the open 
         Come on out come on out 
         Come on out come on out 
         Into the light 
         There is no jury 
         There is no judge 
         Ready and waiting 
         
Are the steady arms of love 


Some of us find it sooner than others. 

Brad and I found it 23 years ago. Wrapped in a baby blanket. 



Friday, September 27, 2013

Do What You Love


       
Charley and MissyKat in 2010

         In 2010, I went back to school. Brad said it best. "It's your turn, Sherry. Do what you love."

        So I filled out the student loan applications, made a joke about how, no, I wouldn't have to worry about paying it back because I'd be 95 before I ever finished my Masters. I then packed my suitcase, drove to Louisville, checked in at the Brown Hotel, and wondered what I was doing there. 

      I looked around. What was I doing in company like that? These were writers, after all. People who had confidence in themselves, in their writing, and were just there to hone their craft. I had never thought of myself as a writer, more like someone who likes to write. Still, I was there to learn. To write.

        During my first session, I was so discouraged that I almost quit. It was a session on how to write a short critical essay. The faculty member stood on stage, explaining the beauty of,“A Death in the Woods," by Sherwood Anderson. She asked questions of the students. And I, who had forgotten the duck tape for my big fat mouth, blurted something out. It was wrong. So wrong. And she let me know it, as she smirked and openly used me as an example of how NOT to write a short critical essay.

        I wanted to crawl under the nearest desk and die. I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw up all over her shoes. As I sat there, my cheeks burning, my eyes came to rest on a picture of Charley. I'd taped it to the front of my binder, as a reminder of what I was doing there. I was there to learn. To do what I love. To write.

        I was there to write about how I'd been unable to have a child of my own. How I'd had an ovarian cyst the size of a cantaloupe, leaving me with half an ovary to work with, and a myriad of DNCs, anemia, and a slim chance of pregnancy. How I'd stood by and watched my friends give birth, and when I'd realized I couldn't, I'd buried myself in work.

        I was there to write about how my husband contacted an adoption agency behind my back, and how my protest of adoption was short-lived, and thank God for that. Thank God for the birth mother who breathed life into me the minute he was placed in my arms.

        I was there to write about how well-meaning friends of my mother called asking if we knew what we were doing, and how we answered, "No," and how no child comes with instruction papers, not even special needs kids, and how it didn't matter because we were adopting him anyway, but thanks for calling.

        I was there to write about that face. Those ocean-blue crescent moon-shaped eyes, those turned up lips, the innocence that looks right through you, and the surrender to everything that is good and precious.

        I was there to write about heart. That heart that unconditionally wraps itself around you like a blanket, warming you like the sun, the son, the one who loves you no matter what. No matter how much money you make, no matter how beautiful, or skinny, or perfect, or not.

        I was there to write about how life can't get any sweeter because he fills you up with the honey of laughter, his zest for life, and gratitude for every minute of every day.

        Life with Charley is a learning curve. He challenges us, confuses us, inspires us. He gives without reserve, demanding that we be better people.

        Because of him, life is better than I ever thought it could be.

        In 1990, Charley took his first breath of life.

        In 2010, I signed up to write it. To learn. To put pen to paper and bring him to life on the page.

        He celebrates his 23rd birthday this weekend. 23 years of bringing me to life.

        In 2010, Brad said, "It's your turn, Sherry. Do what you love."

        To that I say - it's been my turn.

        I've been doing what I love, for 23 years.