Monday, January 22, 2018

Finding Inspiration In The New Year

At the close of each year, I always find myself inspired to start fresh in the new year. It seems like the top of my list remains the same year to year, with things like losing weight, keeping in better touch with friends and family and spending more time with my daughters.

When I look back through the year each December, sometimes I've done better than others, but I always remain inspired that the next year will be better than the one before. Although I have to admit the last one was hard to beat, as we added Charlotte Grace to our family.

This year, as I was thinking about my column, I decided I would spend the year writing about people that inspire me. Maybe they inspire me to work harder or be a better community member. Some have inspired me to love more and remember that our time on this earth is often more fleeting than we think. But they all inspire me to be a better person, and I hope they inspire you too.

It seems only fitting that the first person I write about is the one person who inspires me most of all every single day, my daughter, Grace. In her six short years, she has taught me more about love, compassion and acceptance than I had learned in my previous 31 years.

Before she was officially diagnosed with INAD (infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy), Grace showed signs of developmental delay. And being the diligent parents that we try to be, we had her in physical, speech and occupational therapy through Early Intervention and physical therapy both in town and in Springfield. We made Grace work hard.

At the time, we thought Grace would eventually catch up to other kids her age, so we pushed her. And she rarely complained. Although she did have some tears in physical therapy at times, she always kept going. I don't think she was ever in pain from the therapy, I think it was just a struggle for her sometimes.

She's now six-and-a-half-years old and has been in physical therapy alone since before she was two. That's a lot of hours and hard work logged, but she always has one of her winning smiles for her therapists. Despite all the basic skills INAD has stolen from her, Grace is almost never without her signature smile.

And what an inspiration that is to me. Some days, I would rather stay in my pajamas, pull the covers back up over my head and not get up, especially not with a cheery attitude. Life is hard. And it's not fair. And it would be easy to mope about the hand we have been dealt to play.

But Grace is an inspiration. She doesn't let the hand she's been dealt affect her smile. She gets up every day, ready to meet life's challenges in a way only she can. And my goal is to meet each and every day that same way.

I'm only human, so I'm pretty sure there will be moments I come up short (just ask Kyle or my mom), but life is about persevering through its challenges. Grace teaches me that, every single minute I'm with her. And I'm a better person for it.

But the best part is that Grace doesn't just inspire me to meet life's challenges head on, she also inspires others to be kind and loving, just by being herself.

When we sent Grace to preschool four years ago (before we knew about INAD), I was worried Grace would be treated differently because she doesn't have the same skills other preschoolers have. Imagine my surprise to find just how much the kids embraced her. Every day I brought her to school, the kids in her class met me at the door, excited to see Grace. And they still do. Grace was a "caught with character" winner in her kindergarten class this year, and the other students in her class were so happy for her. And I know they miss her when she's not at school.

Those kids inspire me too. They don't look at Grace as different than they are. They simply accept her for who she is, and love her just that way. The world could certainly use a few more kindergarten thinkers.

I'm excited to share stories of some very local people who truly shape my life through their words and actions, their love and compassion. And I hope you'll be inspired too.
After all, there's a lot of reasons to be grateful on this Grace-Filled Journey.


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