Wednesday, January 29 2014
Mama Hill (Superhero)
I came across a video with the title, “The woman who has as close to a superpower as we can get.” I obviously had to watch it because I have a little superhero of my own. As I watched this video, I immediately fell in love with Mama Hill and I will definitely agree that she has a very impressive super power.
Millicent “Mama” Hill is a retired schoolteacher living in one of the toughest neighborhoods of Los Angeles. She says she represents a mother figure to around 3,000 revolving children. There is only one room in her house that she can call her own because she has opened up her home to the local children as a safe haven for them to get away from a destructive home environment.
If you imagine the kids that are growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in LA, you probably imagine that violence, gangs, sex and drugs have affected their lives at some point. This is a very strong destructive cycle that Mama Hill is up against but she has a very strong super power to fight it. Her super power is love.
Mama Hill is genuine proof at how far loving (and I mean genuinely loving) a child can go. As she talks about these kids and teens she says, “They’re looking for family, they’re looking for somewhere to have love and to be accepted.” So this is what she has provided for them.
In the video, Mama Hill tells the reporter that she had a young girl come to her and say that while she was at school, another girl hit her. Mama Hill instructed the young girl to bring the girl that hit her to the house the next time she came over. This changed the violent girl’s life. She gives a tearful explanation of how grateful she is to Mama Hill that proves how far love and respect can go. She says:
“When I first came, I was always fighting and arguing with people. Here I’ve been put together and saved. Me not having a mom… she’s [Mama Hill] done so much for me like, when I didn’t have clothes, she gave me clothes, food, she could have gave up on me and let me go and I would have still been a bad child, but for her to still be here and still take care of me and help me like this showed me that she really cared. She really do love me.”
Mama Hill gets it. My favorite quote from this video (and I loved pretty much every word that came out of this woman’s mouth) was, “When you love yourself, you don’t want to hurt other people.” Her goal is to stop these kids from hurting so they won’t hurt anyone else. That is a superhero.
We need more superheroes like Mama Hill in this world. She is one woman who is making a huge difference. If children have no one at home to teach them what it means to be given love and respect, they need to be given those things somewhere else. If they don’t have an example of how to show kindness and love, they can’t be expected to show kindness and love to anyone else. That is exactly what this woman is doing, teaching kids how it feels to be loved and respected, so they can give love and respect to anyone they encounter. The world would be a much friendlier place if there were more people like Mama Hill that devoted their lives to showing kids the joy one can feel by doing something kind for another.
Superheroes come in many sizes, shapes, ages, and forms. Don’t let your circumstances prevent you from being a superhero.
Wednesday, January 15 2014
I am a first time mom and only nine months in and I realize it’s normal to worry about how you are going to teach your child to be confident, independent and respectful, but Jax is a little different than “normal” kids. Because he is visually impaired, and his eye looks a little different, he will face different struggles than the other kids his age. It would be easier for me to just do things for him when he gets down or frustrated because of his differences, but I learned from my mom that this will not help him in the long run. Confidence is important for a child to be independent, and I hope I can give Jax all the confidence he needs to succeed and be happy.
I got permission from my mom to share this letter that I wrote for her. I am sharing it because her method of parenting taught me to have respect for her, respect for others, and respect for myself. My mom gave me the confidence that I needed to be independent as a child, adolescent and now as an adult. I gained independence because she allowed me to do things on my own, make mistakes, and learn from them. Excuses weren’t allowed in our house.
In this letter, I am actually thanking my mom for being “mean.” I am not giving parenting advice by any means; my kid is only nine months old. I’m not underestimating the task that I face either. I am only sharing what worked for my parents in raising me, and that I will try to do the same things for my child. I see a lot of criticism floating around the Internet about ungrateful kids who become adults that feel entitled to everything because their parents gave them everything that they wanted and didn’t know how to tell their kids no. That is the reason I wanted to share the positive perspective from a kid (who is now an adult and a parent) that thought her mom was mean and strict growing up because her mom knew the word no and wasn’t afraid to use it. This kid, who happens to be me, only describes her childhood as happy and perfect, and now knows that her mom was not mean at all, she was preparing her daughter for life and her daughter couldn’t be more grateful.
Thank you for being “mean” to me, while I was growing up. I put the word “mean” into quotations because, thinking back, I now realize you weren’t being mean at all. You were showing me how much you loved me. You were showing me that you cared about how I would turn out.
I wish I could go back in time to tell my younger self that those “mean” things you did were all serving a very important purpose. Those “mean” things were actually preparing me for the real world. I would have listened more, argued less, and focused more on the things that would help me be successful. I would tell myself, moms really do know best!
You not only prepared me for the real world, you taught me how to be a good parent as well. I am so blessed that I have you as an example. You have given me the confidence that I need to be a loving, nurturing and dedicated mother.
Becoming a parent has taught me, that it’s not about me anymore. Until I became a mom, I didn’t understand, or even think about, all of the things you and dad gave up for me. You made sacrifices to make my life better, and that is what being a good parent is all about.
After becoming a parent myself, I am starting to understand how much you have actually sacrificed for me. I am only nine months in and the hours of sleep I have sacrificed are adding up quick. There are also those late nights out, vacations, clothes, a clean house, and so many more things that you gave up, because you wanted to see me happy. Not every parent knows how to be selfless and put their child’s needs first, so I want to say thank you for doing that for me.
When I was young, I often complained about being bored. Your response to my complaints was always the same, you would say, “Go outside and find something to do” or “go knock on the neighbor’s door.” You didn’t let me sit inside and play video games, you gave me the chance to exercise my imagination. I was, in no way, addicted to the screen. I could go outside and make a fort in the woods or pretend the back shed was my house. I could entertain myself for hours or find a friend to play with. Thank you for teaching me to be creative and learn to entertain myself. Even if it was a way to get me out of your hair for a little while, it taught me independence.
The ability to be independent, which you started teaching me at a young age, is something I hope to teach my kids. You always trusted me enough to let me try things on my own. Your confidence in my ability to figure things out helped me to build confidence in myself. If I needed you, you were always there to push me in the right direction. As my self-confidence grew, so did my independence. I figured out early that if I wanted something done, I shouldn’t expect you or anyone else to do it for me, I should do it myself. This saved me from a lot of letdowns in the real world and taught me to be grateful when someone did help me out.
As an adult, I know I am not entitled to anything. Growing up, you made it a point that I would have to earn the things that I wanted, because this is how the real world works. You and dad earned the money, so if I wanted to buy a toy, I’d have to earn the money from you in order to do so. This made it clear to me that no one owes me anything. You showed me the importance of hard work and that hard work does pay off. I might have been angry then, when you wouldn’t buy me that toy, but I am thankful now that I didn’t get everything that I ever wanted. It taught me to be grateful for gifts and that there are benefits to working hard.
Because you provided me with a roof over my head, food to eat, and the cool clothes that I had to have, I was expected to help around the house. I had to help rake the yard, shovel the snow, mow the yard, vacuum, unload the dishwasher, do my own laundry, and anything else you asked me to do. I had to get these things done before I could hang out with my friends, and I had to get them done right. You set cleaning standards for me and I was expected to meet them. I remember times when my bathroom didn’t pass your inspection, and instead of fixing my job for me, you were “mean” and made me do it myself. It not only taught me how to make a toilet sparkle, but it taught me that if you have a responsibility, you better do it the way its supposed to be done.
Your high standards taught me to take care of my domain and be proud of what I have. You taught me the importance of an organized home and the stress that clutter can bring. I now take pride in the appearance of my things and I can confidently take care of my own home as an adult. I can now mow an extremely straight line into my lawn because of all the practice I had, and it might sound stilly but I am proud of that, because it looks awesome. Thank you for showing me how great it feels to take pride in what I have and to be proud of my accomplishments, even if it is just a snow free driveway or a really straight line on my lawn.
When I did a good job at something because I did my best, you always gave me praise. You knew when I didn’t try my hardest and knew when I could do better. You criticized me, but only constructively, because you wanted me to learn to do my best and to be the best that I could be. You were always honest with me, which taught me to benefit from criticism, not cry over it.
You taught me by example, the importance of setting goals and having expectations of myself. You showed me that if I am unhappy, only I have the power to change that. I saw that you had a dream to own your own business, and I watched you make it happen. You took the time to do what you needed to do, to be where you wanted to be. You worked full time while you got your business degree, I saw you feeling the pressure, and I watched you work your butt off to get through it. You wanted more, you wanted a change, so YOU made it happen. This taught me that if I want something bad enough, only I can make it happen.
I used to say I was scared of you, but it wasn’t fear, it was respect. Thank you for teaching me to be respectful. To have respect for you, respect for others, and most importantly, respect for myself. I respected you because you showed me that being respectful was the key to my freedom. If I respected you, you respected me. If I didn’t respect you, I was punished. If I was grounded for two weeks, I was grounded for two weeks, not one and a half. I knew there were consequences for my actions and I was free to make mistakes, but you taught me how to learn from them.
Thank you for setting boundaries and limits for me. I learned quickly what your limits were and I was afraid to cross them. I knew I couldn’t get anything passed you, so I rarely tried. If I did something wrong or was late for my curfew, there were no acceptable excuses. “If you knew it was snowing, you should have left the party earlier, so you could have made it home on time.” You made me own up to any poor decision that I made. I quickly learned the importance of understanding the consequences of something before I did it, because I didn’t want to disappoint you.
Thank you for showing me that a good parent listens to their child. A good parent knows when something is wrong because they pay attention and care about what their child is feeling. You showed me how to be present as a parent, but to also give the space that every child needs in order to gain their independence. Although you taught me to be tough, you were there to comfort me when I needed it. You didn’t sugar coat things or coddle me, because the real world isn’t sugar coated. You always tell me like it is. This is the best thing you did to prepare me for the real world.
You helped me understand that life isn’t always fair, and I had to learn to deal with that. Thank you for teaching me that disappointment and adversity is inevitable throughout life. If you had given me everything that I had ever wanted and I had always gotten my way, the real world would have hit me like a ton of bricks.
When I became a parent, I was scared. It’s hard not to be when you see kids on the news killing their classmates and committing suicide because they were bullied so much. But then I realized that I would never do any of those things because my mom was “mean” and taught me what respect was. She had expectations for me and praised me when I met them. She gave me responsibilities that I was required to take care of. She trusted me to make my own decisions because she knew I understood the concept of consequence. She gave me confidence.
So I thought, maybe if I do for my child, what my mom did for me, he won’t do those things either. I will give him chores and responsibility to teach him to be confident in his own abilities. I will let him make mistakes and learn from them so his confidence in the choices he makes will grow. I won’t give him a chance to feel entitled so he will be grateful for gifts he receives. You showed me that it was okay to say no, because if your child respects you and doesn’t feel entitled, they will just let it go. You also showed me it’s okay for your child to be mad at you, because their love and respect for you will never diminish, if you always show love and respect to them.
I know parenting will be difficult at times, but with the confidence you gave me by allowing me to be independent, and the example you set as my own mother, I trust myself with the responsibility of raising a child. Some say you can’t be your child’s parent and their best friend, I don’t think that’s true at all. A best friend is defined as someone you know well and regard with affection and trust. I think that fits us perfectly.
As I continue on this journey called parenthood, I am so blessed to have someone to turn to for advice. I know I won’t be perfect, no one is, but I am confident that I can be “mean” like you were. I want my son to have respect for me, respect for others, and, most importantly, respect for himself. I worry because he is visually impaired, it would be easier for me to do everything for him, but I now know that that will only make his future harder and his independence weaker. You let me learn things by experiencing failure and making mistakes. You made me work for the things that I wanted. You let me feel disappointed by not giving me my way. I am a stronger, more independent person because of that, and I thank you. I hope I can do the same for my son.
Your Daughter/ #1 Fan
Monday, January 06 2014
Hello to all of you Patch Pals fans and followers! My name is Alyssa and I wanted to start out by saying how excited I am to join the Patch Pals team! I am going to use this first post to tell you a little bit about my family and myself. Hopefully it will give you an idea of how and why I learned to think the way that I do.
One of my goals is to inspire others to have a positive attitude toward any obstacle that they may face. Although I am only 24 years old, I have encountered some difficult times in my life. When I say I have encountered difficult times, I don’t mean that I have had a terrible life by any means. In fact, I would say just the opposite; I have had an amazing life so far. For that, I have my parents to thank. They taught me the importance of a positive attitude, which allowed me to use every obstacle I have encountered as an opportunity to learn. It takes practice, but once you’ve learned to see the glass half full, and allow yourself to move forward from devastating events, you will become an all around happier person.
So without further ado, here is my story.
In ’86, my dad was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL). My parents had just started dating when my dad was first diagnosed. My dad encouraged my mom to leave because he knew what his future battle with this disease might look like, but she stuck by his side anyways. They were married in ‘87 and I was born in ’89.
In short, VHL is an inherited disorder that causes tumors to form in various parts of the body such as the brain, spinal cord, kidneys, and eyes to name a few. These tumors are typically benign, but their location in the body can cause life-threatening complications.
My dad had his first brain surgery in May of 1986, he had his last brain surgery in November of 2011. He had a countless number of surgeries in between. Some of these surgeries are more engrained in my memory than others.
Over the years, my dad’s kidneys were slowly being removed because of tumor growth and renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer). After losing the last part of his remaining kidney, he was placed on dialysis. This was a terrible time for my dad; he was battling the negative side effects of the dialysis as well as depression. The combination of kidney failure and everything else going on in my dad’s body caused him to get a very rare skin disease. He was one of the very few cases in the US to be diagnosed with this disease. It was slowly hardening his organs from the outside in, starting with his skin. He was in extreme pain all of the time.
In 2002, my mom was able to donate one of her kidneys to my dad. It was a miracle that they were such a perfect match. It was amazing how quickly he began to feel better. This transplant reversed the skin disease and saved my dad’s life. Without it, he would have died a slow, agonizing death. My mom has always shown me how to be a giving person, but this was the biggest example of generosity and love I had ever seen. I am so thankful to her for giving my dad 10 more years of life.
This is just one example of the scary things I had to watch my dad overcome while I was growing up.
I got to spend my 16th birthday in Florida, but as great as that may sound to anyone from the Midwest with a March birthday, it was because of some very scary circumstances. A few days before my birthday, on the morning we were supposed to be heading home from our vacation, my mom woke my friend and I up and I will never forget what she said, “Alyssa, don’t freak out, but I just called an ambulance for your dad.” Minutes later, EMT’s rushed into our hotel room, they placed my dad on a gurney, and within minutes, both of my parents were in the back of an ambulance heading to the hospital. The hotel then called my friend and I a cab and we were on our way too. The cab driver barely spoke English and we had no idea what hospital we were going to. To this day, I’m not really sure how we ended up in the right place.
Upon arriving at the hospital, we were sent to the ER to find my mom. As I was given a chair to sit in outside of my dads “room” with curtains for walls, I overheard the doctor talking to my mom, neither of them knew that I had arrived. What I heard the doctor say was something no one, especially a 16 year old, would ever want to hear about his or her father, “…by then, it may be too late.”
The rest of the details are a bit of a blur, but my dad was rushed into emergency brain surgery. They did a ventriculostomy, which means they drilled a hole into his head to drain the blood that was putting pressure on his brain. My mom later told me that the ER doctor had told her when they arrived at the hospital that my dad would not live through the day. He was on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma for five days. I remember wondering if my dad would ever be the same person that he was before all of this happened.
When he was stable enough, Dad was flown by medical jet into Iowa City. There he began rehabilitation to relearn to walk, talk, eat and everything else it takes to function in day-to-day life. Watching someone you love go through this is not easy, especially when it’s your 40-year-old father. My mom did extremely well at keeping my life as normal as possible while all of this was going on. I am so thankful for that.
On November 28th, 2011, my dad would have his final surgery to remove a brain tumor. The tumor had grown so he started seeing double from the pressure on his brain stem. That morning, I met him at the hospital at 6am. I hung out with him in his pre-op room, as I always did, before the anesthesia team took him back to the OR. While we waited, we joked around and talked like it was just another day. As the years went by and the surgeries added up, I had become desensitized to this process. I just assumed that when my dad came out of surgery, he would head to recovery, and he would be just fine. So when it was time to wheel him back, I kissed him on the forehead, told him I loved him and he replied, “see ya on the other side.”
When dad was finally out of surgery, a nurse came in to tell us that everything had gone well and he was on his way to recovery. I was very relieved to hear this. As we waited for the green light to head back to his room in the surgery ICU to see him, I caught a glimpse of his surgeon walking into the waiting room. My heart sank when I saw him.
He sat down and calmly told us that although they had thought everything had gone well, when they woke my dad up, he was paralyzed on his left side. He had suffered a stroke. I was devastated.
My dad fought so hard to regain his strength. He fought for about 7 months. I watched him try to relearn to walk, talk and eat again, for the second time in my life. Shortly before he died, we were told his brain tumor had grown back and he would have to undergo numerous surgeries that would last three days. He opted not to do this because he knew he would not survive it. He knew it was his time and as he put it, he was ready to go home.
On June 9th, 2012, my 48-year-old father died peacefully at his parents’ house with his entire family by his side. It was so hard, but I wouldn’t have wanted it to happen any other way. His last words to me were, “You are so beautiful, I love you.” As I said my final goodbyes, I held his hand and told him that he was the most amazing father I could have ever asked for. I let him know it was okay for him to let go, I didn’t want to see him suffer anymore.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my dad. I still have some of his texts and voicemails saved on my phone. Some days are harder than others, but I always remember what he taught me throughout the years. He taught me to always have faith. I use my faith to see a brighter future whenever I encounter an obstacle. I know that he is always watching over my little family and I and I know what he would expect from me, even though he’s gone. He taught me to be positive and hopeful and to never give up. He taught me the importance of being strong for my son, as he was for his daughter. Even though I know there were times that he wanted to give up, he always put me first, which motivated him to keep moving forward. He taught me to have compassion for others and to help those in need. By his example, he taught me to be a good person.
My son was born on April 11th, 2013. With the positive attitude I learned from both of my parents as I grew up, I am confident I can teach my son to accept that he may have to face more challenges and adversity than most kids his age. My ultimate goal is to give him the confidence he needs in himself to overcome that adversity and not let anything, especially his “disability,” hold him back. I want him to understand that he is in control of his own future and he has the choice to either, let his eye issues hold him back or push forward and overcome them. My parents taught me that being unhappy is no one’s fault but your own. You have the choice to let hardships defeat you, or you can learn from them and become a better person because of them.
Friday, January 03 2014
We are excited to introduce Alyssa to our Patch Pals team. She is a new mom of an adorable little guy named Jaxon. Alyssa and her husband Tyler have had a very challenging beginning to parenthood, however they have faced these difficult challenges with a proactive and positive attitude. We are confident that you will enjoy Alyssa's blog posts and we encourage you to check in often to see what new things she has discovered while on the journey to help her son "Captain Jax" and his fight for sight.