Counting Blessings And Giving Back

I recently attended two events, which brought home both the importance of counting our blessings, and giving to others during this holiday season.

MerylMarty Lyons Foundation

This week, I was privileged to meet Marty Lyons at the grand opening of the new headquarters of the Marty Lyons Foundation in Commack. Marty Lyons, former NY Jets star, founded the Marty Lyons Foundation (www.martylyonsfoundation.org) in 1982 after the birth of his son, and the deaths of his father and a young boy to whom Lyons had been a Big Brother. Over the past 30 years the Marty Lyons Foundation has granted nearly 6,500 special wishes to children with life-threatening and terminal illnesses in 13 states. Marty is passionate about the foundation’s mission, and he takes a personal interest in the children and their families that are served.

Marty believes that by fulfilling a child’s special wish, the child and his/her family can be transported from the daily heartache of coping with illness.

“It is a joyous time that creates a wonderful memory and a better quality of life.  Every child has a dream, and although we can’t promise a lifetime of happiness to these seriously ill children, we can make one dream a reality!”

The Marty Lyons Foundation has granted wishes, including: special trips to Disney World, meeting celebrities, throwing extraordinary birthday parties, renovating homes to enable children to live with their families while receiving treatment, purchasing computers, filling a swimming pool with spring water, and many more.

Adults and Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities

20131008_133652I was recently introduced by my friend, Ellen Spiegel, to another worthy charity, which inspires us to count our own blessings while giving to others. Ellen is a trustee of ACLD (Adults and Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities http://www.acld.org/), a not-for-profit agency that serves the needs of individuals (and their families) who have developmental disabilities, are neurologically impaired, or are on the autism spectrum. The ACLD mission is to provide the opportunity for children, teens and adults with developmental disabilities to pursue enviable lives, increase their independence and improve the quality of their lives. At the fashion show, which I attended, the models included individuals who are served by ACLD as well as its supporters.

Ellen said that when her son, Fred, was born more than 40 years ago, there were practically no services for those with developmental disabilities on Long Island. Today he is one of 300 adults in ACLD residential placements, and he has a job. According to Ellen, ACLD now supports more than 3,000 children and adults in a variety of programs.  One of these is fellow trustee Megan Gardner’s son, Brian, who is nine-years-old.

“When Brian entered ACLD’s Preschool program at the Kramer Learning Center he could not speak; he could only grunt,” Megan recalled.  “He presented with no cognitive skills with the exception of touching his nose or stomping his feet on command – and those skills had taken nine months to achieve. But I knew Brian was in there, I knew my Brian was awake, aware, alive.   And … the entire team at Kramer believed me and believed in Brian’s potential too. Over the course of three years at Kramer, Brian learned to take a bus to school; he learned to make eye contact, to stack blocks and then bam!  He started to paint and color, he learned to write his name…he started to read. Now in third grade, he happily participates in ACLD’s Afterschool Program in Bay Shore.”

At this time of year, as we count our blessings, check out these two worthy organizations, which give to those who need it the most.


Memo to Elected Officials: You Were Elected to Make Things Better

GWI shared the thoughts below in a blog that I wrote immediately following the 2012 Presidential Election. A week into the government shutdown with a looming debt crisis days away, it seems like a good time to implore our elected officials to follow a few rules that every teacher and student already knows!

Let’s also remember the example of our First President George Washington.

Washington was a model of the behavior we should expect from our elected officials. He was guided by civility throughout his political career. At 16-years-old, his tutor gave him the assignment of copying by hand 110 Rules of Civility, an exercise that influenced his life. These rules were composed by French Jesuits in 1595 and were disseminated in Washington’s era. While many of the rules are outdated and anachronistic, their purpose was to foster respect for others as well as self-respect. They provided a guide to Washington and others living at that time about how to get along with one another and work together for the common good.

Advice to teachers and parents always boils down to: Model the behavior you want to see. President Obama might wish to copy his own rules and distribute it to members of Congress, and let everyone know he plans to emulate them himself.  Harry Truman’s sign on his desk, The Buck Stops Here, sent a message to the entire country. Perhaps President Obama would like to frame his own rules and place them on his desk. Successful teachers and parents know that by creating a sense of order, consistency, and trust, they send the message that respect, kindness, and accomplishment are paramount.

I don’t know of an elementary school teacher who does not begin the school year with a discussion of class rules. Secondary schools also have rules, and school districts are required to have Code of Conduct policies. Where is the Code of Conduct for our elected officials?

Here are a few “class” rules – gleaned from teachers and parents – that should help our representatives do the work of the people who elected them – and get to work solving our country’s daunting problems!

  1. Remember You Have Been Elected to Make Things Better
  2. Respect Your Colleagues
  3. Be Prepared To Compromise
  4. Stay On Task
  5. Complete Work On Time
  6. Respect Other People’s Opinions
  7. Stop thinking About The Next Election And Start Thinking About The Good Of The Country

The original blog was published in Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/meryl-ain-edd/election-obama-education_b_2093121.html

http://www.foundationsmag.com/civility.html


Memo to Anthony Weiner: The “G” Word is a Blessing, Not a Curse

 

“What are you going to do about it, grandpa?” — Candidate for NYC mayor Anthony Weiner to his 69-year-old opponent George McDonald at an AARP-Univision forum, according to the New York Post. McDonald reportedly told Weiner, 48, to not touch him again after they exchanged greetings. Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/08/06/anthony-weiner-calls-opponent-grandpa-at-aarp-event/#ixzz2bNyBkg69

“What are you going to do about it, grandpa?”
— Candidate for NYC mayor Anthony Weiner to his 69-year-old opponent George McDonald at an AARP-Univision forum, according to the New York Post.
Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/08/06/anthony-weiner-calls-opponent-grandpa-at-aarp-event/#ixzz2bNyBkg69

When Anthony Weiner referred to George McDonald, his 69-year-old rival, as “Grandpa” in an AARP Mayoral Forum this week, it set off a firestorm.  Beth Finkel, director of AARP in New York State, called the remark, “unfortunate,” saying that “a person’s age should not be a factor in politics, or anything else.”

As someone who does not vote in New York City, I have no dog in this fight. But as a grandparent, I have a big problem with this entire story line.

To begin with, ageism is nasty — just as racism, sexism, and all of the other “isms” demean us as human beings. It should have no place in politics, in the workplace, or in our lives. Our society still has a lot to learn from other cultures, which venerate the wisdom of age. When are we going to stop being so shallow?

In any case, 69 is not all that old nowadays, when people are living well into their eighties and nineties. Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was elected president in 1980; Queen Elizabeth is going strong at 87. And should Hillary Clinton run for president in 2016, she would be 69.

When did “Grandpa” become a pejorative word?  As a young child, my Grandpa was the love of my life. He was a consistent nurturing and attentive companion to my brother and me during our weekly visits to my grandparents’ apartment.  Although he did not have the benefit of higher education himself, he was a strong believer in life-long learning. He had us learn the capitals of every state in the U.S., all of the presidents and vice presidents, and the most difficult spelling words.

He would then test us on the assigned topics the following week, emulating the quiz shows of that era. For every correct answer, he would reward us with pocket change. He would take us to the local soda fountain and order cherry sodas for us.  He died when I was 12 years old, leaving me bereft — but I keep him alive by remembering. The taste of cherry soda still brings back sweet memories of my grandpa.

Today, grandparents can be 42 or 92. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are “old” if you have a grandchild. It depends on what age you had your children, and then when your kids embark on childbearing.

Many grandparents nowadays are vigorous enough to be raising their grandchildren when their children can’t. And those who aren’t raising them – if they are fortunate – are involved in their grandchildren’s lives. Grandparents babysit; they read to their grandchildren, they play with them; some even travel with their grandchildren. And they pass on family stories and values.

I imagine that many – if not most — children and grandchildren are appreciative of the unconditional love, help and support they receive from grandparents.  And if the grandparents are not young at heart, healthy, strong, and able to provide assistance, shouldn’t they still be respected, loved, and appreciated? I would hope so.

You have only to listen to grandparents to know that most of them live for their grandchildren, and relish them in a way they could not enjoy their own children when they were small. My three grandchildren enrich my life with their smiles, their insights, and their love. What a joy it is to see the world anew through their eyes!

I sincerely hope that Anthony Weiner becomes a grandpa one day, and learns that far from being an insult, being a grandparent is the ultimate reward and honor.

The Living Memories Project, by Meryl Ain and her co-authors, will be published this winter by Little Miami Publishing Company.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/07/aarp-anthony-weiner_n_3719222.html

http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/08/anthny-weiner-s-grandpa-comment-criticized-92427.html


Moving Memories

photo-8When people ask me whether I miss the house our family lived in for more than three decades, my knee jerk reaction is an unqualified NO.

It wasn’t until our eldest son expressed the desire to “see my house one last time,” that I thought about what, if anything, the house meant to me.

Through his eyes, I saw our house as the home we made.

It was the house in which he took his first steps, the house in which we brought home from the hospital two more newborn baby boys, and in which we celebrated all of their accomplishments and milestones. It was the house in which I cried when the babies were old enough to go to kindergarten — and then camp and college.

My eyes welled up as I pictured my parents parking their Buick in front of our house and coming in for their weekly visits  — always carrying food.  There were countless holiday celebrations and lifecycle events with our parents, siblings, extended family and friends.

It was the place in which we entertained prospective daughters-in-law and where I pondered what it meant to be a mother-in-law. It was the same house in which we were consoled by our family and friends after my father, mother, mother-in-law, and father-in-law died over the span of seven years.

But before that it was a party house where I catered numerous kid and adult birthday celebrations, anniversaries and assorted get-togethers.

It was also the place where we grappled with problems and analyzed issues. We searched for faith and attempted to inculcate values. It was the sanctuary in which we shared our disappointments, rejections, and hurts, and sought words of wisdom to comfort each other.  It was simply put – home.

So much has changed in the world since we moved into our first house so long ago. We had been married less than three years, younger than all three of our children are now.  There were no cell phones, cable TV or Internet.  There were 34 children on the block, and after dinner each evening there was a friendly parade of strollers. Neighbors rang the bell bearing pies to welcome us.

But that changed over time, as the mothers went back to work and the children grew up and moved on.

The house felt empty and quiet. The time was right for us to start anew.

The Optimum commercial says: “Moving is hard.” And it is. It is emotional; it is stressful; it is exhausting. What to save, what to toss — as lives are relived through photos and papers and objects.

Do I miss the house in which we raised our children? No, I do not miss the physical house. It was merely the canvas in which we lived our life as a family.

The memories do not reside in the house; they live forever in our hearts. We take them with us to our new home.

The Living Memories Project, by Meryl Ain and her co-authors, will be published later this year by Little Miami Publishing Company.


Why Coming Out Benefits Straights as Much as Gays

collinsThe recent news that NBA center Jason Collins is gay was greeted with widespread attention and acceptance. In a measure of just how much public opinion has shifted, the 34-year-old Collins was lauded for his courage in coming out of the closet as the first openly gay professional athlete in this country. Collins even received a call from President Obama.

Most agreed this is a good thing for professional sports. More important, it is a good thing for young gay people struggling with their own sexuality. Hopefully, Collins’ announcement will help save lives. Gay rights advocates claim gay and lesbian teens are three to four times as likely to commit suicide as their straight counterparts.

The Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people under 24, weighed in on the announcement:

“For nearly 15 years, The Trevor Project has heard from young people all over the country who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. Too often, they struggle with accepting who they are, or helping the important people in their life love, understand and accept them. Coming out is a brave thing to do for anyone because of the prejudice, fear and hate that too often confront LGBTQ people for being who they are. Today’s public announcement by NBA veteran center Jason Collins that he is gay is an important step in professional sports and makes a great deal of positive difference for his young and impressionable fans…”

As Collins told Sports Illustrated, his announcement impacts most families:

“Some people insist they’ve never met a gay person. But Three Degrees of Jason Collins dictates that no NBA player can claim that anymore. Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who’s gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who’s out.”

In an interview with New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, Collins described how difficult it was to conceal who he was:

“It’s tough to live a lie. It’s really tough: I describe it as you know the sky is blue but you tell yourself it’s red. It’s an insane logic. It’s tough to continue to live with lies and half-truths. It weighs on you. You put on a mask, but at the end of the day you’re not happy telling yourself a lie over and over again to the point where I am now being honest and truthful and not having to have a censor button; it’s liberating.”

“Coming out” isn’t just healthy, necessary, and liberating for gay people; everyone else benefits as well. Lies are destructive, not only to the person telling them, but also to everyone else who becomes collateral damage. For example, Carolyn Moos, who had an eight-year relationship with Collins, told TMZ that she had no idea that he was gay. His former fiancée said she never suspected at all, and she could not understand why he broke up with her.

“It’s very emotional for me as a woman to have invested [eight] years in my dream to have a husband, soul mate, and best friend in him,” she said. “So this is all hard to understand.”

Hopefully, she will now go on with her life and find a husband, soul mate and best friend. But despite her shock and heartbreak, she added that she wants Collins to be true to himself, and wishes the best for him.

I suspect that is what most people who love someone who is gay – boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, sister, child, niece, nephew, cousin, or friend — would want for them. If they only knew! It’s time to open all of the closets for the emotional health of everyone in the family.

George Will, the conservative pundit, once said that to his children’s generation, sexual orientation is no more consequential than eye color.

Perhaps with honesty, love, forgiveness, acceptance and understanding, that day is not too far off.

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/#ixzz2S2ooVyQl

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/jason-collins-former-fiancee-carolyn-moos-had-no-170001023.html

http://bruni.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/qa-with-jason-collins/


April is Autism Awareness Month: 4 Great Reads from Parents in the Know

WAA-DayApril is Autism Awareness Month, a time when the public pays attention to autism – something parents and teachers in the special education and autism community live with every day.

One in every 50 children has an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And because it is Autism Awareness Month we are seeing a plethora of wonderful articles – filled with sensitivity, insights, wisdom and first-hand knowledge – written by those who are the true experts on the subject. Here are four great reads on the topic.

Ellen Seidman @LoveThatMax shares her take on autism awareness through the prism of her son Max. In her blog in the Huffington Post, World Autism Awareness Day: The Problem With Labels, she writes why stereotyping her son and other kids with autism prevents others from experiencing their uniqueness as human beings.

“But here’s the thing about labels: they whitewash the uniqueness of the child,” she wrote. “When people figure that Max has autism because he looks or acts a certain way, or when people think that kids with autism are like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, they presume to know what our children are like — which does our kids a major disservice. That’s where we, their parents, come in.”

All of us can do the following:

“…Help people understand that kids with special needs are distinct individuals with definitive preferences, likes and dislikes. You know, like any kids. Help dismantle the stereotypes that accompany the labels. Help people see the ability in disability.”

To read the whole article, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-seidman/world-autism-awareness-day_b_3001124.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

Dennise Goldberg @SpecialEdAdvice, who writes the Special Education Advisor blog, says in her article, April, a Time for Autism Awareness……a Time to show Compassion, that April may be the only time of year when the entire society discusses autism. Believing that there are many who have yet to be diagnosed, she calls for compassion for all those who struggle with the disorder:

“We’ve all seen other children or adults who struggle with autism-like behavior, but for whatever reason they are or were unable to receive early intervention.  We all know the importance of early intervention to assist anyone with special needs; the reality is that not everyone who needs it will be given the opportunity to benefit from it.

“My hope is that as a society, we not only look at all those who have been diagnosed but we do not ignore those who haven’t.  Don’t forget about those you might see in your child’s school, in the market, at a sporting event, the mall and the list goes on and on!  If you see a child or an adult struggling to navigate in a social situation show some compassion for them.  Maybe they are having a bad day or they have yet to be diagnosed with a disability and receive the necessary help they desperately need; we can offer assistance instead of judgment.”

To read the entire article, go to:

http://www.specialeducationadvisor.com/april-a-time-for-autism-awarenessa-time-to-show-compassion/

In another Huffington Post blog, Saint Judy, Leda Natkin Nelis writes in praise of her mother who has provided her and her autistic son consistent and loving support from day one. She writes that every parent of a child with special needs should have support and an advocate like her mother.

“Raising a child with special needs has been challenging to say the least. Convincing the medical community that my concerns about my son were valid, and then attaining a proper diagnosis, was a gruesome battle. My mother has been right there in the trenches with me from day one. My gorgeous and successful Asperger’s son would not be where he is today without Judy’s belief and support. From the day he was born, I struggled to understand why this tiny baby was clearly in pain. Family members judged me as a parent and judged my child. Mothers at the playground whispered and pointed at the non-functional displays of behavior. Throughout it all, Judy’s belief in me and in my son never swerved. She insisted that together we would find answers, and always asserted that she could see in his eyes that my son was a genius.”

She goes on to urge all mothers of special needs children to not feel ashamed to seek support:

“We all, as vulnerable mothers of special needs children, need an advocate. Your advocate can be a parent, a spouse, a friend, or a charity worker. Do not be afraid to ask for support. Do not feel ashamed.”

To read the entire article, go to:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leda-natkin-nelis/saint-judy_b_2996965.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

In his blog, Autism from a Father’s Point of View, Stuart Duncan @autismfather presents the facts about the disorder to strip away the fear. He says that while awareness is “mandatory,” the facts and figures can often lead to fear. He urges parents who have received an autism diagnosis for their child to “embrace the fear.”

“What I mean by `embracing the fear’ is that some parents fight against the autism and thus fight against their own child, pushing them to not be themselves, to not be autistic at all and take that fight outward as they try to find someone or something to blame and forcibly share more and more information that they find in an attempt to perpetuate the fear onto others so that they can fear autism as well.”

To read the whole article, go to:

http://www.stuartduncan.name/autism/autism-awareness-day-a-few-things-to-consider/


Dismal Jobs Report: What are the best and worst careers of the future?

The March jobs report was released last week and it is disappointing. There were just 88,000 new jobs created in March and the unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent, indicating that about a half-million people stopped looking for work. This means that these individuals are so discouraged in their job search that they have given up.

Hopefully, the economy will improve. But whether it does or doesn’t, the workplace is changing due to advances in technology and the ubiquity of the Internet. There are certain fields that are waning and others that are booming. That’s certainly something young people and their parents may want to keep in mind as they look toward the future.

Kiplinger’s Report analyzed employment projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the best and worst jobs for the future. It analyzed fields that are expected to add the most positions at the fastest rates through 2020. Additionally, Kiplinger’s looked for occupations that pay well and have been increasing wages. Included are fields that both require higher education and those that offer good pay and opportunity with less schooling.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/05/the-march-jobs-report-in-seven-charts/

Top 10 Worst Jobs of the Future

1. Post Office Clerk

2. Switchboard Operator/Call Receptionist

3. Semiconductor Processor

4. Sewing Machine Operator

5. Printing Press Technician

6. Desktop Publisher

7. Door-to-Door Salesman

8. Floral Designer

9. Newspaper/Magazine Reporter

10. Jeweler

Read more 10-of-the-worst-jobs-for-the-future

Conversely, other fields are booming due to changes in demographics and technology.

10 hot jobs of tomorrow

1. Registered Nurse

Projections indicate that more than 711,000 RNs will be added to the employment rolls by 2020, the most of any occupation. As the population ages, there will be more patients requiring care. To become a registered nurse, you need a degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program, as well as a nursing license. For an advanced nursing position such as a nurse practitioner, a master’s degree is required.

2. Systems Software Developer

This is a burgeoning field due to the escalating computerization of our personal and professional lives. It’s necessary to have a college degree in computer science or software engineering, and a master’s degree is required for certain positions.

3. Plumber

The demand for plumbers is expected to grow with new building construction, heightened attention to water efficiency, and the perennial need for plumbing maintenance.

Most plumbers begin with a paid four- or five-year apprenticeship. You might also need to be licensed, depending on your state’s requirements.

4. Construction Equipment Operator

As soon as it becomes a priority to repair the country’s rundown infrastructure, construction workers will be in demand. This is a field that is typically learned on the job, but there are also apprenticeships or private trade school programs available.

5. Electrician

The need for increased connectivity at home and at work, the growing use of alternative energy, and housing renovation and construction will offer more opportunities for electricians.

Most electricians get started with a paid four-year apprenticeship. Most states also require you to be licensed.

6. Personal Financial Advisor

As baby boomers age, they will need investment and retirement advice.

A bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, accounting or a similar field is the best preparation, but most employers don’t specify a required major. Certification, which requires a bachelor’s degree, at least three years of relevant work experience, and passing a rigorous exam on a wide range of financial issues, enhances your professionalism. Licensing is required to sell certain types of insurance and investment products.

7. Physical Therapist’s Assistant

The aging of the population will increase the demand for physical therapy professionals.

Therapist assistants fall between full-fledged physical therapists and lower-skilled therapist aides in terms of pay and training required. Although assistants typically earn about $27,000 less a year than physical therapists, they just need an associate’s degree, as opposed to a therapist’s doctoral degree, to get started.

8. Computer Network Administrator

To become a network administrator, who runs the day-to-day operations of an organization’s computer network, you will need a degree in computer or information science, or in computer or electrical engineering.

9. Painter

Little experience is necessary to become a house or building painter; you can get on the job training. But formal paid apprenticeships are also available. To become an industrial painter, you may need certifications for certain jobs, which can take one day to several weeks to obtain.

10. Dental Hygienist

In addition to growing demand for dental hygienists, the numbers of dentist and dental assistant jobs are expected to increase by 20.7% and 30.8%, respectively.

To become a dental hygienist, you usually need a two-year associate’s degree in dental hygiene, which requires you to study anatomy, physiology, nutrition, radiography and periodontology. You also have to get a license to practice. Requirements vary by state.

Read more at kiplinger.com