Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Life That Chose Me

It all began with my birth to my parents, David and Ann, in the summer of 1968.  I'm sure I must have enjoyed being an only child for a couple of years. Two years later though my sister arrived followed by my brother 4 years after that.  Now, we were a family of 5.

Dad, Mom, and Todd

Me and Susan
Growing up, I had a pretty easy childhood.  My sister and I got along for the most part, as well as any typical sisters do.  We had our share of sibling rivalry, but we also had moments of sisterly bonding.  My brother was born with Down Syndrome.  My mother explained to us when he was born that he was a special brother that God sent to us.  Although he couldn't do some of the things we could or that a typical brother does this never mattered to me, and I grew up accepting Todd as he was. 

I have always been told that we are put on this earth for a reason, and I believe my brother was born into my family with a special purpose for me.  Unknown to me at the time, I believe the experiences I had with my brother and what he taught me (consciously and unconsciously) helped prepare and shape my future.

Prom 1986

Fast forward to high school.  I first met my husband Chris when we were seniors in high school.  We met in coach Thompson's World History class, and his pick up line was, "Hey babe, when are we going out?"  I responded by rolling my eyes and saying, "Never."  You know the saying never say never?  Well, I have learned never to say never.  A few months later our senior class had its senior party.  It was here that I finally gave in and we ended up going on our first date.  We went on a few more dates, graduated, and then it fizzled out as we went our separate ways to different colleges.  I enrolled at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches majoring in Speech Pathology, and Chris went to Kilgore College in Texas to major in Radiology Technology (Think X-rays).  I'm not really sure why I chose speech pathology as my major.  The fact that my brother had communication issues may have drove me in that direction.

A year later my days at Northwestern came to an end.  Sadly, the speech pathology program was dropped from the college, so I returned home and enrolled at Lousiana State University-Shreveport in the same program under education.  Another year later guess who I met up with?  You guessed it.  Chris had graduated from Kilgore and had returned home. 

Me and Chris

Chris and I began dating again.  He found a job at the VA Hospital in Shreveport, and I completed college with a degree in speech pathology.  Here is where things began to change.  Chris and I were married in the spring of 1992.  My next plan was to earn my Master's degree in speech pathology.  I had expected to just enroll and begin classes, but due to a waiting list to get into the program at the time my plans abruptly changed.  While waiting to get into graduate school a friend, who was also waiting to get into the same graduate program, told me about her plans to teach special education.  I'm not sure what led me in this direction.  It could have been the fact that I just needed a job at that time, but I'm pretty sure this was God's plan for me.  Before I knew it, I'm back in school taking special education classes while teaching one at the same time.  In the meantime, Chris began learning how to do ultrasounds, and as a result this changed his career.


Three years later, Chris and I were blessed with a son.  My son, Nicholas, was born with Down Syndrome.  I remember the day he was born so clearly.  I think the first feeling I had was shock.  I had no idea and had not even thought about the possibility of having a child with Down Syndrome.  The first few days were filled with sadness and a grief period so to speak.  The grievance of not having a "normal" child and thoughts of what would come next.  This period of sadness soon went away.  I had the chance to reflect on what I knew about my brother who had Down Syndrome, and the opportunity to meet some tremendous parents in the same situation through the support group Up With Downs.  Nicholas is now 16 years old.  I would not trade him for the world.  I don't know why God chose to place Nicholas in my life.  Perhaps it was to show what unconditional love is.  Maybe it was to teach me patience.  Whatever the reason I just feel blessed and love him more each day.


In 2000, Chris and I were blessed again with a second son.  Caleb was born and Nicholas now had a brother.  I knew Nicholas was going to be a challenge, but little did I know how much of a challenge my second child would be.  Caleb is the complete opposite of my easy going Nicholas.  From the moment Caleb came into the world he was a force to be reckoned with.  Full of energy and strong willed, he can test my patience daily.  Despite the challenges, I can also look at Caleb and see a passionate, sensitive, and smart child.  He brings to the family his own personality and is loved for who he is. 

At the same time I was busy having a family, I was also still teaching.  Instead of going back to school and finising my speech pathology degree I finished my education degree and earned a special education certification.  I have been teaching special education now for 19 years and in that time I have also received a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction and my Reading Specialist certification.  The challenges of teaching special needs children are many, but it is also rewarding and meaningful.  Being a special education teacher requires a lot of patience.  The fact that I have stayed in this profession for as long as I have tells me that I made the right decision. Each year brings new challenges with each class.  I work hard to try and give each of my students what they need and hope that I am making a difference in their lives.

As I reflect back on the last 40 years of my life, I am amazed at where it has taken me and where I have ended up.  All the experiences I have had in the past and present have made me into the person I am today.  From the family I was born into to the person I married and had children with, all have been a meaningful part of my life.  This is the life that chose me, and one I will always be thankful for.

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