Sunday, May 31, 2015

Encouragement Challenge #22: Candy Just Because

Tomorrow is the first day of June, and JUNE is National Candy Month! (It seems there's a month for just about everything these days, doesn't it?) Most of you probably wouldn't have known about it if I hadn't mentioned it but, since you do know about it now, lets use it for this week's Encouragement Challenge...

Take the opportunity this week to buy someone in your life their favorite kind of candy (or other sweet treat). Do it JUST BECAUSE you love them. And, when you give it to them, be sure to use kind words and tell them several reasons why they make your life sweeter. The verse above tells us how gracious words bring sweetness to the soul, and are healthy for the body. In other words, your kindness can bring great encouragement. So, in the same way that bees make our lives sweeter with the honey they make, go and BEE an encouragement this week to someone you love.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Encouragement Challenge #21: Remember the Fallen

Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the United States of America.

Do you know what this holiday is about? Do you know it's not just a day off work and a day to have cook-outs with friends and family? Of course, having cook-outs and family gatherings is not wrong to do, but the main purpose of the day is for us to set aside a small amount of time for solemn remembrance of our fallen soldiers.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day (due to the graves of fallen soldiers being decorated), was meant to honor the soldiers who had died during the American Civil War. Then, after World War I, the holiday changed to recognize ANY soldier who had died while fighting during ANY war.

So, what can we do? There's nothing we can do to bring back those who have perished but, in order to show our patriotism, we can still decorate their graves out of respect, we can fly an American flag in their honor, and we can take a few moments out of our day to stop and remember the sacrifice these soldiers made for our country.

The National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed in the year 2000. It asks that at 3:00 p.m. local time on each Memorial Day, all Americans pause for at least one minute to observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect. One way this can be done is to listen to a version of Taps.

I encourage you, at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, to stop and say a prayer for those who have lost loved ones in battle, for the safety of soldiers who are currently serving, and for the future of our country. Then, also take a moment to listen to one of these versions of Taps and reflect on what Memorial Day really means:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Encouragement Challenge #20: Thank an EMS Worker

In January 1972, the NBC television program “EMERGENCY” made its debut and introduced paramedics to America. 

In 1974, President Gerald Ford declared November 3-10, as the first “National Emergency Medical Services Week.” Years later, the month for EMS week was moved and officially set as the 3rd week in May.  (See more info at:  ACEP's EMS WEEK HISTORY)

This year, EMS week is set for MAY 17-23. It begins today and goes through Saturday. This year's theme is EMS STRONG

If you know someone who works in EMS, or see an EMS worker when you are out and about this week, please take a moment to thank them for the work they do. Send a card of thanks to your local ambulance department, drop off a plate of cookies, or think of some other way to encourage them to continue serving you and your community.  

Thank you, EMS personnel, for all you do!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tourette Syndrome: What it is and What it isn't

TODAY is the start of Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month. It's a little odd, because it doesn't cover one specific month, like how the month of April is for Autism Awareness. Instead, TS Awareness begins May 15th and goes to June 15th.

I have spent several years, on and off this blog, sharing about Autism, promoting Autism Awareness, and trying to educate those who are interested in listening. I have done this because my husband and I have a  daughter with autism. But, today, I want to change focus and share a little bit about our son, JJ, who was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at the age of 5.

In July 2008, we had a 2-hour appointment with a Pediatric Neurologist. JJ had been having motor tics (involuntary movements) off and on for the previous year, starting with some eye blinking that he couldn't control. As time went by, he had developed head nodding tics, leg movement tics, and also started with some vocalizations in his throat. The severity of the tics would come and go and we noticed, when his tics were at their worst, JJ's behavior was much more difficult. He was moody, easily angered, and more fatigued. Based on all these symptoms, and the observations that were made, JJ had met the criteria for being diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.

Tourette Syndrome is not as widely discussed as other disorders (like Autism) and, because of that, there are quite a few misconceptions about TS, and what it really is.

First of all, let me tell you what Tourette Syndrome is NOT:
  • It is not a contagious disease - you can't catch it by being around someone who has it.
  • It is not demon possession - at least not in most cases. (Yes, there are people who believe that it is, but that's a topic for another day.)
  • It is not the same as having seizures/epilepsy. They are two separate disorders.  
  • It is not the same for everyone who has it - it is a "spectrum" disorder.  
  • It does not always come with coprolalia (uttering obscene words). In fact, that is very rare in TS cases (only about 1 out of every 10). Coprolalia is not required to get a diagnosis of TS, and it rarely persists when it does present itself. 
  • It is not voluntary - believe me, a person would not CHOOSE to have this disorder.
  • It is not something that can be controlled - at least not for long lengths of time.  
  • It is not caused by a lack of intelligence.

And, now... What it IS:
  • It is a neurological disorder - a disorder caused by abnormalities in the brain or central nervous system. 
  • It presents with involuntary movements (tics) of the face, arms, limbs or trunk, as well as vocal tics (humming, grunting, clearing the throat, yelling, etc.) These tics are frequent, repetitive and rapid. The most common first symptom is a facial tic (eye blinking, nose twitching, or a grimace), and is later replaced, or added to, by other tics of the neck, trunk, and limbs. Tics will often change over time.
  • Many young children will exhibit motor tics as they are developing, but this does not necessarily mean they have Tourettes.  For a child to be diagnosed with TS, he must have multiple motor tics AND vocal tics that have lasted for at least a year.
  • It is often an inherited, genetic condition. 
  • Tics will wax and wane over time, meaning they increase or decrease for no apparent reason. 
  • Tics are often worse with excitement or anxiety; and better during calm or focused activities. Music can be beneficial as some will not exhibit any noticeable tics while they are playing a musical instrument.
  • It often involves co-occurring conditions, such as ADHD and OCD, and can also coincide with learning difficulties, developmental delays and sensory processing disorders.
  • It is involuntary. Some people with TS can sometimes suppress or camouflage their tics for a short time. However, suppressing them will not make them disappear. People with TS often report a buildup in tension when suppressing their tics to the point where they feel that the tic must be expressed. It is similar to the feeling of needing to blink your eyes after trying to keep them open for any length of time. Or, is similar to what you might feel as you are getting ready to sneeze. You feel the build-up, then it eventually just explodes out of your control. In many cases, if tics have been suppressed throughout the day, they are later expressed during sleep, sometimes causing sleeping difficulties. 
  • Depending on the severity of the disorder, tics often decline as children and adolescents move into adulthood, but not always. 
  • There are suggestions that environmental agents and/or infections might play a role in the development of TS. Others believe Serotonin levels in the brain can play a part. But there is currently no known cause or complete cure for the disorder.


BRAD COHEN. He is an author, speaker, and teacher with TS, and started the BRAD COHEN TOURETTE FOUNDATION, a non-profit organization that helps raise money and awareness to help those affected by TS. A Hallmark movie was made based on Brad's life called "Front of the Class." It is a great, inspirational movie that I recommend watching.

JIM EISENREICH is a baseball player for the Florida Marlins. He was 6 years old when his symptoms began to surface. He started the JIM EISENREICH FOUNDATION for Children With Tourette Syndrome to help diagnosed children, and their families, find answers to their initial questions and provide links to resources that can help them learn to cope with Tourettes.

JAMIE GRACE is a Christian singer, diagnosed with Tourettes at the age of 11. Here is Jamie with an inspiring talk about Tourette Syndrome. Please take a few moments to watch and listen to what she has to say. No matter what kind f challenge you are facing today, you will be encouraged by her testimony: RANSOM NOTE - by Jamie Grace

If you have any other questions about Tourette Syndrome, you can learn more on the National Tourette Syndrome Association website, or feel free to leave questions in the comments below (or contact me privately). I will do my best to answer them.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Encouragement Challenge #19: Honoring Mothers

 Happy Mother's Day! 

On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother's Day as a day for American citizens to display the flag in honor of mothers whose sons had died in war. Here is a portion of the Presidential proclamation from this day:  
"Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."  (You can read the full proclamation on THE PRESIDENT WOODROW WILSON HOUSE BLOG)
Over the years, Mother's Day has morphed into a special day when we acknowledge ALL mothers for the roll they have played in our lives. While there are many different ways to celebrate and honor  mothers, I think its important to realize that most mothers don't really care about how much you spend on them. They are happiest when you simply show you care about them through a meaningful act of your time.

Consider using one of these ideas to honor your mother this week. (NOTE:  If your mother is deceased, several of these ideas can still be done in honor of her.)

1.  If it works out good for your family, consider cooking her a special meal at home. If you do this, be sure to do ALL the grocery shopping, meal prep, and clean-up. Set the table nice and just let her relax. If you can't cook, or if your mother REALLY wants to go out to a restaurant, let her choose the place to go.

2.  Instead of buying cut flowers that will die in a week, consider planting potted flowers (or a tree) in  her backyard (or in your own backyard if she is deceased). You could even make a minimum $10.00 donation to THE ARBOR DAY FOUNDATION in your mother's honor. Each dollar donated will plant one tree in one of our nation's forests, so $10.00 will plant 10 trees.

3.  Instead of buying expensive gifts, just spend time with her. If you live too far away, be sure to at least call her and talk to her on the phone for awhile. She just wants to know you care about her.  

4. Write a thank-you note to your mom for the roll she has played in your life. Even if you had a mother who was not very loving towards you, or who was absent a lot of the time, you can at least thank her for giving you life instead of aborting you.

5.  Ask your mother what she wants you to pray about for her, then pray for her daily this week (or longer if you like). 

6.  Make a donation in your mom's name to her favorite charity or religious organization.

7.  Name a star after her at STAR-REGISTRATION.

8.  Tell her you love her and show her that love in your actions.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Encouragement Challenge #18: National Day of Prayer

The National Day of Prayer is set for this Thursday, May 7, 2015. The theme for this year is Lord, Hear Our Cry, which emphasizes "the need for individuals, corporately and individually, to place their faith in the unfailing character of their Creator, who is sovereign over all governments, authorities, and men."

I encourage you to get onto the WEBSITE and learn more about what this day of prayer is all about.

Then, click the link below to learn HOW you can pray for America. There are several links on this page where you can download a FREE prayer guide, or you can choose some other way to get involved in this National Day of Prayer.