Finding the Gifts in Juvenile Arthritis

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Juvenile Arthritis is a pain in the ass joints. My son CJ was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis when he was 9 years old. The diagnosis took my husband and I by surprise though it shouldn’t have…Arthritis is a prominent disease in both our families. The thing is, when we think of Arthritis we tend to think of it as exclusive to adults. People don’t talk much about Arthritis affecting our children. CJ complained a lot about pain. Mostly when he was asked to do something like take out the garbage (!!) We thought he suffered from a case of laziness. But it was natural for him  to complain only when he was asked to do something…when his joints caused him discomfort, he would sit down with his legs up and watch TV or play video games to give his legs a rest. Otherwise he was out climbing trees, riding his bike, jumping on the trampoline, or getting his chores done. The Doctors believe the pain had probably been there since birth, so the pain he felt was “normal” for him.  He never questioned it. He knew that when he was sore, he was tired and it helped to rest and so that’s exactly what he did, naturally. We only ever really needed to ask him to do something when he was ‘having a lazy day’ on the couch.

CJ had been training in Taekwondo since he was 7 years old – 2 years before his diagnosis. He loved it. He was determined that one day he would earn his Black Belt. Although the Arthritis did rear it’s ugly head a few times during practices and he missed his first tournament due to a flare up, he didn’t allow it to slow him down. He learned the true meaning of perseverance, and indomitable spirit.

CJ had always been thoughtful and compassionate of people and animals. Suffering the pain of Arthritis as the flare ups worsened actually made him even more so. He was driven and moved to “help people who couldn’t move their arms or their legs”. When we came across the Walk To Fight Arthritis, he was so determined to help that he took off down the road knocking on doors trying to raise funds. He ended up doing much more than that!

As people opened their doors to him, he shared with them his story which prompted many to share theirs as well. I will never forget the excitement in his voice as he threw open the door saying “Mom! I met more people who have Arthritis! I didn’t meet anyone my age with it, but lots of old people! And I raised a lot of money! Someone even gave me $20!” He raised $1800 that year and he only had 9 days to do it. People were so generous and CJ found a sense of connection with others in sharing his story.

Every year CJ sets a goal to beat last years donations. Last year he achieved that goal. CJ also sets a goal to keep moving toward his Black Belt.

In December 2013, CJ tested for his Black Belt. Part of the testing was to write an essay of his choosing. CJ’s wrote about Taekwondo and Arthritis. He wrote about the obstacles and the challenges he faced on his journey to becoming a Black Belt. He also wrote about the gifts that he has found in Arthritis – He knows who his true friends are. He has become more compassionate and caring toward others. He feels a sense of accomplishment contributing in the community. He has learned that by being himself and sharing his story, he has achieved what many adults do not; authenticity. He has learned to live by the tenets of Taekwondo in every day life; Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, and Indomitable Spirit.

On September 15th 2013, CJ was presented with The Ontario Youth Award for his efforts with The Arthritis Society. This is the first time this prestigious award has been presented to someone in the Ottawa area. On December 7th 2013, CJ earned his Black Belt and although it is considered a great honor to be tested by a Master in Taekwondo, the Master singled CJ out telling him the honor was HIS to have been a part of CJ’s journey in Taekwondo because he emanates the essence of Taekwondo in the Dojan as well as out in the community.

When life presents you with a challenge, learn from it, find the gift in it, and kick it’s  joint ass 🙂

If you are interested in helping CJ reach this years goal please visit his donation page here

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Living Your Best Life – Part 3

If you are waiting for your ideal life to materialize, it’s time that you realize your life is waiting for you!

Here’s where change happens! This week we are going to take the first step to living life on your terms.

What are you hoping to take from the “Living Your Best Life” series? My best life starts with you…I love blogging, I love putting together the videos. My passion is helping you discover yours. My reward is sharing in your journey so please keep in touch. I would love to hear from you 🙂

Embrace your awesomeness!!

Living Your Best Life – Part 2

We’ve finally fully completed and uploaded Part 2 of Living Your Best Life! I hope you are as excited about this little adventure as we are 🙂

“Living Your Best Life” doesn’t have to feel like some grand gesture or mission impossible. It’s simply about living every day on purpose – making each day significant. Sometimes even putting it that way can sound a little daunting. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be.

Through a series of videos, I would like to take this journey with you – from surviving each day to fully enjoying each day, going from content to being genuinely happy.

“Life’s Journey is surely not to arrive safely at the grave in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways totally worn out shouting WooHoo! What a ride!”

Here’s to making every day count! Please keep in touch, if something in these videos has struck a cord with you or you notice changes in your life as you take this journey with us, we want to hear about it!

Embrace Your Awesome Self 🙂

Shedding Light Into The Darkness

FreedomI think it’s safe to say that at least most of us suffer bouts of self-doubt and levels of depression from time to time and we all have our own ways of dealing with it when it hits. Some of us become angry and take it out on the world, some of us become withdrawn and hide from everyone in our lives. No matter who you are, no matter how you handle it, the truth is it sucks for all of us.

Depression, self-consciousness, whatever name you choose to give it, is the result of indecisiveness and lack of commitment caused by poor self-judgement. Think about it…every time you’ve found yourself in this downward spiral, you’ve doubted yourself. You’ve cut yourself short and beat yourself up in one way or another. Truth feels right, you feel bad because you are lying to yourself. And when you ‘speak’ to yourself this way, it becomes very hard to make decisions and / or commit to anything. Pay attention to this next time that dark cloud starts to hover. What is it you are telling yourself in your time of need?

It’s not your job to judge yourself. You were created with exact divine precision. You are impeccable, exquisite, and unique. You were created exactly as you are for good reason. You and you alone have the ability to carry out your Divine Plan. What you may perceive as your greatest fault, may in fact be your greatest gift. Consider this; It is those we called “bossy” in grade school who became the greatest managers and “the nicest girl in town” would probably make a mighty lousy choice for a lawyer. Every so-called flaw is a gift when you take the time to look at it in the right light. You truly are Divine. A perfect creation.

Life has a way of throwing some pretty nasty blows our way and even then, what we may perceive as a disaster may in fact be a gift. How many times have you had your heart broken and thought you would never be able to go on? When you look back years, or even months later, you find yourself thanking your lucky stars that relationship didn’t work out!

Whatever your purpose, whatever your destiny, there is a power greater than you working for your greater good. It is only through these eyes that you will see your perfection. It is only through this plan that you will see the flawless organization of the divine chaos that we call “Life”.

Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo – Forgiveness

Featuring artwork by The Heart Painter and Nicole Cote

Featuring artwork by The Heart Painter and Nicole Cote

Dearest Love,

Forgiveness is one of life’s most difficult lessons. Unfortunately, it also happens to be a lesson you will probably continue learning throughout your entire life.

I’ve struggled with this lesson for a long time. This is what I’ve learned about forgiveness; forgiveness isn’t about forgetting. It doesn’t even have to be about reconciling. Forgiveness is simply letting go of your hurt, your anger or your resentment toward another. Forgiveness sets you free.

Holding on to bitterness and resentment may eventually result in dis-ease. You owe it to yourself and those you love to forgive. Don’t get discouraged. This lesson takes a lot of practice. Once you get the hang of it, you will feel your soul smile. You have my word.

Keep in mind that sometimes the person you need to forgive is yourself.

You make my soul smile.

Love Mom xo

Tomorrow, June 26th 2013 is the official launch date for Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo, Anyone who orders the book that day from Amazon.com will also receive a list of downloadable gifts offered to you from transformational leaders Shawne Duperon, Teresa Degrosbois, Debra Poneman, Susan Heim, Shayla Logan, Temba Spirit, and Heather Cournoyer. For more information and a list of gifts offered, or to place your order please visit the Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo website.

Thank you so much for sharing in this journey with me. As readers, you are the reason that I continue to write. ❤ Love, Sandy

Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo – Dealing With Difficult People

Featuring artwork by Nicole Cote and The Heart Painter

Dear Angel,

Remember this: “Those who are the hardest to love are the ones who need it the most.” Dan Millman said that, not me.

Everyone on this earth has to deal with difficult people. When you are faced with this challenge, try to remember that every single human being wants the same three things; love, happiness, and a sense of purpose.

In every moment, every one of us does the best we can with the knowledge we have. Some people do things because they honestly don’t know any better. Sometimes it’s easy to give into greed, jealously, or selfishness.

Supporting and encouraging you from Heaven,

Love Mom xo

See also Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo – Life is an Obstacle Course, Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo – Embrace Your Uniqueness, Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo – The First Letter, and The Making of a Book That Broke My Heart.

On June 26th, Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo will celebrate it’s official launch. Anyone who orders the book that day from Amazon.com will also receive a list of downloadable gifts offered to you from transformational leaders Shawne Duperon, Teresa Degrosbois, Debra Poneman, Susan Heim, Shayla Logan, Temba Spirit, and Heather Cournoyer.

In honor of this most exciting event, I will be sharing with you a letter from Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo every day from now until then. If what you read touches your heart, I encourage you to please share it with others ❤

Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo – Life is an Obstacle Course

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Artwork done my Nicole Cote and The Heart Painter

My Darling,

Life is an obstacle course. It is completely unpredictable and not always kind.

Obstacles and failures are necessary for our growth. Without them, we could never truly appreciate our achievements. Try to understand that every failure, every disaster, is simply a stepping stone to your ultimate achievements.

Watching over you always,

Love Mom xo

Be sure to check out Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo – Embrace Your Uniqueness, Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo – The First Letter, and The Making of a Book That Broke My Heart.

On June 26th, Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo will celebrate it’s official launch. Anyone who orders the book that day from Amazon.com will also receive a list of downloadable gifts offered to you from transformational leaders Shawne Duperon, Teresa Degrosbois, Debra Poneman, Susan Heim, Shayla Logan, Temba Spirit, and Heather Cournoyer.

In honor of this most exciting event, I will be sharing with you a letter from Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo every day from now until then. If what you read touches your heart, I encourage you to please share it with others ❤

Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo – Embrace Your Uniqueness

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Featuring art by The Heart Painter and Nicole Cote

Dear Love,

You were born with special qualities and traits. It’s so important to love and accept every part of yourself as a valuable contribution to what makes you so wonderfully you. No one else can be you better than you can!

You were born exactly the way you are to learn the lessons and achieve the miracles that only you can.

Embrace your uniqueness!

Loving you just as you are, forever.

Love Mom xo

On June 26th, Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo will celebrate it’s official launch. Anyone who orders the book that day from Amazon.com will also receive a list of downloadable gifts offered to you from transformational leaders Shawne Duperon, Teresa Degrosbois, Debra Poneman, Susan Heim, Shayla Logan, Temba Spirit, and Heather Cournoyer.

In honor of this most exciting event, I will be sharing with you a letter from Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo every day from now until then. If what you read touches your heart, I encourage you to please share it with others ❤

Marriage Is No Fairytale

marriageI have been married for 14 years. Yes, to the same man! We were 23 years old on our wedding day. We were so in love, we couldn’t get enough of each other. He was my best friend, and I was his.

Truth: At 23 years old, I didn’t have a clue what a marriage really was…and at 37, I still find myself struggling to figure it out sometimes.

In the beginning, our marriage was bliss. Although we never went away on a honeymoon, every day felt like one 🙂 And then reality set in. I don’t even know how it happened. As it turned out, the man who had the power to make my day with a simple smile also had the power to anger me to the point where I felt like a clip from the exorcist. And me, the woman who could jumpstart his heart with a look,  I had somehow learned to make his head spin a time or two as well. It’s nothing short of a miracle that we are both around today to tell the tale, there were days we could have happily killed each other.

It was a humbling lesson, but what I realized during the early years of our marriage was how very little I actually knew about myself and my husband. As I grew and changed, Curtis grew and  changed. We once seemed to have so much in common, and then it felt like we had nothing in common. He drove me nuts and I drove him equally nuts. How we survived, I don’t know. Sometimes I felt like he didn’t know me at all, and yet there were still days when I felt like he knew me better than I knew myself.

Here’s what 14 years of marriage has taught me…

Marriage is not a fairytale. It’s an adventure, a journey, a true test of patience and love. Marriage is about constantly exploring and rediscovering each other. It’s about falling in love over and over again. It’s about learning to ride the waves of chaos together. It’s not about following rules in a book, or taking advice that worked for someone else, it’s about figuring out what works for us in our marriage. It’s about finding joy in and for each other as individuals as well as together as partners.

My being a dreamer drove my realist, grounded husband insane. The other day I asked him if he wouldn’t prefer to find someone more stable like him (someone he often begs me to be), he reflected, laughed and said “no, after being with you, that would be too boring”.

I used to look at his realist personality as restrictive, now I see that it’s this part of him that keeps me grounded. His stability also allows him to be the provider he is to this family.

I love my husband more deeply today than I ever have. This past year has been my favorite as husband and wife. We have learned to appreciate each other for all that we are; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We may finally have this whole marriage thing down to an art 😉 Here’s to the next 14 years 🙂

My Child is My Hero – His Journey With An Invisible Disease

cjI can’t tell you how much it hurts my heart when people judge what they clearly know nothing about. As many of you know, my son CJ was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis two years ago when he was only 9 years old. The journey with this disease hasn’t been easy, especially for CJ.

CJ is an active kid. He loves to run around, ride his bike, and push his limits every chance he gets. The kid’s a spitfire. He just doesn’t stop. When he first started complaining about pain, we didn’t take him seriously. “I can’t take out the garbage, my feet are too sore”, “I don’t want to go to school, my legs are sore”. When it came to “I don’t think I can go to Taekwondo tonight, my wrists are really sore” we started to wonder what was going on. I’m ashamed to admit “Oh CJ, you’re fine once you get there, suck it up and let’s get going” came out of my mouth more than once. He never complained when I said it, he showed up every time. I often wonder if there are other children and parents who go through the same thing without a single thought that something more serious than ‘laziness’ might be going on.

CJ’s likely had Arthritis his whole life, he’s just learned to live with the pain as ‘normal’. When he shows up and gives his 100% at school, in sports, and on outings, he does so in spite of the pain. As he says “my body might be hurting but I’d rather that than miss out on the fun”. Each day is different. Sometimes the pain is barely there, sometimes his joints just don’t work so well, and sometimes the pain is severe. When he has a flare up (as long as it’s not too severe), it will usually only last a few hours if he stays off his feet, doesn’t use his wrist or whatever joint is causing pain that day. Using his crutches helps with a speedier recovery. He won’t use his crutches anymore though. He suffers through the pain, even if it’s worsened and prolonged because he doesn’t get treated the same when he uses them. People aren’t so nice when he’s got his crutches. They aren’t so nice when he complains of pain. Arthritis is invisible and is therefore often misunderstood. The judgements just don’t come from the kids in school, a great many come from the adults in his life as well. “Big faker” gets tossed around a lot. “Milking it” does too. “He’s smiling, he’s fine” they say. “He only uses his crutches for a bit then leaves them behind to run with his friends and grab them again” Yes, that is exactly what he does. He uses the crutches to alleviate the pain and allow his joints to heal. When he sees his friends playing it hurts more to miss out on the fun. He plays through the pain knowing full well he will pay for it later. They call it faking. I call it perseverance and determination.

Imagine being 10 years old unable to get out of bed in the morning to go to the washroom, having to rely on your mom to carry you around. Imagine being the Mom who sees her sons tears knowing that this day, he will be too tired and too sore to move at all. Knowing that no matter she does this day, there is nothing she can do to relieve his pain. The Arthritis is not limited to CJ’s ankles, and wrists. He has Arthritis in his spine, his hips, even his jaw. Will it continue to get worse? What does his future hold? Will it ever be cured? Will he grow out of it? There just isn’t enough research available to answer the questions that rest in our minds all the time.

The Arthritis Society has given CJ the opportunity to be part of an elite group when he feels left out from the rest of the world. Since CJ’s diagnosis, he has raised over $5000 for the organization that gave him back his confidence and self-worth. This year, our family will be hosting a fundraiser to help raise funds for this exceptional organization and in an effort to get kids taking about this disease, we will be contacting schools in the area to see if they would be interested in putting a basket together to raffle off on our big day.

If you’d like to help CJ reach his goal this year, please share his story with others and visit his donation page.

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