Celebrating Talent and “Sparks” of the Divine with Disabilities

Credit: Pixabay Commons

Credit: Pixabay Commons

In Honor of the Special Needs Community and to Evelynn, a very special Swainson’s Lorikeet.

For the past 11 years,  the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA has hosted the Festival of Human Abilities, celebrating the creative and inspiring spirit of people with disabilities.

This weekend, we showed up to cheer and enjoy amazing talented people with various disabilities like Dat Nguyen, a world music guitarist who is blind, Kodi Lee, a singer who has autism and is blind. Children fawned over the service dogs from Canine Companions for Independence.

Others gifted participants displayed skills as adaptive SCUBA divers, Hip Hop wheelchair dancers, painters with wheelchair wheels and we loved the exquisite dance performances by Bethune Infinite Dreams and the stirring rendition of You Raised Me Up  by Josh Groban by Love in Motion Choir in sign language, storytelling, crafts, visual artists from the local community, Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center (awarded the Aquariums’ Glen McIntyre Heritage Award for their dedication) and so much more!

We explored sea life exhibits,  amazing creatures like Freshwater Sawfish, floating Sea Otters (who keep a stone on their bellies and use it as a tool to smash open shellfish for lunch), breathtaking coral reefs and anemones, especially the Fragile Pink Urchin that is too pretty to someday die! I wondered how someone as intelligent as Woody Allen could call God an under-achiever when all around us, creation reminds us of His manifold wisdom.

Rainbow_lorikeet

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Then a lone bird, Evelynn with a plumage as bright as an in-your-face rainbow, an artist’s dream palette caught my eye. She perched on the branch of a shrub away from the non-stop hustle of the aquariums’ free-flight aviary.  I say “hustle” because if you’ve never been propositioned by a bird,  you’ll want to check out this slick crew at the aquarium.

The popular birds are Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) a species of Australasian parrot found in Australia.  According to the staff, the parrots all show different personality traits – Shadow likes to play with guests and finger wrestle. Tulip is a popular gal because she loves to hang out with the bird keepers. Piper loves to vocalize and play with his food bowls.

Most of the birds can talk and say words such as thank you, hello, come ‘ere, watcha doin’, hi, and call out their names. Some can even blow kisses, the slickest of them can unbutton and re-button your shirt! Why? Because you typically walk into the aviary with a cup of nectar and they’ve gotta have some!

Back to Evelynn, I was curious – why she was out there? The staff explained that she was born with defective eye sight either due to genetics or because her mother didn’t incubate her egg long enough. That means she sees things as blurry shadows, bumps into moving objects and as a result gets very nervous and anxious when there’s a crowd. As we were talking , Evelynn puffed and fluffed her deep blue with a greenish-yellow nuchal collar and deep green back feathers, getting comfortable on her tiny perch, chirping away and showing off to our little group.

park-28853_640

Credit: Pixabay Commons

I was so moved – a special needs bird displayed at a festival celebrating the ‘sparks’ of the divine. We see people with disabilities and special needs all around us but they are typically misunderstood, misjudged and treated without empathy. If we realize that the core issues they face can be traced to unavoidable circumstances or innate, hereditary issues we would be kind.  Inclusion and consideration, not pity goes a long way to make them feel valued.

I am thankful for the people, families, organizations and nations that provide care, hope, support, advocate and protect the rights of people with disabilities. We are all our brothers’ keepers. By the way, wouldn’t it be amazing if we asked to see the special needs animals at our zoos and theme parks? I am personally going to start doing that.

If you are ever at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, ask for Evelynn the special bird who is blind and sees shadows and play peek-a-boo with her. It’s her favorite game, but shh…don’t tell her its therapy.

Update: I got some amazing news…I asked about her and the very nice people at the Aquarium confirmed her name and I learnt she has a brother, Kyle! How great is that?  So now you have to look out for Evelynn & Kyle.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 2.30.03 PM

Define Normal with Arms Open Wide

Define NormalI stood at the cashier’s counter waiting to pay for a steel-gray and orange patterned Under-Armor sneakers for my son.
Sean stood fidgeting  beside me, playing Super Mario cart on his red Nintendo DS-XL. He struggles with the racing games and does better with the logical games, where he uncannily unlocks secret tunnels, levels and special powers.

I was expecting his usual eighth place in this race (Ok, that would be the last place) when he suddenly chuckled unreservedly loud, and announced to the universe, “I won!”
At first it didn’t register, because I was waiting for my card status on the panel to announce that my further descent into debt had been approved by the goddess of wants – Visa.

“I won…I won, Mom!” He announced  again, excited and waving the large red screen in the air, startling the cashier and her colleague who just ducked behind the check-out counter, presumably returning from his break.

“…the war came to me in my dreams and showed me its sole purpose: to go on, only to go on.” Kevin Powers.

“He is really excited,” the young woman in skinny brown jeans remarked quietly, puzzled.
Well, You have no idea, I thought, as I turned to acknowledge my son’s victory over Mario, Toad, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser and the members of the Mushroom Kingdom. In my peripheral vision, I caught the same looks from the other customers on the line behind me.

I felt sorry for everyone else trying to wrap their heads around the fact that his speech sounded like he held two ounces of water in his mouth which meant the words sounded like they rolled over waves and that he was still dangerously waving that extra-large red screen over his head. I knew he wasn’t acting out, he was just too excited to contain himself and wanted to share his joy.

When people first see Sean, they always tells me, “He seems normal.” And my response usually is, “What do you mean normal?” How does one fully and without bias define normal?

“All pain is the same. Only the details are different.”  Kevin Powers.

For me normal is having a boy who has never told a lie, who is a maths genius and can calculate complex equations off the top of his head. A big boy who waits, beaming with arms always open wide – even in middle school – for a hug from his mom!

Does he have struggles? Yes, but he is a fighter and his heart is so pure and remains loving regardless. Somehow I think he already knows he’ll win. His progress in school has given so much hope to his teachers, that they have opened their arms and minds to accept that no matter the diagnosis, learning is not impossible.

He is my life’s guru, teaching me to be patient with whatever life presents. His light doesn’t need much help, it just shines!

Arms open wide - Define Normal

My Sean..always loving and ready with arms open wide.

We are all distinctly defined by circumstances and experiences. The cumulative or acquired set of values make up our life and that’s where we draw from and how we project our judgements and definitions of normalcy on others.

All around us, when we see all kinds of expressions and different flavors of the divine – we are often tempted to judge or super-impose the elements from our own cultural buckets. Instead we can choose to be open to experience new things, share someone’s pain or joy and strengthen each other with kindness and gratitude, knowing that we are all witnesses to grace.

Let’s keep our eyes and hearts open to fully embrace life’s rich experiences.

With arms open wide,

Ama.

Don’t take the Mark When You Wake Up

Don't take the mark

Are you counting on your good deeds? Don’t hold your breath!

If God is the Guy up there, Dude and not Father, or you don’t believe or care that He exists or you think Jesus was a good man or prophet and a curse word to make a point,  you are not alone. It’s hard to walk the faith path. We are so visual and tactile by nature that we want to see to believe. We limit ourselves when we are awake but when we sleep we still dream.

There is something about that – the dreaming I mean. It’s a reminder that we are infinite. Here are some facts about how unique and special creation is : Even with advanced technology, man can’t make common dirt. No two snow flakes are EVER the same, there are over 4000 varieties  of the common potatoes and more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples. You are thinking…snowflakes and food – where is this going?

Snow – for at least 21 centuries, water vapor frozen into ice crystals has fallen on us in light white exquisite flakes which we don’t mind, then it turns into this hard white layer on trees and the ground, a potentially hazardous element that can cause frostbite, falls and car skids.  Still no two flakes are alike in 21 centuries – we are like snow flakes, no two people are exactly alike and it’s for one reason. LOVE.

I know Darwin thinks we evolved from a some strange creäture, who probably one that had a tail – half man and monkey, but a loving God, wasn’t confused or unsure about what we would be. Hence the saying , that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. With eyes closed and laying still, we dream.  We exist in a form that does not require physical eyes, we experience a world that doesn’t need us to move a limb. Heck, we even fly, dive into ocean depths  and experience emotions in a completely different dimension! Well, at least I do…

Don't Take the MarkTo really know who you are, is to be either loved or a fool. There is no straddling the fence. It’s like being your parent’s child. You’re either that or not. Don’t be cold in your heart towards Him. You can ask out loud for clarity if you are confused about God’s existence. He’ll find a way to get to you.

But if you chose to remain relentless in your denial of His existence … You’ll be left behind as grace departs and the savage beast ravages the earth for the remnants, like a scavenger, more determined to drag as many souls to his putrid pit of hell. Each soul a piece of the God-heart and displayed as trophies.

There’s still hope even when chaos erupts, if you keep the only part of you that matters – your soul. If you must, starve to death, get beheaded…find a way to leave without pledging your alliance in the attempt to ease your suffering. Desperate, you’ll feel cornered ….but please no matter what, DON’T take the Mark!

God is Love, Ama.