Life Lessons: Learning to stand up for yourself

In a perfect world we would have only friends and everyone would behave and get along with each other but this is fantasy because unfortunately we don’t all get along with each other and we aren’t always friends with one another. The sad reality is that for most of us as kids we have experienced some form of teasing and name calling and even some roughing up at the hands of a bully. I remember as a kid being shy and quiet so I didn’t really have too many friends but I was fortunate in not having too many experiences of being teased or treated badly.

I got along with kids in school in my youth and pretty much kept to myself. I know that growing up can at times have moments of awkwardness for most of us and we have to rise above it and be strong. We may be sensitive and not take well to criticism or teasing so we have to have a good disposition and not be easily intimidated. We have to learn to stand up for our self and to not be easily hurt by others.

In raising a special needs child I know how hurt they can be by the actions and words of other kids. I don’t believe kids really mean to hurt others but they can at times be pretty cruel in what they say or do. I know my son has felt hurt and at times asked not to go on the school bus because he was being teased and wanted to avoid the situation. As a parent you know that you are sometimes dealing with sensitive matters and you have to respect your child’s feelings and listen to what they have to say. In a case like that you try to have your child talk it out and express what they are feeling. You also need to bring the matter to the attention of the school to prevent further incidents from occurring.

Kids who are different for whatever reasons do seem to fall prey to teasing and name calling and that is also true of kids on the autistic spectrum. Autistic children tend to isolate themselves and react to things with a heightened awareness and can at times behave in unorthodox ways because they see and experience things differently from most of us. It is very important that we teach our kids that they are special and they should never allow themselves to be ridiculed or treated unfairly or bullied. They need to know how to react calmly and to have a tough shell to shield them from the teasing.

In most cases the teasing is not that damaging and it is a normal part of growing up through our childhood but in some cases it has proved very damaging to some children who were victims of bullying and in the most severe of cases has led to suicide which is incomprehensible. The tragedy in these instances is that some of these children who became victims felt no way to escape the bullying and they were the subject of tormenting regularly and they felt trapped and the only way out for them was suicide. It seems hard to imagine that the pain inflicted on these poor kids was that severe and it is something that has to be addressed and prevented. Schools have to step in to prevent bullying and hold the aggressors responsible for their actions.

I am dedicating this entry of my blog to the memory of Phoebe Prince, a 15 year old Irish girl who had recently emigrated to this country from Ireland with her family having gone to school in Massachusetts where she was the subject of intense bullying by a group of both male and female students which ultimately led to Phoebe’s actions of committing suicide on January 14th to escape the merciless tormenting inflicted by these insensitive students. This is a heartbreaking story on how mean kids can really affect another child to the extent that they feel so threatened and have no way out other than suicide. I am heartbroken that this occurs and has happened many times. It is alarming and it is quite disturbing and very troubling that taunts can get to this level of severity. This is why it is so important that we listen to our children when they say they are being teased and feel uncomfortable about it. We should never take it lightly or dismiss it when we hear stories like poor Phoebe’s. I pray for Phoebe to be at peace and for her family to find strength to honor the memory of their beautiful daughter who did not deserve such a tragic fate.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Life Lessons: Less than perfect

One of the most important things we learn early in life is that we are far from perfect. Ideally we want to do our best in everything we attempt and we always want to complete what we start. This is understandable but we also must realize that the most important thing we need to keep in mind is that as long as we try our best and we learn from the experience whether we are successful or not in our attempt is that we can learn and grow from knowing we gave it our best shot and we then will become better for it. We don’t always have to come in first place to feel good about ourselves. Sure it is wonderful if we can but that for the most part is out of reach. Therefore we have to be realistic in what we can and can not do. We also have to develop and grow to become our best. I always found it more emotional seeing the last marathoner cross the finish line than the first because you feel so happy that the last place finisher found the strength and courage to continue throughout and complete the race with no cheers and no limelight. That to me is a winner because they battled themselves and they won by completing the race.

I have always felt good when I know I tried my best and I was successful in my effort. It is frustrating when you try your best and find out that it’s not good enough. That is when you have to find the courage to battle until you experience success. It may not happen overnight but if you find the courage and determination to keep at it and you keep trying until you get it right then you have proven yourself and can say you gave it your all. That is the most important lesson you learn when you have the attitude of never giving up.

It is easy to walk away from something you started if you are having difficulty. It is not encouraged to easily give up. In fact that is considered weakness and we all know that we want to have good traits which shape us as individuals. If we want to achieve things in our life then we know we have to keep trying until we get it right. We also have to realize our own strengths and weaknesses and be able to judge what we can and can not do. Sure we all would love to compete at world class level but the reality is that we are probably not world class level. By acknowledging this doesn’t mean we are giving up. It just means we are being realistic.

I have had conversations with my parents on what success is and I also have conversations with my son about establishing goals and working towards achieving them. I want my son to know that he is no different from anyone else. He should never feel less able to achieve than his peers because of his autism. In fact most autistic children who have Asperger’s are brilliant and do become quite successful in their lives. They just need direction, guidance, nurturing and a lot of encouragement.

The hardest part in trying to help an autistic child is encouraging them to find things of interest that allows them to participate with others and benefit from competitive interaction. I would like to help my son develop fundamentals in sports like soccer, baseball and bowling but I need to take a step back and let my son decide what he wants to participate in with no pressure. If sports is not the area of interest that is ok but I would want my son to find something that will help him develop as a person and to make friends and learn healthy competition.

The most important thing I told my son is that he should find something he likes and once he does he should try his best at it. I also told him that he should never get discouraged and if he has difficulty initially that is ok and if he can learn from it so he can improve and do better on his next attempt that is all he can ask for. We all have to learn by trying and once we find what we like then we should try our best and we should have that same attitude in everything we try. That “can do” attitude should translate in every part of our life.

I want most of all for my son the feeling that he can do anything he wishes in his life and that he should never feel limited in any way. He should realize that no one is perfect but that if we try our best and we don’t give up then we will have an easier time in achieving the things in life we strive for.

To me life is so much more rewarding when you share it with the ones you love. I may not be perfect but to me my life is so much more happier and so much more meaningful. My life is all about my wife and son. They are what make me happy and smile and that to me is what it’s all about.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Life Lessons: Inspired by a young girl’s courage and spirit

As the father of a special needs son I have grown to realize how important it is to have patience and to always be supportive and understanding no matter how hopeless and helpless the situation may seem. It is very challenging at times when you feel like you are overwhelmed and have no one to turn to in times of great stress which can lead to emotional unrest and depression. When you get to a low point in your life you feel as if there is no way to turn things around and you become very despondent and sad. I have lived through times of sadness and have encountered periods of depression and have managed to get through them by seeking advice and finding an inner strength and courage that helps me keep it together. We do sometimes succumb to our emotions and we get caught up in the dramas of our lives and tend to close up and become very private and try to work through the difficult times.

I have always looked for inspiration in reading books or by listening to calming and peaceful music. It seems that when we are on overload we need to take a step back and regroup. In the era of the internet it is so much easier to do research and to find inspiration through the most unlikely sources. As I was trying to find peace through listening to inspiring music I came upon a youtube channel created for a young girl only 7 years old who tragically lost her mother to ovarian cancer when she was just 6 years old. The page displays her story and her pledge to her mom that she wishes to be just like her. She developed her love of singing through her mom. The girl is very special as she sings in her mom’s honor and she has the voice of an angel. Her name is Rhema Marvanne Voraitskol and she is a gospel singer who touches your heart with her beautiful voice and her indomitable spirit. I was touched by her video singing a Christmas song O Holy Night and she brought me to tears with her angelic voice and her devotion to her singing in tribute to her mother. I was so happy to come upon her page and I find her music simply inspiring and so beautiful.

I never felt so emotional about a singer’s performance and her reasons for singing as I felt for Rhema Marvanne Voraitskol. I played her video O Holy night over and over and I was swept up with the same emotion and each time I watched and listened to her singing tears streamed down my face. Rhema has an incredible gift of reaching others with her beauty, her talent, her sweetness and most of all her courage. She is a very special little girl and she has touched my life with her inner strength and her beautiful gift of song. She has a maturity about her well beyond her years and she has such a presence and when she sings she captures the attention of all with her beautiful angelic voice.

It’s hard to lose someone so close in your life and for this young girl who lost her mother when she was only 6 years old is devastating and for her to devote her life to singing in her mother’s honor is such a wonderful and courageous thing to do and she does it so well and with such inner strength and determination and with nothing in return. She performs for all to hear and travels long distances to share her gift and her faith. I truly believe that Rhema finds peace through music and by singing she opens her heart to all and she feels a deep connection to her mother when she sings and my heart goes out to her and I am in awe of her for she has such an inner beauty that shines and an outer beauty and innocence that makes her a real joy. I also know that faith and healing comes with time and Rhema has found it and it is certain her mother is watching over her little girl from the heavens and is very proud of her as are all who see and hear her sing.

I wish Rhema a life filled with happiness, joy, love, devotion and a deep connection to her mother, her father and her family and I look forward to seeing her perform in her videos and would love to make a trip to see her perform at a Christmas mass as she is such a sweet, brave and talented girl who has such a way of touching people and making them realize the joys of life and also the heartbreaks. She is truly an inspiration and I wish her all my best and am glad to have found her and her beautiful music.

Thank you Rhema for showing me such strength, courage and beauty and for sharing your gift with all of us and for being so strong and devoted. You are an angel and a joy to listen to.

May you always be comforted by God and family and the love of your mother.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Life Lessons: A mother’s love

I have many wonderful memories of my mother and I like to think back to those moments in my life because they were times filled with happiness, comforting words, encouragement and love. A bond between a mother and her son is a very important one and the bond I had with my mother truly made me a better person and I felt a closeness that was strong and genuine. I was always shy throughout my life but I still was able to conduct myself and be heard. My mother always said that if I put forth my best effort in everything I do and I believe in myself then everything will take care of itself. I should never fear life and always should be in control and see the bright side to everything no matter how dismal things may seem. She told me to have faith and to trust in my self and to always have heart.

I learned as a young boy that if I try my best and learn from my mistakes then I could turn things around and see progress and start to feel good about myself. As a young kid I would struggle with my assignments but I managed throughout because of the support and dedication of my mom in sitting with me and helping me to learn by reading and rereading the questions until I started to understand them. She sat patiently and helped teach me the new math until I developed enough confidence to solve the problems on my own. She also made sure I received the proper tutoring in the classroom and the help and support of my teachers.

As I think back to those days and the devotion of my mother I feel very touched and I get all choked up knowing how special she was to me. I miss her and I feel an emptiness in my heart especially today as it is now 20 years that we lost her. She died on March 21, 1990. No matter how many years have passed it still is sad as I think back to the day I first found out and I still feel that pain and sorrow as if I just found out about it yesterday. We learn a great deal about life from our parents and they are the most important people in our lives as they gave us life and taught us the way to live our life.

I see the special bond developing with my wife and our son and I am very happy knowing that Matthew has a mother who loves him so very much and has his best interest at heart. I encourage him to develop a healthy bond with his mom and to talk to her about whatever is on his mind. I want him to never feel alone or overwhelmed and to know how much he is loved. Autistic children tend to be distant in their relations and their bonding and relationships formed are not as easy or straight forward but are vital just the same. I try to envision my youth and my bond with my mom so I can provide Matthew with insight and advice on how important it is to talk and be heard. I let him know that we both are here for him and he should always feel comfortable in talking with both Maria and I.

I always appreciate seeing the relationships of mothers and their children and I realize how special a mother’s love is towards her child. It is such a beautiful thing to see a mother holding her baby and sensing the love she holds for that little baby and how natural the bond is. As the baby grows so does the bond and that bond lasts as long as the mother is here with her child. The bond would last forever if the mother had her choice. My mother was always there for me even as a young man working in my mid twenties. I am sad I never had the opportunity to share my family with my mom. Matthew has seen pictures and always says how beautiful my mother was and I just feel sad that they never had the opportunity to meet. It seems life can be so cruel sometimes. We have to grow accustomed to these heartbreaks and just know in our heart that even though we don’t see our loved one’s anymore they are here with us in spirit helping guide us and they know our family and are very proud. I enjoy holding on to that and I enjoy sharing pictures with my son so he can realize how special my mother was and how happy she would be to meet him.

A mother’s love transcends all and is everlasting and it is what makes our lives so much happier and meaningful and brings a smile to our face and a bounce in our step. Thank you mom! I love you and I am so lucky to have had you in my life and I am also proud to say you and dad both helped me to become a better person so I could become a responsible husband and dad and be fortunate enough to have both a wonderful wife in Maria and a wonderful son in Matthew (Matty).

I Love you Mom!
I Love you Dad!
I Love you Maria!
I Love you Matty!
I Love you All!

Edward D. Iannielli III

Life Lessons: Embracing friendship

I envision the end as being very peaceful once we open ourselves up to God. I feel it will also be a very lonely time as we have to face death alone with our memories flooding our mind as we start to fall into a permanent sleep hearing the voices of the ones closest to us and seeing visions of their faces before we say that last goodbye. It seems to me like we all think about what it will be like when it is our turn to go but we don’t seem to worry all that much about it. However it is an eventual reality we all will have to face. I try not to think about it myself but do admit that it does cross my mind from time to time. I believe we all have some fear and anxiety about death and leaving the ones we love. It is not easy knowing that we will lose the ones we love someday or we will be called and the one’s that love us will have to get on with their lives. This has always affected me and it seems that the pain of loss never really goes away. It just gradually gets tucked away in the recesses of our mind and our hearts and we seem to carry on ok but there are moments in our lives where we will be reminded of those we lost and we will certainly feel their spirit and remember them as they were a part of our life. As we remember them we will realize we are far better off for having them in our life.

It all begins with family and we learn the importance of developing relationships and eventual friendships. As we experience life we also meet people in various settings and in some cases we develop friendships along the way. Some brief and others life long. It is a gift to find a friend who we can relate to and express ourselves with. It is very important to have friends and develop a closeness as we learn from our friends and we have a need to be accepted and have companions we get along with and have a bond with. A real friend is someone who will stick by your side at all times and someone who will find the time to listen and lend their support.

As we get older our experiences become greater and our social circles widen. This allows us to develop and grow and to greet new friends in our personal journey of life. It is a mystery on how we evolve and continue and it is something that has been debated and will continue to be debated. No one really knows how our lives become interconnected and how destiny plays a part in who we become. It just seems to happen and we are on the path that takes us to where we are supposed to go. We do have some control but not total control. There is so much uncertainty in life that sometimes we just think about why we are hear and what is it that we are called upon to do and we also wonder about the people who will touch us in our life and the people we will touch. The human condition as we know it is such a broad base but essentially lets us wonder what our life means and allows us to ask why we were born and why we are here. It seems we will go in circles trying to understand because sometimes there are no answers. All I know is that our life does impact others and their lives impact us and we all need to respect that and appreciate all the good that comes from those relationships.

The sad thing about life is knowing that it is not forever and one day that inevitable day for us will come and we hope that all the people who meant something to us will all be reunited and somehow we will know how deeply we affected them and how we were deeply affected by them and we will then understand the true value of family and friendship. It is our family and friends that help us through the difficult moments. It is our faith that makes us stronger and it is our spirit that makes us special.

The friendships we make in life are so important and makes us better and eases our loneliness. We all want to be loved and we want to love and it is so wonderful to know when we touch someone to have them become a friend. I tell my son everyday how nice it is to have a friend you can talk to and have fun with. It makes life so much more enjoyable and we should learn to embrace all our friendships for they make us stronger and also teaches us to be better and more understanding. That truly is what life is all about. We are here to develop as individuals, to contribute, to share, to love, to have family and to touch others. Life is truly special when you have family you care about and friends you share with. My biggest gift in life is knowing how loved I was by my parents and also knowing how much I love my parents, my sisters, my wife and my son.

I hope my son will have the ability to strive to be the best he can and to never give up and to always have love in his heart and family and friends by his side.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Life Lessons: A change of season

Sometimes change is good. After a long cold and snowy winter season it is now a pleasure looking forward to the warmer spring time weather. As a kid I always enjoyed the different seasons and felt it was nice to experience all four of them. I enjoy telling my son about my childhood memories and what it was like to experience winter going to Long Island’s Jones Beach with my family when I was 7-8 years old. My fondest memory of that time was being there all together with my mom and dad and my 2 sisters. We would stop for hot chocolate and hang out near the shore. It was very peaceful and quiet and it felt nice to walk along the beach having it all to ourself. I also remember the hot days of summer when we would swim at the beach at Riis park in Queens. These memories are precious to me and I remember them as if they were yesterday.

I also have fond memories of our son when he was a baby and Maria and I and her mom would drive out to Montauk Point in the fall and go by the shore and walk around. We enjoyed seeing Matthew attempt walking by the shore and I remember how he would cry when the water would come up to his feet. As he got older he would come to love the water and it would be hard to get him out of the water then. It seems we measure time by the change of seasons and it is a big part of our childhood memories.

Life is very precious and we all like to experience things together and when you have family it makes everything seem special and truly a wonderful gift. I always enjoy spending the days with my family both when I was a kid as I think back to those special days and now as an adult with my own family. The joy of seeing your child running into your arms and saying “daddy” with a great big smile is the most wonderful experience I can ever know. It warms my heart and makes me realize how special life is and why we must always find happiness and joy to share with our children.

My favorite season is the springtime because it is always nice to see the flowers in bloom and the pretty girls in their cute outfits. It is a nice time to spend outdoors when spring arrives as the warmer weather is now upon us and the daylight lasts longer and it is great to spend the day with my son. I also enjoy taking my son out to a baseball game during the spring and summer months and bonding with him.

As a kid we all look forward to the spring and summertime because we know that the school year is near an end and when summer break comes we are able to enjoy the beach and the pool and we get a break from doing home work for a couple of months. I know Matthew enjoys having some time off from school and loves going to summer camp.

It seems that the year goes by so fast and when you look at it from the perspective of the 4 seasons it seems the winter lasts a long time and we can’t wait for the warmer weather. It is nice to experience each season and though we favor one season over another it is still great to have the changes. The snow in winter is fun for the kids and I enjoy it too. The sunny warm weather of the summer is nice because it is always fun to spend time in the water to cool off.

I wish one day to see my son speak of his fond memories of childhood with his family and talking to his children of the times he remembers as a kid playing in the snow in the winter and swimming at the beach in the summer and just reliving the years and talking about the change in seasons to the delight of his children seeing them smile and listening intently.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Life Lessons: Expressing ourselves and our feelings

Self expression is very important and when we are upset or feeling down we should seek out immediate assistance and talk to someone we trust and not keep it bottled up. Living in today’s environment can be filled with challenges and disappointments and we have to realize that this is a very real part of life. Our lives at times can be filled with difficult circumstances and we always have to stay focused and know how to deal with these difficulties and the changes in our lives we will encounter.

We need to teach our children this and to always maintain an open line of communication and to listen to them and never discount what they say. Children are very bright and we need to realize that they experience a lot more today as young kids than we encountered when we were kids. Therefore if a child says something alarming it is very important to discuss their feelings with them and have them talk out what is troubling them. The changes kids experience in their pubescent years can cause them to raise many questions and to have feelings they are experiencing for the first time which may cause them confusion, anxiety and uncertainty. It is at this time in their life that we as parents must make sure we are always available to help answer their questions and properly advise them.

I have had times where my son has expressed his upset and loneliness and I am naturally feeling guilty because I feel I am not always there to help him and I wish to help him as best I can. When he does express his difficulties I try to talk to him in a way that is comforting and empathetic. My son is very sensitive and he does have many times of feeling alone even when he is surrounded with family. It is difficult being an only child and not having many friends. Our son’s condition of Autism does not help matters as it seems to further contribute to his isolation and feelings of being overwhelmed in social settings.

I was recently struck and very saddened by an article I read on the internet about a 16 year old girl who was a star pitcher for her school’s softball team in California and had won many accolades and had a very active social life and many friends. She was a superior student having a perfect grade point average and was already accepted on a scholarship at the University of Arizona where she wanted to start on their NCAA softball team and study pre-med. The sad part of this story is that this young beautiful and intelligent 16 year old girl was found at home dead after committing suicide. No one has answers as to why and all are left with many questions and very heavy hearts and a lot of pain.

There are so many questions as to why a young and gifted child would be in such pain to take their own life and the answers as to why are few and far between. It is a very sad reality that suicide in teens is on the rise and with the increasing pressures of life it seems there will unfortunately be more stories similar to this poor 16 year old girl from California who seemed to have a model life.

All I know is that we all have periods of feeling alone and sad in our lives no matter our age and we all from time to time will encounter depression and periods of isolation and may want to get away from the pain we feel. We must at this time recognize how very important it is to reach out and talk to someone we trust and share the pain we feel. I as a parent need to know how important it is to truly listen to my son and fully know and understand what he is going through and be there to help him and guide him. Listening to your child is the most important job you will ever have and the responsibility is a great one which must be taken very seriously.

We all have to learn to fit in and appreciate who we are so we can live full and happy productive lives. We need to feel loved and accepted and that goes especially for autistic children. My main purpose in life is to see my son learn to mature and develop and experience all the things he should be experiencing. I wish for him to excel in his school and to find activities both inside and outside of school that will interest him and provide him with challenge and opportunity. I want my son to achieve, to be happy and to find enduring friendships and most of all to feel confident in himself so one day he will be able to go out into the world as a young man with a high self esteem knowing he can do anything he wishes. I want my son to be proud, happy, successful and to have companionship.

I want my son to love life!

Edward D. Iannielli III