Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ordinary Hero: Michelle O'Neil

Ordinary Hero Award badge
Image copyright L. Kathryn Grace, 2009
All rights reserved

She's funny, poignant, involved, deep, light and a just plain good read. She's a registered nurse, a former radio reporter, a political activist, a writer. She's totally in love with her fella, whom she refers to as Hot Toddy.

A big shout out to my technical guy Todd O'Neil. Not only does he do all my computer stuff, but he's good smelling, warm, and doesn't hog all the covers.

My Technical Guy

Like so many of us, she resists disappearing into mommydom.

The pendent felt like a big blinking neon sign that read, MOTHER, NOTHING ELSE. Wasn’t the screaming baby attached to my body advertisment enough?

The Necklace

She writes a lot about her two children, Riley and Seth. Both are intelligent, funny, eager, loving, brave. With autism, Riley, the oldest, has a few more challenges than her little brother. O'Neil shares many of these with us, heartbreakingly so at times, and also the precious moments. On packing day, Mom is at her limits and sends Seth to his room for a time out, then sits back on the floor to calm herself. Riley climbs onto mom's lap, straddling her hips, and gives her mom softies.

The feel of my fingernails up and down her arms has always soothed her. It almost puts her in a trance. Now, she's trying to comfort me with them.


A shy friend, perhaps a bit reclusive, in an effort to expand her world has attended a Zumba dance class--that yummy, fast-paced, sexy workout. Zapped with the spirit of the moment, another student shouts exuberantly, "Charo-like". On the way home, in the car, exulting in her new freedom, the friend lets loose, Charo-like, over and over. O'Neil celebrates.

When we free ourselves, we give others permission to do the same.

Work it girl!

Taking the kids in for shots can be a hassle at best any time, right? Try it with a child with autism. Then get a clinic who understands how to work with children, who prearranges for you to take your children past the registration desk, avoiding the wait, and greets the children with smiles, music headphones, dancing, joking. Both children are at ease when the shots come.

Special needs parents have so much gratitude for the kindness of strangers.

People are good

She shares the things she learns that help her cope, gain insights, make peace, if only for ten minutes.

I want to tell you about a meditation I sometimes do. ... You start where you are, and go back chronologically in age. ...

Fade to black

She celebrates her daughter's wisdom far beyond her years, beyond many adults of any age.

"It's okay little guy. It's okay if you die, 'cause you just go straight back to God. Don't worry, okay? Everybody dies."

Riley, speaking to a sick baby squirrel in Everybody dies

She uses what she learns from her past, with regret at behavior born of ignorance and perhaps a certain unconsciousness, to educate those in her community with a receptive bent and, just possibly, win a few playdates for her daughter.

I just keep thinking about Besty. Wishing I had handled it differently. Wishing I had known more. Wishing I had been a better person. I am ashamed I didn't allow myself the gift her friendship would have been.

It would also be a shame for the little girls in our neighborhood to miss out on the opportunity to know Riley.

The more we know, the better we do.

Playdates and regret

For these reasons and so many more, Michelle O'Neil of Full Soul Ahead is the Ordinary Hero of the week. Thank you, Michelle, for sharing so much of your life, for giving so fully and intelligently, for being exactly who you are, an ordinary woman living an extraordinary life.

I encourage any one reading this to immerse yourself in Full Soul Ahead. Learn. Laugh. Love more. Michelle shows us all a bit more of the vision of Ordinary.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Thank you so much! I am truly honored. Wow.


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