You Just Get Faster

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Legendary cyclist Greg LeMond is credited with a wise and brutally honest response to a question about his training and dedication to his sport:

“It doesn’t get easier, you just get faster.”

I received an email recently from a mom who was dealing with a fresh diagnosis of her 4-year-old son. She was asking for advice and a sliver of optimism about what stood before her family. It brought me back to our early years when we were lashing out, grasping at any piece of hope, positivity or promise of security. And it sent me on a week-long introspective journey that led me back to Greg LeMond’s quote.

It doesn’t get easier, the battles just change. The initial shock of the diagnosis fades into fights with school systems and insurance companies over treatment and services. The fear that he may never communicate fades into apprehension about leaving his warm, comforting teachers and starting middle school in a brand new environment. These battles and fears will morph into new ones… and so it goes.

Maybe, if you’re lucky, you will find peace. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you will learn mechanisms to fend off those moments (days) of depression and crippling fear about the future. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you will learn to hide from that vicious, ugly monster named “Comparison”.

Maybe you will find an outlet for all these emotions. Maybe you will start a blog and write about these fears. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you will start to receive wonderful compliments from thousands of people you’ve never met who thank you for helping them get through their tough days. Maybe you will lie in bed at night and giggle to yourself because you have them all fooled into thinking you have the first God-damned clue about what you’re doing.

Then, maybe you will put a pillow over your face as your giggles turn to tears and try to mask them from your wonderful wife… because you have her fooled too.

Then, maybe you will wake up the next morning, kiss your little hero on the forehead, fry up some bacon for breakfast and get back to it.

It doesn’t get easier, you just get faster.

This post originally appeared on Bacon and Juice Boxes: Our Life With Autism.

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Custom-Made Shoes Help Kids Trek Through Life’s Most Difficult Journeys

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A child walks into a hospital for his first day of chemotherapy. Another has already been in that hospital for weeks, receiving treatment after treatment for her rare illness. In a different wing, a teen is relearning how to walk after an accident. They’re all on different, difficult journeys they had no choice in embarking on.

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And if they’re going to make it through, they’ll need a good pair of shoes on their feet.

Better yet — they’ll need a magical, custom-made, one-of-a-kind pair of shoes. That’s what Madison “Peach” Steiner thinks, anyway.

About three years ago, the 23-year-old artist from Farmington, N.M., founded “Peach’s Neet Feet,” a nonprofit where volunteer artists paint shoes for kids and teens living with diseases, disorders and disabilities.

“We use the shoes as a way to celebrate people,” Steiner told The Mighty. “We say, ‘Hey, these are yours and only yours.’ Kids with cancer may view them as their fighter shoes. A nonverbal kid may see them as a way to show their identity.”

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Steiner estimates that her 30 volunteer artists have painted 2,000 shoes to date. To apply for a pair, parents can [email protected] with their child’s name in the subject line. Steiner then sends an application, most of which are approved. The artists sometimes even visit the kids to make sure they get the design right.

“We want the shoes to come out as unique and individual as possible,” Steiner explained. “They’re a part of the kids that represents who they are. From the beginning, I’ve hoped these shoes would become more than just shoes.”

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Kids outgrow, wear out and get shoes dirty. Kids step in puddles and spill drinks on themselves. Steiner knows this — she hopes that when they’re ready, these kids and their parents will view the shoes as a keepsake, a symbol of a long, hard but maybe beautiful journey.

On one occasion, Steiner delivered a pair too late — the shoes arrived on a customer’s doorstep days after their daughter had passed away from cancer.

“It was a situation where I froze and thought, ‘This is going to be a bad thing or a good thing,'” Steiner recalled. “They’ll view the shoes as something negative or they’ll see them as something to cherish.”

This couple chose the latter. They contacted Steiner to let her know they’d always take the shoes with them — in the car, on errands, on trips and to a memorial service at their daughter’s school, where a tree was planted in her honor.

“They were going to carry the shoes with them wherever they went,” Steiner said. “They were going to continue their daughter’s journey for her.”

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Visit Peach’s Neet Feet’s website and Facebook page to learn more. If you’d like to cover the costs of a pair of shoes for a child, head here.

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