Tag Archives: Special Olympics

My Husband–My Hero

82539460F022Today is Craig’s sixty-ninth birthday, so I decided to dedicate this week’s post to him.

Craig was born in Mason City Iowa. His father, Donald, was the son of an Iowa farmer. Donald served in the army  and returned from World War II to become an accountant. Shortly after Craig was born, his father contracted Polio as many people did at that time. Craig also had polio. I can’t even imagine the torment his mother, Mary, went through knowing that her whole family could be wiped out by that disease. Donald did pass away, but Craig recovered.

When Craig was three years old, his mother moved them to Phoenix,  Arizona. In time, all of Mary’s brothers and sister moved to Arizona as well. When Craig was nine years old, his mother married Rex Farley and they purchased a home on Stella Lane.  Soon Craig’s brother Kevin was born, followed thirteen months later by his brother Mark.

In high school, Craig developed (no pun intended) an interest in photography–taking sports photos and photos for the yearbook. That was how we met. We were both seniors at Washington High School. I was in lots of clubs which gave Craig plenty of opportunities to take my picture. It is not surprising that I am in our senior yearbook so many times.

Craig was able to turn his love of photography into a career. He worked as a school photographer and a wedding photographer. Later, he became an aerial photographer, flying all over the valley shooting pictures through a hole in the bottom of the plane. He is responsible for many of the murals you see in museums.

Throughout his working years, Craig has owned many businesses–a Circle K franchise, Radio Shack, video store, satellite installation, and low voltage contracting.  This required him to work far beyond the typical forty-hour week. In spite of that he was always able fit in time for his family and community. In addition to camping trips and family vacations Craig was involved in all our children’s activities. He helped build and operate the bicycle motocross track in Chandler. He coached Little League and helped with Boy Scouts.

Craig has been involved in every community we have lived in. In Chandler, he was the president of the Chandler Jaycees and later the Arizona Jaycees. He was the chairman of the board for the MARC Center in Mesa–an organization for children and adults with cognitive challenges. In Prescott Valley, he was an assistant to the Scout leader and president of the church council. He also assisted with Special Olympics. Since we moved to Chino Valley, Craig has served as an eucharistic minister at our church. He was also the sponsor of Prescott Oasis–a self-advocacy group for adults with disabilities.

A longtime hobby Craig has enjoyed is raising and training treeing Scan_20160330walkers. He has entered them in competitions around the state of Arizona as well as California and New Mexico. His dogs won countless awards for field trials, water races and bench shows. He was a certified bench show judge for many years with the United Kennel Club.

Now retired, Craig continues to be a loving, supportive husband, father and grandfather. An avid hiker, he has traveled most of the trails in our beautiful Arizona highlands. For me, he has always been and continues to be my soulmate and helpmate. I’m so thankful for the years we’ve had together and look forward to those remaining.

 

Living the life she chose

kirstin's new home“”Looking back on our lives, it seems we have come so far. Those limited expectations I had when Kirstin was born are long gone. Now I see a world not with limitations but only with possibilities and challenges for the future.”

“Throughout most of her life, Kirstin has walked a thin line between the world of those with developmental challenges and the world the rest of us live in. Over the years, that line has become blurred, and  more often, Kirstin has chosen our world over the simpler, safer world that could be hers.”

From This Little Light of Mine, A woman with Down syndrome shines brightly in the world.

“If I knew then what I know now, would I do things differently?” I’m sure we have all asked ourselves that question. Considering Kirstin’s childhood, I see that we raised her in a certain way. As much as possible, we encouraged her to participate with her non-disabled peers. She went to ballet classes and gymnastics. She was in Camp Fire Boys and Girls. She sold candy door to door and went to Camp Fire camp. At the same time, she participated in Special Olympics and special education classes. I guess you could say that we showed her both worlds and let her chose for herself.

Now that Kirstin is an adult, she sees choosing as her God-given right. She does listen to advice, but ultimately, she is the one who choses where her life will go. That’s why Kirstin works at Costco and lives in her own apartment. It is also why I’m sure that in her near future, she will get married. While Kirstin is making her own choices, she still needs our help. And so, we are there for her, but sometimes it’s not easy.

I see many of Kirstin’s friends who have chosen to live in group homes. They have an equally fulfilling life. They spend more of their time with their peers and less time with their families. In that way, they are more like others their age. They work at jobs they enjoy, volunteer in the community and have a variety of social experiences.

I sometimes consider that my life would be less complicated if Kirstin had made the other choice.  What if we had steered her in that direction instead of helping her become more independent? Without getting into the nature vs. nurture discussion, I can’t help but think it wouldn’t have made any difference. Kirstin has always had her own ideas about things. That’s true for most of the adults I know with Down syndrome.  They have made different choices, but the point is, they have been allowed to make choices.

When Kirstin was born, children with Down syndrome were being placed in institutions. Sadly, they were not allowed to chose for themselves. Today, there are so many opportunities for people with developmental challenges, and I see those opportunities broaden every day. But with so many opportunities, parents with small children who have developmental disabilities have an awesome job to do preparing their children for their future. Theirs is a challenging and sometimes frustrating road, but one that is blessed with lots of encouraging experiences.

I am a fan of Doctor Phil. I watch his show as often as I can. I have seen many dysfunctional families verbally duking it out on public television. Their problems vary from teens who are addicted to drugs or alcohol or sex, to out-of-control children who have been overindulged. I am yet to see a family on his show who are there because they have a child with Down syndrome. I’m sure most of those families have pleasant, enjoyable lives.

To answer my question, would I have done things differently, I’m pretty sure I would not. Watching Kirstin mature and take on adult responsibilities has been one of my great joys in life.

 

Meet the Petersons

IMG_0388_edited-1Melissa Peterson is the tall, blond, fashion-conscious member of the Handy Helpers. She lives with her mother, Fran, grandmother, Sarah, and seven-year-old sister, Trisha. In books one and two, Melissa’s father, Cody, is in the army in Afghanistan. He returns home for good at the end of book two.

Melissa likes to be well-dressed. While her friends are happy to be comfortable in jeans and T-shirts, Melissa chooses to wear designer jeans and fancy tops. According to Melissa, no outfit is complete without lots of accessories. She dons a myriad of scarves, jewelry, belts, and boots. Amber’s mother calls it dressing to the nines. Amber suggests that sometimes Melissa is guilty of dressing to the eighteens or even the twenty-sevens.

Melissa is definitely the most rebellious of the Handy Helpers. She is the one who comes up the crazy ideas. Fortunately, Amber and Laura are there to rein her in at times. Melissa is an intelligent young lady, but is sometimes lazy, especially when it comes to school work. She should be an A student like Laura, but her procrastination often costs her in the grade department.

Melissa’s relationship with her sister Trisha is typical of many girls growing up. Unlike Melissa, Trisha is a good student. She does her homework every day and appears to be a the perfect child. But looks can be deceiving. Trisha has a mind of her own and can be very sneaky. This conversation between Trisha and Melissa from book two is one of my favorites.

“I have to borrow one of your Junie B. Jones books,” Melissa told her sister, Trisha, as she walked into her room. “I’m supposed to read to the first-grade class in the library on Friday.”

“I’m going to the library Friday,” Trisha said. “Are you going to read to my class?”

“Yeah, I’m reading to your class. Now where are the Junie B. Jones books?”

“They’re on the shelf over there, but you’ll have to pay me a dollar for rent.”

“What are you talking about?” Melissa said, upset. “I gave you those books. They were mine.”

“You gave them to me, so now they’re mine.”

“I’m not paying you anything.”

“Then you can’t use my book.”

“We’ll see what Mom has to say about it.”

“Oh, all right, but you better not mess it up.”

Melissa’s mother, Fran, is the manager of the Pizza Pan restaurant. She is a busy but involved mother. Fran is patient but firm with both her daughters. Melissa has a close relationship with her mother and feels comfortable confiding in her at times. But it is Melissa’s grandmother, Sarah, that Melissa turns to often when she is having problems. Melissa and her grandmother share a love of swimming. Sarah was on her college swim team and even had a chance to be in the Olympics. When Melissa joins the Special Olympics unified swim team in book three, Sarah volunteers to be the coach.

Sarah is a loving grandmother who is always there, but doesn’t intrude–at least not too often. In book two, Melissa is struggling with her jealousy over Beth Anne. Sarah offers some advice which Melissa immediately blows off with “You just don’t understand. I wish things could go back to the way they were before Beth Anne came.” Later in the book when Melissa comes to see things differently, she realizes that her grandmother was right all along.

Melissa’s relationship with her father is one of her biggest challenges. While her father was in Afghanistan, Melissa enjoyed a certain amount of independence permitted by her mother.  At first, Melissa was excited when her father returned home and even more excited that he wasn’t going back. But as time goes on, her feelings change. Unsure about his role in the family, Cody tries to put restrictions on Melissa. Of course she struggles against this and their relationship is strained. Fran points out to Melissa that when her father left she was a little girl like Trisha. It will take him time to adjust to the changes.  This will be an on-going challenge for Melissa in future books.

The Handy Helpers books are available on amazon

What’s next for the Handy Helpers.

At about two o’clock last Saturday, I wrote the final words of the third Handy Helpers book, Red, White and . . . Bloopers! It should be available in early September. I want to share with you some of what you can expect.

It is summer and all Spike wants is to be left alone and to go fishing with his friends. Unfortunately, his parents have other ideas about keeping him busy. But that’s not the worst of it. His sister Jennifer’s new boyfriend Todd seems to be making it his mission to make Spike’s life miserable. When Spike tries to tell his parents about Todd, they say he is overacting. Todd has two older brothers and is used to playing rough. Spike’s parents think that Todd is just treating him like a younger brother. Spike decides he will have to handle Todd on his own.

Spike takes care of the problem in his usual way—with sneaky pranks. But no matter what he does, Todd seems to come out on top. Finally, Spike resorts to a plan of revenge that backfires in the worst possible way. Instead of teaching Todd a lesson, Spike accidently pranks the town mayor. His chances of going fishing are pretty much over as he is ordered to do community service for his crime.

It is during Spike’s community service that he meets some kids who live in the forest. Spike vows to help them as much as he can. But he never expected that to include a daring nighttime rescue.

 

Here’s what else is going on in the lives of The Handy Helpers:

  • Beth Anne gets her cast off and moves into her new house. She turns ten and has a bowling party for her birthday.
  • Melissa tries to adjust to having her dad around all the time now that he’s home for Afghanistan.
  • Laura has a cooking mishap.
  • Chris goes to California to visit his grandparents and returns with something that shocks his friends.
  • Logan’s dad comes home and spends a few days with his family.
  • Amber goes on sort of a date with Logan.
  • Beth Anne trains for Special Olympics swimming, and involves her friends.

 

I really had fun writing this third installment of The Handy Helpers. There are some very colorful seniors for you to meet. I think you will all enjoy reading Red, White, and . . . Bloopers! In my humble opinion, it’s the best book yet.