Archive for October, 2015

The answers you seek never come when the mind is busy; they come when the mind is still, when silence speaks loudest. (Leon Brown)

I am off the grid. No Internet. No cell service. Nature presents the better show at Hocking Hills State Park. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. My husband and I have just arrived. Nature hasn’t had enough time to tell stress to cool-it yet.

The weather couldn’t be better—mid-fifties in the morning climbing to the mid-seventies in the afternoon. Few clouds. No rain expected. I ignore time. My husband and I don’t have a schedule. Our cabin provides no frills. We don’t need them.

People who go to parks tend to be friendly. Striking-up conversations is easy. Serendipity brings unexpected gifts. Since Jay loves to talk about travels, conversation with folk who have already checked out the area directs us to the better trails and the most beautiful views.

I relax—well, somewhat. The restaurant area has a Wi-Fi connection. I am like an ex-smoker opening a pack of cigarettes or a gambler entering a casino. I say I will post just this picture. Then write this message. Then…

The grid becomes gridlocked. And I need a lot of self-talk to press the off button on my iPad. Answers never come when the mind is counting likes on a post. Okay, that is only part of the problem. But I get it. I get it!

Search for

serenity. One more time.

Sun. Hemlocks. Red. Yellow. Orange.

Sandstone caves. One crow calling to another in the distance.

A single step followed by another. Peace. Harmony. Yes, it is possible.

hocking hills sun through trees

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Any fool can be happy. It takes a man with real heart to make beauty out of the stuff that makes us weep.  Clive Barker

Ordinarily when Jay and I pick up Ella from school he drives and I sit in the back with our granddaughter. I monitor snacks, play games, or read books with her.

Today I am at the helm of my ’97 Toyota. Ella repeats, “Grandma’s car.” She wants to know where Grandpa is.

“He went to the doctor. He will be home later,” I tell her. But I can’t see her face in the rear-view mirror. My mindset is in sync with her older cousins. They think that a hypodermic needle is to be avoided at all costs. But since Grandpa is a grownup, he would be just fine. I assume Ella’s viewpoint to be similar.

“If Grandpa gets a shot we will give him a big hug!”

There is silence in the back seat, followed by, “Grandpa be okay. I be okay.” Ella’s sweet voice cuts through me as the chorus repeats.

“Yes, he will. Grandpa will be home soon.”

The drive from Ella’s school to our house is just over ten miles. I feel as if I am driving cross-country.

Text Grandpa as soon as you get in the door, Ter. Tell him to call so that Ella can hear his voice.

On the outside I would appear calm. The car remains on the road. I stay within the speed limit. Inside I chide myself for a stupid mistake. Ella has had two open-heart surgeries and one minor surgery on her wrist. The word doctor opens a Pandora’s Box. She does not want her grandfather to fall prey to its powers.

Fortunately Grandpa hears the beep on his phone. He is leaving the office. “Grandpa be okay” takes on a new tone as Ella hears his voice.

“Let’s hide,” she says, anticipating hide-and-seek when Grandpa returns. Our little girl has no sense of time. Jay will not be home for another twenty-five minutes. I hold her in my arms and look into her huge blue eyes, possible now since I am not behind the wheel of the car and she is not bound to her car seat.

Sure, I will play this mock-game with her. The hiding place she chooses is in plain sight. And so is our little girl’s incredible beauty. Her internal powers shine: the gifts to love unconditionally, to simply be without comparing herself to anyone, and to bounce back after every fall.

I suspect there are people who look at us as we go to a park or enter a restaurant and think, How sad! That little girl has Down syndrome. Or worse, they identify her as a tripled chromosome and call her a Down syndrome child, throw around an R-word or two, and dismiss her importance. I can’t change that notion on my own. But I can make a dent in that perception.

Organizations like the National Down Syndrome Society and our local group, The Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, help to crush myths and show how valuable each individual is. Success for many more persons with Trisomy-21 is possible, even inevitable. Yes, the child born with the genius IQ someday may create formulas, ideas, new drugs, and inventions that change the world. But the child born with an extra chromosome has the knack for changing the heart. Now.

Ella may not be able to express Osho’s quote pictured below in words. However, she lives it. I am fortunate to be her student.

life is not logic Osho

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There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story. (Frank Herbert)

From my grandchildren’s point of view my published book is something like an honorary mention trophy. Nice on a shelf. When I gave my eight-year-old a copy of “The Curse Under the Freckles,” she wanted to know where the pictures were. The girls are more impressed by ice cream—chocolate chips blended in sweet raspberry flavoring. Or a day of pretend with Grandma. Touch a child’s life directly; that is what matters. The words will hit later.

My older son, Gregory Petersen, is also a writer. His book, Open Mike, was published through Martin Sisters several years ago. He is working through an agent with his next book. Greg is capable of writing thousands of words a day even though he has a full-time position that includes a leash phone; he takes his job as daddy seriously. I am more proud of him for his excellent relationship with his daughters than I am for his incredible ability with words. And his gift for expression is exquisite.

All life can be presented as a story. I often have difficulty turning that perception off because imagination doesn’t always fit the moment. For example: in the middle of the night. Oh sure, I’m told to write ideas down, whenever they come. But that doesn’t seem to be realistic when the notion isn’t a one-liner. The rolling avalanche of a plot and the inevitability of sleep deprivation are counter-productive in the long run.

Sometimes relaxation comes from reading—letting the thoughts of others feed me, especially when those thoughts lead to the profound. My sister Claire shared a book she had already read, Same Kind of Different as Me. It fits into the grab-the-soul category. Thanks, Sis.

Authors Ron Hall and Denver Moore tell a true story. Ron is an international art dealer. Denver is a modern-day slave, a sharecropper, who runs away into a life as a homeless person and decides it is better than being unofficially owned. The love of Ron’s wife, Deborah, leads toward an unlikely friendship.

Denver Moore says, “I found out everybody’s different—the same kind of different as me.” What and how he discovered that similarity, the human center-core spirit, is where the beauty of the story lives—sometimes clothed in miracles, or incredible pain, or deep sadness.

Stories never really end. The characters in my own tales develop a kind of reality. But in fiction, at least before publication, entire chapters can be erased and rewritten and then changed again. The past, present, and future are as pliable as soft clay.

In Hall and Moore’s story the facts of their lives remain solid because “The Same Kind of Different as Me” is non-fiction. At the end of the narration at almost seventy, Denver admits he has a lot to learn. The last page is not the last page.

In April Paramount plans to release a movie starring Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellweger, and Djimon Hounsou based on Ron and Denver’s New York Times best seller’s impossible journey. I did not know this until I checked the Internet for more information about the original publication.

Impossible, hidden, a forgotten acorn that becomes an oak…who knows? The story continues…Any story can continue…

same kind of different as me

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Successful people keep their eye on the goal. If they encounter obstacles, instead of focusing on the obstacle, they find a way around it by keeping their goal in mind. It is a mindset of courage which makes it easier to pursue success. (Dr. Anil Kumar Sinha)

Meet Diane Grover, mother of five, a beautiful person inside and out. Diane founded the International Down Syndrome Coalition. She also started the Grand Strand Down Syndrome Society. Now she has created Dreamers Merchants.

This is no ordinary business.

Most employers look at appearances when hiring, even if that bias is subconscious. Somewhere between 17% and 20% of people with disabilities are employed. Diane’s mission is to change that statistic. She does more than hire—she gives these individuals a living wage and recognizes their dignity. In Diane’s blog, Cheerful Persistence, September 2015, she celebrates the definition of dignity.

I applaud people who realize that dignity is innate. It is not the exclusive property of the genius, the wealthy, the gifted, the privileged… In fact, sometimes the educated individual teaches biased info. My friend, Bethany Brianne Hall, helped to clarify some of that misinformation with one of her college professors.

“Genetics and Statistics show that all people with Down syndrome will not attend college. It is nearly impossible for them,” he stated in the context of his lecture.

Bethany did not sit still and fume. She responded with statistics. After class. Bethany was fortunate. Her prof heard her out.

“Do you know who Angela Bachiller is?” she asked. Knowing the question was rhetorical, Bethany continued. “She was the world’s first person with Down syndrome to hold public office. She lives in Spain. Tim Harris owns his own restaurant. And Sujeet Desai, a musician, went to college. He earned a 4.3 average. These are only a few examples.” Bethany suggested that he update his statistics. Perhaps if she had appeared confrontational in front of the other students he may have been defensive. It is hard to say in hindsight.

Then she shared her experience on Facebook. I smiled the width of my face. Perhaps wider. The links in the previous paragraph lead to these persons’ stories. Desai mesmerizes an audience with his music. Tim dances his way to his restaurant. Angela Bachiller’s photo shows a woman either patronized or ignored in public settings. Wrong! She is a public leader and servant.

I smile again now. Diane Grove is destroying the myth that the handicapped are poor workers and less-than individuals.

Di’s youngest daughter, Mary Ellen, has Down syndrome. She calls herself ME. Me! The same pronoun we all use to refer to our inner selves. And that self is incredibly beautiful—no matter how many chromosomes it carries.

Seven of Diane’s Dreamers Merchants stores opened on October 5. There are now eight stores. Freshly ground coffee can be ordered online. A great gift.

“Maybe, just maybe,” Diane says, “the world is hearing us.”

dreamers coffee10072015_0000

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I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening. (Larry King)

Rebe, my soon-to-be-eight-year-old granddaughter, loves to play any game that involves mommies, dolls, and the lives of families. My role changes at her whim. And I am okay with that. My pretending stays within the realm of fiction. Reality intervenes, even in fantasy. Plot, grammar, logic, and a reasonable timeline are required. Even an insane character requires motivation, albeit skewed.

Play doesn’t come naturally for me anymore. Unless it includes humor. Then it isn’t really pretend; it’s called drama. Too much time has passed since I wanted toys for Christmas. Sometimes I act the part of Rebe’s offbeat daughter.

“Mommy, can I drive your car to kindergarten? I won’t smash it into a tree this time.”

That makes her laugh. Or, she tells me I’m in fifth grade not kindergarten, and the event never happened. Another reason why following Rebe’s imagination is impossible to follow. For the most part however, I listen, and discover who my young descendant is.

At first she is the mommy. Then she takes her baby with the soft tummy to the doctor. And she assumes the role of pediatrician. I’m not sure whether I am the sit-in for the mommy or an older child as she examines baby with makeshift instruments: a plastic spoon and knife, a key chain, a puzzle piece.

Her expression turns serious. “Most babies are normal,” she says. “And that is good.” Then she pauses after more pokes and probes and faces me. “But this baby has special needs. And that is good, too.”

She hands me the doll. My jokes have disappeared. I am in awe of a second-grade girl who speaks with wisdom. The softness of the toy and the softness of her words sink into me.

I have nothing to say.


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