Dancer Earns Silver at Special Olympics World Games, Returns to Hero’s Welcome at School

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Taylor Carpenter is an eight-year-old who recently competed in the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, earning a silver medal in dance. When she and her sister returned to school they were welcomed home with school-wide celebration and victory lap.

Taylor’s father, Michael, posted the video to Facebook, saying, “This is inclusion. This is community. This is love.”

“Words cannot express the feeling the love, the joy, the pride, the friendship displayed and represented in the video that represents part of Taylor’s school welcoming her home…celebrating her accomplishment, her journey, and most importantly her. To all involved in her life thank you everything you pour into her she pours into her life and into her dance.” Continue reading

World Down Syndrome Day, and my friend Kaitlyn

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On March 21 we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day.  We celebrate uniqueness and joy and individuality. We strive for acceptance and respect for a group of people who are far too often demeaned, underestimated, and marginalized. Today I also celebrate Kaitlyn, whose far too brief time on this earth left a light that still shines brightly.

Kaitlyn passed away in December, 2013 after a brief battle with illness. She had Moyamoya disease, a little-known condition that can affect individuals with Down Syndrome. Her loved ones were stunned with grief, and it sent a shockwave through the local community. It seemed inconceivable that her life was taken so early. She was only 15 years old.

Kaitlyn had a lot to teach us about living and loving. She lived enthusiastically and joyfully. She loved unconditionally and freely without expectations or conditions.

Among her favorite things were the color pink, Disney movies, music, dancing, and her family. She showed those around her that true beauty lies in being, as her mother so eloquently put it, “Perfectly imperfect.”

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People I Want to be More Like in 2016

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Instead of making resolutions this year I have decided to try and emulate some people that I admire. This is a reflection on some of their positive qualities that I think make the world a better place, and I know I would be a better person if I was more like these unique individuals.

I want to feel free to be unapologetically, enthusiastically myself just like my youngest son does.

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They say, “Be yourself, ” and “Dance like no one is watching.” That is what is embodied in this picture. My 4th-grade son is awesome. He is also Autistic. (No, that is not an offensive term. Please read this information if you are unfamiliar with Identity-First language.)

This picture was taken during his older brother’s 5th-grade music performance. Younger brother had seen the performance, complete with choreography, earlier in the day during  a school assembly. By the time the PTA meeting rolled around that night he had somehow memorized most of the songs AND the corresponding movements. After seeing it only ONCE. The unique way his brain absorbs information astounds me! So he sat there in the audience and participated in the performance, singing and dancing right along with the 5th graders. It was AWESOME. He didn’t care what the people sitting around him thought. He didn’t care that he wasn’t supposed to. He just did, and loved every moment of it. And he ROCKED it. I need more of that in my life. I briefly thought about the possibility of asking him to stop in case he was disturbing those around him. I decided against it since he was doing the same as the children on stage, AND I felt it was important that he feel free to express himself. I didn’t want to squelch his indomitable, exuberant, creative spirit that bubbles out of him. It brings me, and others, great joy.

I want to have a heart full of compassion and kindness like my oldest son.

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Bill’s Message to Reba McEntire (He is her NUMBER ONE FAN!)

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Remember our awesome friend Bill? He does so much to brighten the lives of so many that I thought it would be nice if we did something for HIM. As I mentioned before, Bill is a HUGE fan of Reba McEntire. His birthday is May 13 and what he wants more than anything is simply for Reba to wish him a Happy Birthday.

Bill recorded this video for Reba to tell her how much he loves her and that he is her “NUMBER ONE FAN!” (He also has strong words of warning for anyone who would mess with “my girl Reba.”)  We posted his message here in the hopes that Reba might see it. Please share it if you want to help spread the word, & thank you for watching his video!

Also, please share any birthday greetings you have for Bill in the comments. It would mean the world to him. More than anything I wish my wonderful friend a birthday FULL of joy.

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What Bill Has to Teach Us

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This is Bill, and Bill is SERIOUSLY Not Boring. He is 50 years old (almost 51!), lives with his sister who is his loving caretaker, and his favorite things are his sister’s homemade cookies, his nieces and nephews, and Reba McEntire. Bill has Down Syndrome, and he has a lot to teach the rest of us about love and enthusiasm. Bill has some BIG feelings, and it is contagious.

I had the privilege of meeting Bill this winter. We were at a chili cookoff at our church, I introduced myself and we started talking. He started telling me about his nieces and nephews (he has their pictures in his wallet and proudly shows them to everyone he meets) and how much he loves kids. He told me that he would like to help and volunteer with the children’s activities at our church. I found it interesting he would mention that to me since I am not involved in the leadership of that ministry. I think now that it was divine intervention. I told him his idea sounded great, and that I would have to talk with his sister and the children’s ministry leadership and I would get back with him.

Then you know what I did? I am shamed to say, not very much. His sister agreed that he could help out and that she could bring him. I mentioned it via text or FB to a couple people involved with the ministry and didn’t receive a response. I don’t think they realized I was asking permission to move forward, OR they didn’t see my message. It was an incredibly busy time of year so I let the issue drop for a couple months. I didn’t want to overstep my bounds, and I knew that helping Bill get involved would take a bit of logistical work. I was worried that people would see that as an inconvenience (as an aside, that is exactly why a lot of families of children with special needs avoid church, because they are afraid their children would be seen as an inconvenience). I should have given more credit to my church and the loving people that are a part of it, and I should have followed through. Thankfully, I was given a second chance to give BILL a chance.  Continue reading