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Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,

it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

Albert Einstein

It’s Saturday again, and for many of us, that means cleaning day. The work week is over, Sunday looms near with its promise of reading the newspaper in bed, a big, Sunday dinner, church, perhaps a family outing. But on Saturday, we clean.

I find myself reflecting on my life, past and present, as I work my way through my home, and as I mop and sweep, dust and scrub, my mind goes to other things besides the purely physical effort of making a home – a home.

I’ve chosen a quote from Einstein because its philosophy has been the fulcrum of my life. First, growing up, being told that I couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that, was not so smart, pretty, and later as I raised my son and told him that he is intelligent, handsome, kind, sweet and everything a young man should be. I’m actually thankful for my childhood. It taught me how not to treat my son.

Being told that you are unworthy, stupid, unqualified will cause you to inadvertently fulfill the expectations of those who tell you so, whether they be parents, friends, teachers, bosses or whomever. Self-fulfilling prophecy can be devastating, as it seemingly reinforces that which has been told to you – unless it’s positive. Then the sky is the limit.

Mirroring, a kissing cousin to self-fulfilling prophesy, works the same way. As an example: you’re walking down the street and you see someone you know. You call out their name, they turn around and they recognize you. What does that first look on their face tell you? Are you sorry that you called out their name, or are you pleased with their look of pleasure as recognition sets in? That is mirroring.

So I thought I’d just put this out there today as I take a short break from cleaning bathrooms and mopping floors. It’s something to ponder, to turn over in our minds as concerns our relationships with those we know and love.

***

I am your mirror. When you look into my eyes,
you see how beautiful you are.
When you enter a room, my heart lifts up to meet you;
a smile of greeting lights me up from within.
I am your mirror. When you look into my eyes,
you see love, as my soul embraces yours,
revealing to you just how wonderful you are:
my friend, my heart, my son.

©2014 Debra Shiveley Welch

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julessmallHello, Julie. Thank you for visiting us.

You are preparing for a powwow this June. Could you tell us about it?

Julie: Where do I start…. first, I invest in a LOT of valium and a nice comfy straight jacket, breathe deep, and say “let the insanity begin!”    KIDDING!

There is a LOT that goes in to running a powwow, and most people have no idea as to what goes on behind the scenes. We are very fortunate with the Farmington Iowa powwows, in that we have a static location available for us to use, and we have a wonderful team of volunteers to help lighten the load.

About 6 months before a powwow, I try to make sure that I have grant applications out, that my Host Drum and Head Staff are in place, and I have volunteers available. I also start listing the event on online powwow sites. We are starting to get serious about fundraising, and soliciting donations for the event, and finding places to store everything.

A couple of months before the date, there are a lot of emails and phone calls from dancers, the Drums, vendors, and my head staff, to make sure that everything is on track, and answering inquiries from the public, dancers, and vendors. We are also constantly fundraising like mad, trying to make sure that we have enough money to cover the expenses involved.

This close to the powwow, (we are just about 3 weeks out) I have to make sure that we have everything we will need in place for a successful powwow, such as money, volunteers, food, water, the sound system, the arena markers, event t-shirts, tobacco, donations for the Give Away, etc.

We are having weekly meetings to get updates on everything that is happening, and things are going to get crazier in the next couple of weeks. I will be going down to the powwow grounds the day before the event to set up our tipis, and to map out vendor spaces, as well as being on hand for any early birds, and to help with whatever needs to be done. We will also be setting up the arena, and getting the grounds ready in general. And I promise that my phone will be ringing non-stop the entire event!

On Friday we will be having a pot-luck/carry in, and I have to make sure that that is set up and ready to go, and then on Saturday I have to make sure that my volunteers are on hand to sell frybread as a fundraiser, and to cook the evening meal that the powwow committee will be sponsoring, and making sure that things run smoothly.

Hope this answers your question!

DSW: For those of my readers who are not NdN (preferred spelling of Indian by American Indians), could you please explain who the Host Drum is?

Julie: The Host Drum is usually the first Drum group that is invited to a powwow, and fees vary from Drum to Drum. Our host has been The Night Eagle Singers from Kenosha Wisconsin. This Drum knows a LOT of the older songs that fell out of favor for a while, and have been gaining in popularity again.

DSW: Julie, why is fundraising important for the event? And where can people donate?

Julie: Most powwows are non-profit events, and with the economy tightening up, grants and other forms of endowments are harder to come by. Also, there is a LOT of competition for these types of events as there just are not a lot of grants available.

Our powwows operate under a parent organization that has their 501(c)(3) status, so any and all donations are eligible for a tax break on behalf of the donors, in addition to my co-chair and myself sinking a LOT of our own money into the events to help cover expenses. Our parent organization does not have a lot of funding available for the powwow, so it is important that we pay our own way to have an event.

A traditional (non-contest) powwow can cost up to $20,000, so fundraising and donations are very important! Our bi-annual events generally run a little less than $5,000 for each event (June and October), and we generally pay for them through charitable donations and non-stop fundraising, as well as contributing cash from our own pockets.

The community where the powwow grounds are located is a very rural area in South Eastern Iowa that depends heavily on tourism as well as being a farming community, and the area has been hard hit by the economic crash. So, donations from outside the area are more important than ever!

We will be accepting free will donations for the duration of the event, as well as having ongoing fundraisers such as a food stand, cold drinks, event t-shirts, 50/50 drawings, etc. and your readers can contact me via email at spottdeaglehorse@aol.com for more information on making a tax exempt donation. Any amount, no matter how small, is welcome, as we do have two events a year.

DSW: Why is tobacco important to the powwow?

Julie: Tobacco is generally given to someone as a gesture of respect, and also to show that you are serious about something when making a request of someone.

Tobacco is considered to be a sacred thing to Native peoples. An old proverb is that tobacco smoke is the breath made visible and that it is the visible representation of one’s prayers going to Creator.

I don’t know how else to explain it…. Tobacco is given to someone as a gesture of respect, such as an elder or a Holy Man/Medicine Man, Drum Keeper or Head Staff. It is given to someone when asking for a favor, or when asking for something important like a ceremony.

It is also given when issuing an apology to someone, or when showing a serious intent, such as asking for a mediator in a dispute.

Tobacco is offered to dancers to take in to the Arena with them, and at Ceremony for the participants to offer prayers.

In our case, in addition to a blanket and a cash honorarium, we give tobacco to the Host Drum, our head staff, Jr. head staff, certain elders, and key persons such as the arena director and emcee. This shows our appreciation for the services that they provide for the duration of the event, and as a gesture of respect.

DSW: There is certainly a lot of preparation ahead of time. What would you compare a powwow to?

Julie: Hmmm…. good question…. I would have to say the closest I could get would probably be a combination of a Broadway show, rock concert, family reunion and dance recital, all rolled into one. The public comes to see a show, and to experience a little bit of our culture, and of course to shop. The dancers are there to show off, and to celebrate our culture. In certain cases, there are dancers out there who follow certain “name” drums all over the country, much as a groupie would follow a rock band from concert to concert.

DSW: Are there many family reunions during these events?

Julie: Yes and no. We joke that a powwow is a Native family reunion, and joke about something called “skinship.” Skinship is when you put two Natives together at an event, and they will figure out how they are related, usually within 10 minutes or so, regardless of whether or not they are actually related, LOL! It gives us a chance to visit with old friends, and family that we may or may not have seen for a time.

DSW:  What if some of my readers wish to attend this or any powwow…what are the basic forms of etiquette – the dos and don’ts when attending a powwow.

Julie: There are a LOT of great websites that actually do cover proper etiquette…. But the basics are as follows:

1) Dress and act appropriately. Hot pants, halter tops, swimwear, profanity and ‘making out’ have no place at powwows. If you are going to dance anything other than open inter-tribals, wear your regalia. Remember to respect yourself, and the dancers.

2) Pointing with the fingers is considered poor manners by some nations. If you must point, use your head and nod in the direction you wish to indicate.

3) The seating around the Arena is reserved for dancers in regalia. Seats with blankets, shawls or regalia items on them are taken and should not be bothered. Do NOT sit on someone else’s blanket unless invited. Uncovered seats are considered available.

4) Pets should be left at home. The Arena is a sacred place from the time it is blessed until the powwow is over. At no time should pets be allowed in the Arena.

5) Listen to the Master of Ceremonies. He will announce who is to dance and when. Most powwows conduct inter-tibals in which the public may participate. Check with the Arena Director for more information, or listen to the emcee.

6) Pictures should NOT be taken during Veterans Songs, Flag Songs, Prayers or any other time announced by the Master of Ceremonies. If you wish to photograph a dancer in regalia, ask first. If the picture is for publication or commercial use, that should be explained before the picture is taken.

7) Respect the Head Man and Head Woman dancers. Their role entitles them to start each song or set of songs. Please wait until they have started to dance before you join in. In some traditions, it is considered improper to pass the Head Man or Woman Dancer within the Arena.

8) Show respect to the Flag, Honor and Veterans songs by standing until the song is completed.

9) Some songs require that you be familiar with the routine or have special eligibility rules in order to participate. Trot dances, snake, buffalo, etc. require particular steps or routines. Veterans’ dances may be restricted to veterans, combat veterans, or in some cases the relations of veterans. If you are not familiar with a particular dance, observe and learn. Watch the Head Dancers to learn the procedures.

10) The Flag Song, or Indian National Anthem, is sung when the American Flag is raised or lowered. Please stand and remove hats during the singing of this song. It is not a song for dancing. Pictures are not allowed during these songs.

11) Most powwows are non-profit and depend upon donations, raffles, blanket dances, etc. for support. Donations are encouraged as a way to honor someone. Any participant can drop money onto the blanket to aid in the powwow expenses.

13) Certain items of religious significance should be worn only by those qualified to do so. Respect the traditions. NEVER intentionally touch another dancer’s regalia, person, feathers, or property without permission.

14) Giveaways, attributes of Indian generosity, are held at many dances. They are acknowledgments of appreciation to recipients for honor or service given to the people. When receiving a gift, the recipient thanks everyone involved in the giving.

15) If you wish to ask for a special song from a drum, talk to the Arena Director first and make sure the master of ceremonies is informed. It is traditional to make a gift (monetary or otherwise) to the Drum for special requests.

16) Before sitting at a drum, ask permission from the Head Singer. Do not touch a drum without permission. This especially applies to women! Most Drumming is traditionally a male only occupation, and a woman sitting at the drum can cause grave offense.

17) If at any time you are uncertain of procedure, etc., please check with the emcee, arena Director, or head singer. They will be glad to help you with your questions.

18) Unless you are sure spectator seating will be provided, bring a chair. Remember that the seating immediately around the Arena is for dancers only.

19) Alcohol, recreational drugs and firearms are prohibited at most powwows.

20) If you see a lost feather, or you yourself drop a feather, do NOT pick it up. Notify the nearest Veteran, the Head Veteran, Head Man Dancer or Arena Director immediately.

21) Before dancing barefoot, speak with the Arena Director. At some events this may only be done by Sun dancers, who are usually known to the organizers.

22) In some places it is okay for adults to dance while carrying infants or small children. In other places this is considered contrary to local etiquette. Ask before doing so.

23) If you have a question, ask. Most dancers, singers, elders and staff are happy to help. Offer a cold drink or other small, symbolic gift to those who help you.

DSW: Julie, I remember at one powwow a church rang its bells through a lot of the powwow and some people picketed stating that this was a “heathen” event. What would you like to say to those people?

I forgive you.

DSW: Thank you, Julie. As usual, you are informative, kind and patient.

Interviewer’s Note: I would like to say one thing. Before anyone decides to picket or berate another group’s traditions, they should find out about the event first. A powwow is no different from an Irish, Italian or Greek Festival, for instance. The powwow is a gathering of a people who are trying to preserve their traditions, songs and dances, reunite with friends and family who they possibly haven’t seen since the last powwow, to buy from and admire the various artisans who are offering their wares and to enjoy the delicious food offered at the food stands.

The Muddy River Powwow is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/583394728404225/

Julie, again, wopila – thank you.

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October 15, 2012, I was rushed to the emergency room.  I’d known that something was wrong for quite a while, but like our canine brothers and sisters, I managed to hide it quite well.  I was sick.  I was desperately sick.

I hadn’t told my family that I had been speaking with my mother, my father and Merribuck – all deceased.  Merribuck, my beloved late Border/Sheltie mix, was the first to visit me.

It was the beginning of October and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hide how ill I was for much longer.  Understand that I come from a long line of people who just don’t like to go to the doctor.  We’re a hardy group as a rule, but sometimes something sneaks up and knocks one of us for a loop. I was soon to be thrown.

I was sitting on the couch, gathering strength to vacuum, when I saw my Merri.  I could feel the joy rise up within my heart.  I’d missed her so much these past 19 years, and here she was, once again, my beautiful baby dog.  Merri trotted over to me and sat at my feet, feathered, curved tail wagging, mouth open in that glorious smile she always wore in life.

To this day Merribuck is the sweetest soul I’ve ever met.  Truly, God was in a good mood the day He made my sweet girl.  She was always there to comfort me, there to share my joys and triumphs and I know deep within my soul that she knew what I was feeling and thinking.  We shared a bond that I have shared with only a few beings in my lifetime, my son being one, and so I was not that surprised to see her now…now that I was in trouble.

“My Buckaroo!” I cried with joy.  “I’ve missed you so much, Little Love.  I’ve always missed you.  Do you know that I come to visit with you when I’m upset?” I asked her.  (I always go to her grave when troubled.)  “Have you come to “fetch” me?”

Buck gazed up at me with her beautiful smile and my heart clenched.  My fingers itched to stroke her long, silky hair and my soul longed to smell her sweet fragrance that I remembered so well.  I could feel her laugh and say “Mama, you always were so funny,” and with that, she jumped up beside me.  I buried my nose in her neck, stroking her wonderful fur.  “Sweetheart,” I murmured, “if it weren’t for our baby, I would love to go with you.  I miss you so much. But my journey with him isn’t over.  I have to stay for him.”

Our baby was my son Chris, born 20 years before.  When Chris came home, I sat on the couch and allowed Merribuck to sniff him.  “This is your baby, Buck.  Your baby.”  From that day forward, she never left his side.

Again, I felt the telepathic connection, “I know, Mama.  I miss you too, and I know when you have come to visit me.  Haven’t you felt me with you? But right now you have to stay here with our baby.”

Merri continued to comfort me for a precious ten minutes or so and then left. As she jumped down from the couch I felt her ‘say,’ “You won’t die, Mama.  I came to tell you that you won’t die.”  I once again endured the anguish of our parting, but felt better knowing that, indeed, we would be reunited some day…perhaps someday soon…but that for now I would be allowed to stay with my beloved son.

I was knocked to my knees in mid-October.  Chris was taking me to the doctor as I was now too weak to drive.  He was begging me to go to the hospital, but I kept insisting that I was all right, just tired.  One look at me and the nurse demanded that I go to the ER.  Finally waking up to reality, or maybe it was the fear in my son’s eyes, I agreed and Chris took me straight away.  I was admitted within an hour.

So, I lay in my bed, not really afraid.  Somehow I knew that I would live, but a statement my father made kept going through my head:  All Shiveley’s die in October.  Had I imagined Merri out of loneliness for her?  Was I once again hiding the truth from myself?  My mind flew back 16 years.

In 1997 we brought my father home to live with us.  He had developed lung cancer and was dying.  Chemo seemed to be slowing the progression of the cancer, and Dad kept saying, “If I live through October, I’ll live another year.”  We were watching Emeril Lagasse, Dad’s favorite cooking show the evening of October 28, and when he said it to me again. I asked, “Dad, why do you keep saying that?”  “Because,” he replied, “all Shiveley’s die in October.”  I put the thought aside, figuring he was clinging to a very fragile thread. The next morning, Chris and I found him gone, his coffee still hot and his color just beginning to change. Two weeks later, as I cleaned out his room, I found a shoebox full of obituaries.  All were for Shiveley’s…all died in October.  So here I was – October 15, gravely ill, in the hospital, and a Shiveley.  But Buck had said I wasn’t going to die. Or had she?

That night, my mother came.  I was lying with my eyes closed (who can sleep in a hospital?) when I heard her distinctive laugh.  Slowly turning my head, I saw her, sitting in a chair and smiling.  “So, you think you’re going to die because you’re a Shiveley?  Well, you’re also from my people.  You’ll be okay, and by the way, how’s my grandson?”

I filled her in: Mom never met Chris.  Mom died in 1989 of kidney cancer and Chris was born and adopted in 1992.  So I told her all about him.  I kept thinking of how her brother Bussy visited her when she was six months pregnant for me.  She was raking leaves and caught fire sustaining fourth degree burns.  Her right kidney was literally fried. She lay in a bed at White Cross Hospital, in premature labor for me, and frightened to the core.  She said the room brightened and a moonbeam shot into her room.  There stood her brother, hand extended. “Don’t worry, Re, she’ll be all right. I’ll take care of her.”  He then faded back into the beam and was gone. My mother said that her labor ceased immediately and I’m here to testify that I survived.  But would I survive this test?

The next night my father arrived.  “Da!” I exclaimed when I saw him.  He gazed at me with that serious Irish way of his and stated, “I just came to tell you that you won’t be dyin’ this October.  You’re journey is not finished yet.”  Dad and I spoke for awhile.  Like Mom, he wanted to know about Chris.  He and Chris had adored each other and Dad was so proud to be Chris’ “Numpa” as Chris called him.  Dad’s visit wasn’t long, but he was always one to say his piece and get it over with.

I took all of this with a grain of salt.  It seemed that, after Merribuck left, my emotions flat lined.  I felt no fear, no regret, no apprehension.  My only emotion was of determination:  If I’m going to die, in spite of what I’ve been told, I must make sure that Chris is all right.  I planned my funeral, my wake and the epitaph on my tombstone and set about the business of putting my affairs in order.  I didn’t want my son or my husband to have to deal with any more than they had to.  Also, I wanted to be able to take care of my boy even after death.  However, true to my visitors’ assurances, I survived and was sent home in eight days with chronic liver failure, possibly due to a biologic I was taking for Psoriatic Arthritis.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, my 60th birthday, Christmas, New Years, all passed with me half there.  I was very weak and was not recovering as everyone had hoped.  On January second, I was again taken to the emergency room.  This time, my doctors told me that, according to my blood tests, I should be in the morgue.  You should have seen their faces when I gave them the cryptic reply, “But, it isn’t October!”

Tender loving care from a group of incredible nurses, massive infusions of potassium and sundry minerals and enzymes and the final return of my appetite (I hadn’t eaten more than four ounces a day since Thanksgiving 2011), I was well enough to return home seven days later.  Now, I began to get better.  Still, I felt no emotions.  I would sit for hours just staring ahead.  Merribuck’s, my mother’s and my father’s visits had left me rather numb. Intellectually I knew that I missed them more than ever now, but somehow that message never slipped down to my heart.  Perhaps it wasn’t supposed to.  Maybe I was supposed to concentrate on survival and not grief.

It was March.  I was alone at home.  My husband is a docent at a museum in Columbus and was there conducting a tour and my son was at school.  I sat, TV off, wishing to God that I could see Merribuck again, and looking outside at the tree my husband and I planted the previous summer – a tree that I thought I would never get to see grow.  I gazed upon her (I always name my trees, and this one, a Royal Empress, was of course, Eleanor) and without warning my emotions came flooding back!  I was filled with the most incredible joy and I knew, I just knew that I would see the spring – and perhaps live through another October.  I wept.  I wept as I hadn’t done since my very early years.  I wept for the promise of life, mourned anew for Merri, Mom and Dad, and rejoiced with the knowledge that I would remain with my son. Sobs wracked me to the point of making my muscles ache when I was finished, but it was a cleansing, a release, a baptism as it were.

It is now June.  I can walk on my own, climb stairs, take showers, cook and eat.  My weight is getting to the point where I look thin, but normal, and not like a concentration camp victim.  My son is now 21, thriving and happy.  He is studying filmology and is a sushi chef. My husband is convinced that I’m going to be okay and has relaxed and begun to enjoy his life once more.  I’ve started cooking again, something I loved to do but hadn’t the strength, and began watching Paula Deen, Ina Garten, Giada and other Food Network stars to get my ‘cooking chops’ refreshed. My son and I have just returned from the Muddy River powwow where my sister was Head Woman.  Chris has taken me out to dinner and rejoiced in my returned appetite.  We take walks and my husband and I have started to accept party invitations.  God is good.  God is very, very good.

 

 

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I’ve been gone for a while.  Late in 2008 I began work on Cedar Woman, a book about a woman of the Lakota Souix who opens the first high end American Indian restaurant in Central Ohio.  I enjoyed the writing.  In fact, literarily speaking, it’s the best time I’ve ever had.  Written with the cooperation of my adopted sister, Spotted Eagle Horse, it indeed became an adventure.

So here we are in 2012.  Cedar Woman has just been named Best Native American Fiction of 2011 by Books and Authors, I’ve become a partner in the publishing house that has been publishing my works since 2005 – I just turned 59 – and life is good!

I intend to be back and posting here frequently.  I will write about my works, about life with my husband and adopted son, Christopher, the joy of my life, and whatever you want to hear about.  Just let me know.

It’s the year of the dragon – my year! So let’s rock n’ roll!

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Governor Strickland,

With your proposal of Sub. H.B. 1, you have lost my vote.  I was waiting to see if you were listening to your fellow citizens, but you held that rally Friday and I realized that you are deaf to what we want, what we need.

Parents of children in charter schools throughout Ohio are uniting and we are coming to the same conclusion and the same decision.

So, 88,000 plus students:  each has grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and some even have siblings and friends of voting age, not to mention friends of their family. Many of the children affected will be voting by the time you run for office again.  Think about it.

What you have proposed is, in my opinion, and in the opinion of these hundreds of thousands of voters who support charter schools, a miscarriage of power.

Charter Schools were set up to offer an alternative to the public school system – which many parents, like me, see as FAILING our children. Some of these children will not be accepted into any private school, so home schooling is the only option left – and isolation.  The majority of the students affected by Sub. H.B.1 come from low-economic families. They cannot home school, as they need to work full-time to support their families.

My son has nowhere else to go.  In public school and the private school we later sent him to, he was bullied, sometimes by some ignorant teacher.  No one would work with him and help him overcome his learning differences.  He was stuck in a corner, given no help and would cry when he had to go to school to face the bullies – to be made to feel inadequate by the teacher.   Thankfully, Chris’ neuropsychologist suggested, “Send him to The Graham School.  He’ll blossom there.”  He was right.  My son is happy, loves school and is learning.  Not only is he learning, he is achieving his dreams.  He is getting good grades, he is part of a school-sponsored guitar club, is a member of a band, and he has become a twice traditionally published author.  He currently works with Meals on Wheels, has helped to build a community garden and is looking forward to attending a culinary institute.

You want to take this away from him.  I want to know why!  I want to know why you think it is appropriate to penalize children, our future leaders, by taking away the schools where they are finally thriving.  I want to know why the special needs kids are the ones to be targeted, for many of these students are special needs. I want to know what alternatives you have planned.  Are you going to help me find a school that will, not only accept my son, but respect him as Graham does?  I want to know how you are going to help my son succeed as he enters his adult years without an education, because you took it away.  I want to know if you will find my son a job where he can make a living wage, marry, and raise and provide for a family.  And I want to know how in Heaven’s name you could even begin to think that this is appropriate.

My son is a citizen.  By the time you are ready to run for office again, he and his friends and thousands of these kids will be voters.  He is just as valuable and important as you are, and he, just by himself, is worth every dime that you are trying to cut.  What are YOU going to do for my son when his last option for a high school education is taken away?

What are you going to do for the family who has more than one child in charter schools?  Special needs children who, like my son, have no options.  Are you going to allow them to be swallowed up and forgotten?  You are supposed to be our leader, not our enemy.

I have seen many of my friends cut their household budgets, but I guarantee you, they did not take from their children!  They have cut out necessities.  I know of one couple that sold their house to provide an education for their children, one father took a third job; none of them have taken from our future citizens.  We work, we plan, and we sweat for our kids, only to be stymied by our governor, a man that we are supposed to be able to trust and look to for leadership.

One of the many things I have learned in life, is that when you propose a change, you outline options for problems that will arise from that change.  You have done nothing.

Let’s say that these 88,000 plus children lose their schools.  Where are they supposed to go?  Back into the public school system?  That would be a very interesting phenomenon to witness.  I can picture a veritable “flood” of humanity into schools that already claim that they cannot service the children they already have: schools that have failed the very children, which would now be bereft of schools where they were successful.  What are you going to do about this?  Yet another hole in your proposal.

Like most parents, I don’t want anyone to hurt my child.  What you are doing will hurt him.  Shame on you.

To the reader:  if you live in Ohio, please write to your senator and demand that Sub H.B. 1 be defeated in the senate.

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“Your son is incapable of learning.”

I sat for a minute, looking at the counselor who had requested the meeting, trying to decide if I had heard her correctly.  I felt my left hand press against my pounding heart.

“Did you say, ‘incapable of learning?’”  I queried.  “Yes,” she responded, and proceeded to mouth paragraphs of jargon, which my confused brain was incapable of comprehending let alone translating.

Stupefied, near panic, I fought for coherent thought.  Slowly, however, a heat began to rise from my trip-hammering heart and to suffuse my face.  Rage replaced terror.

“Incapable of learning?” I cried!  “Incapable?” I repeated loudly.  “How can you say that?  How can you doom a child of three years of age to that kind of diagnoses?  He taught himself the alphabet at two!  How can you say that?”  I raged.

I have to admit that there were times when I believed I was either incapable of understanding what was going on in my son’s little head or reluctant to admit that there was a problem, but this I knew: Chris could learn.  He had indeed taught himself the alphabet.  I had purchased a wooden alphabet puzzle in lower case letters.  Christopher would bring them up to me, one-by-one, and I would say, for instance, “a – apple.”  It didn’t take me long to realize that he was actually learning the alphabet.

Of course, I realize that I was teaching him.  But, the “game” was initiated by Chris, and it demonstrated a desire on his part to know, a wish to learn.  This initiation on his part was indeed a form of self-teaching.  Chris made the move.  Chris wanted to know.

Incapable of learning!  As my mother used to say, “Bull Hockey!”  I thought of my friend Sue and her daughter Gretchen.  Born with Williams Syndrome, Gretchen was an adorable, pixyish young woman with a sweetness of soul that made her a joy to know.  At birth, Sue was told that Gretchen would never be able to dress, feed, or take care of herself.  Sue had refused to believe it, and proceeded to patiently teach her daughter as she would any child.  The end result was a charming young woman, who admittedly was mentally challenged, but was happy, had friends, and held down a full time job, far from the diagnosis her mother was given at the time of Gretchen’s birth.

“Where are the people who know where the people are?”

I removed Chris from the school and entered him into a church-run day care center; Chris began to show progress.  It was in Pre-Kindergarten that an inability to focus caused his teachers to mention the possibility of Central Auditory Processing Disorder.  CAPD affects the ability to process what you hear.  I set up an appointment immediately to have him tested.  The results were negative.  Chris passed with flying colors.

Next came testing for Attention Deficit Disorder.  Although diagnosed with ADD, none of the medications, covering everything from Adderall to Welbuterin, had any affect whatsoever.

More years passed and still we tried to understand Chris’ particular issues.  Aspberger’s was mentioned as well as epilepsy.  We didn’t know where to turn until, finally, an educator suggested we take Chris to a neurological psychologist.  Chris was diagnosed with ADD, Dysgraphia, Working Memory Deficit and Executive Function Deficit.

Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder, which interferes with the fine motor skills needed in the physical act of writing.  For instance, when Chris puts pen or pencil to paper, some letters will “float”: they will be too high or too low, and his penmanship is generally too large or too small, and very difficult to read.  In addition, because it is so difficult, Chris cannot write his thoughts with as much fluidity as he can when dictating or typing.

He also confuses some words, using “tell” instead of “ask,” and “never” instead of “ever,” and has trouble tying his shoes.

Working Memory Deficit affects short-term memory, and Executive Function Deficit can manifest in problems with test taking.

At last, we had a diagnosis.  It was not easy to accept, but coping strategies could be taught to help Chris learn, and that was the key word!  Learn!  Yes, he would learn!

Learning Differences – Not Learning Disabilities

Christopher has worked hard to overcome his learning differences – yes, differences.  It isn’t
that he is not able to learn, he simply learns differently.

We have worked with our son by being active in his school work, at school and at home.  When necessary, tutors are hired.

Chris plays guitar and is now the proud owner of an acoustic, six string electric and a bass guitar.  He plays excellently after a mere eight months of lessons.  He has asked for a mandolin and wants to take piano lessons as well.

Chris is an excellent swimmer, gardener, is becoming an accomplished cook and is working with me on a cookbook.

This year, Chris finished the ninth grade with glowing reports!   Not one teacher referenced focusing problems.  A master speller and a budding essayist, Chris has received excellent grades in his written assignments, which are typed.

As I finish this article, I am awaiting an email from his publisher as to when his second book will be released.  Yes, my boy who was diagnosed as “incapable of learning” is a twice traditionally published author.

I think back and can’t help but send out a thank you prayer to my friend Sue, whose example helped me to help my son.  She taught me to listen to my heart, to believe in my son and his abilities, and to trust in his desire to learn and to grow.

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If you want to be a parent, you are a candidate for adoption.

It is a natural desire to wish to pro-create. Every living thing on earth replicates and creates young, whether it is a bird or a blade of grass. It is also natural to want to protect those who are already here.

Most of us have seen pictures or heard stories of a farm pig who suckles orphaned kittens, or the dog who allows an orphaned baby squirrel to suck. Then there is the elephant who, upon the death of a mother, will take the dead mother’s calf to herself to nurse. Adoption is a completely natural part of life and exists throughout the animal kingdom.

Some of us are not able to conceive or to give birth. The desire for children is strong, which is also a natural state of being. So, it would only be normal to open one’s arms and home to a child in need of a family.

I once had a friend say to me that she was afraid to adopt because she felt that the child would not be like her own because she did not carry it. I paused for a second and then replied, “I feel very sorry for your husband, then.” She looked at me with surprise and asked, “Why?” “Well,” I answered, “he did not carry your daughter. He didn’t feel her growing inside of his womb. So, I guess she must not feel like his child.” She understood.

The moment you hold your child in your arms, it doesn’t matter if you gave birth or not. What matters is that here is a new life, which is dependent upon you to survive. Here is a sweet baby, which will look to you for the rest of his or her life for love, guidance, support. Here is your child.

Many people want to adopt, but feel that they can’t afford it. There are children languishing in foster homes or orphanages praying, yearning for a family, for a home. They are considered special needs because they either have a physical problem, like my son who was born with cleft lip and palate, or are part of a sibling group, or are of mixed race or are older. Most states do not charge any fees for the adoption of these very special children. If therapies or surgeries are needed, the county will usually pay for them.

So, if you’ve spent all of your youth climbing that corporate ladder and don’t have time for an infant, or you have a good home, but not enough money to cover adoption fees, special needs adoption is a perfect way to build a loving, close family.

Whether you choose domestic, international or special needs adoption, be prepared for the greatest love of your life!

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