Sunday, August 17, 2008

Good stuff for people with intellectual disabilities

So, I forgot these in the last post, and wanted to add them here.

First, I've added my voice to the Special Olympics campaign Pledge to the Stop the R-Word

I encourage you to Pledge as well

Second, this is a fantastic PSA for the Arc of Northern VAIt was produced by the Arc of Virginia and the Arc of Northern Virginia, plus Blueberry Shoes Productions

Third, this is a fantastic site and their tv spot called homecoming aired during the Olympics - it brought tears to my eyes. Kudos to the Foundation for a Better Life!!

Fourth, this is amazing. What a great self-advocate!! Jill Egle, Co-Executive director of the Arc of Northern Virginia, has a bone to pick with Ben Stiller over the movie Tropic Thunder. Jill, who has an intellectual disability, sets the record straight.

Why I won't see Tropic Thunder

My 3 year old daughter is beautiful, smart and so incredibly sweet and kind to others. Where ever we go, people come out of their way to visit with her. She shares her smiles with almost everyone she meets. She also has Down Syndrome.

Since the day we received her diagnosis, my husband and I have worried about how society would treat our little girl as she grows up and becomes a young woman. She has had to work so hard in her life to achieve milestones we all take for granted. She is still struggling to meet milestones most three year olds have mastered, but she is persistent, and perseveres, and she is so patient. Since her birth I have had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful people; all of whom have a variety of disabilities. They are all individuals as unique and special as any one else. Seeing adults with disabilities reaching their full potential, living and working and volunteering in their communities has filled us with hope for our daughter's future. We are also encouraged when we hear great stories of acceptance and RESPECT like the one memorialized in the tv spot about Shelley Eyre produced by The Foundation For a Better Life.

But the release of the movie, Tropic Thunder, has been a slap in the face, and what's worse is that the actors, especially Stiller (whom I used to admire, but no longer) don't get it. Maybe you need an education, maybe you are slow. So, I'll keep it simple:
1. You make movies with characters that people emulate.
2. Insensitive, rude, cruel people will continue to perpetuate the awful stereotypes and rude behaviors demonstrated in this poor excuse for entertainment.
3. Instead of promoting acceptance, tolerance, compassion and most importantly RESPECT, the movie encourages cruelty, intolerance, rudeness, and a complete disregard for individuals and their feelings.

As a parent of two young children I try to educate them on the values of our society, including, but not limited to: acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. They are supposed to become productive members of society someday. But how can I compete when a movie like Tropic Thunder comes along? I mean seriously folks, you have some popular actors that children admire and want to emulate. These actors are behaving and talking in ways that are completely unacceptable. Free speech aside, did common sense go out the window when someone pitched this movie? Didn't anyone along the way say, "hey this is wrong. Why don't you go pick on someone your own size?" Or are you all stooping to the level of the school yard bully, and picking on those least able to defend themselves? Is this how you want to be remembered?

Ever since my daughter's birth, I have been told that I am too sensitive. When I have commented to a friend or family member over the use of the R-Word, somehow I'm made to feel like I'm the one who is wrong. I hear, "we wouldn't call your daughter a Re****". But they'll make stupid jokes about how they did something Re****ed, or call each other Re**** when someone makes a mistake or does something stupid. But my daughter, and people like her, are the foundation of the clinical and original definition of the R-word. It comes from the Latin retardare So when you use that word in slang and fun, you are demeaning all the people that word clinically defines. And somehow, this isn't supposed to bother me?????

So, I don't know what the writers, actors and directors were thinking, but I do know what I am thinking. I'm thinking that I will use my daughter as a role model of persistence, perseverance, and patience. I am not too sensitive - the R-word is wrong and mean. I will continue to stand up for her, and all the people who are hurt by the derogatory use of the R-word.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Happy 91st birthday!

1917 - The year my Honey (she never wanted to be known as "Grandma") was born, also was the year that the Russian Revolution breaks out; the first jazz record is recorded; the 1st NHL championship game ever played the 1st time American Hockey team wins Stanley Cup (Seattle Metropolitans beat the Montreal Canadiens); British troops occupy Baghdad; U.S. enters WWI; Mary appears to 3 shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal; the Raggedy Ann doll was invented; 1st class mail now costs 3cents an ounce; New York State now allows women the right to vote; twice this year suffragists were arrested for picketing at the White House; and, Boys Town was founded by Father Flannagan in Nebraska. What a busy year, and those were only a few of the headlines from 1917.

Andrew Wyeth, Arthur C. Clarke, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Dean Martin, Indira Ghandi, John Kennedy, Jr., Katherine Graham, Phylis Diller, Robert Mitchum, Dizzy Gillespie, Robert Bloch, and Zsa Zsa Gabor were all born this year. Some are still with us and some have gone ahead.

What did things cost when my Honey was born? Wow! I googled and found that in Morris county NJ (thanks!!) ketchup was $0.12 a bottle, and sugar was $1.89 for a 25 lb. sack! There was a 12-room house for sale, only $4,400.00. Times sure have changed.

Last year we celebrated Honey's 90th birthday with a fabulous family reunion. We came from all over the US to celebrate and reconnect. Honey and my Pop Pops had 4 children and they were all there, along with 11 grandchildren and several spouses, and 6 great-grandchildren! Although Pop Pops passed away a few years ago, Honey was fortunate to meet a widower who shares her life now. The most recently married grandchild and his wife hosted at their new house which also has a pool, so it became a wonderful pool party for the great-grandkids.

What a difference from family gatherings of old. Instead of being the kids playing the games and swimming all day, we were the grown-ups standing around chatting, taking kids to the potty or changing diapers, switching off parenting duties, for a chance to grab a bite to eat. Our family is lucky that we have such a rich history of family gatherings since all the cousins were kids. My mom and her sisters all settled to raise their families near each other. Only their brother headed out to explore the world beyond Lancaster County. He and his girls would come back to visit most every year though. What great memories of old - the extended family meeting after church at Honey & Pop pops house, taking turns hosting holiday meals and birthday parties. These memories call to mind the images Norman Rockwell captured.

The last time many of us were all together was a wedding 4 years earlier. Before that, it had been many years; since the last big family gatherings occurred when we were in middle school. My grandparents moved away to Arizona when I was in junior high, and we all got very busy with the active lives that teenagers have. We still had Christmas and Easter, but it wasn't quite the same.

But now that we are all getting married and raising our own children, we feel the need to reconnect with our past and share it with the next generation. So much has changed since my Honey was born. Even since I was born! I long for the simpler times of my childhood. Our kids don't have the same luxurious freedoms we had at the same age. However, when we all get together again, it's like recapturing that Norman Rockwell moment all over again. And we have the opportunity to share that family feeling, that freedom feeling with the next generation. To give them that connection to something bigger than they are.

I'm not always certain all of the changes we've seen in the last 91 years are for the better. And, thankfully, some things never change. I'm grateful to have my Honey and hear the stories of her childhood and life with my grandfather when they were young parents. Their adventures, trials, tribulations, and most especially the funny, heartwarming stories of their children (our parents) being, well, children, bring a smile to my face, and bolster me when I'm facing tough times. Somehow we manage through the worst of times, and hopefully we savor the best of times, and find shining moments that stay with us forever.

I realized as we celebrated Honey's birthday last year, that she gave us the the best gift of all. These fabulous family gatherings and the wonderful memories we treasure. I hope we continue her traditions so that our children and their children will have these treasures to hold on to through their lives.

Monday, August 4, 2008

It's the same at the beginning and the end.....

Today we took Nona (grandma) to visit DC, where she grew up. We visited two musems, and had lunch at a favorite haunt.

Walking through DC with Nona, I realized just how much we regress physically as we age. Don't mistake me: my Mother-in-Law is a wonderful lady. She's lots of fun to visit with, she loves to spend time with her grandkids, and she loves to help out. She is full of life and energy, but after a few broken bones and arthritis her get-up-and-go is not the same as it was 20 years ago.

I really enjoyed taking her on a romp through her old stomping grounds and listening to her stories of days of old. I pushed Ellie in the stroller to and from the museums and carried her to and from the restaurant. We had a 3 1/2 block walk to the restaurant, luckily some of it was shaded. On that walk I realized how I'd become used to traveling at the frenetic speed of an 8year old. Nona walks at about 1/3rd our speed. Surprisingly, so does Ellie! Her small steps and Nona's are the same. Luckily I can still pick Ellie up and high-tail it when needed. Like when the meter runs out on your car :)

Since I can't carry Nona, :) I have to plan better for the next trip so that we can spend more time enjoying the musems and less time walking to and fro.