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Archives for August 2009

“S” is for Special and Shoes

Last week I was getting Ainsley ready to go back to school for her 10th year; this was complete with a haircut, a trip to the mall and rounded out with a trip to visit our favorite shoe guy “Mr. Ed” at Shoe Train. Somehow I realized that last year in the midst of all of my craziness we didn’t get to see Mr. Ed so Ainsley had been wearing the same sneakers for two years. Good thing she hasn’t grown any.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Ed since Rebeka was a child, which is about 20years now, since I believe we bought her first pair of “real” shoes when she was one. Mr. Ed is known by all in the community as a special man with an exceptional and loving staff.

Before we left home I called to confirm that Ed was in and was warned that there was a list of people who had been there in line since before the store opened waiting patiently for his assistance. We arrived at Shoe Train at 11:00 am with smiles on our faces knowing when we were finished Ainsley would have some new shoes for the school year. We were prepared to wait our turn knowing it might take an hour or two. Ed Jurgrau see’s up to 100 children and their parents a day during this back-to-school season, as his clients come from as far as up to 100 miles!

Ed opened Shoe Train in 1979 and has been servicing the community since. Shoe Train is not only known for their wonderful and knowledgeable staff for the regular customer, they also specialize in servicing the special needs community. What people love about everyone at Shoe Train is they take the time to fit your children properly, and they have a large selection of styles in widths and sizes to please all children even the pickiest of teenagers. Over the years he has taken Ainsley’s shoes and molded them to fit her orthotics and now he specializes in making Cascade orthotics, which is a wonderful extension of his business.

As we waited we saw several families big and small and I was a little surprised and horrified to see a woman behind me who brought in a bag of shoes she had obviously purchased at Nordstrom’s and asked Ed to make sure the shoes “fit” each child. Ed just complied with a huge smile. That is just the kind of guy Ed is! He genuinely cares about the children and the community.

Over the years our family has grown close with Ed and I’m proud I can call him my friend. He has always been a huge advocate for our family’s causes as well as the communities. Ed has donated 1000’s of pairs of shoes to various organizations. In 2004 when Rebeka was competing in a pageant in Las Vegas Ed has told me he was going to be there at the same time for a shoe convention and low and behold he showed up to support Rebeka with a hometown smile!

Bill who has been working with Ed for years, also works with the Frederick Key’s Baseball team, and over the years he also spent a great deal of time helping our family with special projects. We were so glad to see Bill at the Frederick Key’s game when Exceptional Parent Magazine honored our family with the Maxwell J Schliffer Community Service Award.

So we waited three hours, until 2:15 pm, for Ed to fit Ainsley with her shoes but as usual it was well worth the wait for this special man!

And everyone LOVES a Maryland crab cake!

When Rebekah was competing for the title of Miss Teen America part of her competition was to write and present a “PSA” (Public Service Announcement) about our state which was 2 minutes long; so what could she say about Maryland in 2 minutes, well a lot… and she ended with the ever popular line in our home now…. “And Everyone LOVES a Maryland Crab Cake!…”

Summer in Maryland is just not complete without “crab cakes” it is like a warm summer day without sunshine! I thought I would take a moment to introduce you to my favorite Maryland crab cake recipe. I guess now would be a good time to tell you that I’m allergic to shellfish, but my family just loves them! LOL In any event these are wonderful enjoy!

This recipe is from one of my favorite cooks, Ina Garten; The Barefoot Contessa. If anyone knows me they know how much I love everything Ina makes! She is the BEST!!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup small diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 1/2 cups small diced celery (4 stalks)
1/2 cup small diced red bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/2 cup small diced yellow bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound lump crabmeat, drained and picked to remove shells
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten for frying
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

Place the 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons oil, onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, capers, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, salt, and pepper in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, break the lump crabmeat into small pieces and toss with the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs.
Add the cooked mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Shape into bite-sized crab cakes.

Heat the butter and olive oil for frying over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the crab cakes and fry for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels; keep them warm in a 250 degree oven and serve hot.

Last week I had the chance to stop by my new friend Carol’s blogshe writes about having a blended family of 5 children, four cats, 3 dogs, 2 fish and a bird… wow, that is like a “Christmas song!” Carol had a chance to experience our “Maryland crabs” on her summer vacation. Have any of you had the chance to enjoy them?

Back to School with a wink and a smile

As summer comes to a rapid close, it is “back to school time.” It is a “happy time” for most mom’s who spend these last few weeks getting their little one’s get ready to “go” for the first time; running to the shoe stores to get that special pair of fancy shoes and “needed” new white sneakers. This is usually followed by visiting the office supply stores to load up on crayons, folders, pencils, and scissors. And let’s not forget stopping to get a new lunch box and character backpack.

Somewhere in the beginning of the year each year children write essays about their summers and about their families. I can remember reading some funny essay’s Rebeka wrote and I can remember even writing these essay’s as a child. Along the line somewhere there was one or two that Rebeka wrote about me or Geoffrey being her hero, and I always thought that was so sweet.

The middle school and high school crowd usually heads to the mall without mom to pick up a few new fancy duds and then somehow remembers that they “might” need school supplies so they then go with mom and stock up on notebooks and pencils.

In middle school so much changes with children, their schools and their friends and their opinions on everything, because being pre-teens they know “everything about everything in the world.” And I remember reading Rebeka’s English papers and she was beginning to understand the degree of Ainsley’s disabilities and she would often write about that.

And then there’s me with one child who left two weeks ago for her senior year of college (ok so she’s not a “child” in age but she will always be my “child” in thought), and my other special child who is getting ready to go back to her 10th year of school, not necessarily 10th grade since she is in special education which continues until she is 21-years old. Following with what most moms are “doing” we loaded up the minivan and headed to the mall. We had a “mommy and Ainsley” afternoon of shopping, we went to the GAP, American Eagle, Old Navy, and of course PINK. (Shopping with a high school girl is NOT complete without a visit to PINK.) She still needs her new school shoes which we will have to get this week and that last minute haircut so she can “see” without her hair in her face.

And as we were driving home from the mall I looked up in the rear view mirror and looked at Ainsley strapped into the van in her wheelchair and it was then that that I was hit with a bittersweet smile and I started thinking about what she would be buying if she was not disabled; she would be buying an outfit for her senior picture and getting ready to return to her exciting senior year preparing to head out of the nest and off to college. I wonder what she would be writing about in her high school English essays…

But again, I stop and think that is not our life, but I stop and realize how wonderful and inspirational she really is and how much I love her just the way she is, and how blessed I am to have her in my life and I then realize once again that I’m not her hero she is ours!

There’s a hero,
If you look inside your heart,
You don’t have to be afraid of what you are,
There’s an answer,
If you reach into your soul,
And the sorrow that you know will melt away.

And then a hero comes along,
With the strength to carry on,
And you cast your fears aside and you know you can survive,
So when you feel like hope is gone,
Look inside you and be strong,
And you’ll finally see the truth that a hero lies in you.

It’s a long road,
When you face the world alone,
No one reaches out a hand for you to hold,
You can find love,
If you search within yourself,
And the emptiness you felt will disappear.

Lord knows,
Dreams are hard to follow,
But don’t let anyone tear them away,
Hold on,
There will be tomorrow,
In time you’ll find the way.

That a hero lies in…..you
Ooohh that a hero lies in…..you

Introductions, Introductions new friends deserve Introductions

Apparently last Monday, August 3rd, 2009 was International Friendship Day. I wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you who follows I’m Still Standing, you have all been a wonderful and supportive community and I look forward to sharing my family’s story with you over time.

In the mean time I thought I would take a moment to introduce you to two of my new crafty friends: Kandio from Kandio Design Jewelry and Silvia of Silver Rose blogs.

Kandace a.k.a Kandio is what I would call a true “fashionista” she attended The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. She managed a high end fashion design company called Su-zen for 17 years, and then transitioned into developing single family homes, creating luxury interiors and exteriors. And now she creates and designs a unique line of jewelry. So I suppose one could say she is a true “fashionista” of the arts!

Naturally she has an Etsy store where she showcases her beautiful pieces. She works with 14k gold filled, argentium, anti-tarnish sterling silver and copper wire, and joins them with Swarovski crystals, Czech glass beads, fresh water pearls and other natural elements, creating truly unique design statements.

I know that Rebeka would love to have these adorable earrings which Kandace calls “Like Jolly Rancher Candy.”

They are made of lime, orange, grape and cherry Czech glass teardrops which are threaded on a14k gold filled pear loops.

I just love this colorful necklace, it would go with so much! Don’t you just love it?

It is made of grape, orange, lime and ice blue Czech glass drops, plum iridescent fresh water pearls and cotton candy Swarovski crystals, which are threaded on a 14k gold filled 18” wire round.

Understanding the importance of giving back to our community I was very impressed with my next friend, Sylvia of the Silver Rose family. Silver Rose is a family owned and operated jewelry business that has specializes in fund raisers for over 30 years, they have raised a phenomenal $355,000 to date for charitable and non-profit organizations.

The Silver Rose family is focusing their fund-raising efforts through eBay’s Giving Works and the Red Cross. They believe that as technology and communications improve the world becomes smaller and smaller and through eBay, buyers and sellers can find each other in every corner of the world and they are able to reach out to those in need both near and far. I commend them on this and thank them for all who they have helped and touched!

Ok, so I’m sure that Geoffrey would find this a tad bit funny, I went and visited their site and admired so many pieces of jewelry but of course which one did I choose to fall in love with?

ONE RARE NATURAL RED DIAMOND Faceted Bead in an 18K Gold & Diamond PENDANT!

A faceted exquisite 11.86 carat Genuine Red Diamond & 18K Gold Pendant!!! The11.86 carat red diamond briolette is set in and 18K gold bezel with twelve 0.1 ct white diamonds in it. The total carat weight is 18.7 carats and it measures 24x11x8mm (nearly one inch in total length).
And how much does this beautiful piece cost you ask? Ooo a mere $6,270.00 yup, how typical of me. There are sooo many beautiful and very affordable pieces of jewelry and I gravitate to this one! Oh it is just darn typical!

I also do love Fresh Water Pearls and love this 16″ temporarily strung strand of extremely high luster which are almost round freshwater pearls.

These natural colored pearls that have not been enhanced or altered in any way. The background color of these pearls is a luminous satiny creamy white! (Absolutely incredible!) The nacre is thick and smooth has very few blemishes. And these can be yours for $199.99

Silver Rose has great tutorials on their site and I also stumbled upon this chart which I found interesting since I know what my birthstone is but never can remember anyone else’s.

I invite you to visit both of these wonderfully creative women and if you do let them know Shelley from I’m Still Standing sent you. And I leave you with one little thought from a sweet little bear named Winnie the Pooh:

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together. There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you…”

Get Your Preppy On Fabulous Giveaway!

I had so much fun hosting my first giveaway I’m jumping at another! In honor of my post on “Rush” and keeping with the “preppy school spirit,” I would like to introduce you to our friends at “Perfectly Preppy.”

Who is Perfectly Preppy? Kimberly is a wonderful Etsy designer who is “Perfectly Preppy.” (I just love meeting creative people on Etsy, don’t you?) Perfectly Preppy features unique handmade accessories and gifts designed to show off your perfectly preppy style. She has everything from her signature belts, (love them!) bracelets, pendants, and even gifts, there is so much to see! It’s no wonder her tag line is “get your preppy on!” Everything is so bright and adorable!

These are just a few of the things I just love! Of course with the name “Shelley” you know I’m a big Shell lover… LOL but I just love this belt, don’t you?

And of course one can Never have tooo many tumblers! LOL I have found these to be great gifts for everyone from Rebeka’s friends to Ainsley’s teachers and therapists.

Buy It!
You need to go over to her site to check out all of the wonderful goodies she has there. She has generously offered I’m Still Standing’s readers a 20 percent discount on all orders of $50 or more. And to boot she also offers a free gift with any $50 purchase. In order to get the discount all you would need to do is enter Voucher Code: STILLSTANDING at checkout. This offer is generously being extended thru the month of August.

Win It!
Perfectly Preppy has generously offered my readers a chance to win this preppy and adorable Lilly Pulitzer Flamingo Pink Taboo Glass Pendant!!! I know…its soooo cute!

1 entry- Follow this blog, if you are already a follower leave a message as to what you enjoy about “I’m Still Standing.”

1 entry- Visit Perfectly Preppy and come back and let me know what your favorite item in her shop is.
1 entry- Grab I’m still standing button.

1 entry- Follow me on Twitter (http://twitter.com/shelleyellen) and leave a comment that you are following on twitter.

1 entry-Tweet about this giveaway. Up to once a day! get your preppy on! fab giveaway http://tinyurl.com/n7ah8s please RT!
and leave a separate comment here with the twitter link.

1 entry-Subscribe to my feeds

1 entry- Favor my blog on Technorati

1 entry- Blog about this giveaway and include a link back to this contest

1 entry- Post on Facebook: adorable Lilly Pulitzer Flamingo Pink Taboo Glass Pendant Giveaway http://tinyurl.com/n7ah8s, leave a separate comment here that you posted this on Facebook and a the link.

Contest Rules:
• Contest ends Tuesday, August 18th at 11pm Eastern Standard Time.

• Winner MUST either have their e-mail address on their profile, or leave their e-mail address with their comment.

• Shipping will be coming directly from Perfectly Preppy.

• I will announce the winner of the giveaway on August 19th on this blog as well as through e-mail to the winner. If I do not receive a response within 48 hours, I will randomly choose a new winner.

We have ourself our first Winner! YaY!

A big thank you to everyone who entered my very first giveaway. I cannot express how grateful I am for all the wonderful comments. Also, many thanks to the new followers and please visit I’m Still Standing often…you are always welcome here! This giveaway was so much fun…there will be another one soon! Like my next post! YAY! so please come back tomorrow and see what we have instore for you!

and the winner is:

Blogger: MommaSuch

*remember you have 48 hours to get in touch with me via email and send over your full name and mailing address and phone for shipping or I will randomly pick another winner.

Rush=Sisterhood and Sometimes the Legacy Does Live On.

I can’t believe that Rebeka is a senior in college to her that means lots of things; getting ready for graduation, finishing things up, studying for her GRE’s, and yup, her last year participating in “Rush.”

So what exactly is “Rush?” one might ask, well according to Webster: It is a noun which can mean many things one of which is a drive by a fraternity or sorority to recruit new members.

Back in the early 80’s I joined the sisterhood of Alpha Delta Pi thru an “informal” Rush. I went through the regular rituals one does as a pledge and became a sister of the sorority. To this day, I have kept in touch with several of my sisters and most recently thru the joy and wonder of facebook became reacquainted with sisters who I lost touch with along the way, somehow we are all bound together and we pick up where we left off like nothing has changed.

Our recruitment for Rebeka was much different than mine; it actually started her senior year of high school when we attended “Pan-Hellenic Weekend.” This in itself was a mini-rush and HUGE eye opener to me as to how different Greek Life is in different parts of the country. Geoffrey and I both went down, thank goodness he had packed the best of his Vineyard Vines, and she her best of Lilly! Or we would have stuck out like a sore thumb. This was our introduction to school in the south. I don’t think I had ever been called “Ma’am” so much or had girls refer to my husband as “Sir.”

The weekend started off with an introduction from the Board of the Pan-Hellenic Association. Then we said good bye to our girls as they broke up in “tour groups” and we did the same thing. We went through all of houses in the sweltering heat. We stopped in each house for a 15 minute overview of their house; who they are, what they do for their philanthropy and a short skit. My husband and I walked out of at least 2 houses shaking our heads saying “nope not the house for her,” but we found that Rebeka being as well rounded as she was could have nicely fit into most of these houses. Although secretly I was hoping that she would want to join my house.

Rebeka and I had already been down to visit the University a few months earlier and stopped over at Alpha Delta Pi to introduce ourselves and to see the house; we did this at every school she applied to. For me it was a “hoot” to see the diversity of the sorority in various parts of the country. But in each it brought back a warm and “at home” feeling. I was hoping that Rebeka would have that “feeling” when she went to ADPi during her rush.

Pan Hellenic weekend was exhausting to say the least for both Rebeka and us. When we went home I understood that I needed to get my tush in gear and get going with “recs” for her, so I wrote to friends near and far in all of the sororities to ask that they write a letter of recommendation for Rebeka, I was fortunate to have had a bunch of friends who were happy to do this. Rebeka’s senior year ended, and summer came to a rapid end and Rebeka headed down south in early August 2006. Leaving her down there was one of the hardest things we had to do; just watching her thru the back of the taxi wave to us was heartbreaking. Although I promised her that I would return the following week for bid day, secretly crossing my fingers that she would be getting a bid from my house.

Rebeka called us daily to give us the updates of everything from her meticulously picked out clothing to her views on the houses that she toured. She fared very well during the two days of open house tours and was only dropped by one house. So she had some picking to do, she told me what houses she chose to go back to and ended with “of course ADPi.”

Next day was Philanthropy day where she went back to 10 houses which she chose to listen to their Philanthropy, I knew this was going to be an important one for Rebeka with as much as she had done in her life, I knew she wanted a house that put their money where their mouth was so to speak. She was very impressed with a few houses and narrowed her list down again.

Next day she went to the 6 houses which she kept on her list, I was a little surprised at a few of the houses she dropped but I told you philanthropy is important to her and I’m glad that we raised her to understand that giving begins at home.

Then came the hardest decision she had to make, cutting her list to a wee 3 houses for Preference. But that is what Preference is all about, that final chance to see if you can see yourself in that house, forever… After the final ceremony she and all 1500 other girls walked to the student union where they signed in and ranked the houses in their preference and they did this in total silence! This was mandatory, no one could talk to one another, it was made very clear to the girls that they needed to make this choice on their own. So she went and put her choices in order. After that she called me and was very teary eyed about all three houses. And then she had until 5 pm the next day to sit and wonder, “What house did I get into?” and me to wonder “Did she make the cut?” I felt like I was back at a pageant waiting to see if she made “top 10.”

It was at that time my plane was hitting the ground. I couldn’t wait to see her although it had only been a week; it had been such a long week for her mentally. I now can appreciate why they do this in the south before school actually begins it is sooo intense that they don’t want to mess with the academics which I was happy about.

At 4 o’clock Rebeka had to report to the NFL sized football stadium and look for her touring group she started out with. Each girl found her group and her “spot” which had an envelope with her name on it and “fate” inside. Would it be number 1, her favorite, number 2 or number 3? There was a small ceremony and then they were asked to pick up their envelopes which they had been sitting on till this point and open them. There were cheers and screams you could hear all over sorority row. Parents, friends, and all members of sororities and fraternities waited anxiously outside their houses to see who the “next generations, newest and brightest” would be.

I was on the street corner just outside Rebeka’s dorm. The girls came running out of the stadium in alphabetic order… It was something to see, like the “running of the bull!” TV Stations were even there filming it. Presidents and various other officers of each house were holding up HUGE life-size letters with the new pledges behind them running… The first house was Alpha Chi Omega which I knew Rebeka hadn’t chosen and next was Alpha Delta Pi, I was standing there watching and waiting and praying that she made the cut, and so they ran and ran and ran and ran, and my heart sank it looked like 100 girls, I almost started crying because I thought o crap, “first runner up again,” and then the very very last one running was my Rebeka, you know her and the heat! But there she was… An Alpha Delta Pi pledge, I was so proud because now we shared one more bond, mother, daughter and now sister forever!! Pi love…

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance

I smile as I sit back and look at photos of my daughter’s childhoods. Although they are so very different, one a special girl, and one with special needs they are still in many ways so much alike. Both love to dress up, paint their nails, listen to music, and both love to dance.

When Rebeka was younger it was a no brainer that she would take ballet, that was a given, just like she would be a brownie, attend Sunday school, and play with her friends. She would take ballet as all little girls did, I did, my mother-in-law did naturally my daughter would. We bought the black leotard, pink ballet slippers, pink tights and plenty of scrunches to pull the hair tight and back. She danced off and on for years finally ending up studying jazz with a private instructor, she never was a very “disciplined ballerina” and jazz fit her much better. I used to drag Ainsley when she was but a wee babe to all of Rebeka’s classes and as she grew older I wished that she too could dance but understood that would be impossible with her disabilities.

The hardest part of the year for me was Rebeka’s end-of-year recital. I was so proud as I watched her dance with joy and then saddened and wished that my little Ainsley could be up on that stage too. Through the years we attended many recitals and had the bittersweet feeling of joy for one child and sorry that another would not know that simple joy.

But then Becky, Ainsley’s Physical Therapist told us about a program at Maryland Youth Ballet that she was working on. Becky along with MYB’s Jennifer Cox, a 30-year dance professional, who was inspired by her own granddaughter’s desire to dance despite a disability, developed a program to allow children to enjoy the beauty of music and motion, and gain the benefits of the physical therapy.

Becky described the program and told us that at Maryland Youth Ballet’s new Silver Spring dance facility a state-of-the-art overhead track system was created which allows each dancer to participate without the aid of a volunteer. She then described that dancers are suspended with the aid of a vest sling and attached to a traverse rail system hung in the ceiling giving the dancers complete range of motion. My goodness how I just knew Ainsley would love this!

After listening to Becky talk about the program I immediately jumped at the chance to enroll Ainsley in the summer classes. Every week when Ainsley would go to her ballet class I pulled out the same outfit that Rebeka used to wear so many years ago, the black leotard, black tights and pink ballet slippers. Ainsley loved going to class, and she loved “dancing” in the track system. And for one brief moment I remember the recitals and closed my eyes and “saw” my little Ainsley and she was dancing!