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It all started with a story…

Once upon a time there were two sisters.

One spring day they wanted their Mom to take them to the park and play. When they arrived at the park the older sister jumped out of the car ahead of her Mom and sister. She was so excited.

“Come on Mom, hurry up! I am going to go over to the pumpkin carriage.”

“Ok, be careful and stop there and wait for us,” said the Mom.

At this point the girls Mom was getting a wheelchair out of the car for the younger sister to use. She quickly buckled her younger daughter in her seat and off they went with big smiles on their faces.

When they got to the sidewalk in front of the playground that smile quickly turned to a frown because they were stopped by railroad ties which keep the mulch in, but children who use wheelchairs out.

“What a nuisance!” the Mom said, as she lifted her daughter and her wheelchair over the barrier.

When the young girl and her Mom finally made it across the bumpy mulch, the older daughter was eager to play with them.

“Hey, come on up here. Mom you can be the Queen and we will be the princesses.”

This sounded like fun, both girls anxious to play, only one problem, their Mom couldn’t get the little sister up on the carriage without having to take her out of her wheelchair.

“I’m sorry, but we just can’t get up on the carriage, isn’t there something for all of us to play on.”

At that point all three of them looked around the playground.

“Mom, I don’t see anything we can all do together because we can’t get the wheelchair up on anything!”

With a sigh the Mother said “you are right, ok, you go and play and we will sit here in the shade and watch.”

“I wish there was something we could do together.” The Mom said to the little girl in the wheelchair. As she spoke to her she noticed a tear rolled down the little girls’ cheek.

The older sister jumped off the carriage and ran around and used all of the equipment, the slides, the bars, the swings, and then she stopped and looked back at her Mom and sister who were looking very sad watching her.

“What’s the matter Mom?”

“Well, your sister wants to play like you.”

“You know what Mom, I think we should go home and I will make up a game to play with my sister. She’s special and should be able to play like me.”

So they pushed the wheelchair back over the bumpy mulch, over the barriers and headed back to their car, to go home and play.

This is an actual story, as these two little girls are my daughters, and this was the beginning of the creation of the first fully inclusive playground in our state and one of the first of its kind in the country.

I worked for almost 10 years creating fully inclusive playgrounds in the metro DC area and helped many communities around the country before I closed our nonprofit organization shortly after September 11th. I will continue to write about “building a dream,” and hopefully it will inspire many more playgrounds to come! So hold onto your dreams and reach to make them happen!

Thousand Word Thursday: “Welcome to Holland”


I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

Cheaper Than Therapy

Thousand Word Thursday

I recently saw this on another mom’s blog and it made me think of some “thought provoking” photo’s I have in my collection. So every Thursday I am going to post a picture that I think is powerful, that expresses emotion, and speaks volumes to me. Here’s one that I believe is worth a thousand words.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away…

 

Cheaper Than Therapy

 

 

 

This little hand

Once upon a time there was the smallest, sweetest most precious miracle that god gifted to us. She came into the world eight weeks early and under some not so great circumstances but none the less after her birth and short stay in the hospital we both went home to start our new lives together.

First there were bottles and diapers, and eventually music groups with other tots. Soon she began talking and walking and making new little friends. Play dates took over most of our lives and watching her develop her own personality really was fun, slowly this small little miracle was becoming her own person. She had likes and dislikes of foods and was very opinionated when it came to dressing, who knew a one year old would be so fashion conscious?

As she grew and met friends my friends changed as our circles revolved around pre-school and ballet. Our days were filled with lots of laughter and love and an occasional temper tantrum usually revolving around the “dressing drama,” but there were always lots of hugs and kisses.

I loved being “mom,” it was the best job in the world. I often thought how lucky I was to have this job and prepare this little gift to one day leave the nest and go out on her own even as scary a thought as it was. I loved holding her little hand!

Pre-school turned into kindergarten and then our friends changed again, and a new home and a new sister, and all of this changed her more and more. At the same time I still loved the kisses and hugs and the feel of her little hand as I watched her learn looking at the world through her “child’s eyes.”

She played so many sports, she skated, she rode, she even played softball for a season, she was what I called the “seasoned” sports player as each only lasted that long but each taught her a different lesson.

At one point in her childhood I became the “voice” for families who did not have an accessible place to play and she joined in and even spoke before the House and Senate. I know this taught her a great lesson. But going to Annapolis I remember we walked into the Capital and I was holding her hand.

Soon came junior high and high school each with lots of lessons, there was driving and curfews and family rules she had to learn to live by. I know I stopped to think at least once or twice that this is going way to fast and I wanted it all to slow down.

I enjoyed the time we had eating lunch together when she called me at her lunch break just so she could eat with me, and when we just sat in bed to “chat” as she used to say when she was a little girl.

I knew and could feel the time was getting close and there were still so many things I wanted to say and still wanted to hold that little hand but I could feel she was getting ready to leave the nest. And then her college acceptances arrive and spring turned to summer.

And in early August as we stood on her college dorm steps saying our goodbyes’, I realized what a wonderful young woman this miracle from god had developed into.

She is everything that I dreamed she would be! I am so proud of this little girl whose hand it was time to let go of…