My passion filled life
Thoughts and threads of passion and experience that have woven the fabric I call my life.
My passion filled life
Life chugs along, and if we are doing it right, we keep gaining experience and offerings. From one day to the next, we don’t necessarily know how those skills will be shared in the world, but the point of the learning is to share it where it’s needed.
A few months ago, I awoke to an email from one of my dear friends in Manitoba who had connected with a lady close to her. That lady, Lesley Feldman, had shared some of her life story with my friend, and in sharing, my friend knew that there was a story to be told. She connected the two of us, and with what I’d learned, was able to help get things rolling for what Lesley hoped for herself.
Shortly after we began to work on the story in her heart, she asked about publishing a children’s book that she’d had sitting on her shelf. Lesley, like myself and so many people that I know, had been bullied incessantly as a child. In talking about our shared experience, I remembered the turmoil and the pain that bullying had caused me in my young life. As part of her healing journey, she had written a book that would have children think about the fact that we all do certain things differently, but the bottom line for each and every one of us, is that we want to be accepted for who we are, just like every other person.
I am Just Like You is a beautiful teaching tool to have young children start to explore differences in a positive, educational way. To recognize that we are unique and different, but our needs are the same. Our need to be loved, valued and appreciated for who we are and what we offer to the world just as we are.
I’ve loved the conversations that I am Just Like You has started in my own family. It’s ideal for children in the 3 to 5 years of age range, to start conversations.
In the world as it’s continuing to spin, I think we have to use every tool at our disposal to do what we can to develop and mentor the next generation, so that they are more accepting and compassionate that so much of what we’re witnessing around us is revealing. I think this book is a great starting place for that, and I hope you’ll find it to be the same!
Those of you that know me, know that mine is not your traditional family by definition. It’s a wonderful family, but not typical, and includes a collection of step and chosen children. Because of this, I’ve spent a lot of time the last couple of years learning as much as I can about Canada’s Residential School system and it’s effects, and although it is not my lived experience, last year it did become a little more personal.
Last year, my grandson Tyson started kindergarten. On September 30th, when his mom, Bianca, was making him put on his orange shirt for Orange Shirt Day, she had to take the time to explain to him the reason for it and why it’s necessary to participate and honour the Residential School Survivors on that day. She patiently explained to him that in at the not so distant past, Tyson’s school experience would have been much different than it is today. Because of who they are, my family…my Grandkids… would have most likely been forced to live the Residential School system experience, simply because of their ancestry and their skin colour.
Shen she called me later to share with me her conversation with him, I was so impacted. For all my learning, I had never allowed my heart to picture one of my Grandchildren being the ones taken away. That new picture of what might have been has stayed with me, and haunted me in the year since.
When I started this journey of sharing my book ideas and creations with the greater world, I realized that Tyson's story was one that needed to be written. It needed to be shared, not only because his mom did such a great job of explaining it to Tyson as a 5-year old, but that Tyson can now become a teacher to others who may not understand what Orange Shirt Day is all about.
For myself, as I began to share with my own friends and circle about writing the book and the enjoyment we had creating the graphics to tell the story, it became so apparent that so many people of my own generation have no idea that there is an Orange Shirt Day, or why we have it. I’m hoping that this book will become a tool to help the young, compassionate Tyson’s of the world to continue to reach and teach the rest of us who are still wrapping our heads and hearts around a system that was kept a secret from us for most of our own lives.
The work of the recommendations that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission laid out for us has barely begun. There is so much to do, to create understanding and empathy between the people of this land. I hope that through working with my daughter and grandchildren to share this small piece of our experience, we can be a small part of the process that will move Canada forward. Thank you for sharing this journey with us.
When Shane came along, my musical creativity took a back seat and was set aside for years, as I focused on trying to figure out what was needed to make his life as full and rich as it could be. As a child who lived his life with spastic quadra-paraplegic Cerebral Palsy, lots of things had to be amended and adjusted to make sure he was always seen as just another kid that did things a little differently. It could be challenging, but it could also be so rewarding, in how I had to stretch my experience and talents in different ways. Learning to adjust my own sails to go with the wind that the day presented became an art form in itself.
One of the things that I did from very early on, was to try and find ways that Shane could tell his own story. Keep in mind, Shane was never able to communicate verbally, nor was he able to make use of his hands. What I began to do was to create books for him.
The first book was a very simple “All About Me” book that was a quick overview of who he was, how he communicated, how he used the wheelchair to get around and what his life at home looked like. It worked beautifully, as the other kids in Nursery School and then Kindergarten were able to look through it with him at the pictures that shared the many activities his life was made up with. They were able to learn about his family, his pets, his jobs around the farm feeding the calves, helping in the garden and an assortment of other activities that filled our hours at home. It gave the other children a glimpse of his life as a normal kid, who just had to do most things in a different way. I also used the Mayer Johnson Communication symbols throughout, so Shane was also learning what would be his future communication style.
With the first book working so well for him, I began to make it a practice to create books that told his story whenever we did something different. “Shane’s Big Adventure 1” and “Shane’s Big Adventure 2” are two of those books. They are made up of rhymes and pictures that helped to tell the other children about his travels to visit family in British Columbia. First when he was five years old, then once again when he was nine.
I always loved the reactions that he received from the other kids, who were able to read those stories with him and share the places and things he did. The greatest part of it all for me was that it didn’t matter that Shane couldn’t talk to tell his story, he could share through their voices and reading with him, and he didn’t need a hovering mother or EA around to do that. It could just be him sharing his adventure with one of his peers.
All these years later, as part of my quest to get the things that I’ve found beneficial out into the world, I’ve finally made time to put those little binder books into a published format. My hope is that they will be a starting point for children to begin to learn a little more about other children who live life differently, and begin some discussion about not only differences, but commonalities. I have found that they are a great conversation starter, and once conversations begin, real communication and learning can unfold.
I also hope that maybe another parent who is looking for a way to help smooth the educational road for their own child might find it a beneficial idea that they too could try. Or, maybe they can use Shane as an example of another little boy who had to live life differently, but none the less, lived life fully!
I’m not sure where either will go, but what was important to me was that I got them out into the world! There is now a tangible offering that Trem and I can share when we do our presentations, as we talk about the books I created during those events. If people are inspired to buy them then maybe the proceeds will fund more opportunities to present, and share and keep spreading the message that we all belong, we all contribute, and we all matter.
“Shane’s Big Adventure” books are now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. Please feel free to share the information about them with anyone that you think my be interested or might benefit.
Myself, I’m just so grateful that we live in a world where I get to continue to share Shane’s story, his message and his teachings in hopes that by doing so this world of our will continue to move forward into the inclusive, diverse place that I believe is possible!
A couple of years ago, while I still lived in Manitoba and was still the Senior Coordinator for Innovative Life Options (LIFE Inc), I was involved in what we lovingly called the ‘Kitchen Table
Talks’. The project was created to bring families who had a child living with a disability and who were not yet being provided services in the adult world together for open, engaging conversation. Our hope was that we could garner some wisdom from these families as to how things were working, what they were most proud of, what would be most helpful and what ideas they had for their son or daughter’s future.
We learned, more deeply, what we already knew. Families are amazing! They are strong, resilient, innovative and are hungry for information that will make their child’s life as full, inclusive and meaningful as each of our own lives strive to be. By keeping our conversations on the 'Appreciative Inquiry' stream, whereby we focused on what had gone well that we could build upon, rather than things that were not, we were able to garner a glimpse of the amazing things that families have done to provide the best they can for the children they so dearly love, whether their child is a youth, or an adult.
We realized much of what the families most wanted to know more about were things that could best be answered by other families who had walked this path. To build upon the wonderful initiative started, it was decided the next step would be to gather some of those answers, and I had the great privilege of being chosen to move the project forward.
It was decided that the best way to do that would be to compile a book through interviewing families using the questions that had arisen in the Talks. I sent out a call to the families I knew that were involved with ‘In the Company of Friends’, Manitoba’s self-directed, independent living model for adults with developmental disabilities. Ten families came forward to share their stories, and ‘Family Matters’ was born.
It was wonderful to spend the time in deep, connected conversation with the amazing people that participated. Many of them had been as much a support to me when I was raising Shane as I ever was to them in my working role. They shared, inspired, laughed and often cried, as they recounted the joys and the challenges of the lives we come to know on the unexpected roads of the world of disabilities. It was humbling to be given that intimate glimpse into each of their lives, and to be given their trust and faith that their story would be shared with dignity and respect, so that those who might benefit from their wisdom would.
So now the project is completed. ‘Family Matters’ has been published and shares these stories through the voices of the families that have lived the experience. These stories talk about inclusion, support networks, relationship development, the education system and of the many incredible steps that each family took to make sure that what their child needed to be a part of their community was put in place.
The book, ‘Family Matters’ is now available on Amazon, in both hard copy and on Kindle. At only 140 pages, it’s an easy, informative read where it can be picked up and explored one chapter/one unique story at a time.
It was the hope of every parent that participated and myself that in sharing our journeys, another parent raising a child with different, special needs, might feel a little less alone as they journey through life. Our hope was that something that we learned, some pearl of insight or achieved wisdom might take some of the bumps out of the road for another.
Parents are truly the greatest experts when it comes to what is needed and what is possible for their child. Parents also have to appreciate and then build upon the efforts and the work of the ones that came before, so that we can keep moving our world forward into one that is more inclusive, accepting and accessible for all persons, with and without disabilities. Family matters provides some of the history and structure that was laid as foundation of the work for the building that needs to continue. Maybe that work can be achieved a little more quickly and a little more easily, by sharing our lessons and learning, so that previously invented wheels might not have to be recreated.
Thanks to all that contributed. Thanks also for taking the time to read this. Please share this information as far and wide as you can, so that all parents who might benefit from the opportunity to access and read these stories, will know that they are there waiting for them!
5 out of 5 stars: A MUST READ!!!!
ByAmazon Customer on August 20, 2017
This book is a very touching book with many stories. Everybody should read it! Teachers and families that have a challenged child in their family should definitely read it! Helps to give you support you need!
4 out of 5 stars: Great work!
ByAmazon Customer on August 3, 2017
ICOF is a new concept for me, but I'm already a huge fan. Great work!
5.0 out of 5 stars Overcoming obstacles and ignorance to lead normal fulfilling lives is at the heart of this amazing read. Lynda is extraordinary writer who tells her ...
Bydixietomchukon September 11, 2017
An interesting and honest review of the lives of families living with a child with special needs. Overcoming obstacles and ignorance to lead normal fulfilling lives is at the heart of this amazing read . Lynda is extraordinary writer who tells her story and that of others in an open and honest way . There is help and resources available which is pointed out throughout the book. I love how the stories are told by answering 18 thought provoking questions.
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