Posts tagged ‘author’

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother

I led a very untraditional lifestyle when I was growing up.  My father, whom I later realized was schizophrenic, had the wanderlust to travel, which our family did for about 6 months of the year. He would remove me out of school and we would take off for various areas of the country, living in our Volkswagen van. ( Although I am sure that today’s public education system would not allow it, somehow I think my father would have taken me out anyway.)

It was quite an adventure for a child like me.  I have a vivid memory of cracking eggs in a big, black, iron frying pan over a campfire in the Badlands in South Dakota.  The rocks the pan was on were not sturdy, and the pan fell sideways with the eggs slowly leaking out onto the pine needles on the ground.  (Clumsy then…still clumsy.) I remember traveling in southern Georgia, driving for miles watching red clay cover everything…the houses, the cars, and even the clothes hanging on the lines.  It was at the beginning of the civil rights movement, and I was uneducated in this area, (probably because I didn’t go to school!) The whole concept of a bathroom for “whites only” was a shock to me.  Did that mean that only people wearing white clothes could use it?  (I’m picturing nurses, dentists, pharmacists…)  I couldn’t use it because I had on my only pair of pants, jeans, and a multi-colored t-shirt. But I had to go to the bathroom baaaaad, where would I go?  Behind the bushes? How degrading!  My misunderstanding of this concept is now a slight reminder of what it felt like be African American in the 60′s. I also have the memory of  a bear at Yellowstone Park coming onto our campsite to eat our dinner as we all huddled in the car. My brother, Curtis, was upset because he had left a package of Cracker Jacks on the picnic table.  We had to restrain him from leaping out of the car to get it.  Afterwards, I was not so keen to sit by the campfire…

But most of all, I remember my constant companion; Curtis.  He was four years younger than I was, and he had been born with Rubella Syndrome; developmentally delayed, cleft palate, legally blind, and severely hearing impaired.  He was my buddy.  Because my dad was extremely frugal, (ie obsessive compulsive disorder frugal,) I did not have many toys to play with.  So, in addition to reading a lot, I played in our surroundings with my brother.  I have a memory of  sitting by a stream, sun shining down on the water through the leaves on the trees. Curtis was happily splashing about in the shallow water.  I was looking for rocks that somewhat resembled people.  (They were no Barbie dolls, but some kind of looked like Alfred Hitchcock and Potato Head.) All of a sudden I heard a whoooooosh!  Curtis had ventured too far into the water and the current started to carry him downstream!  Fortunately, I had long, slim legs (in those days,) and with a few strides, I picked him up by the back of his pants. He was laughing heartily.  To him it was a real adventure.  Like the poor person’s substitute for a ride at Disneyland!

We actually had a lovely childhood together. I had to carry him everywhere because he could not walk sturdily.  Carrying him was just a natural way of life for me.  I don’t know why, but I never thought to be embarrassed by him, (although his screeching and attempt at speech WAS pretty scary).  I never ever thought of him as a burden.  He was just my buddy, Curtis.

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My parents rarely took pictures.  (The money thing again…) But I do remember ONE picture.  It was a picture of me and Curtis, standing in front of Mount Rushmore.  I was characteristically giving him a piggy back ride.  The photo shows Curtis, looking over my shoulder, eyes squinted shut by the glare of the sun.  I was wearing a stupid, treasured, red velvet derby hat, (you know, like jockeys wear.) As the dead presidents loomed behind us, I gave my characteristically stupid, toothy grin, (like all children do when their parents ask them to smile.) And on that day, I first heard the song from Neil Diamond which fit my sentiments exactly: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”.  It was a powerful moment to think that someone had put into words what my life was like.

I was so very lucky to have been raised the way I was because it formed my personality, my temperament, and my compassion for others. I personally cannot take credit for the way I live now, fostering and adopting children. I am not selfless, nor amazing, nor wonderful, nor any of the other adjectives readers have used to describe me. I am simply living my life the way I was raised and it is a wonderful life!

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Link to my book  The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

 

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother Lyrics

The road is long

With many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where

Who knows where

But I’m strong

Strong enough to carry him

He ain’t heavy,he’s my brother

So on we go

His welfare is of my concern

No burden is he to bear

We’ll get there

For I know

He would not encumber me

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

If I’m laden at all

I’m laden with sadness

That everyone’s heart

Isn’t filled with the gladness

Of love for one another

It’s a long, long road

From which there is no return

While we’re on the way to there

Why not share

And the load

Doesn’t weigh me down at all

He ain’t heavy he’s my brother

He’s my brother

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell

performed by Neil Diamond in 1970

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Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

I am Not Very Good with Water Crafts

I work with several recreational groups for children. I am great arranging games, doing social skills activities, helping them   cook simple meals, go out to the movies, bowling and other such activities.  The one area where I am terrible is in doing crafts.

For an October program, we had a great day; went to a corn maze, picked pumpkins, made pizzas for lunch and then…decorated pumpkins. What could go wrong with that, you ask?  Well, I was in charge of it, which was the first mistake. The second mistake was in lieu of having the children of various ages and disabilities use a knife to cut into it, I chose to have them decorate the outside. Not with just stickers…no, THAT would have been too easy! We were using large google eyes, yarn for hair and fake “gems’ for the smile. Very tactile.  Lots of bling.  Lots of glue.  Lots of the WRONG glue…the yarn hair drooped into the eyes, which drooped down towards the mouth, which also drooped down into a frown.  They were very sad looking, in more ways than one.  I excitedly told them to tell their parents they created a melting pumpkin face.  They were thrilled they were so clever.  I was mortified the glue did not hold the items in their designated places.

I had another glue mishap a while ago.  I used jars of baby food and the kiddos glued an icon into the jar top; Mickey Mouse, Spiderman, Disney princesses, and the Littlest Mermaid.  While it dried, they added water colored a light blue, and then half of a jar of sparkles. We were making snow globes, of course.  However, when they tightly screwed the top to the bottom, the icons  simply drifted off into the water.  I had used the wrong glue AGAIN, not water proof.  The little icons were freely floating in the sparkly water.  They could understand why they Littlest Mermaid was swimming, and Spidey could have been flowing through the water to save someone, but poor Minnie and Mickey were just plain drowning!  

My last craft humiliation also contained water.  A few weeks ago I had the kiddos make Thanksgiving centerpieces using real flowers in a beautiful bowl.  I’m no slouch when it comes to common sense, so I knew enough to purchase those green hard spongy things in which the kids could stick the flower stems. First,they glued colored (fake) leaves on the outside of the bowls. Then they started sticking the flowers in one by one.  We followed a basic pattern, a tall, bushy yellow one on top, assorted yellow and orange ones arranged downward, and plenty of greens to finish it off. They put it in the bowl and we filled it with water. They all looked WONDERFUL. I was so proud of my students and their creations,which they showed to their parents when they picked them up. We all know that moms and dads are famous for “ooooowwwwing” and “aaaawwwwing” over each and every creation their child makes, but I knew for sure these were the real thing.  

After the students left, I went back to look at the flower arrangement I had done as a sample.  The flowers were listing to the side.  Curious because they were stuck safely into that green hard spongy thing which should have held them straight…IF IT HAD BEEN GLUED PROPERLY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL!  GLUE!!!!! Why hadn’t I known that it would FLOAT if not glued down?  Horror visions of the kiddos flowers floating on their side, sitting on their Thanksgiving tables filled my head.  Oh, NO! I am staying away from glue and water crafts from now on!    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For any new readers, I am attaching the review of my book by Readers Digest:

Nov 02, 2012 11:04 AM EDT

What to Read After a Hurricane

by Dawn Raffel

Shortly before Hurricane Sandy came to my town, flooding my house and knocking out the power (which is still out), I had the good fortune to download The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane by Linda Petersen.

Her story begins not with her children but with her own childhood spent traveling the country in the backseat of her parents’ car (her perpetually restless dad had post-traumatic stress disorder from  WWII), often with very little money and few provisions. Where someone else might have seen deprivation and isolation, Petersen viewed her unusual childhood with a sense of wonder and gratitude. After marrying young and giving birth to a son who was legally blind (and who went on to earn a PhD on full scholarship), Petersen and her husband adopted four more special needs children and fostered many others.

Her honesty, wit, and terrific storytelling make this a book you want to read rather than one you feel you should read. So there I was, swiping pages on an iPad in the dark in a blackout… I couldn’t have picked a better book for putting it all in perspective.

http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

I Received a Recommendation from Readers Digest (YAY!!)

I am soooo excited. My book was reviewed by a book reviewer from Readers Digest who lives in New York and just happened to download it right prior to the hurricane:

 

Nov 02, 2012 11:04 AM EDT

What to Read After a Hurricane

by Dawn Raffel

Shortly before Hurricane Sandy came to my town, flooding my house and knocking out the power (which is still out), I had the good fortune to download The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane by Linda Petersen.

Her story begins not with her children but with her own childhood spent traveling the country in the backseat of her parents’ car (her perpetually restless dad had post-traumatic stress disorder from  WWII), often with very little money and few provisions. Where someone else might have seen deprivation and isolation, Petersen viewed her unusual childhood with a sense of wonder and gratitude. After marrying young and giving birth to a son who was legally blind (and who went on to earn a PhD on full scholarship), Petersen and her husband adopted four more special needs children and fostered many others.

Her honesty, wit, and terrific storytelling make this a book you want to read rather than one you feel you should read. So there I was, swiping pages on an iPad in the dark in a blackout… I couldn’t have picked a better book for putting it all in perspective.

http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

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