20 Years Ago Today…

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June 10, 1999

This was me 20 years ago today. I graduated high school with my class ’99 with honors thanks to CHIP empowering me to stand up to everyone who thought I should stay in high school! I hated Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings because it was more like “Plan Steph’s Life” meetings, but Chip was my boyfriend then and came to these meetings with me giving me the courage to stand my ground. I don’t think anyone but Chip and I wanted me to graduate with my class. I would have been SO UNHAPPY not graduating especially when I was in the National Honor Society, and as you can see, graduated with honors!

I went on to Waubonsee Community College, and had a wonderful counselor who encouraged me to take Psychology which led me to be an early childhood professional with my Master’s Degree. No, things haven’t worked out exactly how I wanted but I am getting my children’s book illustrated by Candace Lyon, and I will get my 2nd edition (non-religious) of Gentle Firmness out on Amazon and keep advocating for children.  Eventually I will find my place.

I have always had to fight for everything, but I am blessed to have a wonderful man to fight with me to accomplish what I am supposed. I’m glad I don’t have a boring computer job that everyone but Chip tried to push me into!

May we teach children to never give up!

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Disappointment, Competition, And Community. The Value In Learning About All Three.

Being an author, artist, athlete, or any other professional in which one is forced to compete is not an easy thing. As an author, I continue to have to deal with rejection and disappointment.  And sometimes, as a part of business, I must reject and disappoint others.

Writing books and finding an illustrator for my children’s book about my life with Cerebral Palsy has turned out to be much more difficult than I thought.  I hope to be able to contractually secure an illustrator for my children’s book this summer and still have it published in the fall, but nothing is guaranteed.  I may be disappointed again and/or have to disappoint someone else if the samples of illustrations don’t fit my vision of my children’s book.

Since this is a children’s book about me, it’s an absolute requirement that the cartoon character depicting me both as a child and adult is accurate.  I want young children to see what severe cerebral palsy looks like while showing them how much one can accomplish despite the disability.  I also want other children with cerebral palsy to be able to relate to the book.

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All of this got me thinking about disappointment, competition, and community.  I am 36 years old and I still don’t handle disappointment as well as I would like, yet we expect young children to deal with it better than we do. When they have a meltdown due to disappointment, we punish them instead of helping them learn to cope with disappointment.

And, at times, we even set the children up for disappointment by expecting them to do things that they are not ready to do like compete at a young age or go to a candy store without getting any candy when we know they can’t control their impulses.

Children are put in sports or other competitions and are expected to compete.  Even going to school has become a competition to see who can get the best grades and who can be the most popular.

While there’s a movement to give everyone trophies in competitions, I’m not sure if that’s the answer either.  I absolutely hate the way many conservatives talk about this; that giving everyone a trophy is turning them into “snowflakes (too sensitive).”  Yet, this culture and life requires hard work and earning things through hard work and talent.

Plus, children should be able to enjoy the journey towards their goals and accomplishments.  It is often the journey—whether or not it results in success or failure—that teaches us all important lessons.  We should not take this away from children by making everyone a “winner” or trying to shield them from all rejection and disappointment.

I love this meme from Calm:

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I believe that learning to work hard and how to cope with disappointment is very important for children. I also think for young children, there’s nothing wrong with getting a certificate of participation for participating in an event.  Teaching children that while everyone may not be able to be the best and win, it’s still important to be inclusive.

Then there’s community. Community is very important to teach children.  Having a communal attitude can go along way in helping this society to be more united. Children must be taught that, in basic human terms, everyone is equal no matter what!  Celebrating individual talents is fine but that doesn’t mean anyone’s “better” than the other when it comes to simply being a human being.

In many other countries, the culture is alll about community and putting others first. Children learn this from a young age and have been known to run together to reach a prize and then share it.  The children don’t believe that one can be happy if the whole group isn’t happy.  This is another great argument that children are not born sinful!  They act how they live. We are their teachers.

I recently attended an event with my husband and friend which was very community oriented. Everyone was happy, loving, and peaceful. It was very refreshing that there was no judgment or anything negative. We did play a game but it was all in fun and we were happy for the people who won.

I guess there’s a time for disappointment, competition, and community. However, we must teach children how to cope with disappointment and not push competition on them. Playing should be fun while teaching children about teamwork which is community. Disappointment is a part of life. We must teach them how to deal with their big feelings in a kind, compassionate way.

I must also point out that the Church is failing in community because the Church tends to pick and choose who they allow to be a part of the Church. The Church has been known to reject, be oppressive, and even abuse weaker groups of people of all ages.  Yet, Jesus calls us to love, help, and include everyone in the community.

But most of all, may we teach children community and inclusion. That looking out for everyone is what truly matters.  Working hard together and understanding that everyone has different talents is more important than anything else.

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Children’s Book Update

Good news!  My friend has a friend with a 14-year-old artist and the girl agreed to do the illustrations for my children’s book. We have to figure out all the details, but her work is amazing so it looks like my children’s book will hopefully be out in the fall on Amazon. No unethical publishers anymore.

I still have to work on the 2nd edition of Gentle Firmness and get it back out on Amazon, but the children’s book is ready except for the illustrations so I’m excited.

The book is about life with severe cerebral palsy and I hope many children will love it.  Stay tuned and let me know if you want one of the LAST signed copies of Gentle Firmness. $10 with free shipping—USA ONLY.

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