Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Minute Vacations-October 2008

Judy's Minute Vacation-October 2008
Gondoliers/The Venetian
Las Vegas, Nevada

Anyone for Italian?

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Words of Wisdom from Michelangelo -Oct. 2008

Words of Wisdom-October 2008
(Formerly known as Fav Quote of the Month)

"I saw the angel in the marble
and carved until I set him free."

Judy Winter.com
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

ACTION! Extreme Makeover Home Edition Michigan Build-The Film Crew


Here are a few of my photos of those talented folks who make the EMHE magic happen in your living room each week, and make it all look so easy. Word today is the project is running slightly ahead of schedule. Amazing!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Men of Extreme Makeover Home Edition- Michigan Build Update

I'm a bit behind on the Extreme Makeover-Home Edition update.

Sorry, but I think you'll find it worth the wait! :) 

Here is a quick update and some photos from my first visit to the construction site today. I'll do a series of these, so be sure to check back each day.  
Everything happens very fast and all involved work very hard.

The Nickless family was revealed as the lucky ones chosen last Friday.  This mom of three boys lost her husband, Tim, last January after a long struggle with Hepatitis C, which the former ICU nurse contacted after getting stuck with a needle on the job.  

Once again, EMHE chose a deserving family who desperately needed their magic touch--and magic is what this team spreads wherever they go.  

Since the reveal, things have been happening quickly.  

Razing the old house took place yesterday.

The foundation was poured this a.m.. By the time I got there at 1 p.m. the walls were almost all up and the focus was on getting the roof on before the rain hit mid afternoon! 


There's no time to waste when you promise brand new digs in seven days. Talk about big pressure, but this professional team handles it well.Here are just a few photos from today.  I took lots, but let's start this post with some fun shots of a couple of the celeb designers. 

Michael Moloney, with the popular show since its beginning, was busy working on the house with the dedicated professional volunteers. This is as close as my zoom (and security) would allow. I love Michael's contagious enthusiasm and his heart. Plus, he's talented!

Rib Hillis is a definite crowd pleaser who, like the rest of the team, graciously takes time for media, photos and autographs with the appreciative crowd. Hillis was especially popular with the ladies who were more than thrilled to get photos taken with him. Hmmmm, wonder why... 

Rib's motto?  "Make a difference-today!

I couldn't agree more.

I just missed seeing the ever-energetic Ty Pennington who was off spreading tons more good Karma in the community.  But I promise I'll try to get him before the week is out. With all the bad news out there these days, this kind of reporting is fun. I hope my sharing it brings a smile to your face, too. The amazing good these people do deserves our kudos, and then some.

It's a great example for all of us.

For more information on Hepatitus C, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/index.htm
For more on EMHE, visit: abc.com
For more about the build, visit: mayberryhomes.com


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Special Needs Tragedy Near Indianapolis Leaves Four Children Dead and Breaks my Heart

My heart broke this morning upon reading the terrible news about a horrific school-bus accident near Indianapolis.  The crash involved two dump trucks and left four kids with special needs dead and their bus driver seriously injured.

It's too early in the investigation to know if this terrible tragedy on the road could have been prevented by one of the truck drivers, but when those details are reported, it won't change the facts.  Four children's lives have been senselessly lost and other innocent lives are now forever altered, including that of the bus driver.

As someone who parented a child with special needs for nearly thirteen years, I know how hard it can be to balance the need for control with supporting your child's growing independence, including sending them off to school each day. 

I remember well how tough it was for me to first put my son on a bus for kids with special needs, trusting he would be well taken care of and returned to me safely at the end of the day. I remember how grateful I was to have loving, capable people transport my son. Each day he returned home, I gave unspoken thanks.

This story hit me especially hard.

My heart and deepest sympathies go out to the families of these children, and to the bus driver. I also know the tough grief journey that now awaits each one of them, loss complicated by the manner in which these precious children died.  

Forgiveness will be tough to find in the days ahead, yet critical for healing.

Please add your prayers to mine for all those involved, and celebrate your own child. 

Life is fragile indeed. 

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Friday, September 26, 2008

Picture This! Faces of Ability-Sept. 08: Presenting Ava Burns & Down Syndrome

Whenever possible, I love presenting the faces of those with special needs.  

Too often, the images of disability held in the minds of the general public are outdated and negative, something from the Dark Ages.  

Yet so many of these diverse faces are beautiful and moving. They speak volumes.

Presenting them here is part of my commitment to creating greater awareness of the beauty, value and potential of this population.

That said:  Presenting the beautiful Miss Ava Burns. This angelic photo was taken by the multi-talented Blair Williamson, a busy working Hollywood actor with Down sydrome. Photo used with permission.

To quote the incredible Stevie Wonder (a huge special needs success story), "Isn't she lovely?"

If you have a favorite image of a child or family member with special needs (including adults), please send it to me so that I can share it here as part of my on-going Picture This!  Faces of Ability posts.

It's one  simple way you can help me redefine ability and beauty for the masses.

Sometimes a photo is worth a thousand words.  In fact,  I love this one so much that I'm presenting it in color and black/white!  That's double advocacy. Thanks, Ava and Blair!

Wish I could take credit for the cool shot...

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy 18th Birthday, RicStar! You Still Rock!

It was eighteen years ago today that I was unexpectedly and rudely catapaulted into the uncertain world of special needs parenting.  That's when my second child, my first and only son, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth.  

For the next twelve years, I experienced the greatest challenges and finest rewards of my life, until Eric's sudden and devastating death in 2003 at age twelve. 

Throughout his too-short life, this wise child with the imperfect body movements challenged me as I'd never been challenged before, helping me achieve heights I'd never before imagined. 

Eric demanded that I take the sacred role of parenting seriously, challenging me to become less selfish and less self absorbed in the process.

My son taught me to care deeply about human injustice and the tough life struggles of others, especially children.  He taught me to stand up in a room filled with silent voices to ensure the right result was realized for all the right reasons.  He taught me the meaning of unconditional love, the grace of servitude, how to check my ego for the common good, and that one person could indeed make a difference in this mixed-up, beautiful world.  His lessons were profound and continue today. His life and legacy fuel my continued work on special needs.

The child with significant physical challenges that gave far too many people permission to deem him as unworthy and lacking in value taught me that in that in his imperfection, he was perfect just the way he was. My son was the ultimate teacher. I became the student. Eric Richard Winter remains my most inspiring muse, and I'm so proud to be his mom. 

I love and miss you deeply, RicStar, and I joyfully celebrate you.  Happy 18th birthday, son!

Your music lives on, always.


Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'd Like to Thank My Second-Grade Teacher for this Blog Award and for Helping me Achieve Writing Success!

Thanks to the popular blog:
www.themarmeladegypsy.blogspot.com for recognizing me with this lovely weblog award.  It was given to me by my good buddy Jeanie in July, but I've been too busy until now to give the thought necessary to passing it on (one of the rules) to seven others that I find deserving.  

I admit that I don't read a lot of blogs, simply due to professional demands and time constraints, so when I do, I'm pretty particular about the subject matter.
Heck, I have enough trouble keeping up with my own blog.  

So I've decided the best way for me to honor this award is to share with you seven professional websites and/or blogs that I find especially useful in my work as a writer, speaker, photographer and advocate on special needs.  

These sites/people make me think and laugh, provide valuable information and inspiration and challenge me to be the best me I can be both personally and professionally.  Thank you all!

Ta-Daa!  Presenting:

-Alan Rinzler.com (website & blog): my editor at Jossey Bass.  Insider info from one of the best in the business!!
-parisparfait.typepad.com (an American writer living in Paris).  A newly discovered delight!
-John Schneider: www.lsj.com/schneiderblog (also check out John's daily columns at lsj.com).  Terrific columnist, especially when he writes about his mom!
-writersdigest.com (links to good writing blogs).  More great good insider tips!
-SpecialOlympics.org. Anyone who reads my blog knows I LOVE SO!
-The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation: christopherreeve.org & paralysis.org.  Like SO, a special needs giant!
-The White House Project: thewhitehouseproject.org: helping me become more politically savvy with each workshop, especially valuable in my work and in these trying times! 

There are many more, and so little time.

Full disclosure: My high school, college-prep English teacher actually deserves the credit for hammering good writing into my then undisciplined creative brain, contributing much to my professional success years later.  It stuck, Mrs. Faber!  That said, my second-grade teacher allowed me to color outside the lines, which has proved tremendously useful in my special needs advocacy work.

That's me (photo above) finding my book (face out) at the Barnes and Noble store on Fifth Avenue in NYC- talk about fulfilling a childhood literary dream.  You bet it was a huge thrill. Honing your skills, paying your life dues and never giving up does pay off.  A little visualization never hurts either. 

Click on the book cover at left to order Breakthrough Parenting now from amazon.com! An author's promotion work is never done.

I'm beginning to ramble on and on and on. Must be the caffeine...

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Did You KNOW? -It's National Punctuation Day!

As a writer who values proper use of the written (and spoken) word, I feel my duty to report that today is National Punctuation Day!

So please, watch your apostrophes and commas and such as you go about your day. For more exciting news on this topic, check out: www.nationalpunctuationday.com. 

Thats one cute dog, don't you think? 

I mean that's!

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fact or Fiction? Sarah Palin is Ready to be Vice President -Cast Your Vote NOW at PBS!

Casting your vote was never so easy!! It takes a minute (or less) to take part in the PBS poll asking weather or not Sarah Palin is qualified to be the next Vice President of the United States. 

Take a deep breath before answering.

Last check, the yeas had it 50 to 48 percent. If you disagree and believe Palin should not pack up and move to Washington, say so NOW.  (No voting for Baby Trig for office; he's too young!).

Here's the link: http://www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html

Raise your online voice!  It's good practice for November 4th.

The photos are in honor of my favorite season and have nothing to do with politics, unless you want to bring rising food prices and empty food banks into the discussion. 

I just like the shots.

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm A Big Fan of...! Ty Pennington & Extreme Makeover-Home Edition Coming Back to Michigan!

I admit I'm a big fan of Ty Pennington and the whole Extreme Makeover Home Edition phenom! But not for the reason you might think, although watching this show is extremely helpful whenever I need to have a good cry or put a rough day into perspective.

Pass the tissues, please.

What I like most is how often and how well this show takes on challenging projects including families of children (and adults, too) with special needs, without flinching. 


This team and its producers have committed themselves to using their skills, hearts and remarkable television platform and powerhouse ratings to dramatically improve the lives of those with disabilities, portraying these individuals with dignity, honesty and sensitivity rarely seen in the media, or in society.

How can I not applaud that effort?  It's what I'm all about.

The awareness this program has created for the huge special needs population is priceless.  Not to mention all the good Ty has singlehandedly manufactured by talking openly about his own challenges with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 

If I had a tool belt, I'd raise it in Ty's honor.

That said, I am especially excited to announce that Ty and the terrific EMHE team is about to take on a project near my own backyard in Michigan.  Beginning with the reveal of the family chosen on Friday, Sept. 26th, I'll  be blogging about the gig and sharing a few creative, behind-the-scenes photos of the action, without giving away the final reveal, of course.  

If the family chosen is facing the daily challenges and rewards of special needs (fingers crossed), these postings will prove extra valuable for creating additional, positive awareness for the cause! Either way, I'll be there enthusiastically chanting, 'Move that bus'!

Extreme Makeover Home Edition rocks- and so does the state of Michigan!!!

Stay tuned- and check back often!

I love my work.

For more about ADHD, visit: www.adhd.com
For more about EMHE, visit: www.abc.com

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

More Hollywood News! Down Syndrome & Dancing with the Stars & Scubs New!

The Down Syndrome Assoc. of Los Angeles (DSALA) dance classes with Dancing with the Stars beauty Kym Johnson that I first blogged about on August 1st, will begin on Oct. 1 in Burbank, CA. 

The new seaon of Dancing with the Stars premieres on ABC on Monday, Sept. 22nd. 

According to Gail Williamson, exc. dir of DSALA, there is still room in the dance class, and also a need for volunteers.  For more information, visit dsala.org (click on events, then click on DSALA events and look for the picture of the lovely Kym Johnson).  Kym also teaches dances classes for those with special needs in Australia.  

She gets my vote this season!

(photo of Gail and her son Blair Williamson used with permission)  

You can catch busy actor Blair costarring in an episode of Scrubs airing in 2009.

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs:Raising the Bar of Expectations

Did You KNOW? -Arrr! It's National Talk Like a Pirate Day!

I kid you not. Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yes, even pirates have websites!  That ever-popular writer Dave Barry even blogged about this special day yesterday.  

Check it out!

Today's post is dedicated to you, Erik Taylor! 

A person can't write about serious news and Sarah Palin all the time, at least I can't. Plus, I needed a place to post my pirate-flag photo. 

Just don't call me a wench.


Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Join Oprah's Effort to Help Pass The PROTECT Our Children Act

As someone who advocates on behalf of children, nothing infuriates me and breaks my heart more than knowing that far too many of our nation's children are physically, emotionally and sexually abused each year, including those with special needs.

That's why I encourage you to visit the Oprah link below and join the effort to help pass Senate Bill 1738, The PROTECT our Children Act to help fight child exploitation.

Oprah makes it easy for you to get involved with details on her site.  But you need to act before September 26th. 
Here's the link and information you need to advocate for our kids.


Children count on the adults in their lives to protect them from harm.  We can and must do better by the most innocent among us.

Vote YES now and add your voice to the passage of this important bill.

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Inquiring Minds Want to Know the Special Needs/Palin Political Facts- Or Do They?

There's little doubt that the introduction of Sarah Palin (and baby Trig) into 2008 campaign rhetoric has raised the level of voting frenzy to new heights, especially for those directly impacted by special needs issues. 

You either love the idea of voting Palin and her special needs family in, or you are proceeding with great caution. You might also be one of those voters loudly proclaiming the sky is falling.

Chicken Little fears aside, it seems there's little in between these days, which is good, because all the heated discussions are getting people riled up and involved in the political process.  

Ah, the beauty of a democracy!

As a writer/speaker/author who has covered special needs parenting issues for nearly two decades, I've been thrilled to finally see valuable special needs discussion brought out of the closet and into regular mainstream media coverage nationwide, whatever helped cause the ruckus.  

Halleluia!  It's about time.

But I also think this ground-breaking opportunity makes it crucial that we all slow down and take some long deep, cleansing breaths, chant a few peaceful oms, and then educate ourselves well about candidates and issues before making big decisions. Voting special needs emotion and mudslinging points not based in fact is dangerous territory, evident by our country's past voting sins.  

Someone needs to be the voice of reason.  Might as well be you.

What qualities do you want in your president?  Your vice president?  Do these people have those qualities? Don't waste YOUR valuable vote.  No one candidate will prove to be the special needs Messiah.  Some may be more promising than others, however.  

That means you must educate yourself (there's those two words again!).  Yes, I'm talking about doing some important homework, just like all good moms and dads make their children do, especially before a big test. Even a little studying can result in more intelligent action at the polls in November and beyond.  I want to make an educated decision, one good for my country, my family, and myself, especially during these tremendously challenging times. 

I don't want flunk this important exam.

Try hard not to get drawn in by cute babies, cool glasses, what ifs, shameful ads and all that other political jazz. Get past all the emotion and history making claims on both sides and check the candidates records and their stands on special needs issues. The facts are out there.  You may have to dig through an enormous amount of junk to find them, but our country's future is worth the effort.

Educate, educate, educate! What an exciting concept!  Isn't democracy and a vote a wonderful thing?  Learn more.

Then go to the polls with your child's best interests (and yours) clearly in mind before you click that lever in that voting booth.  Otherwise you might as well be voting with a blindfold over your eyes, and and haven't we had enough of that kind of voting action in recent years?  Aren't you tired of the kind of decision making that helps squander your precious vote because you aren't properly informed?  Embrace your political power, however limited it may first appear.

Are you ready for real change, including as it impacts special needs?

The candidates have captured our attention big time and they will continue to milk it for all its worth. But WE vote them in.  One vote can make a difference.  Don't waste yours. Casting your vote is one powerful example of effective personal advocacy at work, action that can and does lead to change at the highest levels in political arenas that count.  

When the last vote has been counted, how will your life change for the better?  Or will it?

You want world peace?  You've gotta vote for it.  You want a better economy? You've gotta vote for it?  You want to save the planet?  You gotta vote for it. You want free speech?  You've gotta vote for it.  You want real inclusion and better services and accessibility for your children? You've gotta vote for it.  Intelligent, informed voting leads to real change and better lives for all kids, including those with special needs.  

Don't take your vote lightly. Don't vote rhetoric, and don't you dare vote for Paris Hilton, no matter how badly you want to be her new BFF!

Here are two helpful links to get you started on educating yourself. Hey, I've have to do my homework on the issues, too. I know that's exactly what my adorable, wise son (pictured above) would want me to do before I close that curtain on election day.

Rock the vote! -Your own to be exact.


Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Love the Sunday New York Times & its Special Needs/Palin Coverage (and the Style Section, too!)

I love The New York Times!

In fact, there's little I love more than settling in with a big mug of hot tea on a Sunday morning with a real newspaper, one filled with well-written, well-research, thought-provoking articles that I usually can't read all in one sitting. 

Okay, I admit I also love reading the Style Section (thus, my fashionista photos above-forgive the crocs), complete with all those detailed wedding announcements highlighting fancy pedigree, impressive ancestry and cool jobs.  Plus, all those creative Madison Avenue layouts for high-end purses and shiny trinkets that I can't afford in ads that leap off the page help motivate me to work harder on Monday through Friday.  

As if.

But I reserve my biggest kudos for the newspaper's on-going, intelligent coverage of special needs issues and heated, emotional, political debates, especially when they involve special needs, i.e.Down syndrome & Ms. Sarah Palin.  

So much more important than scoring pricey bags and dazzling diamonds, don't you think?

In today's paper alone I found the following special needs literary words worth my time:

Bypassing the Roadblocks of Autism by Jane Margolies details various travel options for families of children and young adults with autism, including cruises at sea.  Yes, families of children with special needs want and need leisure time travel, too.

The Bipolar Kid: What Does it Mean To Be a Manic-Depressive Child?  by Jennifer Egan.  This New York Times Magazine cover story is a tough read, one that left me with renewed appreciation for the big challenges facing families who must address the harsh daily realities of their children's mental health issues.  I was pleased to see such major coverage on another important diagnosis besides autism.  Autism coverage is important and I support such detailed, on-going coverage.  But I also believe the challenges facing millions of other special needs families with a wide range of diagnosis deserve detailed media coverage, too, attention often sorely lacking.  

You might also want to take advantage of the paper's invite to visit its website www.NYTimes.com to view the video From Solider to Athlete, special coverage from the Paralympics in Beijing- worth the time and inspiration.

Finally, I believe it my civic duty to suggest that anyone who cares about intelligent voting at the polls (we do care about that, right?) read the excellent cover article, Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes: Governor's Style of Politics Is Highly Personal, by Jo Becker, Peter S. Goodman and Michael Powell before heading out to vote in November.  It's eye opening and a bit alarming to say the least.

You can find all this and more at www.nytimes.com.

Well worth your time, and mine.

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Two Paws Up: Service Dog Dials 911-Really!

Grandoggy Zelda salutes you!!
(Photo by the multi-talented Erik Taylor 2008)

With all the tough weather news of the past few days, here's an Associated Press canine story sure to make you smile, especially all you owners of German shepherds! Check it out!


Talk about man's best friend...

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Attention Grabber! Oprah's Wants all You Smart, Talented Kids!

Hear Yee! Hear Yee! 

Oprah's new season is underway and now she's looking for the World's Smartest and Most Talented Kids.  

In my book of equal life opportunities, that means ALL kids. So all you baby Einsteins, savants, and talented kids with/without special needs (and/or your parents) get busy uploading your videos and show your stuff.  This could be your big break, especially since everything Oprah touches turns to gold, or it sure seems that way.

I shot these photos (and hundreds more!) at a Renaissance Festival this past weekend-my first.  It was great fun!

See Oprah program link below.

Sorry Flying Pug; no dogs allowed! (check 'Animal Planet')

The rest of you, break a leg!

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Saturday, September 06, 2008

More 2008 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Photos!

To help balance off the bitter taste of the Kwame saga (see post below), here are a few more of my shots from the 2008 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, a success story the city can take pride in! Enjoy!

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations