Thursday, April 30, 2009

Defining Motherhood

Enjoy my May '09 CAWLM column and take on special needs parenting entitled, 'Defining Motherhood.' You can check out my past columns here

Defining Motherhood
(Judy Winter / May 2009/ All Rights Reserved)

I love May—a terrific month filled with the sweet fragrance of freshly mowed grass, intoxicating lilacs, loud melodies of giddy songbirds, pretty Maypoles, warm days that shake off winter’s lingering chill, and this cougar’s fifty-something birthday.

May’s greatest claim to fame is Mother’s Day, a seasonal celebration that honors the valuable role women play in the lives of their children. We reward mom’s contributions with breakfast in bed, homemade cards, sweet-smelling flowers, dime-store jewels, and maybe a few hours off.

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines mothers as “a female parent,’ which vastly understates mom’s value. These remarkable women shape the youngest minds and our country’s future—no small feat.

Mom’s importance is especially evident in special needs families. While parenting a child can make any mom want to yank out the individual hairs on her head, raising children with special needs is much like running daily triathlons without prior training—and no potty breaks.

These moms boldly lace up ill-fitting parenting shoes to run the biggest race of their lives 24/7, often for life. It’s an exhausting, exhilarating role that I embraced for nearly thirteen years. At times, the demands seemed superhuman; but the rewards taught me volumes about the sacred responsibility entrusted to parents. Those rich lessons changed the direction of my life and rewrote my definition of motherhood.

Effective parenting isn’t for wimps, especially when disability’s involved. Had I blown off the demands of parenting both of my kids, we would have paid a huge price. My firstborn deserves big thanks for allowing me to practice mommyhood rituals on her. I had no idea Jenna was preparing me to better meet the uncertainty of her brother’s physical needs from cerebral palsy.

Like most moms of kiddos with extra challenges, I’ve experienced more than my share of tears, sleepless nights during unnerving hospital stays, and seemingly endless educational and medical encounters requiring pit-bull advocacy. I’m amazed my heart’s still beating after the devastating loss of my much-loved son.

One thing’s clear. Whether it’s autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, Down syndrome, ADHD, or a host of other developmental, behavioral or medical challenges, special needs requires that extra parenting push, often delivered by a remarkable ‘female parent.’ These moms rarely receive kudos, but they deserve all that they get and more.

To all those hardworking mamas who love kids unconditionally, my thanks. Your passionate, unselfishness commitment to your sons and daughters, even while facing the toughest parenting situations imaginable, is inspiring.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who fix icky boo boos, bravely face up chuck, make gooey mac & cheese and killer PB & J sandwiches, (and make the crust disappear), read one more bedtime story, initiate all those tough but necessary parent-child talks, and foster healthy independence in their kids (a.k.a. letting go)—while still managing to grab a shower.

But extra props to moms who boldly stare down disability each day. Because special needs parenting requires special moms— their bold parenting decisions create brighter futures for all kids.

Minute Vacations-May 2009

Streets of NYC
Judy Winter 200

Your chariot and big-city adventure awaits.

Words of Wisdom from Nelson Mandela-May 2009

Words of Wisdom-May 2009

"You are a child of God; 
your playing small  doesn't serve the world."
-Nelson Mandela

Judy Winter 2008

Did You KNOW? Today is National Honesty Day- No Lie!

So stop your fibbing.

Did You KNOW? April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month

Jack and I vote to extend that to the other 11 months of the year.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Greetings 2009

To all who honor this day, Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Artist w/Autism Creates New Image to Honor April & National Autism Month

In honor of April as National Autism Awareness Month, here's a brief update on my artist friend, DJ Svoboda (a former 'Faces of Ability' featured on this site).  DJ has Autism, but he's been getting lots of well-deserved attention these days for his terrific drawings called 'Imagifriends'. One of DJ's newest drawings has been turned into a puzzle in honor of National Autism Awareness Month. 

You can catch up on DJ's exciting news and see all his whimsical creations (which I simply love!) at: You can order the puzzles on the Autism Society of America website.

The 'friends' will make you smile. 

Congratulations, DJ, on all that creative success. You're an inspiration!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Thanks for the Great 2009 NCAA Ride, Spartans!

NCAA Spartan hype came to a crashing halt last night under the skilled ball handling of the talented Tar Heels, who looked more like an NBA team than a college crew. 

Still, the Green/White took the Spartan faithful (and state of Michigan) on a magical ride, with a feel-good, underdog story that captivated the nation and lasted far longer than most expected.  

Congratulations to Coach Izzo and this talented team on their amazing accomplishments, and thanks for all the great NCAA memories, past and present. 

Monday, April 06, 2009

Just One More Night of Magic, Spartans- 2009 NCAA Championship

Forget that pesky and messy late-season snow that fell throughout the night.   Under all that messy white stuff, there's a lot of determined green.

With the 2009 NCAA Championship Game just hours away, most of Michigan can't stop smiling, amazing feat when your state ranks worst in unemployment stats.  

I decided to visit Detroit yesterday while things were just a bit calmer (and less messy) to shoot a few photos and capture a bit of that Spartan magic that's been spilling out of Ford Field and onto Michigan streets.

One of yesterday's cool events was the Final Four Dribble, where kids of all ages got free t-shirts and basketballs and dribbled the balls from Comerica Park to Cobo Hall, spirited action complete with lots of smiles, Detroit's finest, and a marching band. Good fun for the kids; good pr for the city. Good job, Detroit.

Regardless of tonight's outcome, it's been an awesome ride!  Our talented Spartan team is fueled by the passion, skill and heart of the nation's best coach, Tom Izzo! Win or lose, these guys are already champions. It's amazing what one little ball has meant to so many...

Just one more banner, MSU? You already own the state. 

Go Green!!!

All photos by Judy Winter 2009

Thursday, April 02, 2009

April is National Poetry Month

In honor of National Poetry Month, here's my favorite poem written by my daughter, Jenna, at the tender age of fourteen.  This award-winning poem appears in my book and has been known to move people easily to tears, including me.

Out of the mouths of babes....

Photo of Jenna by Erik Taylor
Photo of Eric by Jenna Winter

In My Dreams, Eric
by Jenna Winter

"In my dreams, I saw my brother walk.
He chased me around the house,
His cerebral palsy gone.

He talked to me about the things we've missed
Over the years.
It was nice to hear his voice,
His real voice,
For the first time,
And we conversed till midnight.

He yawned and told me to take him outside,
Down to the pond.
We caught frogs by flashlight,
But they wiggled out of his small, inexperienced hands.
He giggled with delight,
Told me that he liked the way that they felt.

I gave him a ride back up to the house,
His sleepy head bobbing up and down
On my shoulder.

I slipped him into bed.
Covered his brand new body,
His brand new strength.
As I looked down at him,
He opened his eyes,
And he smiled up at me.

I smiled back tears
That threatened to fall as,

He told me that he loved me."

Excerpted from Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations with permission of the publisher Jossey-Bass/Wiley & Sons. Copyright Judy Winter 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Michael J. Fox talks Parkinson's on Oprah

Michael J. Fox has been a crowd favorite since his days on the popular series 'Family Ties'. I love him because of his tireless, spirited advocacy for those with Parkinson's Disease, a diagnosis Fox received at the height of his fame eighteen years ago.  The actor appeared on Oprah this week and spoke candidly about his disability, how it has impacted his personal/family life, and about his new book "Always Looking Up: the Adventures of an Incurable Optimist." He's an inspiration to anyone fighting the challenges of a complex disability, and a great example to all as to how to keep family strong and unified on even the toughest days.

Michael J. Fox is a great teacher.

Read the Oprah show transcript here
Catch an excerpt of Michael's new book here
For more on Parkinson's Disease, "a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects one in 100 people over age 60," visit: the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Did You KNOW? April is National Autism Awareness Month

For more information on this challenging diagnosis that impacts 1 in 150 kids, visit: the Autism Society of America (ASA):

I'll have a special post on this in the next few days.

Eco-Chic Goes to the Dogs -CAWLM Apr 09

I hope that my April column for CAWLM 'Eco-Chic Goes to the Dogs,' brings a big smile to your face, much as Jack does to mine every day. You can check out past columns here'Jack' Judy Winter 09

Eco Chic Goes to the Dogs 
(Judy Winter / April 2009/ All Rights Reserved)

Most people talk eco chic about clothing, food and environmentally friendly actions. After adopting a dog from my neighborhood Humane Society I think recycling furry critters from neighborhood shelters fits the bill, too.

The minute I signed up for the shelter's volunteer training, I was in trouble. My husband knew it was like sending a chocoholic to work in a candy store, with no chance I’d come home empty handed. He was right. Armed with my Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT to shoot photos for the shelter’s marketing needs, I soon met Jack, a lovable, year-old, Australian Shepherd/Border Collie with a bobbed tail. 

I fell fast and hard and took my husband along for the unpredictable canine ride.

I reminded Dick that I’ve always supported his love of cool cars and performance-track events. With fingers crossed, I said I didn’t want or need Prada purses or Manolo Blahniks to be happy. I just wanted to give this dog a great home and train him to work as a therapy dog with kids with special needs, including autism.

Dick agreed to meet Jack. I had no intention of leaving the shelter without adopting him. When the furry charmer put his head gently into our individual laps and shared sloppy kisses, we were sucker punched. Jack looks like a child’s favorite stuffed toy come to life.

“It’s your decision,” my husband said unconvincingly “It’s both of ours,” I wisely responded. We agreed to be responsible dog owners, and we are. We take the necessary leashed walks, scoop dudu off neighborhood lawns, and happily trot home swinging eco-friendly bags filled with Jack’s stinky treasures.

Life with Jack is joyful. I fret over human stuff like impending deadlines, book sales and weird mid-life body changes. Jack chomps leisurely on cherished Dingo bones. Skilled herding instincts propel him to bury the remains in places he deems safe from all the imaginary dogs in our house that might otherwise steal them.

I count calories. Jack tries to eat his own barf.

This captivating creature is my personal trainer and therapist. He lets me hug him to my heart’s contentment, and when he looks up at me on walks, I swear he’s smiling. Jack quickly learned sit, shake, lie down, stay and hug because we took time to teach him. When we take Jack into pet stores, people marvel at his cuteness. Once his basic doggy needs are met, including lots of spirited fetch, Jack sleeps at my feet, making him a terrific writer’s dog and muse. I can’t wait to introduce Jack to cherished summer adventures in Northern Michigan to erase any remaining bad puppy memories.

I didn’t want or need a chichi status dog with fancy AKC credentials. I just wanted to give a deserving animal another shot at a better life, a decision fueled by watching too many episodes of ‘Animal Cops-Detroit,’ and spending time with our beloved shelter granddoggies, Griff and Zelda. We got incredibly lucky.

Even the First Family is going to the dogs. They’ve announced that a Portuguese water dog may soon romp with Malia and Sasha on the White House lawn. The Obamas said the nation’s First Dog would be rescued from a local shelter— a capital decision that’s truly eco chic. ###

Minute Vacations-April 2009


Mackinac Island, Michigan
Judy Winter 2008

Time to go fly a kite, or two.

Words of Wisdom from Julia Cameron-April 2009

Words of Wisdom-April 2009

"My animal companions teach the joy of living fully, in every moment." 
-Julia Cameron

'Working Dog' Judy Winter 2008

'Spread the Word to End the Word' -Message from Scrubs' Actor, John McGinley

Scrubs' actor, John C. McGinley, supports the Special Olympics Campaign -'Spread the Word to End the Word'. McGinley's 11-year-old son, Max, has Down syndrome. Here's part of John's message. It's a day late, but the campaign to stop the casual use of the word 'retard(ed)' is ongoing.
A personal message from John C. McGinley

"Hi, I'm John C. McGinley. I'm an ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society, and today I'm teaming up with Special Olympics to bring you a message that's important to me.

So many times in life you are asked to change...Change your clothes. Change lanes. Change jobs. Change the sheets. Change flights. Change your tune. Change horses midstream. Change your latitudes and your attitudes!

Change, and the ability to adapt, is to the human condition as air is to the lungs. We change, and in the doing, we thrive! In fact, we just elected a president who promised, above all else, to "change."

What if, on March 31, you elected to change the way you use the words "retard" and "retarded"?"

Graphics/Photo courtesy of Special Olympics/Used with permission.