Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Job Ain't So Bad

A number of years ago, my job required me to wake up early each morning and head to work—pretty much like everyone else in the whole world. But on one particular day, I really didn't want to work. It was the day after Christmas, a Friday, and most everyone else was taking the day off. My kids were home for winter vacation and the last thing I wanted to do was drag my lazy carcass to the office.

I managed to get out of bed in a reasonable time, eat breakfast, and wandered out into the dark yard to scrape the ice off my car windows. It was a cold, gloomy day, the sun wasn't yet clear of the mountains, and it seemed I was the only miserable soul that had to go to work. Well, almost. I heard the sound of the garbage truck arriving, so I knew at least one other person in the world was working. While the car warmed up, I pulled the big, black trash can out to the street and returned to the garage to get another empty box that was too big to fit into the can.

The garbage truck pulled up and the driver waved down at me. He had a big smile on his face and acted as friendly as Mr. Rogers. Or maybe Mr. Bean. I briefly wondered what the heck his problem was—if anything, he should be hating his job even more than I was that morning.

The big robotic arm reached out and lifted the can up over the truck. It dumped all our leftover Christmas packaging into the bin, with Mr. Rogers smiling the whole time. I couldn't really talk over the noise of the truck, so I pointed at the extra box I had. The driver motioned for me to toss it up into the bin. I did so, but a small wind caught the box and it landed behind the bin on top of the truck. Now what could I do?

The driver was totally unfazed. He saw the box through his mirror, took the truck out of gear, unbuckled his seat belt, climbed out of the door and onto the ladder next to the cab. And he was still smiling and waving and nodding his head like he was the happiest man in the world.

He couldn't reach the box from the ladder, so he climbed onto the top of the truck and found he still couldn’t reach it. He waved at me like nothing at all was wrong and actually climbed down into the garbage bin to reach the box. Then tragedy struck. He slipped on the slime and disappeared down into the dark depths of the trash hole.

I'd killed the garbage man.

I ran over to climb up the ladder, but his head popped back up. He was safe, and still smiling and waving. Then he slipped and fell again. This time when he resurfaced, he didn't wave. He instead chose to use both hands to hold onto the side of the truck. He inched his way through the rubbish and reached my errant box. After pulling it in, he slowly returned to the front of the bin, climbed out of the trash and back into the cab. He was covered with slime and torn-up gift wrapping, but he never stopped smiling.

I stood there and watched him drive to the next house. And I came to an important realization—my job didn't suck that bad after all.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Affected by Tragedy

I've written a few posts about some of the crazy stuff we did when I was younger. This post is a little different.

There are occasionally things that happen in your life that make you stop and think about what you're doing. For some, it may be an embarrassing event. For others, it may be a family tragedy like a divorce or death. Even moving to a new town can be a major event for kids. Health issues, injuries, bad grades—all kinds of things can suddenly affect you in ways you couldn't have predicted.

I was out gallivanting with my friends one night and we headed home around midnight. Because of what later happened, many details from that night are a little fuzzy. I don't recall what we were doing, but I'm sure it involved driving around looking for classmates, goofing off, laughing, cheeseburgers, the usual. None of us were into drugs or alcohol—we seemed to entertain ourselves quite well without needing chemical assistance.

I don't even remember if I was driving that night or if we were in someone else's car. I only remember that we had several people in the car that all lived within a couple blocks of each other. As we neared the neighborhood, we saw police and emergency vehicles all over and the main road was blocked. We saw a mangled car in the middle of the street and activity all around. A crowd of spectators had gathered and most looked pretty somber. An officer directed us through a side road and as we passed, I heard something about a fatality.

It kind of humbled us as we drove the last little way to our houses. We didn't know what was going on, but it didn't look good. I don't remember the exact events after I arrived home, but I do remember my parents were very glad to see me.

It didn't take long to find out what had happened. A few friends of ours from school had also been out that night. Unfortunately, their group had decided they did need some chemicals. They'd been drinking pretty heavily and were driving home—drunk and at very high speeds. It was estimated they were going at least seventy miles an hour on a road with a thirty-five posted limit. Their car crossed a little bridge and went airborne. It flew straight into a parked flatbed semi trailer. The trailer severed the top of the car right off.

Everyone in the car was seriously injured. One boy whom I'd known for many years was decapitated and died instantly.

It was a pretty grim incident and made me glad my friends and I weren't drinking. But it also made me think about some of the crazy stuff I did. I wasn't a very careful driver before that. After that, I tried to be a little more careful and even started wearing my seat belt. Nobody wore seat belts in those days and my friends often bugged me about it.

The main thing I thought about after that experience, though, was how would my mom have felt if that had been me?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Maximum Padding

I spent a lot of time in my high school years playing jokes on people, and sometimes people got me back. One of those paybacks happened late on a Saturday night, long after I was in bed. My mom woke me up Sunday morning and said I needed to go out and do something about my car. It was an old, green 1973 Chevy Impala that broke down a lot. I wasn't sure what mom was talking about and figured something must have fallen off of it again.

I rubbed my eyes and looked out the window. It had snowed a thick layer during the night, but only on my car. What was it? Mom gave me her "I don't know what kind of friends you hang out with" look. I threw on a shirt and went outside to investigate.

The Impala was parked out in the street. I approached it and quickly found out what had happened—it was covered with a fluffy carpeting of feminine hygiene products.

I'd been padded.

I stood there assessing the damage. Then I heard some honking. Our street happened to be the connecting road between two parts of the neighborhood, and everyone was on their way to the local church—while I was standing there, barefoot and wearing pajamas, staring at a pad-covered car. You know what the conversation at church was about that week.

Somebody's Datsun that we were in the midst of padding
It took a while to get them off the car. Some of the adhesive never came off. But it didn't take long to find out who'd done it. It seems these were a new brand of pads that the manufacturer had sent out to mailboxes all over the county as free samples. (Can you imagine some old widower living alone and opening his mailbox—"What the crap is this?") The post office ended up with many cases left over and didn't know what to do with them. They decided to give them to the nearby Girls Village, which was a group home for girls with family issues.

A whole building filled with girls our age was a strong temptation for me and my friends, so we hung out there a lot. And we played practical jokes there a lot. And they finally got me back.

Later, we stole some of the pads from their shed—yes, they had a whole shed full—and padded other cars. It kept us entertained for a while.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Is Man Really a Dog's Best Friend?

Pets are an interesting concept. The idea of owning another living being for your own enjoyment is a little strange, especially when you keep that being in a cage. But pets can be entertaining and provide some friendship. And I suppose that friendship often goes both ways.

Pets aren't always treated well, though. If there's a pet afterlife where we'll meet our former animals after we die, then I'm probably going to be facing a herd of emaciated hamsters ("Couldn't you have given me just one more carrot?") and confused fish ("Why did you flush me?").

When I was young, I had a dog named Snoopy. I wasn't too creative in coming up with names. He was a small shorthaired mutt, the kind my friend calls a Neighborhood Special. We kept him outside, but probably shouldn’t have because he was really too small and furless for our harsh winters.

He managed to survive each cold season and was always happy to see me every morning when I'd scrape the ice out of his water bowl and dump a shapeless blob into his food bowl.

One winter afternoon, I wanted to play in the snow but couldn't find anyone to join me. It was a cold, gray, dreary day, and nobody else wanted to go outside. So I suited up and went out by myself and found Snoopy waiting there. He'd been alone all day and jumped all over me. He wagged and snorted—I think that's how dogs laugh. He followed me around while I tried to roll out a snowman. It hadn't snowed in several days and the crusty snow wasn't sticking, so I soon gave up that pursuit.

I tried making little roads in the snow for pretend cars to drive in. The grass under the snow had piles of smelly, decomposing leaves leftover from autumn, so that wasn't fun either. Snoopy enjoyed the smells though. The driveway had been cleared, so there was no ice to slide on. I tried playing tetherball, but the rock-hard ball hurt my hands. I soon realized why nobody else had wanted to go out.

I finally gave up and just sat on the snow under the plum tree. Snoopy jumped onto my lap. I tried calming him down, but his tail just wouldn't stop wiggling. He eventually curled up and I petted him while my butt froze. As he lay there, he kept raising his head to look at me, as though trying to tell me something, or perhaps thank me for spending time with him. Soon my dad came home from work, and I went inside for dinner. I left Snoopy by himself in the cold, dark yard.

After a freezing night spent in his little wooden house, Snoopy was there again in the morning, wagging and snorting like always.

A year or so later, on a warm, spring Saturday morning, I left Snoopy in the yard while I went to get a friend. Snoopy really wanted to follow me, but I closed the gate and made him stay. When my friend and I returned we discovered Snoopy under the fence. He'd tried following me by pushing his way through. His collar had caught on the fence and in his efforts, he'd choked himself.

He died trying to be with me.

I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, "I want to be the person my dog thinks I am." I don't know who wrote that, but if we all had the same goal, I think the world would be a lot better place.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Criminal Egging

While my high school friends and I often participated in silly shenanigans, we usually didn't purposely try to be mean to people. One time, however, my friend Stitch and I decided we needed to egg someone's house. To this day, I can't understand why we felt that need, or why we picked this particular person. I can't recall our target's name, but I do remember he was a nice kid who never did anything to us. But in our minds, he needed an egging.

And once a teenager gets something in his mind, it's hard to replace it with something else.

We planned our caper at Stitch's house. I distracted his mom in the kitchen while he stole two eggs from the fridge. It wasn't easy, because his mom had a sense of knowing when we were about to try something. We managed to get the eggs and then drove my old 1971 Ford Country Squire station wagon over to the target house.

Let me preface this next part by saying I'm not sure I truly believe in karma. But I do believe that all of us, sooner or later, always get what we deserve.

This was to be a drive-by egging, so I inched the Country Squire past the target house. It was late afternoon, there were people all over, and we worried who might see us. But we egged each other on—ha!—and were determined to go through with it. I think we had eggs on our brains. Stitch sat up on the open window sill and tossed his egg over the car. It soared in a beautiful arc across the yard and … it landed on the lawn and bounced. Then rolled to a stop by the doorstep. Stitch's mom must have known what we were up to and hard-boiled the egg.

I knew I could do way better than that. I brought my left hand back across my chest. I threw with all my might out the driver's window. But the egg never made it. Instead, my hand slammed against the front pillar of the car. I nearly broke my fingers. Egg splattered everywhere, especially down the defrost vents.

Karma had struck quickly that day.

It took at least a full hour for the two of us to restore our proper breathing. We laughed so hard we needed oxygen. And the Country Squire never smelled the same after that.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


When parents ask a teenager "What were you thinking?" and the teen responds "I don't know," the parents need to realize that the teen truly doesn't know. Like the time my older son jumped out his friend's moving Suburban. Did he really think he could accelerate his legs from a complete stop to twenty-five miles an hour before he hit the asphalt?

When my friend Brent and I were fifteen and moving on to high school, we received invitations to Meet Your School night a few weeks before classes began. Moving from junior high to high school was a big step, and we didn't want to be complete dorks by not attending Meet Your School. Besides, my older sister was a school officer and promised me it would be cool, so I took her word for it. We even got there ten minutes early. And we quickly discovered that only dorks got there early. In fact, I think only dorks attended at all.

We worried we wouldn't find a seat and hurried into the auditorium. Only one other person was there—an older guy, probably some other dork's dad. We sat about five rows behind him and waited for the excitement to begin.

Brent had a touch of hay fever that day, and while we sat there, he coughed and produced a giant loogie. Teenagers are fascinated with body fluids—pus is always a favorite—and not wanting to swallow it back down, Brent expelled it onto his hand. And it was a magnificent specimen.

The next question was, what could he do with it? A fifteen-year-old boy in that situation doesn't have a whole lot of options. Walking to the restroom to wash his hand was certainly not one of them. He chose the only other option—tossing the loogie out into the air. I mean, what else could he do?

The loogie whirled through the dark auditorium like a spiral galaxy spinning through outer space. It arced downward and straight toward the one place we wished it hadn't gone—right down the neck of The Dad sitting in front of us. It was a perfect shot. A hole in one. But there was no time for congratulations. Brent and I froze into perfect granite statues.

The Dad winced. He reached back into his collar. He pulled his hand out slowly. Slime dripped from his fingers. He turned around. He stared back at us.

If you took the entire energy output of the Three Gorges Dam Hydroelectric Generators, it wouldn't even come close to the amount of energy Brent and I expended for those eight seconds trying to maintain composure while The Dad's eyes bored into us. Maybe he'd think it was someone else. Of course we'd forgotten we were the only other dorks in the whole room.

We fully expected a beating, but The Dad just slowly stood up, continued glaring at us, and walked out of the room. He came back after a few minutes and sat somewhere else. I'm not sure what prompted him to be so forgiving. Maybe he'd tossed a loogie when he was fifteen.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

King of the World for Five Minutes

I don't recall participating in many overt acts of vandalism when I was young. I could say I thought it wasn't right to purposely destroy or damage other people's property. But that wasn't true. Actually, I was just always afraid of getting caught.

There was the time we found a shopping cart in the neighborhood that belonged to the local market. We decided to be good Boy Scouts and return it, so naturally we connected it to the trailer hitch of my buddy Stitch's car and dragged it all over the place before finding our way to the market. Then, to make sure the owner knew we'd brought it back, we hung it from the handle of his front door. A while later, we passed by and noticed two police cars there—apparently we'd set off the alarm. We weren't purposely trying to vandalize anything, but I'm not sure how well the cart worked after that. Or the door.

The Great Water Tower
One time, though, Stitch and I decided to pursue the ultimate act—spraying our names on the top of the water tower. I'm pretty sure this tower is still there, and it's not just a little structure that anyone can climb up. It's a giant round ball supported on massive legs, and for some reason, is checkered red and white. It looks like a soccer ball on stilts and it's huge. I think it was built during World War Two when soldiers were stationed nearby. On the fence at the bottom, a sign used to read "Property of US Navy." We were about seven hundred miles from the nearest ocean, so I'm not sure how that worked out.

We staked out the tower one day to plan our assault. A razor wire fence surrounded it. Easy enough to cross. A ladder ran up one of the tower legs, but the bottom of the ladder was at least twenty feet in the air. My dad's extension ladder would reach that high. A cage covered the bottom of the tower ladder, but it looked like it was just latched shut. Having done our due reconnaissance, we figured it was possible.

And we were going to be the first humans ever to climb up and spray our victory message on the top.

So a few days later, we returned to conquer. One of us had to stay down to hide the extension ladder and move the car away, so I was chosen to climb up. After extending the ladder to its full length, it barely reached to a few feet below the cage. I carefully climbed up to the top rung of my dad's ladder and discovered the cage was locked. Now what? The only way past was to climb on the outside of the cage, which was made of fine mesh. I could fit my fingers in it, but not my feet. I'd need to climb up several yards using only my hands. Actually, only my fingers.

But I was a skinny kid and a champion at pull-ups—I could easily pump off forty or more on the bar in my bedroom door. So I managed to scramble up the cage, nearly cutting my fingers off on the mesh. I made it to the main ladder and began my ascent. It took a very long time to climb all the way up. I'd never realized how tall that thing really was.

Finally, I reached the top, where a catwalk surrounded the giant ball that held the water. I looked down at all the small people below me. I was king of the world. No one had ever accomplished such a feat before. My spray-painted name would go down in history. I'd be remembered forever as the Edmund Hillary of the Tower.

After surveying my kingdom, I retrieved the can of paint from my back pocket and started searching for the best place to spray. And there I saw it, just above the catwalk, a message in black spray paint: "Ha! We were here first." Followed by names and a date from a year earlier.

Someone had beat me to it. Worse yet, I recognized one of the names as a kid from rival Cypress High.

So I covered their names with paint, sprayed mine and Stitch's in their place, and descended back to the mortal world. Despite not being first to conquer the tower, it was still quite a feat, though one of the more dangerous things I've ever done. Several years later I stopped by to see if our names were still there. Unfortunately, it had all been painted over. Probably by the US Navy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Invisible for a Day

I think many people re-define themselves at various times in their lives. Sometimes it's deliberate and sudden—you show up at school with newly spiked hair and a bunch of head banger music in your iPod. Other times I think it just happens over time—a mean bully that slowly realizes his victims are actual human beings and not punching bags.

When I was in high school, I decided to change everything about me, including my name, for one day. I became a nerd, or what I thought was a nerd. Back then, nerds weren't cool like they are now, and I wanted to be the most un-cool person in the school. Of course, I wasn't very cool to begin with, so it wasn't that hard.

I found some old clothes, most of which were too big for me, and a pair of my dad's old horn-rim glasses (which were very much NOT in style then). I put some tape on the glasses for good measure. I carried a dictionary around with me. You remember dictionaries, don't you—those thick books with words in them? I also carted a record album called Beginning Square Dance, along with all my text books, which I normally left in my locker. I had a whole fistful of pens in my pocket, a dorky ball cap, and a Snoopy lunch box.

I was as nerdy as I could be. And I became Fenster McNabb.

When I got to school, I purposely avoided people. I stared at the floor and slinked along the edges of the hallways. A few teachers recognized me and got a good laugh out of it. But several times, I walked into class and the teacher politely asked if I was a recent move-in, usually in a "I don't want to frighten you" voice. The other kids found that pretty funny.

The principal stopped me when I was late to one class. I think he was a little confused about whether I was for real or not. My friend Stitch got a great picture of the encounter.

It was interesting because most people really didn't know who I was that day. I had a couple rude or teasing comments directed my way, but I found that few people purposely picked on me. Rather, I was just ignored. It kind of made me wonder what it felt like for kids who were ignored every day.

I don't know that I came away from that experience with any great revelation. I just did it all on a lark. But thinking about it now, I realize there are a lot of invisible people in the world—people who are invisible even though we see them every day.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Dumb Friends

As I've gotten older, I've reflected on my life and come to a conclusion: I'm pretty sure I have a social disability. I often have difficulty relating to people in a normal way. I usually end up resorting to humor or just acting goofy. When I was in high school, I found a way to temporarily overcome this problem—instead of interacting with real people, I created fake ones.

One day I decided we needed a scarecrow in our vegetable garden, so I went to the thrift store to find some old clothes. After bringing home a flannel shirt and a pair of overalls, I stuffed it all with newspaper and sewed it together. I attached some old socks and shoes and used a halloween mask on a wig stand for the head.

When finished, I looked at my creation and realized she (she'd already taken on a persona by then) looked way too nice to just stick in the garden. So I did the only thing I could do at a time like that—I gave her a name, Ethel McCleaver, then sat her in the passenger seat of my car and drove around while talking to her.

Ethel McCleaver
I had a lot of fun with Ethel, especially at traffic lights and drive-throughs. Since my old car had a bench seat, I sometimes strapped her into the driver's seat while I sat in the passenger seat and drove with my left foot and arm stretched across the car. When I was too nervous to ask a girl out to a dance once, I put Ethel and a hidden walkie-talkie on the porch so she could do the asking. Then, after I got turned down, I took Ethel to the dance instead.

One day, the front wheel of my car fell off and I was stranded in the middle of a busy road. Nobody stopped to help until I hung Ethel out of the door like she'd passed out. A police officer (the third to pass by) immediately stopped—but it was to offer some choice words rather than to assist. At least the tow truck driver found it funny.

After a while, I realized Ethel was probably lonely when she sat in my car by herself all the time. So I made three friends for her and named them all. We had a great time all summer long, attending fireworks shows and parades, but it almost came to a tragic end when they nearly got shot.

It happened like this. I picked up several human friends for a night of gallivanting and didn't have room in my old Impala for everyone. So I folded my thrift store friends in half and sat them down side-by-side in the trunk. I had to squeeze the trunk lid down tightly to get it to shut.

As we were traveling around, I happened to pull onto a road and swerved a little—right in front of a city cop, unfortunately. He pulled me over in the 7-11 parking lot to see if we'd been drinking. After looking at each of us closely and inspecting the car, he still wasn't convinced we weren't drunk and asked to look in the trunk. I suggested that wasn't a good idea, which only made him more curious. So I handed him my keys and he walked over to open it.

With the pressure of four newspaper-stuffed friends in there, the lid popped open quickly. Ethel and her buddies instantly sat upright with their arms flapping, and two of their heads fell off.

The cop jumped backward and grabbed for his gun. My friends and I fell onto the pavement, laughing so hard we shot Slurpees out our noses and couldn't breathe. Once the cop caught his breath, it was all he could do to keep from laughing and remain professional. He decided we weren't drunk, so he let us go, and we bought new Slurpees and continued our gallivanting.

I eventually dismantled all my friends when my parents got tired of me storing them in the family room. And I guess I can say that spending a summer hanging out with a bunch of dummies probably did help prepare me in some small way for the rest of my life.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Recent Book News

Amira, Immortal Daughter from Penglai got a great four-star review from Jasmine at Beneath the Moon and Stars Book Blog.

All three of my books got mentioned on Bargain eBooks Blog.

The trailer for Borneo Fever is featured this week on Indies Unlimited.

An Amazon reviewer gave Borneo Fever a great four-star review.

Nice five-star review of The Power of Powers from an Amazon reviewer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Attacking Snowmen and Hired Muscle

My elementary school had the usual schoolyard bullies who made sure everyone did as they commanded. They paraded around in various mini-gangs, each claiming their territory in the yard. While each mini gang was frightening as a group, it was amazing how un-scary many of the individual members became if they accidentally got separated from their pack.

One winter day after it had snowed all morning, I really wanted to make a snowman during lunch recess. I couldn't do it alone, not with roving snowball-smashing gangs all over the yard. So I enlisted my own Gang of Wimpy Friends to help. But unfortunately, our gang was about ten levels below the tough guy gangs.

My friends didn't want to have anything to do with my venture because they knew a freshly-formed snowman would instantly attract the attention of one of the goon squads. So they went to slide on the parking lot ice instead.

But I was determined, so I set out to find a patch of untrodden snow. Other kids were building snowmen too, but none of the poor snow creatures survived more than a few minutes before they got attacked.

I needed a plan.

I started rolling a giant fluffy ball and purposely steered it toward Bully Gang #1, which was the toughest of the tough. They had a guy named Tracy in their pack, who was almost a whole gang by himself. They saw my tempting snowball and bared their fangs. But before they could do anything, I announced that I'd made the giant snowball just for them to squash. Then I turned and walked away.

And they promptly did just that—left my snowball a flattened mess, and went in search of another victim.

I did the same thing two more times—gave them a nice snowball, let them smash it, then walked away. I was then ready for step two of my plan. This time, I walked far away from the bullies, to the other side of the Jungle Gym near the giant tires. There I proceeded to make a snowman, hoping Bully Gang #1 would be happy with the three snowballs I'd already given them, and that they'd leave me alone.

Unfortunately, before I even finished the bottom ball, Tracy wandered over. He was the only bully tough enough to leave his gang and head out on private hunts—and he was headed straight toward me.

But rather than instantly smash my snowball, he sat down on the tires and watched. Attacking the snowballs I'd already given him must have made him hungry for more. I knew he was waiting for me to finish.

But he didn't; he just sat there watching me.

Bully Gang #1 had gone to another corner of the yard to terrorize new victims. This left the Jungle Gym territory open to Bully Gang #3 (#2 was knocking down my friends on the ice). As soon as they saw my snowman, which was almost finished by then, they immediately charged.

Just before they reached me, Tracy stood up and placed himself between me and all of Bully Gang #3.

He glared at them. "Don't touch his snowman."

That's all it took. They skidded to a stop, sized Tracy up, and realized that even as a group, they were no match for him.

So they walked away, commenting on how my snowman wasn't worth smashing anyway. My new hired gun sat back down and continued guarding me until recess was over.

My plan had worked, but not like I'd expected. And of course, the next day Tracy was back with his gang, I was off with the wimpy guys, and proper order was once again restored. And neither of us ever spoke of the incident again, all the way up through high school. To do so would have broken a sacred trust.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Charity Event to Benefit Down Syndrome International

In conjunction with World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, I'm holding a charity event wherein I'll donate 50% of all pre-tax proceeds to Down Syndrome International for all sales of my book The Power of Powers that occur worldwide from March 20 – 22.

World Down Syndrome Day is officially recognized by the United Nations and is set aside for events and activities around the world to help raise awareness of Down syndrome and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.

As a father of a child with Down syndrome, I wanted to do a small part in helping people understand more about Down syndrome. It's not a disease or anything terrible like that. It occurs when a person's 21st chromosome has three copies, rather than the normal two. Hence the chosen date for this event: 3-21. People with Down syndrome have certain physical characteristics and some cognitive impairment, but can live healthy, productive lives as active members of their community.

Down Syndrome International, according to their website, "is a UK based international charity, comprising a membership of individuals and organizations from all over the world, committed to ensuring quality of life and human rights for all people with Down syndrome."

If you have any questions about this, feel free to leave comments or contact me. Or better yet, buy a book, enjoy a great read, and get warm fuzzies because you helped a great cause.

Monday, January 30, 2012

All I Need is a Hairless Horse

It's been a while since my last post. I've finished my books and they'll be released within days, so I'll be posting more regularly now.

One of my books, The Power of Powers, has a character named Sparrow who has an unspecified disability. If you know anyone with Down Syndrome, you'll easily recognize that this is what I was trying to portray. I patterned much of Sparrow's behavior and speech after my son, Tian Tian, who also has Down Syndrome. My purpose in doing this wasn't to preach anything or try to spotlight Down Syndrome. I just wanted to tell a story and happened to include a character with these traits. Also, though, I guess I wanted to show that in many respects, people with disabilities aren't really that different—everyone just wants a peaceful and fulfilling life.

Tian Tian does have some traits that are different from others. One thing that stands out is his desire for simplicity. We've given him some cool—and expensive—toys before, only to have the toys ignored while he plays with more simple items. Rather than ask for a fancy helmet to play a knight, he'll just put a plastic mixing bowl on his head. He has some ornate toy swords, but prefers to use our Vitamix juicer plunger. The plunger also doubles as a gun, an airplane, a bird, or whatever else he needs it to be.

Another toy that was his favorite for years was a green plastic doctor's thermometer from a toy doctor kit. The first phrase Tian Tian learned to say was "green toy," and he took that toy with him everywhere. He lost it many times and always found it again, until it fell down a storm drain one day. If anyone can tell me where to find one just like the one in this photo, Tian Tian will be eternally grateful!

Something he's played with for many years is a small plastic horse. At one time, it had velvety fur and a soft mane, which all rubbed off long ago. Now it's just a rather homely, hairless, brown piece of plastic. But in Tian Tian's eyes, this horse is as magnificent as Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron.

I wish my needs were so simple.