October 3, 2015
by Jennifer
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The Prince Who Was Just Himself Offends

A new children’s book is out which is supposed to teach about celebrating everyone’s differences. It features a young prince who has Down syndrome.  The Prince Who Was Just Himself , written by Silke Schnee and illustrated by Heike Sistig, is about a royal family who has a third child who is not like his two older brothers. They notice things that are different and special about him. Eventually he saves the town from an evil knight by showing his unique compassion.

As a mother of a five year old son who has Down syndrome, you’d think I’d applaud a book which celebrates differences and teaches people to value the differences in each of us. However, I found the book stereotypical and offensive.

The thing is people try to lump all people who have Down syndrome into one group with similar outdated characteristics such as – they are happy all the time, they are “slow”, they can’t be hurt by your ignorant remarks, they are uncoordinated.

In the book, when the towns people snickered that the little prince was “different” and “not like us,” the book says the Prince Who Was Just Himselflittle prince “only smiled at the them and was happy to be out in the sun” – as if people with Down syndrome can’t get their feelings hurt from the cruel remarks of others. As if they don’t long to belong in a community and have friendships and be accepted for who they are.

The book described the prince as “not being very good at running and jumping,” that he was “never in a hurry,” and he “hardly ever used words or sentences.” Yet, today, people with Down syndrome can learn, read, write and speak in sentences. They have interests, talents, hobbies, and jobs. They compete in special olympics and even on typical sports teams, they run, wrestle, cheer, dance and lift weights. And I know from experience, when my son is determined to do something or go somewhere, I can barely catch up!

The point is to create awareness and acceptance we don’t need to highlight and generalize stereotypical differences in people, we need to illustrate their humanity, their beauty and their individualism.

Published by Penguin books, the Prince Who Was Just Himself was well-intended but misses the mark.

Disclosure of material connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free in the hope that I would give it my fair review. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

September 16, 2015
by Jennifer
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Turning Points

Ashley Smith Robinson in her book Captive, discusses the turning point in her life when she was held hostage by escaped prisoner Brian Nichols in Atlanta ten years ago. At the time, she was addicted to drugs and struggling to come clean and get her daughter back. During her ordeal, Brian wanted Ashley to do drugs with him. It was at that moment she knew her choice would define her. She bravely said no and hasn’t touched drugs since.

Many of us can look back on our lives and see turning points. For me two distinct turning points stand out. The first was right after college. I had broken up with my boyfriend of 51/2 years and entered into a deep depression. Life as a an adult just wasn’t what I had imagined. I was drinking too much and behaving recklessly, grasping to find out who I was without someone beside me.

Here I am after my first turning point as a youth leader.

Here I am after my first turning point as a youth leader.

Then one day, I decided to go to church. I had not been in a long time. I went to the LifeTeen Mass at the church I grew up in. During the service, they were singing the praise and worship songs I fondly remembered from my youth – Our God is an Awesome God and the like. It triggered something in me and I went back to my apartment and dug out my old Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith cassette tapes and sang and prayed and asked God back in my life. Then I became a core team member for Life Teen at my church and it truly changed the trajectory of my adult years.

The second major turning point of my life was when my son was born, and diagnosed with Down syndrome. It is with that news that I became an advocate, found my purpose and eventually changed careers (sort of).

My son - my second major turning point.

My son – my second major turning point.

I quickly learned all I could about Down syndrome and discovered that there was a 70-90 percent abortion rate for those given a prenatal diagnosis. The reason for this is that communication about the genetic condition given by doctors is biased and outdated.

I also learned that my son had every opportunity for a typical life given enough early intervention and ongoing support, but that I would need to diligently advocate for those supports because funding was almost nonexistent.

I also learned that research on cognitive function for those with DS was advancing both behaviorally and clinically and that one day there may be drugs that help my son’s brain and memory. However, funding for DS research is among the lowest.

I knew I needed to be part of the solution, so I joined the board of the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta.

Later, I expanded my advocacy to all developmental disabilities and joined the staff of All About Developmental Disabilities after some 15 years in PR agency world. I now get to use my skill set to advance a cause I am closely passionate about.

Two turning points that changed my life and helped me follow my purpose. I am so thankful that although these moments were challenging, scary and even heartbreaking, I was able to trust where God was leading me. Have you faced any turning points that led you to #followyourpurpose?

September 14, 2015
by Jennifer
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Vampire Diaries

So my daughter is obsessed with Vampire Diaries which is filmed outside of Atlanta. She asked me to watch with her before she and her besties went to Covington, Ga the site of the fictional Mystic Falls to go on the Vampire Diaries tour.

Being an old Ann Rice fan, I was hooked before the first episode was finished. The storytelling in the series is entrancing. From episode to episode there are new plots and twists which keeps viewers on their toes.

So now I’m hooked and trying to catch up to season 7! The tour was great and it was neat to hear the behind the scenes info and then watch the episodes. It gave me a greater connection to the show and its cast and characters. It is fun having something to share with my daughter.

As Christians we know that Vampires, werewolves and witches don’t really exist. As storytellers,  we can appreciate the weaving of a good tale, the tug between good and evil and the journey all people go through to find meaning. The characters each struggle with morality, sin, forgiveness, humanity, using powers for good or evil. We see that even in the most evil character we find the ability for redemption and the longing to be forgiven.

Like the characters on Vampire Diaries, all of us struggle to use our gifts (powers) as  they were intended and often fail miserably. We long for eternal significance. We seek to be connected to something larger than ourselves. Happily we are freely given significance, forgiveness and love by a God who created us and gave us each individual gifts. And we get to be part of it without any blood loss because we follow the one who took the sacrifice and shed his blood for us.

Gilbert House

My daughter and her besties in front of the Gilbert House. The real owners are super nice and if you catch them outside they will invite you on up!

Vampire Diaries Cast

Okay, so they are just cardboard but you can find the real cast around Covington on shooting days and the towns people really like them. How could you not? #Salvatorebrothers

Mystic Falls

The Covington courthouse is a staple in the fictional town of Mystic Falls as is the Mystic Grill next door. It used to be an insurance company inside while the exterior was made over for the show, but the mayor wisely created a real Mystic Grill for fans coming to experience Vampire Diaries.

 

September 14, 2015
by Jennifer
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Captivated by Captured

While I was at the 90 minutes in Heaven premiere, Governor Deal mentioned that Georgia is the third state in the nation in film production! Another Georgia film is opening this weekend and is based on a story that is close to home. I was able to see an advance screening of the movie and read the book it is based on, and I have to say this is a riveting real-life drama!

In the book Captive, Ashley Smith Robinson shares her raw story of brokenness and addiction which led to the Captive by Ashley Smith Robinsonturning point where she found her purpose. On that fateful day, another broken soul, Brian Nichols escaped from the Fulton County Courthouse, killing several people in his path and initiating a statewide manhunt. Nichols forced his way into Ashley’s apartment in an Atlanta suburb where she was held captive. Ashley’s motivation to be reunited with her daughter kept her thinking straight and ultimately led to her survival. The book shares the details of that harrowing event and is a story of redemption and hope.

The movie, which is a close representation of the book, is well-acted by David Oyelowo and Kate Mara. It had me glued to my seat. I vividly remember the event that unfolded in my home city. I was amazed at the level-headedness Ashley summed as a recovering addict. She was determined to survive the ordeal, which had many close calls.

Tv Coverage Brian NicholsCAPTIVE

I had the pleasure of meeting Ashley’s family and hearing a first-hand account of that night as she answered questions at the screening. She said she used that night as a catalyst for a renewed relationship with God, her family and herself. Her turning point was when Nichols asked her to do drugs with him. An addict, it would have been easy to say yes, but she somehow knew the decision could alter the course of her life and said “no” standing up to her captor. It must be scary after all this time to share these intimate details of that night.

If you like crime dramas, you will love this book and movie. If you have a turning point in your life, you will certainly relate to this story. I encourage you to pick up the book or catch the film, opening September 18 in a theater near you. Watch the trailer here.

 

 

 

September 14, 2015
by Jennifer
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90 Minutes in Heaven Atlanta Premier

Earlier this month, I was treated to a night on the town and a red carpet movie premier of the new film 90 Minutes in Heaven with my hubby. 

  
The movie premiered at the Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta. This historic theater is always a treat to go to. 

  
The movie is based on a best-selling book and is the true story of a young pastor named Don Piper, who gets in a tragic wreck and is pronounced dead for 90 minutes.

Having not read the book, I thought the movie would be about Heaven, however, it was more about how you handle living on earth once you get a glimpse of what it is like in God’s presence.

Actor Hayden Christensen (Star Wars Episode III) portrays the physical and emotional pain of this experience with raw purity.

Actress Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush) plays a loyal and stoic spouse with all the grit and tenacity of a southern woman facing crisis.

   
 This story of perseverance, hope and acceptance of one’s purpose, makes you wonder how you might handle standing at the Pearly Gates only to be swept back to earth in a completely wrecked body with a long recovery ahead. 

The film poetically tackles depression, recovery, financial struggle, loneliness and the power of faith, hope, love and friendship. It is worth 90 minutes in the theater for sure! 

  

August 21, 2015
by Jennifer
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Book Review of Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin does it again enthralling us in the early days of WWII in America through her Through-Waters-Deep-662x1024latest historical fiction Through Waters Deep.  While true to the historical period of WWII-era, the book is also part romance and part mystery.

Sarah’s composition typically includes two main characters with deep backstories who intersect. The intersection typically leads to romance and in this case, it also leads to some mystery. In Through Waters Deep we meet Mary Atwood, a wall flower not quite ready to step into the spotlight and Jim Avery, a young naval officer ready to prove himself.

Sundin’s character development skills lead the reader into a relationship with each character. The characters are multi-dimensional and I also appreciate how while Mary is sensitive and sweet, she is also a trailblazer who steps outside the typical expectations of the women of her time.  Alternating chapters give us a peek into to each character’s perspective, sharing their individual stories.

The setting is Boston just before the start of WWII at a Naval shipyard where Mary works as a secretary, and Jim Avery is stationed before he ships off to sea and into war. Mary and Jim knew each other in high school and meet again years later in this new setting. They were barely friends back home but now develop a friendship that helps them to see each other a bit differently than before.

Meanwhile, mischief is happening at the shipyard where several instances of sabotage have led to an FBI investigation in which Mary becomes immersed. As Mary and Jim’s friendship heats up, second guessing, assumptions and chance circumstance seems to prevent them from letting their true feelings known. Each character faces their own fears and must learn to set their own sails. There is plenty of tension and conflict to keep readers invested in the story to the end.

While the story is fiction, Sundin includes enough history from WWII era to make it seem real. She includes real ship names, General names and battle scenes with German U-boats and torpedoes.

The overall message is that God gave each of us talents and when we use them to His glory, we will truly find fulfillment.

You can get Through Waters Deep at Amazon or learn more about Sarah Sundin and her novels online.

August 17, 2015
by Jennifer
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Back to School

We made it through summer and survived the first week back to school!

The kids are excited about their teachers and classes and we are looking forward to a great year ahead. My kids are setting goals and engaging in activities and we are setting a new routine.

My youngest, started Kindergarten! Yea! He is in a co-taught class with a general ed teacher and a IMG_1330special ed teacher. He also has a para to go with him to specials. So far, he is doing great and we are working on potty training with the teacher.

He is also ready finding a name for himself in the school. After school at walkers you can find him standing next to the teacher calling out student names as they get picked up! So cute!

My social butterfly is happy to back in school and wants play dates every day. Her goal is to get in Discovery.

My oldest entered her last year of Middle School and Im proud that she decided to join the special friends club to be a peer mentor in the special ed class once a week. That’s my girl!

IMG_1324IMG_1350

Our schools provide agenda planners for the students and I am working with them to make sure they use it to keep track of assignments, extra curriculars and even chores. Might as well start them early on organization!

Here’s to a great year ahead.

July 29, 2015
by Jennifer
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Irene Hannon’s Hope Harbor

I was excited to get the latest Irene Hannon novel for some summer reading enjoyment and I was not disappointed. Hannon is excellent in character development and in providing just enough interest to keep me turning thHope Harbor by Irene Hannone page for more. I also like that she illustrates how love and attraction happen through relationship before intimacy. I would be happy to have my 14 year old read her novels and gain a healthy view of romantic relationships. The tension is there but it is tasteful too.

In Hope Harbor, we meet two characters who each are facing loss, and some associated guilt. Michael goes West searching for some peace and a new start after losing his wife . After arriving, he literally runs into Tracy Campbell, a cranberry farmer who is healing from her own loss and faces losing her farm on top of it all.

Along the way, we meet a reclusive old woman, whom Michael gives new hope; a tag team duo of the town minister and priest who are working together on a charity to meet local needs; and a prophetic food truck owner/artist. Each plays a role in some twists and turns giving love a second chance at Hope Harbor.

 

Disclosure of material connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free in the hope that I would give it my fair review. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Summer fun 

July 18, 2015 by Jennifer | 0 comments

Only a few more weeks of summer and we have been having a good one! We spend a few afternoons a week and some weekend days at the neighborhood pool. We have had two Vacation Bible School weeks for Carlie, sleep away camp for Annie and a summer long camp for Joey. We celebrated Joey’s 5th birthday at camp and with a party at Grammy and Pops. We went to the city Fourth of July parade in the rain and brought back lots of candy. We had some visits with friends and evenings around the fire pit. I got to see Kenny Chesney! We most recently drove to upstate Massachussetts for a family wedding. We have also made lots of plans for our upcoming renovation and began packing up the house. We are currently preparing to renovate our laundry room. And we have one more birthday to celebrate in two weeks!   

    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 

This gallery contains 18 photos

July 18, 2015
by Jennifer
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Laundry Room Progress

The Renovation project slowly continues. Just before we were leaving for a drive from Atlanta to upstate Massachusetts, our washer decided to die on us.

With lots of laundry to be done, this unexpected  incident helped us make some decisions regarding our water heater and laundry set up.

We have a huge 50 gallon tank sitting where the dryer once was in out laundry. IMG_2326 Laundry OldThis prevents the washer and dryer form being side by side. Unfortunately, there is not enough space on the other side of the room for our dryer so it sticks out and makes any sort of organization a challenge. We looked into relocating a water heater back into its original crawl space location, but the logistics (and price) did not make sense. A “low boy” would cost $3,000 and a tankless $4,000. Replacing the current water heater and leaving it where it stands will cost approximately $1000.

So, our only option for gaining some space to sort and fold clothes and to maximize space in the room is to stack the washer and dryer. Luckily, I had picked up a stackable dryer off a Facebook garage sale group for $75. Now, we just needed to replace the washer. We ended up getting a front loading, stackable Kenmore from the Sears scratch and dent store and this thing is cool. It senses the amount of clothes you have and adjusts the wash accordingly.New Washer

Next, we need to have the electrical moved to accommodate the dryer and then we can stack the two. We will then give the room a fresh coat of paint and new shelving to accommodate a place to sort clothes into baskets  I’ll also get a new counter top and have a place to fold. We’ll be working on this over the next few weeks! Check back in to see our progress!