Celebrating One Year In the Hearing World

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Today is the day.

Today I am celebrating one year in the hearing world.

I am asked two questions very frequently, and today my friend Mandi asked me them again, so I thought I would blog about my answers!

Number 1: What made entering the hearing world so hard?

When you get hearing devices there are so many things that happen that people do not realize. For one, your brain needs to adjust to the new "sounds" that are coming in. They are not actually sounds, but energy that is being created by the device that tells your brain that your cochlea's are getting the energy they need to create sounds. Since mine are "broken" from birth, my brain does the work that my cochlea's would be doing.

Before hearing devices, my brain was trying the best it could to do the work to let me "hear" what the world sounds like. Reading lips, "filling in" where I did not hear, and plain old helping me navigate this big world with out the ability to hear it took more work than I knew I was doing.

When my hearing devices replaced my system for navigating the world, that changed the part of my brain that was doing the work. That change was a lot of work. Physically.

Learning sounds was a lot of work.

Every day for the last year, I have learned new sounds. Every single day.

Imagine living in a world for 50 years, not knowing many sounds exist. Then one day, hearing many many new sounds and having to learn what each one is.

That has been my year.

The second most asked question is what is my favorite part of hearing?

Communication.

I can communicate more accurately.

I heard my voice, my true voice, for the first time one year ago today.

I had no idea I had a sweet gentle voice.

As most know, I heard a deep and gravelly voice my whole life.

Being able to use my voice in so many other ways has been quite the experience.

Hearing what I truly sound like has been like a miracle.

I have learned so much about me now that I hear me.

It has been a wonderful year.

I am glad it is behind me though.

I look forward to learning more as I continue to go through this wonderful life.

And I look forward to using my voice for good in this world.

#deafHOHproud

Most of all, I am grateful for these wonderful peeps and their patience teaching me all I needed to learn this year. Without them, I could not have done all the hard work it has taken to transition from my wonderful deaf world to my wonderful hearing world.







#blessed



Celebrating Nine Months Of Hearing

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I am nine months into my journey of living in the "hearing"* world.

I would love to tell you that transitioning into the hearing world has been as easy as getting a pair of glasses.

If I said that, I would be lying. I know this for a fact,  you see not only am I person who has a hearing impairment, I am also a person who had an eye impairment. I wore glasses or contacts my whole life.

I understand fully what it is like to get glasses or contacts and then see the trees and the leaves more fully.

Learning to hear is nothing like that.

I mean nothing like that. At all.

Many in the hearing world will say to me, "Oh yes, I understand, I have glasses and I remember the first day I got them, and I saw leaves on the trees!"

I smile and nod in agreement.

But the reality deep down in my soul is this, it is not the same.

Transitioning to the hearing world takes so much more effort. It is exhausting.

The best way I can explain it is this, getting glasses is not exhausting.

When you get glasses, you see. You put them on, and you see. It is awesome.

When you get hearing devices you have to learn what you are hearing.

Every sound you hear, your brain needs to learn. So one sound at a time you are startled.

The first time you hear the sound it is super loud. When I say super loud, I mean super loud. It takes your breath away.

Add to that... this fact....

When you hear that sound, you have no idea what it is.

So, then, you have to turn to those around you; your kids, your husband, your friends, strangers, who ever is near.

Some times with fear, and some times in aw, you ask them, "What was that?"

After you learn what it is, you breath a sigh of relief, knowing that you have one more sound that you do not have to be afraid of.

New sounds never end.

The hearing world has SO many sounds I have never heard a day in my life.

Slowly I am getting used to your hearing world.

It is a beautiful world a lot of the time.

Though I will be honest, often, I retreat back to my very quiet, much more silent world, the only world I have known my whole life.

The world I did not know was different than yours.

But I don't give up.

I start all over again every morning.

Each morning when I put my hearing aids in, I take a deep breath.

I love hearing your world. Most of the time. As overwhelming as it is, it is beautiful at the same time.

I know I am not hearing everything.

But I do hear more than I have ever heard.

For that I am grateful.

Truly truly grateful!

#deafHOHproud

#happyhearing

#learning2hear










* My hearing aids help me hear. Do I hear like the hearing world? I doubt it. Technology can only bring me so much understanding of the hearing world.

LET'S CELEBRATE ME's 12 YEARS OF LIFE! **ANNOUNCEMENT about ME's BARBIE PARTY for ST. JUDE

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On March 17th ME will be 12 years old and we are already preparing!

Yep, we are starting a little early, but we think you will love it when you hear why!

If you have followed along with MaryEllen and me you know that the last few years we have been collecting Barbies and Super Hero Action Figures for the patients at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

It's been a whirl wind of fun.

It has also been very emotional to learn what happened to the toys after we delivered them.

At the same time it has been very heart warming.

We have been so happy to learn that many children turn to them just the same way that ME has turned to her Barbies during the many procedures she has had to endure.

Many, many Barbies and Super Hero action figures later we want to thank all of you!

Your generous support has been amazing.


Mary Ellen and Vilma (St. Jude) giving a thumbs up because they are pretty excited about the many Barbies and Super Hero Action figures that have come our way! This was taken at ME's third delivery of toys. 

So, this year, again, we want to celebrate her life in a really special way!

We are thrilled to announce that we are partnering with the University of Memphis Chapter of St. Jude Up 'Til Dawn!


St. Jude Up 'Til Dawn was started right here at the University of Memphis 18 years ago, and has spread to over 250 schools across the nation! 

They raise 5 million dollars a year annually, and they have raised over 20.6 million dollars nationwide for St. Jude! 

This year, in honor of ME's 12th birthday, in lieu of gifts, we will ask you again to consider donating a Barbie or a Super Hero Action Figure for the children at St. Jude... 

OR BETTER YET 

donate $12 to ME's  St. Jude Up 'Til Dawn fundraising page 

or send a $12 donation made out to St. Jude Up Til Dawn to:
ME's Barbie Party 4 St. Jude
2095 Exeter Road Suite 80-227
Germantown, TN 38138 

*If you donate through the St. Jude Up 'Til Dawn fundraising page, be sure to indicate that this is for ME's Barbie Party 4 St. Jude in the "leave a comment" section. 

St. Jude Up 'Til Dawn, Mattel, and I have worked out a process in which we will be purchasing Barbies and Super Hero Action Figures directly from Mattel from their Charity Sales Program. 

This will be a huge cost savings to purchase them, and it will ensure that St. Jude is getting the toys that they need, when they need them. 

PLUS every time you donate $12 towards a Barbie, thanks to Mattel's Charity Sales Program that we have been approved to be a part of,  approximately $9 of that donation will go to St. Jude Up 'Til Dawn

How cool is that! 
When we delivered ME's last batch of toys we received Up 'Til Dawn t shirts that we are so proud to wear!
I want to say thank you, again, to all of you who have given so generously! It has made the difference to many children of all ages who are going through the fight of their life! 

We hope that you will celebrate ME's twelve incredible years of life again this year by donating $12 to St. Jude Up 'Til Dawn OR sharing this with your friends and family so they can!  

Barbies have made a huge difference in ME's life, now Barbies and Super Hero Action Figures and your dollars can make a difference in many more children's lives! 

** PS As we have said in the past, ME will be 12 all year long, so we will not have a cut off for donations, feel free to celebrate her all year long with us! 


A Contest and an Introduction!

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A few years ago, I became friends with a wonderful family who do not live far from me.  They are members of the Down syndrome club, and their daughter, Bethany is their golden ticket in to the club. Michaela, Bethany's mom, has a wonderful songwriting contest going that I am really excited about. 

Check out her interview I had with her to learn more and get to know Bethany and Michaela! 

Tell us about you. Where are you from?


"I grew up in Las Vegas NV. Lived there for almost 30yrs. I live in Tupelo, MS now."

Have you always been a singer/songwriter?


"I have been singing cover songs semi-professionally since the age of 17. I’ve been
writing on and off since childhood. But, considering myself a songwriter came very recently in 2015. The songwriting community is overflowing with hugely talented musicians. I’m lucky to be hanging out with them."


When and how did you become a radio and television show producer?


(laughing) "November 2014, thru a series of unplanned opportunities. (laughing even harder) I wanted to meet and work with other songwriters, Christian songwriters initially. I wanted simply to write songs with other musicians in the music room my husband and I built. 


As I started to reach out, a friend of mine who owns a Christian TV Network, suggested I create a television show. They wanted a new, younger viewing audience. I wanted to connect with other musicians. Win / Win. 

I wound up producing two shows; one featuring local Christian Songwriters and the other featuring local Christian Contemporary Musicians. 

In the meantime, I found a huge community of songwriters in NE Mississippi. I could see the potential was there to expand the songwriters showcase to include all genre’s. 

I approached MS Radio Group in Tupelo MS, November 2015 and they liked the idea. The songwriters showcase went from a 30 minute / 1x per month to an hour show every week on Z98.5 FM. 

I’m glad to say, the show is still expanding. I just launched a “live” songwriters showcase at The Basement downtown New Albany MS. The new showcase has a live audience and is recorded for radio and television re-broadcast, giving the songwriters triple exposure."

How has this affected you personally, as a songwriter?


"I’m writing songs! Hooray! My notebook of original songs is growing. The number of writers I collaborate with has become more than I ever thought possible. Every interview and every show is a learning experience. I soak it in like a sponge and I’m so appreciative of their willingness to share. I get to know and build relationships with them. I’m in love with the art form of turning your thoughts and ideas into lyrics, combining the lyrics with melody and instrumentation to make a song. The world needs music! How could any of us live without music?"


Tell us about your beautiful family.


"I have two awesome teenage boys and one super-awesome girl. 


I am widowed. My husband was a musician also. He passed away in an auto accident on the way to check out a gig. 

My daughter is the youngest and she is living with Down syndrome. She is the inspiration for the songwriting contest I just launched."


Michaela and Bethany

 You launched a songwriting contest! Tell me more!

"Michaela Compton Music, LLC has launched a songwriting contest with a specific theme. The theme being Down syndrome. Deadline for entries is March 1, 2017. Winners will be announced March 21, 2017 World Down Syndrome Day. 50% of the entry fee will go to organizations who support/benefit people living with Down syndrome and Down syndrome research."


How can we learn more and get our hands on the entry form?


Rules, regulations and entry form are available in PDF format on my website. http://www.michaelacomptonmusic.com/local-licks-songwriting-contest/


Will you be writing a song?


"I won’t be entering the contest but I am writing a song about my daughter never knowing her father. He passed when she was 2 months old. She only knows what I tell her and the photos I show her. That is the perspective I’m writing from."


Name the 3 most important things that you want people to remember about you?

"I will not waiver from believing there is God
My life has been positively affected by having a daughter with Down syndrome.

I’m in love with the art of songwriting and the community of songwriters."

What is one final thing you would like to share? 

"Diane, thank you for all you do to raise awareness and shed a positive light on Down syndrome.... All the countless hours researching and sharing to strengthen this community of lovely people. Thank you!"


Michaela, it is my pleasure. I am grateful that the world of Down syndrome created a way for our paths to cross! 

I love the work you do and your music. I hope many people hear about this songwriting contest, and many are inspired to enter. 

Information for entering the contest can be found at:
www.michaelacomptonmusic.com  or pop on over and like our Facebook page called 
BETHANY AND COMPANY https://www.facebook.com/bethanyandcompanyDS/ 



My Very Heartfelt Letter to George Takei

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Dear George Takei,

George, I hear you. I do.

I promise I do.

I am so glad you shared your family's life experience.

Like you, I do not want us to repeat this time in history. I hope everyone reads your story and mine so we never ever, ever, ever repeat it again.

I hear you. I do. I promise!

If there is one person on this earth who understands, it is me. We have a shared experience. Many miles away. But still shared.

You see my family lived in the Philippines when your family was interned in the United States.

My dad was a prisoner of war at Santo Tomas. He was a prisoner from the time he was 8 until he was 12.

I am a first generation American.

My father and my aunts were born in the Manila, Philippines.

My grandmother, who was from Spain lived there ever since she was a little girl.

My grandfather, who was French Canadian, moved there for a job.

How do I know this? So much was handed down from everyone that knew my dad.

And then I also have this treasure.

A letter from my aunt.


And stories from my mom. 

Though my aunt's letter said it all. 

I grew up learning about my dad's life. 

When he was eight he was placed in Santo Tomas prison camp

Like your family, his family had done nothing to provoke anyone to put him, my aunts, and grandparents in this camp. 

They lived there until General McCarthur liberated them. 

The night before they were slated to die. 

I have been told their names were put on a list, and then they had one week to make peace. 

My father, from the time he was 8 until he was 12 watched his friends die each week. 

My father, at 12 years old, made peace. He was ready to die the next day, because he watched all of his friend die. 

He did not die. 

General McCarthur, and the American forces saved him, my aunts and my grandparents. 

My grandfather was 80 pounds when he was liberated. 

If you look at the upper left hand corner of this photo, some think this is my grandfather. Truth be told, all the men looked this way, so it is hard to know if it is him or not. 80 pounds is pretty light on a grown man. 

George, I hear you. 

My family knows your pain and struggle. 

I am a first generation American. 

Thank you for sharing your story. 

Thank you for hearing mine. 

I am sorry that your family endured that pain. I am very very sorry. 

You are so much like my dad. You and your amazing family persevered. Just like we did. 

My dad said he forgave those who tortured him. My grandmother told me the same. 

After my dad was liberated he came to America. 

Chicago. 

They had never lived here a day in their life. 

Yet...

My dad graduated first in his class in high school after living in a prisoner of war camp at Santo Tomas. 

He then went on to earn a two degrees and was working on a law degree when he died. 

He died when he was 35. 

But he lived on.. 

...in me. 

George, I hear you. 

Thank you for sharing your real and honest painful story. 

Thank you for hearing mine. 

Together we can heal.





Signing Times Adventure at Rory+Joey's Farm

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A few weeks ago, a friend of mine reached out to me to ask if I had heard about the small concert that Rachel Coleman, of Signing Times, was going to be having at the farm of Joey, Rory, and Indy Feek.


 I had not heard about it, but decided it might be kind of fun to make the trip over.

You see Signing Times videos have been a very big part of our life. 

So big in fact, that when I told my 23 year old son that we were making the trip to Columbia, TN, to see a Signing Times concert, in a sing song tune with out missing a beat, he said, "With Alex and Leah?" lol (If you have watched Signing Time videos you will get that right away. lol) 

Our sweet ME has been able to do a lot of things in life. 

She is one pretty amazing little girl. 

However, speech has always been a very difficult part of ME's life. 

So for many years we used sign language with ME in order to fill in the communication gaps. 

That means we own many Signing Time videos in our house. (Rachel, I am pretty sure I am paying Leah's way through college! Go Leah Go!) 

ME watched them day and night because she loved them so much. 

It also meant that all of her big brothers and sisters can sing each song by heart. Yes, after you watch and/or listen to something in the background in your house for years, you can recite every word. lol

So, when my friend contacted me and asked me if I was interested in attending this event I quickly said yes. 

Yesterday, on a bright chilly Tennessee day, we piled in the car, and took the ride over to the Feek farm. 

I have to tell you, attending this event felt like going home. 

I love many things about the city life, but my heart has loved the country life for as long as I can remember too. 

The minute we drove up to their farm I felt like I was at home at my own farm.

Everyone was so kind and gracious. From the sweet people that helped us park our cars to the kind people welcoming us through the door. 

It was a small event, and small events leave so much room for a home town feel to penetrate a room. 

The enthusiatic crowd was very excited to sing along with Leah and Rachel. 

And they did! 

Rachel's performance was very warm and welcoming. 

She shared so much about her life and experiences.... 

....almost like she was in a room full of old friends!

And then there is beautiful Leah....

...the little girl in all of the videos.

Rachel's "why" for creating them. Her "mama bear why". 

Leah is not a little girl anymore. 

She is a beautiful young woman who is attending college now. Yes, you read that right! Time is flying by my friends, for all of us. lol

I enjoyed watching Leah the most. It is likely because I am a person who has navigated living in a hearing world, even though I was born severely HOH. I was very interested in watching Leah perform, and see her share her story, in a sense. This is her story after all. I could feel my story in her story. The deaf/HOH world is nothing like the hearing world. This I know for sure. So I felt myself watching her more than I watched Rachel.

I got to capture a few little moments after the show to talk to her.

That connection to others in the Deaf/HOH world is just like it is in the Down syndrome world. You need very few words to say, ah, yes, I understand.

We quickly shared that we had both been a part of the Deaf/HOH world since birth, and very quickly shared about our listening devices. I wanted to tell her she can do anything! That if I could do what I have done over time, with out anyone knowing my severe loss of hearing, she can do anything too! But time did not allow that. So Leah, if you are reading, I am saying it now. (I will link my learning to learn post here, just in case you are! #Deaf/HOHproud)

She is a shining star, and will continue to show the world that every person deserves dignity and respect. 

She reminded me so much of many of my own beautiful children, as she is nearly their age and had the same sweet disposition. 

And let me tell you, that little boy who did not want to talk to her when she was a little girl because she was different, (which was why Rachel started creating these videos), has no idea how much he helped them change the world! 

Rachel, Leah, and Hopkins

Besides watching a sweet little concert, we made new friends and had wonderful conversation with others who were attending. 

There were so many beautiful babies and children with Down syndrome in this one barn, it was like a mini Down Syndrome convention! 

That alone made me smile from ear to ear!

Our new friends! 

The excitement of the small crowd was palpable. 

I could not help but think that Joey was smiling down watching, saying, "Yes, this! This is exactly what I want this space used for!" 

And then this happened.

My favorite performance by far. 

I think it will be yours too!


I could feel my eyes well up, and I could hear Rachel's voice crack and fight back the tears. It was truly beautiful. 

Again, a moment that made me think that Joey would be watching saying, "Yes, this.... Thank you!" 

And you knew Rachel knew that as well. 

It was a delightful little show, and I am so glad we got to attend. 

MaryEllen and Rachel 

Thank you Indy and Rory for opening your barn and your hearts to allow others to be included in this wonderful event. 

I know when I thanked you personally, Rory, you very humbly said something to the tune of, "Oh, I did not do much." 

Yes you did. 

You brought music back to your beautiful farm, (I don't know for sure, so maybe not, but very likely for the first time since you said goodbye to your beautiful wife), and you allowed many of us to be a part of that sacred moment. 

Thank you. 

******
For those who were not able to attend you can see the performance by purchasing it as a download. I will post the link to purchasing it here as soon as I get it. 

Every purchase will benefit the Loeys-Dietz Syndrome Foundation in honor of Indy's friend, Scout. 

Rory, ME and me!




A Very Special Interview with My Friend Julia Gray about 'The Book About James'

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October is Down syndrome awareness month. For many of us it is a time for us to share about Down syndrome and what it means in our lives. This year, I had a planned blog post to share about Down syndrome in which I interviewed my dear friend Julia Gray about her book The Book about James.

Life took a different turn. Instead of advocating in October, I spent most of the month of October praying for my friend Julia and her family. On the evening of October 7, only a short time after Julia and I were texting about her plans to speak about her book and my plans to work hard to promote her book, Julia collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest. Julia died on October 30. So Down syndrome awareness month took a back seat for me.

This is my blog post about Julia that I was going to share.  My interview I had with Julia.

Like her book, it is part of her lasting legacy.

I hope you enjoy it.

So, Julia, you are just the super-duper, coolest person ever.  How did you get like this?
I don’t know, Diane, it’s just been given to me to be this way.

Well, OK, now tell me about your family.
My husband, Kevin, and I have 6 children at home and 2 that are grown and out of the house.  Our youngest is James and he was born with Down syndrome.  We live in Germantown, TN which is a suburb of Memphis.  I’m a stay at home mom and I homeschool my children.  Well, of the 6 still at home, the oldest is about to leave for college and 3 of the others are now going to be attending “regular” school so suddenly I am left with only 2 homeschoolers.

Did you know that James was going to have Down syndrome before he was born?
Not at all.  In fact, since I was considered a high risk pregnancy I was monitored very closely and had LOTS of ultrasounds.  There had not been one single marker for Down syndrome.

So, how was it for you when you were told he did have Down syndrome?
I was not told right away.  I was the one telling all of the medical personnel.  No one saw it but I sure did and I was not happy at all.  I was pretty shaken and scared.  I knew very little about Down syndrome and none of it was good.  I did not want this in my life!

How long was it until you started to except that this was going to be your life?  How long did it take you to realize the blessing?
It certainly was a process that probably took 3 years to fully grasp but fortunately the work began almost right away so I wasn’t mourning horribly for too long.  Even before we left the hospital I was starting to realize positive things and began to understand that this was not a tragedy.  Still, it was tough and I had a lot to get through and process.  The funny thing is, the things I worried so much about ended up not being an issue at all.  I do clearly remember having a pivotal moment that really cemented the idea that we were going to be fine.  Even though I quickly came very far in accepting it was that moment that I kind of closed the door on grieving forever.

Can you share what that moment was?
James was in a little pre-school class for early intervention so he had to be about 3.  One of the mothers was discussing with another about nutritional supplements.  I had read a lot about these but the science was iffy and it was very hard to tell what, if any, would be beneficial and most of them were quite costly.  I had kind of laid all of that aside since we wouldn’t be able to afford them anyway but when this mom brought it up I was struck by the fear that perhaps I had held James back or even damaged him.  Suddenly the thought just came to me, “Why did we care so much about anybody’s IQ score?!”  Don’t get me wrong, I want to promote that as much as I can in James, just like I do in all of my children, but I just began to see how silly we all were in making intelligence the gold standard of measuring accomplishment.  People have all sorts of qualities and I think they all are important.  If my IQ is higher than yours does that make me a more worthy person than you?  No!  We all have lots to offer and intelligence or lack of is just a small part of what makes anyone who they are.  It was then that I let go of the last fragment of worry about Down syndrome and just decided to delight in James for who he was.  God made him just the way He wanted him to be and who was I to be saddened by that.

When did you decide to write your book?
I always wanted to write a book, I mean even as a child, but assumed that was a dream everyone had and figured I didn’t have the talent.  Then James was born and I wanted to find the purpose in it all.  Actually, as a family we had experienced some tragedy and other hard times in the years before James was born and I knew there had to be a purpose in all of it and hoped that one day I would be able to help others because of what I had been through.  As each tough situation appeared I had felt that the ones before had prepared us for what we were currently going through.  It was the same when James was born.  At first I thought I had been prepared to be able to survive the tragedy of his birth but it wasn’t long until I realized it had all actually prepared me to accept the blessing of his life.  I had felt and hoped that someday I could use our experience to help others and I thought that if I could write about our experience it would be able to get out there to many more people.  Of course I didn’t think I had the ability to write it but I had a friend from our school days that was an author.  She approached me about doing a book about my son after she had followed his antics on Facebook.  I thought she would be the one to write this but as she always reminds me, God is in control.  That is why this book is a part of the Living Inside the Testimony series by Betty Collier.  I wrote it but if it hadn’t been for her encouragement and guidance The Book about James would still just be a dream of mine. (She came up with the title also!)

What do you hope to accomplish with your book?
There is so much fear in this world about having a child with Down syndrome.  So much worry before a baby is even conceived.  If you happen to then give birth to a child with any special needs that worry goes atomic.  I’d like to remove some of that fear and ease people’s burdens.  I understand those feelings because I certainly had them but now where I stand I can see what a waste it all was and I’d love it if I could take even just the edge off of it for someone else.  Also, and just as important, I want to promote dignity and respect for those with special needs.  It is a hard thing if you have never been around anyone with a disability.  It can feel so awkward.  I know what that feels like too.  I think if we can break through that thin wall the population will start to see people more for who they are.  I want to make D and other special needs just not that big of a deal.  It takes all kinds to make up this world and it would be pretty boring if we were all the same.  I think the thing people need most is just a bit of exposure.  I want people to get to know and love a little boy named James and then look around their own community and find their own “James” to get to know and love.


How did it feel when the book was finally published?
That was so exciting and terrifying.  I’m just realizing it was a whole lot like the birth of James.  I was getting just what I wanted but when it came true I was scared to death.  What if no one liked it?!  What if no one read it at all?!  All that worry and fear was for nothing (just like having James), but The 
 Book about James instantly became a “Hot New Release” and #1 Best Seller on Amazon.  The reviews have been fantastic and many people have told me that the book has meant so much to them.  What an exciting ride – just like the ride I’m having being the mother of James!

What do you hope to accomplish now that it has been published and so well received?
Well, I want to get it out there even more.  I’ve had people from all over the US and some in the UK, Japan, and Australia reading it but it needs to be more widespread if we are to get our message out.  I want the whole world to see our family and our James and know we are just regular folks and that James has not been a burden or someone to fear.  I want the whole world to look around and see the people in their community and realize what each individual is adding and not live in fear or separation from those with special needs.  I don’t want parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis to have their decisions driven by fear.  I want everyone to see the truth about folks with special needs and embrace the differences.   I don’t expect my little book will be able to remove all fear and doubt but I do dream that it will help many be able to take a deep breath and have courage and hope and let go of despair.  Like I said before, I want to take a big step in making special needs just not that big of a deal.

Julia at our Dreamers location at Vantage Point Golf Range doing a book signing this summer. 

If you are interested in purchasing Julia's book, please let me know. Every purchase will not only help her family with expenses that have been incurred, but also bring you the reader so much joy.

On Friday, October 7, I was texting with Julia.

I made a promise to Julia, a very short time before she collapsed, I texted her this:

"Everywhere Dreamers goes, the Book about James goes."

She let me know how happy this made her. We discussed some other things, and then silence.

You can be sure that this is a promise I plan to keep.













DREAMERS MERCHANTS One Year Later!

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What do I think of the fact that I began my journey dreaming of opening a coffee house and now it is a coffee company? 

I am pretty excited about this actually! 

I think that growing our brand nationwide and sharing our dream will ensure that by the time that MaryEllen is 21 she will have a job working for Dreamers! That was my main goal the day I started to sell coffee, and I am so pleased that we are working toward that goal so beautifully! 

Immediately, I knew it was not a good idea to rush too fast into opening a coffee house. I believed this for many reasons.

One, I wanted to be sure that we could work with other organizations who are already out there doing the good work of training and advocacy.  Partnering together to advocate and share our messages with the world is the absolute best thing we can do. Together we are stronger.

Two, I wanted to be sure this company could be sustainable. We have a lot of work to do, and I did not want to crash and burn before we were able to start that work. 

So where are we one year later? 

After I shared my dream, a lot of other people wanted to join me in that dream.  So I went back to the drawing board to find a way that others could become entrepreneurs as well, and Dream along with me. 

One year ago this week, we launched Dreamers Merchants

Where are we now? 

Many people asked if they could become Dreamers. We worked very hard to make sure that we grew a team that was strong and believe in the mission. So now we have incredible team of people selling Dreamers coffee! They are joyfully sharing our mission and teaching the world that every person has a place in the world!

Families are growing their personal business's in which they plan that one day their adult children will help them operate!

Some online stores are being run by self advocates themselves.

Other online stores are owned by those who believe in our mission! They are as passionate about it as we are!

All of this is helping to make the dream come true!

For information on how to become a Dreamer click here

What else have we done? 

We have partnered with one of my absolute favorite organizations in the surrounding Chicago area, Gigi's Playhouse! Their awesome coffee house Hugs and Mugs is now licensed to sell Dreamers Coffee, and I could not be more happy! 

The list of organizations like Gigi's that we are partnering with is growing daily!

The most beautiful thing about Dreamers is that we can partner with other organizations very easily!

And we LOVE this!!

We love growing the efforts that they already have in place, while each of us grow our business's that we plan to have our loved ones run as they become adults. 

Along with the many advocacy orgs that we have partnered with,  we also have many, many other businesses who are selling Dreamers coffee to share the Dream! Every business who offers Dreamers in their stores helps us grow each of our Dreamers business's and the dream! 

Thank you to the many business's who are selling Dreamers products which is helping us grow our mission. It began with John's Pantry, then Vantage Point Golf Range, then Clara Morgan, and then Random Thoughts

It has not stopped there. Every day the list grows, and our coffee is being offered in places we had never dreamed of! 

There is more!! 

We have 7 distributors who I work with daily to grow the dream.

They are dedicated to growing their distribution business's so that they too can hire individuals of all abilities, many of them will hire their own children as they grow up and are seek employment. Like me, they plan to teach their children the business. Their children will help them run their distribution business just like ME will be helping me run the company! 

So much has happened this year and our Dream Team has grown together, stronger, and more sure of how to achieve our mission! 

I wanted to grow this company smart and strong. 

I did not want to bite off more than I could chew! 

I wanted to be sure that we are sustainable. 

So I made decisions that I believe are ensuring that! 

One step at a time! Slow to go fast! 

Thank you to all of you who are helping grow this dream! We have the best Dream Team around!! 


Oh and be sure to check out our latest article on Maria Shriver's blog!