Share and inspire

During the holidays, where do you find fun, meaning?

In my neighborhood during these early days of December, the nighttime streets are getting brighter and brighter as my neighbors, one-by-one, string Christmas lights along their homes and in their yards.

I enjoy this gradual awakening to the holiday season. The neighbors who choose to decorate do so in their own way, in their own time, and I get to be surprised as I drive along at night to see what new lights and displays went up before the sun went down.

Most years we – and by “we” I mean my husband – get our lights up, but some years we don’t. Some years the weather doesn’t cooperate or family circumstances keep us too busy or work obligations limit our time. Still we can drive along our street and find holiday inspiration in our neighbors’ lights.

In the midst of this season, I hope we can bring each other inspiration right here at Special Needs Northern Kentucky.

Joys and challenges

Like putting up light displays, celebrating the holidays is full of joys as well as challenges. That’s certainly true for families who have members with special needs.

As we plan our holidays, we consider the health, behavior and abilities of our loved ones. We try to find balance, elusive and mysterious as it may be. We strive to create a glow and warmth to our holidays for everyone in our families.

While we all have our unique situations, I thought we might help each other by sharing what we’ve learned along the twinkle-lighted holiday road.

How do you celebrate the holidays?

I’m wondering about the ways you celebrate the holidays in Northern Kentucky with your loved ones with special needs. Where do you find fun? Where do you find meaning?

Where do you go, what do you do, what events do you attend that bring you the joy of the season?

What’s out there that serves well families dealing with special needs? Have you ever been unsure initially about a place or event only to be surprised by how good your experience was?

Do you celebrate at home in ways that you’ve found to bring particular delight and meaning?

Share your thoughts

I hope you will share your thoughts and comments, ideas and suggestions. Please send them to angie.mimms@gmail.com by Wednesday, Dec. 7. I’ll compile your responses into a post that I hope will be full of holiday inspiration.

I look forward to reading and sharing your responses along with getting some fresh ideas for celebrating the holiday season with my own family. In the meantime, my wish for you is that you enjoy the beautiful lights along the road.

Finding friends along the road

In 1985, the summer after my sophomore year in college, I plotted the 550-plus-mile drive from Louisville, Kentucky, to a newspaper internship in Richmond, Virginia, on a large paper road map. I folded and refolded that map as I worked my way across three states in my cream-colored, two-door Chevette hatchback. Stuffed with clothes and belongings, the car had a manual shift, black interior and no air-conditioning.

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That was my first solo road trip. Those were the days before cell phones and satellite radio. Then the only thing to help a lonely traveler feel connected was spotty, shifting AM/FM radio reception. Or so I thought. But as I traveled along the interstate, through mountains, across rivers, I noticed something: I made friends on the road. Literally, on the road.

At least that’s how I would characterize what happened. I noticed that sometimes I found myself behind a car or truck on the interstate going about the same speed and so we traveled together awhile, like a driver following a pace car. Or sometimes a car stayed behind me for a time, a familiar presence in my rear view mirror that provided a sense of stability amid the ever-changing scenes outside my window. For a time, we shared the journey.

Many years and road trips later, I find myself on a different journey. I’m a parent of a child with special needs. Caring for my daughter’s mind, body and spirit; finding resources and opportunities to help her live her best life — these are the roads I travel now. I wonder which turns to make. I look for signs to follow. I encounter mountains to climb and rivers I see no way to cross.

I wish I had a map. Even better, a navigation system. With voice control. “In approximately one minute, you will choose this doctor.” Boom. Done. Maybe even voice control with attitude. That would be handy for those days I need an extra kick in the pants. “In approximately five seconds — heck, you should have started a week ago! — you will get your rear in gear and start filling out those forms for (insert: office/service provider of your choice)!”

Despite my lack of a map, I continue on the road. And just as I did on my trip to Virginia, I find friends along the way. Doctors and nurses, therapists and educators, coaches and instructors. Along with family and long-time friends, these people provide immeasurable and vital help and support. They keep my daughter alive. They keep me alive. They build bridges, point us in the right direction, fuel us when I’m not sure we can go any farther.

Still, the road did get lonely early on. To the rescue came a cheer team for people with special needs. My daughter joined, and for the first time in our lives we regularly gathered with families who understood firsthand the challenges we faced, families who spoke the same language and held in their hearts the same joys and concerns. We talked and laughed and complained together. We learned from each other. We shared the journey.

      I want this blog to be a place where readers can come to learn and to share ideas. I hope this space helps to create a greater sense of community.

That newspaper internship in Virginia? It worked out well. I worked as a journalist during college and after graduation, and those experiences contributed to the idea for this blog. I want to make these pages a newspaper of sorts with articles about the Northern Kentucky people, events, organizations and resources working to improve the lives of people with special needs and their families. I want this blog to be a place where readers can come to learn and to share ideas. I hope this space helps to create a greater sense of community.

I expect that working on this blog will help me too. While I’ve lived in Northern Kentucky for almost twenty years, I hope blogging will help me feel more connected. I expect I’ll learn a lot and meet a lot of people. And I expect also that this work will cause me to look with fresh eyes at my daughter, to notice anew her strengths and abilities and the qualities that make her unique.

I’m eager to start. Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for traveling the road with me.