Norma Jean Branstetter



“I’ve lost a good friend, a wonderful friend,” Lindsey (35) said upon hearing that longtime, Silverton resident Norma Jean had died. At 90, she still worked at her popular, local florist shop.

The first time my husband-to-be brought me to this little town, the building that initially caught my eye was a bright red structure. SILVERTON FLOWER SHOP was painted in bold white letters at the top. The building was old and stuffed with collectibles and plants and all sorts of interesting and inspiring things.

P1050913It was a place I could wander around as I inhaled the fragrance of roses and carnations mixed with other incredible aromas, searching for the perfect gift. It was the place my husband would purchase flowers for me, and on occasion, I for him. It was a place where you felt welcome, whether you’d been born in Silverton or were new to the community. It was the place owned by Norma Jean Branstetter.

When Lindsey was thirteen, Silverton Flower Shop sponsored a Challenger’s softball team. Kids with varying disabilities were encouraged to participate, so Lindsey joined, playing on the team for three summers.

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Mothering Through the Darkness“It is possible to find your way through the darkness and emerge stronger.” —Mothering Through the Darkness

As a writer, one of the best feelings in the world is supporting your writing friends. After all, we tend to live vicariously through each one of their writing successes. And feelings are heightened when you finally read someone’s work and see that the finished product is wonderful and inspiring. You want to brag about it all over the place. And so I’m going to do just that.

Having babies should be some of the happiest moments in our lives. Yet is isn’t that way for every new mom.  In Mothering Through the Darkness, thirty-some women share honest, sometimes lonely, heartbreaking, accounts of their postpartum experiences. According to the editors Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger, “Approximately 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression after having a baby. Many more may experience depression during pregnancy, postpartum anxiety, OCD, and other mood disorders.”

Kristi Finding Ninee-smMy friend, Kristi Campbell of Finding Ninee*, didn’t initially plan to contribute to this anthology. In her essay, “His Baby Watermelon Head,” she wrote: A blend of intentions, life mishaps, and other priorities meant I didn’t have my first and only baby until I was forty years old.

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Dear Mr. Trump:

Serge Kovaleski, NY Times Journalist (Inquisitr.com)

Serge Kovaleski, NY Times Journalist (Inquisitr.com)

I watched the CNN news clip of your recent Presidential campaign stop where you imitated the way you thought New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski would react if questioned regarding a previous story he’d written. Mr. Kovaleski has arthrogryposis, a congenital joint condition that limits the flexibility in his arms. As soon as I saw the way you bent your hands and moved your arms as you attempted to demonstrate his supposed response, my mouth fell open. I couldn’t believe you mocked a person with a physical disability.

You see, this imitation hit home pretty hard for me. Although my daughter, Lindsey, (35) has some developmental delays, she is high functioning. She lives on her own, works a part-time job, and walks all around our small town. Her most obvious disability is her benign essential tremors. She’s had them ever since she suffered a grand mal seizure when she was sixteen-months-old. These tremors can cause her upper body, head, and arms to tremble like a Parkinson’s patient —although Parkinson’s has never been her diagnosis.

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My cousin, Eric (57)

One might think that kids who are bullied grow up and get over it, but my cousin says he remembers every shove, every taunt, every tease like it happened last week.

Eric (57) and I sat in the Jantzen Beach Bar and Grill overlooking the Columbia River and eating lunch. The wait staff bustled about the tables around us as my cousin filled me in on what it was like for him to attend school in the 60s and 70s. Back then, kids with developmental delays were not mainstreamed among the rest of their peers.

“We were isolated,” Eric said, explaining that he felt like there was a huge stigma on the students enrolled in special education classes. “Kids used the “R” word and they made fun of the way I talked.”

“You talk fine,” I said.

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What Do Predators Look Like?

September 10, 2015 // Blog

Photo attribution: The Caspr Project

Merriam-Webster defines a predator as a person who looks for other people in order to use, control, or harm them in some way.

Today, as I watched the Dr. Phil Show, the word predator kept racing through my mind. Woman after woman shared her ordeal of being raped or accosted by Bill Cosby. For me, I never imagined a predator would look like a comedian, a Jell-O pudding pusher, a doctor—the amusing family man from The Cosby Show. And his alleged predatory behavior has gone on for decades. Why has it taken so long to catch this man?

Because predators are sneaky individuals. They blend in. They don’t look like anything special, and we never know where they lurk. Sometimes they prowl right in front of us, but we can’t, or don’t want to see them. Perhaps, they have power.

Fifteen years ago, my twenty-year-old, special needs daughter got a second job, at a take-n-bake pizzeria in our small community. (This place has been out of business for years now.) Her forty-four-year-old boss immediately started complimenting Lindsey on her good looks and allowing her to work late into the night. He gave her free food, and free quarters so she could play the video games. He was grooming her. And he groomed us too.

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Lindsey talks about being single.

Lindsey talks about being single.

After Lindsey and her husband ended their relationship, John and I worried our thirty-five-year-old daughter with developmental delays might not bounce back into a solitary life so easily. I worried she might be lonely, that she would be out looking for a new love, or she might struggle to make new friends.

But none of our concerns have come to fruition.

Every time we see Lindsey, she tells us, “I’m never gettin’ a boyfriend ever again. It’s too much work.” I nod, watching my girl cover the pillows on her bed with the quilt her great-grandmother handstitched for her long ago. With tremoring hands, Lindsey lays her Cabbage Patch Kid’s head on the pillow. She concentrates so hard, you’d think she was positioning a real baby on the bedspread, and I smile. Lindsey tells me about all the friends she’s made at her new place and adds, “Single is the way to go, Mom. That’s for sure.”

And here are her ten reasons why:

1. “I only have to worry about myself and no one else.”

2. “I’m very in-de-pen-dent,” she says, pronouncing each syllable haltingly and with great care. “I like to do things my own way.”

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