Lindsay Stephens

Lindsay Stephens (2016)

Sometimes you meet a person in the world who deserves to be recognized. And last month, I met Lindsay Stephens. She is thirty-four, and although she has a hearing impairment and cognitive disabilities, she is a young woman who doesn’t feel the least bit limited by her challenges.

Lindsay makes her home in La Grande, a small town in eastern Oregon. She has been living independent of her mother, Laurie Powell, and father, Jeff, ever since she was twenty-one.

“It was a mutual decision,” Lindsay said. “I wanted to have my own place.” And because of Social Security Disability benefits, as well as various Oregon programs that support individuals with mental and physical disabilities, that dream was made a reality.

But this wasn’t Lindsay’s first time to reach for a goal and succeed. Ever since she was eight-years-old, Lindsay has participated in Special Olympics. She was a downhill skier, ran in track, played basketball and volleyball, and is currently on the bowling team. Continue reading →

I’ve been quiet on the blog front for a very long time because shame is a powerful emotion.

Many memoir workshop facilitators tell us to write about the stuff we don’t want to write about. They say the things we’re scared to share are the things we should—so here I go….

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In late December of last year, I’d noticed Lindsey’s anxiety had increased. Magnified really. Over little things. Or things that I thought were little. She’d loaned some money to a couple that live in her apartment complex and who also have developmental delays. Lindsey didn’t tell us about this loan. Apparently when they begged for three, five or ten dollars, she couldn’t say no and gave it to them. Again and again. Till the loan added up to about fifty bucks.

Around Christmas, Lindsey finally let this information slip.

“But I didn’t think it was wrong,” Lindsey said, sounding defensive. Her eyes darted right, then left. “They needed it for Red Bull.”

“I disagree with you,” I said, using terminology our counselor had suggested when Lindsey was a youngster. “Red Bull isn’t something they need. It’s something they want.” I shook my head, knowing that part of my girl’s disability is a short in her neurological system that does not allow her to process information the same way others do.

“You know how I know you knew this was wrong?” I asked.

“No,” Lindsey said, crossing her arms and planting her feet firmly on our hardwood floors.

“Because you kept it a secret. If you thought it was okay, you would’ve told us sooner.”

Lindsey’s face turned to surprise. “I didn’t think you were that smart, Mom.”

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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 (

Serge Kovaleski, NY Times Journalist (

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.

Continue reading →