Sometimes I wish I had Down Syndrome

Sometimes I wish I had Down Syndrome. I don’t say that lightly because I know folks with this diagnosis struggle with things just like anyone else. My oldest sister has Downs so for my entire life I’ve had a front row seat to her amazing attitude towards life.

Now, I know generalizing the characteristics of people with Downs will have exceptions but from what I’ve seen in my 38 years with my sister and experiences through Special Olympics and every day life, they are the sweetest people on earth! How’s that for a generalization? 🙂

NDSAM1I hope you can give a handshake or a hug to someone with Down Syndrome while you’re out and about, as October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Ask them questions. Chat with them. Enjoy their perspective and learn what you can from it. I’ve learned a lot from my sister, starting way down in Key West, Florida.

That’s where she was born. Then about 7 years later, that’s where I was born. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? Two siblings born in the same city? Well, it is a big deal because my dad was in the Coast Guard, so between my sister and I, we have 2 others siblings born in California and Virginia. The chances of she and I being born on the same little island was probably a million to one so that’s something we get to share that I am thankful for!

In my childhood, here’s a little what I remember (and a shout out to my parents for this, as well): she was in public schools, she had jobs, played sports, and was involved at church. She loved being part of whatever was happening, whether it was managing the high school track team in Stafford, VA where she and our other sister attended, or working in the cafeteria at Westminster Christian School when my brother and I were in high school.

Then when college came around, she worked in the equipment room at Florida State. Some would attribute the 1999 championship season to the cleanliness of the towels, just sayin’. *shoulder shrug*

Besides work stuff, though, she’s a great example of being a people person. I remember in college she had a “guy list.” Basically it was whoever was her favorite at the time. But being named Scott, Travis, or Troy helped a lot! Let me tell ya, though, guys were fighting to be #1! I think a few of the best ways to just make the list was simply to talk to her, give her a hug, and well, let’s be honest, you had to be cute. She’s a woman, after all! 😉 Mention anything good about the Gators though, and bam, you’re off the list!

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Providing water for the elite athlete’s at Masters Academy in Orlando, FL.

All kidding aside, she’s always loved hugs. She’s so caring, so prayerful, very spirited and so genuine. Nowadays, she works a full-time job. She sings in the church choir. And just the other day she was the honorary water girl at my nephew’s middle school football game. She loves sports, that’s for sure. She’s also so good in front of a crowd, something I admire about her. She will get on a stage to play piano, sing, whatever and yes, she gets nervous about it sometimes, just like I would, but then she goes on stage and slays it!

She knows how to love well, often, and consistently; asking about your day, adding you to her prayer list, and hugging you whether you need it or not.

Her example of how to live right hasn’t changed. She talks to God every day. She reads her Bible. But she does have some fire in her bones, too! Just ask her about the Gators 🙂

 

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my sis with my mom at a recent FSU football game

She also loves animals, especially every pet that’s ever been in our family including my dogs, Piper and Asia. When I was in middle school our family had a ferret and I kid you not, that thing was evil. Nipper got her name because she gashed our ankles with her devil teeth. She was a wild ferret who wouldn’t be tamed. We couldn’t hold her without being bitten or clawed. Tough times! But they weren’t tough times for my sister. She could pick Nipper up, snuggle her, hold her, pet her and Nipper was as calm as a morning sunrise. It was sweet and slightly frustrating.

But it’s because my sister, at her very core, is sweet and caring.

There are lots of moments I wish I had the personality and disposition of my sister. She’s the best example of how to live with grace, humility, courage, and trust in God every day. If we all loved and cared the way she does, 99% of our problems would disappear. And I’m only leaving the 1% because there would still be Gators out there. 🙂

-Out of the Wilderness

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Four Days of Vacation: A Thanksgiving Story

I drove down to Florida Wednesday afternoon to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I’ve realized over the past few years that usually my “vacations” are always fun, but more exhausting than my “real life.” This trip was no exception. Here’s my family.
At first I was worried about traffic because the day before Thanksgiving is busy on the roads and highways. You know it’s true. Just outside of Nashville was bumper to bumper on Interstate 65 heading south. That cleared up rather quickly and it was smooth sailing all the way to Birmingham, Alabama. I made it through the city fast enough, but then all I saw were long lines of red lights. Makes me thankful I have a Droid with Google navigation. I avoided 90% of the traffic by splitting off to a side road.Saved me at least 30 minutes. From there on, traffic was smooth, though there were more cars than usual. I can’t say enough about 5-hour energy drinks. I’m the exception to the rule that soda or coffee or cold air or music will help you stay awake. But the 5-hour energy drinks? Work every time. On this trip I brought 2 DVDs with me so I could listen to them through the car stereo. The first was “Fast Five.” Lots of action, I couldn’t follow the plot (probably because I was busy, you know, driving), but all in all a good movie. The 2nd movie was “Trespass” featuring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman. For a movie I had never heard of, it was pretty good. Much easier to follow along with because there wasn’t a terribly high amount of locations or details. It didn’t do well in the theaters, probably because there was practically no promotion for it. Those 2 movies, along with the 5-hour energy drink made the trip easy, even with the heavier traffic.

The trip took 8 hours and 15 minutes, which was not what I was expecting given that it’s the day before Thanksgiving. I thought it would take over 9 hours. When I got to my parents house, there were a few people still awake. After a little bit of visiting, we all went to bed.

Thursday:
Thanksgiving day. First I went to the dog park with my 2 dogs, my parents dog, 2 of my nieces, and my brother-in-law. We spent about 2 hours in the park, first letting the dogs run around in the fenced-in area, then taking them out on a trail for about 30 minutes.

Our big lunch was scheduled for early afternoon, so once we got back, it was almost time to eat. The meal was very good. My favorite this year was the cornbread stuffing with turkey gravy poured over it. Then we watched NFL football for the rest of the day. AT 1145 that night we went to Target to take advantage of their black Friday deals. Mistake. Remember how I was excited that I avoided the long lines of traffic on the highway? There was no avoiding long lines at 1230am in Target. I made it to bed by 130am.

Friday:
Went to play disc with my dad and brother-in-law. We didn’t have legitimate discs, so we used ultimate Frisbee discs. Not nearly as effective as discs made for golf. On the second throw of the first hole, my Frisbee hit a tree and shattered into 3 pieces. My dad and I shared his Frisbee and we finished 14 over. My brother in law finished 5 over. A disappointing result for me personally, but it was fun to play. On the way home, we stopped by Play It Again Sports and picked up a black Friday deal on disc golf discs… Saturday, it’s on! Later Friday afternoon, I recorded the cutest video of all time. Check it out here:

Friday night we celebrated my oldest sister’s 40th birthday. To surprise her, my parents set up a dinner at the restaurant inside the Florida State football stadium. Needless to say, my sister was completely shocked and giddy. A stretch H2 Hummer brought us there. So this is how it feels to be a famous person. The birthday party was awesome, had great food, great speeches, and my sister had a great time. We had the limo till 930pm so we rode around town then ended up back home about 945pm (not sure how much that extra 15 minutes cost, but oh well! P-Diddy wouldn’t complain, so I won’t either).

Saturday:
Another round of disc golf, this time with legitimate discs. Muuuuuuch more effective and resulted in more fun for all 3 of us. My brother-in-law won again, finishing at… oh I don’t remember, but he won. We got back to the house in time for the OSU/Michigan game. My sister and I drove quickly over to my 100-year old grandmother’s house to visit with her for a little while.

We couldn’t stay long because my sister and her family were leaving town that afternoon. When we got back to my parents house, we saw OSU lose, then watched Alabama beat Auburn. My sis and her family left and I took my dogs to the dog park one more time. Then at 7pm, game time. FSU vs. UF and the Noles won with ease. A good end to a good weekend, if you ask me.

Sunday:
130am, I’m in the car on the way back to Nashville. The 2 movies I got for this trip were “Hall Pass” and “Rango.” I couldn’t even make it half way through Rango, so I can’t recommend it. Hall Pass was ok, a little more raunchy than I expected. I laughed a few times, but only because I really like Owen Wilson. I’ll say this, the movie helped me stay awake, but would I rent it again from Red Box? No. I made it back to Nashville in time to go to church that morning then catch the afternoon NFL games. I took a fantastic nap and the dogs behaved quite well, even though they were cooped up inside because of a cold and rainy day.

Monday:
Back to work with some of my favorite people!

Here’s one of my beagles chasing a rabbit… enjoy!