Sunday, February 28, 2010

Governor Quinn Signs Proclamation Declaring 03.03.10 Spread the Word to End the Word Day for IL

Look what arrived in the mail on Friday! It's the proclamation from Governor Quinn declaring 03.03.10 an official "Spread the Word to End the Word Day" for the State of Illinois!

WHEREAS: respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities. However, much of society does not recognize the hurtful, dehumanizing and exclusive effects of the words "retard" and "retarded": and

WHEREAS: it is time to address the minority slur "retard(ed)" and raise the consciousness of society to its hurtful effects: and

WHEREAS: the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies International and their supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word "retard(ed)" and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word: and

WHEREAS: the campaign, created by youth with and without developmental disabilities, is intended to engage schools, organizations, and communities to rally and pledge their support at with a goal of reaching 100,000 pledges: and

WHEREAS: on March 3, 2010, youth across the State of Illinois and throughout the United States will lead the second annual day of awareness to Spread the Word to End the Word: and

WHEREAS: the day will be devoted to educating and raising awareness of the positive impact individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have in our communities and why the use of the R-word is hurtful, even in casual conversation:

THEREFORE: I, Pat Quinn, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim March 3, 2010 as SPREAD THE WORD TO END THE WORD DAY in Illinois, and encourage all citizens to pledge to stop using the R-word, helping to make the world a more accepting place for all people.

Thank you Governor Quinn and staffer Ben Hamilton for making this happen for Illinois.

Later that day we sorted our 400+ t-shirts and assembled the pledge packets for our rallies in 13 schools on Wednesday.

NDSC More Alike Poster Contest

Last October for DS Awareness Month I submitted a photo of Sophie taken by the great Donita Jacobson to the National Down Syndrome Congress We're More Alike Than Different poster campaign. They are now taking votes and the top 3 vote earners will be used in a national campaign for Ds awareness just in time for their convention.

Please make Sophie and our friends Joey and Mason nation-wide stars. Voting is taking place now through April 1st. You can vote once a day by going to this link and following directions to cast your vote (you can vote for 3 posters).

Sophie's poster is #56, Mason #4, & Joey #21.
as always, you can click the photo to enlarge it

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Welcome Home

We picked Mark up from the airport and drove straight to the billboard. He had to cover his eyes first. Sophie said 'baby' over and over and Alexander thinks it's perfectly normal to have his sister on a billboard. It's so good to have Mark home. Now we just have to wait a month to learn whether or not he got the job.

And now, 2 great video clips on the R-Word

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Advocacy Requires Action

click the above image to watch a founder of this movement in action!

It's one thing to be upset about the derogatory use of the r-word and it's quite another to get up off our butts and DO something about it. I have the good fortune of knowing many advocates for people with developmental disabilities who have shown the courage to take a stand and make a difference. This post will focus on the MANY amazing things that are happening about the r-word campaign.

I am a member of the OZ Squad. We are an elite group of active, compassionate bloggers dedicated to educating the public about Down syndrome. This is a group of men and women from all walks of life who put our differences aside to come together to advocate for our kids with Ds and stand up against bullies. In our latest mission a letter has been written to Sarah Palin to ask her to stand up to all people, regardless of political affiliation who use the r-word. Please visit this post and sign the letter by leaving a comment HERE.

This year will be the 2nd year that our community has held a campaign to Spread the Word to End the R-Word. I am so blessed to be working with amazing friends like Cathy, Ellen, Robin and many others who have worked to make our events absolutely outstanding. I cannot believe how much our campaign has expanded from last year. Needless to say, we have been VERY busy.

In Champaign County, IL the Spread the Word (STW) Campaign is a joint effort of the Down Syndrome Network (DSN), C-U Autism group, the Junior League of Champaign Urbana, Best Buddies, and UIUC professional teaching organization EPSILON DELTA. In our county we have 12 schools participating including middle and high schools, Parkland College and the University of IL at Champaign/Urbana (UIUC). We are hanging hundreds of large, full color, beautiful posters county-wide and are setting up lunchtime tables in the schools to take the r-word pledge. Our group has ordered over 400 STW shirts and raised money for Special Olympics. We offered t-shirts for free to principals and coaches and many have taken us up on the offer. We have a facebook page called Champaign County IL Spread the Word to End the R-Word with nearly 200 members. We have been thrilled to have self advocates participate in the campaign by planning to help pass out buttons, stickers, and take pledges on 03.03.10. Self advocates are the heart and soul of this campaign. A group of adults with developmental disabilities have a theater company called the Prompting Theater. They will be kicking off the campaign on UIUC campus with a performance. A professional improv group has signed on to help us coordinate a flash mob to promote the campaign. We are working with Governor Quinn’s office on issuing an official state proclamation and declaring Spread the Word to End the R-Word Day for IL on 03.03.10. We have been assured that they “don’t think there will be any problem with issuing the proclamation, but [they] probably won’t know for certain until a little bit closer to the date.” So, keep your fingers crossed!

Lastly, the DSN has purchased a billboard through Adams Outdoor who have given it to us for a steal. The best part is that it will be up in our community for a year in different locations. It will be reused for 2-3 years for the campaign! I haven't been able to post this until today as it is a surprise to Mark who has been out of town interviewing for his DREAM job. He's flying home this afternoon and I'm driving us right to it! You will recognize the little girl on the billboard and the photo taken by my dear friend Donita Jacobson of Donita Jacobson Photography

The thinking behind this billboard is if you are someone who uses the word, you're more likely to know what the r-word is. Most people who are in the special needs community know what it is and many others are also aware. The recent discussion/debate in the media has brought this word and the campaign into the national spotlight (which helped us decide not to print the word retard on the image). An argument that we frequently hear is that people don't mean a real person with a developmental disability when they use the r-word as a synonym for stupid, clumsy, worthless, etc. This billboard gives us all a REAL person who IS affected. A person who's family hurts when people say the r-word and who deserves respect. A beautiful, happy little girl who has a smile that melts hearts. The goal of the STW campaign is to ask people to choose to stop saying the r-word, making it taboo by social consensus. Our hope is that this non-combative request will spark discussion, get people to think, and change minds. We realize that there are many who do not use the r-word themselves and are unaware of the problem. They might not have a clue what the r-word is and think the billboard is too ambiguous. We are hoping that they will be curious about the billboard, go to the website and then take the pledge.

So, without further ado, here it is! (it will be this blog's header for a while as well)
these 2 are poor quality cell phone shots as Mark has the camera

The 1st location is on Neil headed south towards Savoy, directly across the street from Culver's. After a month it will move around to different spots in our community.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

St. Valentine's Day Deliciousness

As always, click images to enlarge. Get ready for an explosion of cuteness. When you have kids this gorgeous, it's hard not to post this many shots. Not that I'm bias or anything.

As this blog is as much a family record as anything else, I'm posting some of our cards. Sophie's card plays a song I sing to all of my babies, but holds special meaning for us.
(Here's a few more, but I'm keeping mine private)
I hope you all had a day filled with love and chocolate. Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Midwestern Earthquake

Apparently there was an earthquake in northern Illinois very early this morning. It was initially a 4.3 but down graded to a 3.8 on the Richter scale. Unlike the quake in IL in 2008, I did not feel a thing. To keep it in perspective, this quake today was less in magnitude than an aftershock felt in Haiti today. The initial Haiti quake was 33,000 times more powerful. While the IL quake seems to be the "talk of the town," and exciting for many midwesterners who have not experienced this type of thing before (and I can relate), I can't help but think about Haiti. The news is covering it less and less, which I suppose is to be expected. So dear readers, did you feel anything this morning?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

On My Soap Box

I'm mad as Hell! Fuming. Spitting while I talk through gritted teeth angry. I've said it before and I'll say it again. My daughter is not a pawn to be used for political gain and I don't care if you're a Democrat or Republican. For me and thousands of other families who love someone with a developmental disability, the r-word issue rises above our chosen political party (if we have one), and it should.

We've all been watching the fallout of Rahm Emanuel's use of the r-word. We've read as Sarah Palin asked for Emanuel to be fired. We've seen the clip of Rush Limbaugh using the r-word repeatedly and later defend what he said by spinning it as satire. "I purposely chose to use a rhetorical tool -- satire, s-a-t-i-r-e -- to ridicule and humiliate them." (Limbaugh) Wait a minute. As far as Limbaugh's remarks actually being satire, I call bull$hit. Secondly, wasn't the satire defense the same one given by Ben Stiller (and largely rejected as excusable) for Tropic Thunder? (hmmm? raises eyebrow)
Keith Olbermann weighs in again.

I've seen die-hard conservative Republican friends call for Rush to be strung up and I've been waiting for Palin to treat him the same way as she treated Emanuel. Apparently, she will not. Instead she excused Rush's rant as satire and even called it hysterical. Palin's spokeswoman even called Limbaugh sort of in a panic to explain that she was not at war with him over it. Palin's blatant hypocrisy is causing my head to simultaneously implode and explode!

Partial transcript of Sarah Palin on Chris Wallace, Sunday February 7th taken from HERE

WALLACE: You called [Emanuel] out. He used the "R" word. He said "retarded." He has now apologized for using that word, met with activists, said he's going to join the campaign to try to eliminate use of that word.

PALIN: Oh, you know...

WALLACE: Is that good enough?

PALIN: ... Rahm Emanuel — I think he has some indecent and insensitive ways of being, including his language and as I said for a variety of reasons giving the president poor advice, I think, and his heavy-handedness. I think he should step down.

I'm not politically correct. I am not one to be a word police, but I do believe that his insensitivity, in a time when I had just promised in my GOP Convention speech that those with special needs and families and those who love those with special needs would have a friend and an advocate in the White House if John McCain and I were so blessed as to be elected — that didn't stop me — because our votes didn't carry the day. We didn't win.

That didn't stop my passion, my commitment to reaching out and to helping the special needs community when they asked for it. And they did ask for it on this one. They preached out to me and said, "Can you kind of highlight the problem that we have in the White House with both the president and his chief of staff being so insensitive to the special needs community?" And I said, "I'm here. Send me. I will do so."

WALLACE: OK, but Rush Limbaugh weighed in this week and he said this, "Our politically correct society is acting like some giant insult's taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards 'retards.'"

PALIN: He was hysterical in that.

WALLACE: Wait, let me finish. "I mean..."


WALLACE: "... these people, these liberal activists, are kooks." Should Rush Limbaugh apologize?

PALIN: They are kooks, so I agree with Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh was using satire to bring attention to what this politically correct...

WALLACE: But he used the "R" word.

PALIN: Using satire. Name-calling by anyone — I teach this to my children. You teach it to your children and your grandchildren, too. Name-calling by anyone — it's just unnecessary. It just wastes time. Let's speak to the issues and, again, let's move on.

WALLACE: But you know what some people are going to say, Governor, and have said? They say, "Look, when it's her political adversary, Rahm Emanuel, she's going to call him out. 'He's indecent, apologize.' But when it's a political friend like Rush Limbaugh, 'Oh, it's satire.'"

PALIN: I didn't hear Rush Limbaugh calling a group of people whom he did not agree with "f'ing retards." And we did know that Rahm Emanuel — it's been reported — did say that. There's a big difference there.

But again, name-calling, using language that is insensitive, by anyone — male, female, Republican, Democrat — it's unnecessary. It's inappropriate. And let's all just grow up.
end transcript

I make no bones about which political party I am a member of. I, however, do not put my chosen party above my child. When President Obama compared his bowling skills to the Special Olympics, I got good and angry. I expect no less from my friends in opposing parties (and those who do not associate with a party). Yet while most are openly calling Limbaugh out for his remarks you can hear crickets chirping in regards to Palin's stance. UPDATED to add that I'm pleased to hear that there ARE Palin supporters speaking out about this, thank goodness. I have friends who are great supporters of Palin. If you consider yourself a Palin backer (heck, even if you're not), please leave me a comment and share your thoughts about this.

Last night I watched as The Daily Show and the Colbert Report weighed in. I watched and I wanted to throw a shoe through my tv screen. Mark and I have been fans of Lewis Black. We saw him perform in Washington D.C. when we were living there years ago. I've been offended by some of his rants before, (& his use of the r-word) but not like I was last night.

"Don't they get it? This word isn't about mentally challenged people. You'd never call them retarded. You only use it when able minded adults do something retarded. But please, world you've taken so much from me. Don't take away my retarded!" (Lewis Black)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - The R-Word
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

I "get" that he's calling Palin out for her hypocrisy in excusing Limbaugh's remarks as satire. I do. However, this bit was so unbelievably offensive that I can't see straight. To Lewis I say, No a-hole. YOU don't get it. You don't get it at all. It absolutely IS about people, like my daughter, who have developmental disabilities. This age-old argument that it's not ok to call actual people with disabilities retarded, but you can use it against adults who are "able minded" and acting stupidly is flawed logic and it is tired. It is wrong and it is unacceptable. Do you think it's ok to call people who are not African American the n-word or any other racial or ethnic slur as long as it's not aimed at those people directly? Seriously? Asking for people to make a conscious effort to use respectful language is a threat to you? It's taking something away from you? Jon is not off the hook with me either for airing this drivel.

And then this, on the Colbert Report

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sarah Palin Uses a Hand-O-Prompter
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

Listen how the audience roars with laughter when Colbert uses Palin's satire explanation as an excuse to call her an effing retard. NOT OK- even though they are trying to make a point about how hypocritical she is being! In both shows last night, they try to use humor to dance around the issue, but show how clearly they do not get how hurtful it is or how offensive their comedy bits truly are.

I suppose no press is bad press for our campaign. Nation-wide people are talking about this. Others ARE getting it. We ARE making progress and progress means a more safe and accepting world. (sigh)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Welcome Baby Nella

This is probably the most beautiful birth story I've ever read. Please take the time to pop on by and meet a new member of the club, Nella Cordelia.

Nella Fantasia (translated from Italian)

In my fantasy I see a just world,
Where everyone lives in peace and honesty.
I dream of souls that are always free
Like the clouds that float
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

In my fantasy I see a bright world,
Where each night there is less darkness.
I dream of spirits that are always free,
Like the clouds that float.

In my fantasy exists a warm wind,
That blows into the city, like a friend.
I dream of souls that are always free,
Like the clouds that float
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul

Friday, February 5, 2010

Spread the Word to End the Word 03.03.10

The date has been set for the 2nd Spread the Word to End the R-Word campaign, 03.03.10!!!

John C. McGinley promotes the campaign

I can't keep up with the links all over the internet on the r-word. This discussion is everywhere. It's good, it's bad, it's ugly, it's painful, it's beautiful. Here is a smattering of what's happening:
The story broke that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel referred to some liberal activists as "f**king retarded" in a closed door meeting in August. He got called on the carpet for it by advocates of people with developmental disabilities and self advocates. Sarah Palin asked for his resignation. "Just as we’d be appalled if any public figure of Rahm’s stature ever used the 'N-word' or other such inappropriate language, Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities – and the people who love them – is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking," (Sarah Palin)
Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics Timothy Shrivor wrote a letter to Emanuel and asked him to join the r-word campaign. Emanuel apologized to Special Olympics and met with a group of disability rights advocates at the white house. Special Olympics used fb and twitter to ask for input as to what to say during their meeting. Emanuel took the r-word pledge.

This started a nation-wide discussion on the r-word and the campaign to end the word. They discuss it on The View. It was on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and the world got another chance to see our friend Chicky in the ARC Respect PSA.
A Joint Statement of Disability Leaders press release was issued.
Rush Limbaugh responded to the r-word movement."Our politically correct society is acting like some giant insult has taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards -- retards. I'm not going to apologize for it, I'm just quoting Emanuel. The big news is he's out there calling Obama's number-one supporters 'effing retards.' So now there's gonna be a meeting, there's gonna be a retard summit at the White House."
Read Timothy Shriver's letter to Limbaugh HERE.
Keith Olbermann pointed out that Palin asked for Emanuel's resignation but has not done so for Rush, so far. (be sure to watch the video clip in the story). Some believe she will, but Olbermann is doubtful and said, "Palin stayed silent when Ann Coulter called Nancy Pelosi "mentally retarded" and when Tucker Carlson described Canada as a "retarded cousin" of the United States." Palin is unhappy, however with Texas Governor Rick Perry's top political advisor Dave Carney who, on a conference call with a Dallas television station, complained about some campaign arrangements saying, “That’s just retarded. That’s the most retarded thing I’ve ever heard.” Spokeswoman Meg Stapleton said Palin was not calling for Carney to lose his job. “Gov. Palin believes crude and demeaning name-calling at the expense of others is disrespectful,” Stapleton said. A spokesman for Perry confirmed that the remark had been made, and said the governor was “extremely disappointed.”
Lauren Beckham Falcone discussed the Rahm Emanuel issue at the Boston Herald. The LA Times blog covers it. AOL News covers it. CBS News blog covers it. The New York Times Caucus blog covers it. The Washington Post covers it (if you're going to read just one of these, read this one). This guy actually advocates FOR the use of the r-word.
It's exhausting, keeping up with it all, but exhausting in a good way.
Our local campaign is taking off like wild fire (more on that later). You can find us on facebook at Champaign County IL Spread the Word to End the R-Word. For more resources on the campaign, visit Special Olympics and take the r-word pledge.