Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Island Fever-Tribute to Mackinac Island, Michigan

My July 2009 CAWLM Winter Ramblings column pays tribute to one of my fav destinations in the world- Mackinac Island. Enjoy your mini-escape and then plan one of your own.  

Island Fever
An upside to the state’s recent economic downturn has been a renewed interest in vacationing in our own great state. For me, that means heading to Northern Michigan and my all-time favorite destination— Mackinac Island.

I’ve been fortunate to travel extensively, and I admit to being tempted to relocate to sunny and less humid locales like Napa Valley and Santa Barbara. Writers can go anywhere, technology and spouses willing.

But there’s something about visiting God’s Country that gets into your blood. Once bitten, never cured.

I love navigating all those narrow curves on the ‘Tunnel of Trees’ on M-119, sheepishly dipping my toes in frigid Lake Michigan, viewing glorious sunsets that rival the finest gallery paintings, and frolicking in salt-free surf at Sturgeon Bay, before enjoying hot tea and the local newspaper at Petoskey’s popular ‘Roast and Toast.’

These are just a sampling of the wonderful moments that quickly fill an enthusiastic vacationer’s to-do list in the Great Lake State.

Mackinac Island holds special allure. Maybe it’s the writer in me who embraces the romance of stepping back in time at the exact moment that magnificent bridge comes into sight. Maybe it’s the refreshing lack of cars with all those distracted drivers on cell phones, or all the sacred family memories created there with both of my kids, including my son.

From the confines of a wheelchair, Eric was able to enjoy this stunning natural setting with relative ease and accessibility—granting our special-needs family the often elusive gift of leisure-time normalcy.

Regardless of what the calendar or thermometer says, until I’ve crossed the choppy Straights of Mackinac on Shepler’s charming ferries with those impressive rooster tails, smelled the intoxicating aroma of lilacs and fudge, or heard the soothing clip-clop cadence of spirited Island horses, summertime in Michigan hasn’t officially begun—there are worse things you could be called than a fudgie.

Mackinac Island is the bomb, a jewel in Michigan’s impressive tourism crown, and I stand forever ready to answer its magical call. The world may have discovered our gem of a state park, thanks to all those recent magazine covers and impressive features in the likes of Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler and the New York and LA Times.

But this premier destination belongs to us lucky Michiganders, one of the few certainties in these uncertain times. 

Hear my thunderous applause?

When the calendar turns to July, there’s a nagging reminder that summer is quickly waning. Don’t let the season go by without enjoying all the vacation riches afforded us in Michigan, including those of enchanting Mackinac Island—travels guaranteed to see you through another nasty winter that’s hiding just around the corner.

Choose your sweet treats carefully, fudgie.

Photo of  'Mighty Mac'/Judy Winter 08

Judson Center Opens New Autism Center in Suburban Detroit

The Judson Center, a non-profit, human-services agency serving Southeast Michigan has opened a new Center for Autism in Royal Oak, Michigan. Check it out here.

Photo Judy Winter 09

Monday, June 29, 2009

It's 'King OF Pop', not 'King A Pop'

Hey broadcast media (and regular folk, too).

It's the 'King OF Pop, not the King a Pop. 

Makes all the difference when people slow down and enunciate.

Photo Judy Winter 08

Minute Vacation -July 2009

Minute Vacation-July 2009

In honor of small-town parades everywhere! Wherever you live, make it festive!

Words of Wisdom from Virginia Woolf-July 2009

Words of Wisdom-July 2009

"Arrange whatever pieces come your way." 
-Virginia Woolf

'Cemetery Blooms'/Judy Winter 2009

Take the Mic Away from Joe Jackson & Posse

In honor of Michael, would someone PLEASE take the microphone and air time away from Joe Jackson and his posse?


Photo Judy Winter 09

Friday, June 26, 2009

Loss of Farrah Fawcett & Michael Jackson & Reminders of Boomer Mortality

Can't help but wonder how many boomers are today thinking about their own mortality after yesterday's iconic losses of superstars Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett.

What would you like your legacy to be?

Photo Judy Winter 09

My Aussie Salutes National Take Your Dog to Work Day!

Today is National Take Your Dog to Work Day!

Lucky Jack gets to hang out in my home office every day.

He's a spoiled pooch, and great writer's muse.

'Jumpin Jack' Photo Judy Winter 09

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Did You KNOW? Traumatic Brain Injuries Lead to Death & Disability

Did You KNOW?

Of the 1.5 millions people in the United States who experience a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) each year, 50,000 people die and another 85,000 cases result in long-term disability. TBI cannot be cured, making prevention key. To learn more, visit here.

Welcome Little Dinosaur

Love good surprises while gardening. Glad the camera battery was charged! 

Can you stay a while little dinosaur? 

Photos by Judy Winter 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Shout Out! Michigan Teen Makes Wheelchair Trek to Raise $20,000 for Camp

Need a little inspiration to chase your big goals minus all the usual excuses this week? 

Fourteen-year-old Gene Fletcher of Michigan recently finished a 100-mile trek in his power wheelchair to raise $20,000 for Bay Cliff Health Camp, a therapy/wellness center for those with physical challenges. Gene, who has cerebral palsy, has attended the camp for the past six years.

Read the story here.
Find out more about Gene's effort here.

What will you accomplish this week?

Photo/Judy Winter 2009

'Good Practice for a Tough Fatherhood' Essay in Sunday's 'New York Times' Interweaves Images of Autistic Son with Challenged Inner-City Youth

Douglas Brown's powerful essay in Sunday's New York Times
interweaves stark images of befriending a challenged inner-city youth with experiences raising a son with autism. 

There are no easy answers for either child. Read Good Practice for a Tough Fatherhood here.

Photo from RicStar's Camp 09/Judy Winter

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Esperanzo Spalding Deserves All the Hype

Continuing with my recent 'power of music' blogs, here's current jazz 'it' girl Esperanza Spalding,who recently performed at the White House. Last night she brought her cool vibe to the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival in East Lansing.

Lucky us. This is one young performer worth all the hype. Here are three of my shots.

NOVA Presents Program on the Power of Music and the Brain

A NEW NOVA documentary entitled 'Musical Minds' explores the power of music to impact the brain, and facilitate healing. 

Dr.  Oliver Sacks, an author and practicing neurologist in New York City and dubbed the poet laureate of medicine by the New York Times, leads the important discussion.  The PBS program is scheduled to air nationwide on June 30th at 8 p.m. Check your listings for local air time/date. Find out more about 'Musical Minds' here.

I'm a big believer in the power of music to transform lives, especially for those with special needs. I witnessed it first hand with my son, and I see it every year at RicStar's Camp.

Music is magic! -and so is PBS.

Photo of my buddy Kieran at RicStar's Camp 09/ Judy Winter

National Down Syndrome Society Features 'My Great Story' on Website

The National Down Syndrome Society has added the feature My Great Story to its website, highlighting the accomplishments of those with Down syndrome.  Read the stories here.

You know I cant resist a good special needs success story,  That's why my book is filled with them.

Photo from RicStar's Camp 09 /Judy Winter

Shout Out to all Those Great Dads!

Enjoy my Father's Day tribute from the June issue of CAWLM.

Fathers' Two Cents in Parenting is Worth Much More

Too often guys can’t get no respect for the valuable roles they play in the lives of their children. Real dads know that becoming a dad is what you do after you zip the zipper—including changing stinky diapers, soothing fevered brows, dueling monsters under the bed, grabbing green snot without gagging, chortling like Sponge Bob, and initiating all those dicey teen talks.

It means showing up fully to nurture confident kids who feel loved and valued, helping create memories they’ll cherish for a lifetime. Real men cook Tuna Helper, grill a mean steak, or order in extra-cheesy pizza with bread sticks before heading out to play a quick round of golf.

Moms are sometimes too quick to chastise their partners when they don’t do things our way— or when they get all squirrelly when asked to hold our purses in public. But kids gain vast riches when both parents are involved in their children’s lives whenever possible. Guys bring their own magic chutzpa to the parenting equation. They strengthen the parent child bond in remarkable ways that challenge even the hippest gals— making dads parenting VIPs, too.

It was my hubby who taught our daughter to confidently face math, read maps, put air in her tires and get her oil changed. More recently he coached Jenna about her 401-K, how to shop for the best car deal and get a mortgage.

Dick always coddled Jenna less than I did, helping her become a more independent and competent young adult. I get props for teaching her about fashion, the arts, giving back to the community, and how to use the potty.

Dick never treated our son as any less valued because of the physical limitations of cerebral palsy, either. I loved observing them at bedtime, when free of male expectations Dick used his softest male voice and gently nuzzled Eric’s silky hair, completely absorbed in fatherhood. During those sacred moments, we had no idea how short their father/son moments together would be.

My hubby created precious memories with both kids because he valued the role he played in their lives. He knew that you don’t get those fleeting parenting moments back, no matter how skillfully you bargain with the devil.

To all those guys who step up to the uncertain parenting plate each day, while also bringing home at least a slice of the bacon, Happy Father’s Day— this month, you rule!

But could you try to look just a tad more confident while holding our purses in public?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Go Green! -Michigan State University Awarded $2.1 Million Dollar Grant to Study Autism

Kudos to my alma mater, Michigan State University, for being awarded a $2.1 million dollar grant "to serve as the data-coordinating center for the largest epidemiological study ever on autism." Read full story here.

Photo from RicStar's Camp /Judy Winter 09

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Faces of Ability- June 2009 -Celebrating RicStar's Camp 2009!

Another year of RicStar's Camp, for individuals of all ages with a wide range of special needs (and their sibs), has come to a close. We are again left with remarkable success stories, inspiring interactions with campers and families, so many smiles, and all those wonderful faces of ability captured in priceless photos. 

The power of music and music therapy to improve the lives of those with special needs is clearly present at RicStar's Camp.

Here are just a few shots of our 86 wonderful campers. Thank you to everyone who helped make another year of music magic happen for our terrific campers. This camp rocks!

See you in 2010 for year eight, and remember to sign up early!  I'm guessing that we will again be full.

Your music lives on in amazing ways, RicStar!
RicStar's Camp 2009 Camper Photos by Judy Winter/ All Rights Reserved.

'Miracle Children' is an Example of the Best of the Oprah Winfrey Show

Yesterday's re-airing of 'Miracle Children with Celine Dion' was an example of the Oprah Show at its finest. The program did justice to the often heart-wrenching, complex and inspiring stories of kids and families challenged by a wide range of special needs, while showcasing everyday families who answer their tough challenges with great love and remarkable fortitude. 

Worth your view.

Here's hoping the new Fall season of Oprah includes more terrific and diverse special needs coverage.

Photo of camper from RicStar's Camp 2009/Judy Winter/All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 05, 2009

My Publishing Words of Advice Appear in Jul/Aug 09 Writer's Digest

I was thrilled to hit the mailbox today and find my advice (and book title) in the current (Jul/Aug) issue of Writer's Digest.

My words are included in the article "Hindsight's 20/20. WD Readers Who Are Published Authors Share What They Wish They'd Known About the Process Going In--and Help You See Your Own Book's Future More Clearly." It's part of the WD editorial theme: 'Pub 101:Your Publishing Survival Guide.'

The issue provides valuable info for all you wanna-be authors. I wish I'd had it when I was beginning my intensive book process. Also included are articles with Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist, Anne Tyler, (cover) and PBS travel-guru, Rick Steves. Not a bad issue to be in.

Check it out- and then go get yourself published!

Above photo: That's me in the parenting section of the Fifth Ave. Barnes & Noble, NYC. It was a thrill to find my book there, I assure you! It can happen to you, too!

Life is Fragile -Mother/Son Lost on Flight 447

So sad to find that 31-year-old Rita Szarvas was on the doomed Flight 447 with her 7-year-old son, Andras. Rita was a conductor at the Peto Institute of Conductive Education in Budapest and a visiting conductor to the Conductive Learning Center (CLC) in Grand Rapids, where my son spent hours improving his mobility.

As my bereaved friend, CLC director Andrea Benyovszky and I spoke yesterday, we were both again reminded of how quickly our loved ones and dearest friends can be gone. 

Make time for them.

'Cemetery Blooms' Judy Winter 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Crazy Talk? Newsweek Article Takes On Oprah Advice, Including from Jenny McCarthy

The current issue of Newsweek magazine includes a less-than-flattering cover photo of Oprah Winfrey with the headline: Crazy Talk: Oprah, Wacky Cures & You.  

This well-written piece zeros in on the controversial advice offered on Oprah's show in the past, including by
Suzanne Somers (hormone replacement), and Jenny McCarthy (autism).  

Oprah does many things well, which the Newsweek piece also highlights.  But this week's article represents bold coverage that some believe was long overdue. I believe that when it comes to special needs coverage in the media, including on Oprah, the coverage could and should be more balanced, more thorough and more inclusive of many disabilities, and presented by an array of experienced, knowledgeable voices and activists, not just Hollywood celebrities.

I hope the resulting discussion from this article results in broader, increasingly well-balanced coverage about important topics in the future, and not only on Oprah.  In our celebrity obsessed, quick-fix-society, it's a valuable lesson for the general media as well.

You can read the article here.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Shout Out! -Jonathan Brunot is Autistic and Finished the NYC Marathon

Shout Out to Jonathan Brunot, age 19, of West Hempstead, NY

According to Autism Speaks, the chances of becoming a professional athlete are 1 in 16,000. Chances of being diagnosed with autism, 1 in 150. Completing the NY Marathon with severe autism, a rarity with no previously measured stats. But Jonathan Brunot did just that last November.

This is one of those timeless stories worth the read and inspiration. Read the NY Times piece here.

Photo Judy Winter 2008

Minute Vacation -June 2009

Words of Wisdom from Megan Frayer-June 2009

Words of Wisdom-June 2009

"I feel sorry for people who don't get differences and are mean to people with special needs, because they're missing out. People with disabilities aren't that much different from anyone else." -Megan Frayer, Special Needs Sib Extraordinaire

Photo of Megan & Katie Frayer (and me) by Jenna Winter. Used with permission. Recent photo of Megan from RicStar's Camp 2009.