Friday, August 24, 2012

Therapeutic Horticulture presentation October 16

Bad blogger! Baaaaad blogger! I haven't been blogging much lately. In fact, I've been so caught up in living that blogging kind of fell by the wayside. I hope to find some balance here! Isn't that the way of it ... always?

I wanted to let you know about a great learning opportunity, especially if you care for children or adults with special needs. It's called Therapeutic Horticulture and it has been wonderfully awesome for Ryan.

Here are the deets!

Therapeutic Horticulture
October 16, 2012 - Tuesday
6:30 PM

Learn about Therapeutic Horticulture, what it is and how you can employ the principles for a happier healthier life! 

Current research, applied examples and suggestions for funding will be covered as well as specific benefits for the mind, body and spirit.
The program is FREE and open to the public
Held @ the Eau Claire County Extension Office
227 First St. W. Altoona, WI 54720
Contact Erin LaFaive @ 715-839-4712 to reserve a spot
Horticulture Educator
Eau Claire County UW Extension

Sorry, there is no childcare available.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's the Great Pumpkin!

Happy October!

Great pumpkin, huh? We met family for lunch in Nelson at the Nelson Cheese Factory and then went on to Wabasha to look at all the decorations. The carve immense pumpkins and have stuffed life-sized scarecrows all over town. If you go, check out the large green caterpillar made out of pumpkins. It's so creative.

Ryan and I are finally settling into a fall routine. The  weather is still GOJUS so we've been outside and running constantly. There's enough time to blog when the weather is crappy. Know this ... if the weather here is good, I'm probably not blogging.

I have my press shot tomorrow and naturally I have a spot on my face! ERG! The gnats are dining on my face, neck and arms. My legs are usually moving so that's not an issue ;-) I'm hoping that my pictures turn out. I take pretty crappy ones most of the time. Many have tried ... and failed ... to take my photo.

My column this time is on executive function. I'm always looking for future topics so if you've got ideas just let me know. I've written the column for over twelve years and have never rerun any of them so I appreciate the input.

Ryan did his mascot gig at the game reserve and insisted on an autumn photo. The same little girl who stuck to him at the French Toast Breakfast fundraiser glommed onto him at Booya too. She hugs him for ten minutes at a time. I once tried to help him out by gently reminding her that other children would like a chance to say hi to Paddy but she wasn't deterred. She walked about five yards away, tapped her little foot a grand total of six times, smirked at me and said, "No one else is there." She wrapped her arms back around Paddy and didn't let go. It's hard for Ryan to see so that he can move under the best of circumstances but with a child directly underfoot it's nearly impossible. Fortunately, she didn't arrive until the last half hour of the festival so many other kids got their photo taken and shook hands with the Beav.

It was about 80 degrees so the suit got warm. It's made out of rug material. About every half hour I grabbed an icy pop and Paddy went into the woods to remove his head and slam it. Ry worries a lot about freaking little guys out by suddenly removing his head.

We need to start fundraising for a more suitable costume, perhaps with a fan in the head and vented bottom. The drawback is that most mascot Beavers are comical or angry looking. If you go for your own design you pay for it big time. If anyone knows of a great mascot company let me know. I've been looking at one in Milwaukee but haven't decided on anything yet.

Well, I've droned on long enough. I'll try to blog more frequently although lately I've been remiss. Hoping that you are enjoying this balmy weather as much as I am!
Much love and joy,


Monday, May 2, 2011

Best Buddy Golf Outing

The Best Buddy Golf Outing on Saturday went well, considering it rained cats and dogs right up to t-time and then started again right after the nine holes. Ryan's team came in second. They missed first by one stroke.

If you have baskets to donate next year for the silent auction please let me know. They need some that aren't food items.

Ryan was so disorganized on Saturday. He was excited and his normal checklist of what to do before leaving the house left his head. The golf course is a good half hour away so turning around involved time. He thought he forgot his cell phone and inhaler. We turned around. He found them in his pocket. We turned around again. He wanted a hoody to protect his hearing aids in case of rain. We turned around. He decided his hat would do. We turned around again. About 2/3 of the way there his buddy called to see if we were on our way. Yep, just late.

It was a wonderful outing and they all had a great time. It was fab that the rain stopped during the tournament. Famous Dave's catered again and Culver's donated various flavors of custard. Texas Roadhouse donated bags of peanuts, which nearly killed me since I'm dieting and can't have them.

Remember, if you loved one has a buddy already we are planting enabled beds this summer. Contact me for more information if you're interested.
Have a great week!
Much love and joy,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Who do you admire?

Ryan and his cousin, Chris, love to hang out together. Unfortunately, Chris lives on the other side of the state and, like every other 20-something adult, is crazy busy. Ryan can't wait to see him when he comes and looks up to him. Chris is a remarkable young man and I'm glad that Ryan has someone like that to admire.

It's funny how we all need mentors, those people who inspire us and motivate us to be the people we want to be. My grandmother was so kind. It was her compassionate and kind nature that stood out above all else. I admired her and continue to emulate her whenever I can.

There are certain others I admire: Billy Graham (but then, that's like saying I admire Moses, right?) I admire all the usual suspects like Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller and Rosa Parks. But I also admire some people who are not mainstream like Britney Spears, who since she was a preteen, has been under a grueling microscope. The strobing of flashbulbs alone could send a person funny. She continues to get up again and again, still swinging.

I admire brave writers who declare their heart and dare people to judge them. I admire Allison Krause, who for years has sung backup and harmony melodies in a way that is simply ethereal. She is coming into her own but no one excels more than she at pulling a single silver thread of harmony in a song until it unravels in an amazing blend of sound.

I admire Jesse Ventura. You heard me. The man spoke his heart and let the chips fall where they may. If people wanted to pick at the syntax and politically correct measure of his sentences, let them. He had convictions and stuck by them. He then left politics because his wife couldn't stand people coming at him that way. Now THAT'S a man!

I admire Conan O'Brien for being a class act when the network gave him the shaft for Jay Leno. We all knew it was wrong. Same way they shafted Dave Letterman for Leno. BTW, who is Leno connected to??

I admire Madeline Albright who broke the glass ceiling for women in so many ways.

I admire Steve Jobs who, despite great illness, continues to evolve and create like nothing we've ever seen.

I admire Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who give away most of their money simply because they can.

I admire hospice workers for sitting at bedsides so caregivers can get some much needed rest.

I admire doctors who actually listen without worrying about covering their butts.

I admire Christopher, who is a paramedic, and much see some horrible things but continues to care and treat people with compassion.

I admire my son who, despite his disabilities, gets up each morning with a smile and a "can-do" attitude.

Well, you get the idea. Who do you admire? Perhaps if we don't admire anyone we spend too much time in our heads. What do you think?

Have a great week. Remember, I'm praying for you...
Much love and joy,


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

spring and health

Ryan and I are getting the itch to garden again. It's so hard when the yard is covered with snow! ERG!

We've decided to grow some odd crops (for us) this year. We've never planted corn because of space. It's just not feasible. However, Ryan wants corn in one of his raised beds. I told him we'd need a step ladder to pick it! (Actually we can bend it down at harvest I guess.)

We're going to grow some fall root crops like potatoes, carrots, and onions. We've always stuck to the salad crops but this year we're branching out a little.

We both need to get outside more. During the thaw it's so messy and slimy out there. Finally the roads are dry and the sidewalks are getting there for the most part. Then we can walk.

How do you make sure that your loved one with special needs gets enough exercise to stay heart healthy? Do you swim, walk, play ball? It's hard enough to find time for our own exercise to say nothing of making sure those around us are moving and grooving!

Today make a promise. One day this week do something that improves your health and the health of your family.
Good luck
Much love and joy,

Monday, March 28, 2011

Good bye Cake! We're dieting!

Ryan and I are dieting and beginning a new way of eating. That's why you see the cake ... birthdays are NOT going to be a reason to pig out!

In this part of the world where winter can be so long (7 degrees this morning and I still have five foot snowbanks at the end of my drive, cannot see grass yet and have a good 12-18 inches on the ground) we tend to socialize by eating. We call it fellowship, going out to dinner and it has become affordable, yet toxic, recreation.

Friends in town? Have a big meal. Holiday? What shall we have to eat? Superbowl party? Mounds of food and drink. Nothing to do on a snowy winter Friday evening? Let's go out for fish fry and see friends. The list goes on and on. Weekends arrive and it's a license to munch all day long.

After this past year with my surgery and two hospitalizations and Ryan's surgery, which were all complicated by obesity, I decided to put a stop to it and get serious. Make no mistake. It's hard!

What amazes me ... no, HUMBLES me, is that Ryan, without a grumble, has put his entire eating into my hands. Some would say, "He probably wants to be thinnner" but that's not really true. First, he can't remember what it feels like to be thin. Secondly, he doesn't compare himself to other people for body type so he doesn't really realize how heavy he was getting. Thirdly, he doesn't understand the health issues so can't lose weight "for his health" and finally, he loves to eat. (Yeah, he's definitely my kid!) When the doctor asked him if he wanted to lose weight, Ryan shrugged.

However, he DOES realize that it's important to me and since we're working on it together he seems okay with it. Actually, he's unbelievably graceful about it. For someone to put that kind of trust in me, humbles me. I've instituted weekly rewards (non-food) for sticking to the diet and in 8 weeks he's lost 32 pounds! (I'm not doing THAT well ;-) He hasn't deviated once! Neither have I but he's 21 and male ... need I say more, ladies?

At any rate, this is our good bye to cake and the shortening that makes up frosting. You know? I've never really loved cake anyway. Unless I LOVE something I'm not eating it ever again! There aren't enough calories allowed to me to eat foods that I don't relish and enjoy eating.

At any rate ... shout out to Ryan. My go-get-em guy!
Have a great week. If you're dieting, know that you're not alone!
Much love and joy,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Flip Sides of the Same Coin

Hi everyone,

I was all set to post a snowy pic, then I decided that we needed to broaden our scope to include something ... more.

This photo was taken when whale watching out of Bellingham WA, we were visiting my brother out in the area. Love Bellingham but Mt. Baker freaks me out a little. I've watched too many Nat Geo programs I guess.

Besides when you have a child with disabilities it seems like everything you took for granted in your "Once Upon a Time..." life is a little less "Happily Ever After." Catastrophes can, and do, happen. We all know in our minds that bad things happen but in our hearts, for the first time, we realize that they don't just happen to other people. Bad things can happen to us, to our kids. Strangely enough, it seems that we experience bigger joy than we've ever felt before.

A friend of mine recently came back from Africa and was struck by the positive attitude and happiness that was shown by people living in abject poverty. I've come to the conclusion that joy and despair are flip sides of the same coin. You can't have one without the other. You can only know true joy if you have experienced pure despair. One thing I've learned is that joy is in the little things. The first time my son buttered a slice of bread. The first time he tied his shoes ... things his doctors once said he'd never do.

Today I thank God for this amazing child. I thank him for sending me a life peppered with moments of crystalline joy.

God bless,
Much love and joy,


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Children of Light by Karen J. Olson --- My book has been released!

Yippee! My book is finally out! I apologize that I haven't been posting as regularly as I was. My bad. I was so busy with work that I couldn't get to it. No excuse ... just that season of my life, I guess.

If you read my column, Life on the Exceptional Side, or like my Chicken Soup for the Soul stories you'll love this book too! It's a labor of love.

Here's an excerpt:

Chapter 2
A Child of Light

You may not have experienced the NICU and the roller coaster we were on, but if you have a child with special needs, you've been at the amusement park. We all hang on to the sides of our seats when our child's life, or happiness, hangs in the balance. We can't help but ask "Why?" "Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong to deserve this?"

If you're interested in seeing more, or ordering a copy, please go to the publisher's website at and click on "store" to order a copy ... or two. ;-)

Much love and joy,


Monday, February 14, 2011

The Cost of Helping

What makes us laugh at someone elses pain or misfortune? Why is it that we, as humans, think that it's okay to do that? I've seen people laugh hysterically, or at minimum say something along the lines of  "I think that's funny" when something bad happens to someone.

For example, I worked for fifteen years at a job I hated. The people there were "pretend" Christians. In order words they said they were Christians, but their actions spoke louder; they were not. During that time Ryan and I had a series of crises. Each day I went to work my supervisor laughed at them. So did the other supervisors. For them, my struggling was a sit-com for them to chat about over the water cooler. The sheer volume of challenges that I was presented with at that time was unbelievable. They couldn't find generosity in their hearts so they laughed. And it hurt.

What makes it okay to do this to someone? Is it part of a sick twisted human nature that we take out our inadequacies on those who are less fortunate? I've seen the same skewed laughter with our kids who have special needs and it makes me sick to my stomach. I've seen kids talk about how someone in a wheelchair has changed their life, then turn around and make the kid with Down Syndrome feel like they're scum. So how did the person in the wheelchair change their lives? He didn't. He just elicited a politically correct response in the kid, or adult for that matter. At what point do you really make a difference, really engage and give of your heart? Anytime you do that it WILL cost you something. It's the way it works.

The next time you see someone who is struggling, help them. If you see a single parent having a hard time ... help them. If you see someone who is challenged ... help them! Help them until you feel that it cost you something.

God bless you today and every day.
Much love and joy,

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Ryan and I are trying a new diet plan. So far we're doing okay. It's not easy but he's been amazing! We're both tired but that will pass. The biggest change is all the vitamins and supplements, but we're following doctor's orders so it'll be fine, right?

I hope the day finds you well. Ryan is with grandma while I work this morning. I have a mad urge to go out and play in the rare sunshine (sunny yesterday too) but it's a wee bit chilly (-25 degrees windchill earlier!) Overall though, it's a pretty day. One that makes me want to snowshoe or something outside.

I'm thinking about graduation party details for Ryan. Do I have it catered? Or do I make sandwiches? Do we grill? I don't want people to be trapped in the kitchen so caterers sound attractive. Famous Dave's does an amazing job but I'm not sure I want to go that route. What did you do for entertainment? Did you have a band? DJ Music? Birds? Outside or in? Home or somewhere else?

Our family is so spread out I'm not sure how many will make it. At any rate, if you have ideas I'm open to suggestions.....
Much love and joy,

Monday, January 24, 2011

He's Twenty One!

My son turned twenty one this week and naturally I'm writing about it. He chose a large cookie here instead of a cake. Gotta have those puffed out cheek shots, right?

Twenty one years ago the doctors said he wouldn't live a year. They said he'd never walk, never talk and never even know my name. "Take him home and love him," they said. I refused to believe them.

Ryan bears wounds from his struggle to live. It's just the way it is. At least he lives. Not only does he live, he has a full life with his job, his activities and his hobbies. Each year I send a Christmas card to the large metro hospital NICU with a picture or two of Ryan. I want them to know that what they did made a difference. This young man lived longer than a year. He walks, he talks, he knows my name. I love him and he loves me. This last twenty one years, while not easy, have been the best of my life because of the grace he has brought to it.

Even if he wouldn't have walked, talked or known me ... I still would have loved him as ferociously as I do now and even if he wouldn't have been able to say it, he would have loved me too ... even if he didn't know my name he would've known me as a feeling in his heart.

God bless all those babies and parents hearing sad news today. May they live in the special light that is grace.

Happy Birthday Ryan! I love you! Mom
Much love and joy to everyone,

Want to read about Ryan's birth? Get Children of Light at

Want to read about how a life lesson went horribly awry? Check out Karen's column Life on the Exceptional Side in Family Times in stores February 5.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Deep Sea Fishing Journey

Hey everyone,

Here's a picture of me deep sea fishing BC (before child). Sometimes I miss all the fun vacations and experiences but I have to admit that my life is much fuller now. While challenges always keep me on my toes, I believe that the joys have far outweighed them.

I have met some of the most incredible people that I'll ever meet. I've experienced humility, grace and faith in a deep and abiding way. I've faced my own mortality as well as Ryan's. It's been a fishing trip on rough seas some days ... doldrums on others ... and sunny gorgeous days in between.

My son turns 21 next week. They told me he wouldn't live to see a year. I'm touched that God has deemed me worthy enough to parent this exceptional child. I never would have known my own strength and depth of character without this particular journey.

God bless you and yours as you travel this road with me. Remember, you're not alone. I'm out here too!
Much love and joy,


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Adulthood and 21st Birthdays


Just peeking in to see how you're doing. The holidays here were okay. Quiet, which in some ways is a good thing for Ryan. How did your child with special needs do during the crazy holiday time?

I received some very nice mail from people regarding the book chapter I put in my column. Thank you for that. I so truly appreciate knowing that I'm reaching people.

Ryan turns 21 this month. Where did the time go? Adulthood, however, has been a much better place to be for Ryan. I mentioned it to a friend of mine, Donna, once and she said the same thing, that adulthood tends to be a better time for our children.

I'm not saying that you should wish away your baby's childhood. I so miss holding and rocking Ryan when he's sick or had surgery. But don't think that adulthood gets harder because I've found more official and unofficial support for us with Ryan as an adult. You know your child so well by then that you are able to better find rewarding experiences for them.

Adulthood brings jobs, volunteer opportunities and some degree of autonomy in choosing what they like to do. That's so important.

For Ryan's 21st birthday we are heading to a casino. He wants to see what all the hubbub is about. His uncle works installing security systems in casinos and military bases so Ryan has always wanted to see where Gary works. (He puts in security systems all over the place .... he met his wife in Venezuela). So off we'll go. He'll get tired of pushing buttons fast. Because he doesn't really have an understanding of money, he's not going to anticipate winning it. Otherwise I wouldn't take him. We thought there might be a show going on (hoping for a clean comedian or some type of music) and perhaps we could help him with Bingo. At any rate, he's more concerned with looking around and staying in a hotel for a night.

What did you do with your young adult when they turned 21? Did you plan a family gathering? A birthday party?

Have a great week. Much love and joy,


Monday, December 27, 2010

a word on copyright

If you are lifting these posts and claiming them as your own, you are in violation of copyright and can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Please stop now.