Welcome To The Playground

I’ve often been told I should write a book. Since I’m not a book reader I certainly don’t feel qualified to write a book. But…. I do love to write almost as much as I love to talk so this little blog will be a great place for me to share reminders with myself. Reminders of lessons I’ve learned as a result of my own imperfections, reflections of kindness that I need to cherish, moments of raw emotion that come with living life. More than anything I mostly want to reflect on those precious moments of Kindness, Grace and Acceptance. As I play on the playground of life I find myself in a constant state of needing to both give and receive Kindness. Grace and Acceptance. This blog is dedicated to me, that I might become a better playmate on the playground. My hope is that I will seek to accept imperfections in myself and others and humbly offer Kindness, Grace and Acceptance in the process. And If I don’t… please feel free to hang me upside down from the monkey bars until my face turns purple.

Let the fun begin!

dee

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The Final Inning

June 10, 2018

An Open Letter To The North Bothell Little League Community:
Four years ago when we arrived at Ayden’s very first baseball practice we had no idea what we were in store for. With high hopes, we began what would be an incredible baseball adventure. For the last four years our Ayden wasn’t a child with dwarfism playing baseball, he was just simply a baseball player. This didn’t just happen, it was created by a community of people who cared enough to go the extra mile to make it happen.
Ayden himself best described his experience last summer during a press interview at the Little League World Series. He shared how out in the world he wears his armor because often people can be unkind to those with differences, but “there are two places I don’t have to wear my armor, at Camp Korey where I get to spend 5 days with kids just like me and out on the baseball field”. In his own words Ayden believes the baseball field is his place of refuge and safety. The NBLL community created a space where Ayden could reside in full comfort. For this we are forever grateful.

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To the NBLL President and Board of Directors… Thank you for creating an opportunity. You stepped outside the boundaries to create a baseball experience for Ayden that was beyond exceptional. Your thought and care has raised the Little League bar. You are our heroes.
To all of Ayden’s coaches… Thank you for your patience, guidance and wisdom. Thank you for asking questions, understanding Ayden, pushing him hard and having high expectations for him while simultaneously being patient and understanding. Thank you for believing in him. Thank you for taking on the responsibility of not only teaching him baseball but also for being willing to learn about him and be an advocate for him.
To the NBLL Parents… Thank you for helping to educate your kids about playing with and against a player who’s body is different from theirs but who’s soul and desire are completely the same. Thank you for celebrating his accomplishments even if your child was on the opposing team. Thank you for the post game high fives and words of encouragement. Your acceptance sent an example for your kids on what acceptance should look like. The ripple effect will be immeasurable.
But more than anything, thank you to the players. You included and embraced Ayden. He was never different than you, he was one of you. He was a ball player. To you, he was your team mate or your opponent, nothing more and definitely nothing less.
And to Tracy Miller, who took us by the hand and lead us to the NBLL and never left our side, you are an angel who gave Ayden a precious gift.
To say Ayden’s experience with the NBLL was glorious is an understatement. These last four years will forever be a game changer in the book of Ayden’s life. Tonight we said our final good-byes to Ayden playing with the NBLL. It’s been a sad week as we faced the end of Ayden’s time playing with the NBLL but wrapped up tonight with a party that was filled with laughter and celebration. What a joy this has been for Ayden, our family and our extended little people friends. We have been blessed beyond measure. My head does not own words to describe the gratitude my heart feels.

 

Gratefully,
Deana Harris

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Soul of a Daisy

Many many years ago I wrote a speech about how we as women are a beautiful garden created by God. Each of us a different flower in the garden. Some flowers are bright with personality, some have royal majesty, some fill the air with sweet fragrance, some are tender and fragile. Together all these blossoms create a beautiful bouquet.

I’ve always thought of myself as a daisy (which happens to be my favorite flower). Today I was watering the new flower beds we recently planted. In those beds are many daisies. As I watered them I remembered a little piece I had written a few years ago….

“If I were a flower I would be a daisy with many petals like arms reaching out in all directions toward those I love. I would renew each spring stronger and with more blossoms than I had the year before, regardless of how harsh the winter storms were. If I were a flower I would be a daisy with a bright splash of yellow like the sun as my core. I would be hearty enough to grow wild on the side of a highway for all the passersby to enjoy and yet so dainty that I could form a chain to be worn gently on a child’s head. If I were a flower I would be a daisy dancing softly in the summer breeze…. oh to be a daisy.”

I love how daisies blossom no matter where they’re planted. Lately life has been complicated and difficult to manage. We all go through these seasons in our lives, and yet, as I reflect on these difficult times I see growth in myself. I’m thankful that today I was reminded of my own words… that despite the harsh wintery storms of life, I have hope that I will renew stronger than I was before.

It is no accident that the cover photo of this blog is an imperfect daisy. It is a true representation of my soul. A soul that is looking forward to the warm breeze of summer.

A heart in turmoil

(Origianlly drafted a 5:45 pm on Sat April 21, 2018)

It’s been many months since I’ve written for my blog. I’ve had many moments when my heart has been stirred to write but I just haven’t taken the time. Life gets hectic with the daily grind, holidays, and getting back into the swing of Ayden’s final season of little league baseball. But in the crazy there are moments of quiet. Today’s quiet has thrown my heart into a tailspin….

Several weeks ago on a lazy Saturday morning Ayden and I were snuggled up in bed and we giggled as we watched a video of Verne Troyer (a.k.a. Mini Me) unpack his miniature Tesla and take it for a spin. I sipped coffee and we watched and giggled at the silliness of the video. Fast forward to this morning, another lazy Saturday morning tucked in bed sipping the coffee Ayden had made for me. This time my Saturday morning with Verne caused my heart to skip a beat as I read that Verne had taken his own life. As the news sank into my head I had one of those moments like you see on tv. The scene where every moment of the past that is relative to this current situation comes flashing through your brain like a slide show presentation set on fast forward.

It’s been many hours since I learned the news of Verne’s heartbreaking passing. In those hours my soul has been in complete turmoil. His passing is a stark reminder of how difficult the life of a little person can be. How tough life for Ayden can and will be. It pains my soul knowing the things that Verne, Ayden and all Little People are forced to endure.

I’ve slowed down that mental slideshow and would like to share a portion of it with you one slide at a time….

In January a school principal in NJ taking a photograph of the student teacher with dwarfism and distributing it via text message with the caption “LOL”.

https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/School-Principal-Call-for-Resignation-Text-Message-470044533.html

Two days ago this senior prank list was making the rounds at a high school in Texas. When the senior class student with dwarfism reached out to the principal for support there was no help at all.

http://kfoxtv.com/news/local/senior-challenge-takes-dangerous-turn-at-canutillo-high-school

Last summer America’s Got Talent television show featured a group called the Quiddlers. This group’s act is nothing more than a group of average height people making a mockery of people with dwarfism all in the name of entertainment. And a panel of celebrities found it to be extremely humorous.

The sad reality is dwarfism is the only difference/disability that society still deems perfectly acceptable to make fun of. Here is an article that shares a very graphic description of what life is like for people with dwarfism and why mental health issues and suicide are so prevalent in the LP community.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/apr/23/verne-troyer-mini-me-dwarfism-abuse-austin-powers?CMP=share_btn_tw

I am an advocate and fiercely love our little people community. I freely use my voice to seek to open hearts and minds. I am so thankful for the cocoon we live in. Our Bothell town has become a safe zone thanks to the caring hearts in our community. But.. if we venture even a few steps beyond the boundary of our community, the safe zone vanishes. Ayden is treated differently in communities outside of ours. Middle school has been a brutal transition for Ayden. Inclusion and acceptance as we’ve known it is a thing of the past. School wide inclusion and acceptance has been replaced by typical middle school behaviors that are far from kind and not very accepting. Ayden’s middle school is outside the boundary in the next town over from us. Ayden has been resilient but middle school has taken its toll on him.

Verne’s suicide is a stark reminder that we still have much work to do. It has always been my goal to work feverishly to help Ayden develop confidence in himself so that he may take on this world that can be very unkind to those who are different. Today my heart is shaken. Verne had found success, he was well loved and respected in society, and yet, life became too much for him.

Although today my heart is in turmoil I will not succumb to the fear of Ayden’s future. I will remain hopeful that positive change will continue and inclusion and acceptance will become the norm. I’m resolute in my advocacy and I cling to hope. In a nation divided by a social cataclysm, it seems like an insurmountable task to gap the great divide. Daily I see the struggles of the LP community and daily it pains my heart. How do we right this ship that is on such a destructive course? I wish I had answers.

Some may call me a snowflake. I’ve been accused of being overly sensitive. People can can say what they want. They won’t silence my voice. I’m a grandma who loves fiercely and will continue to advocate to my last breath in an effort to create a world where Ayden and other little people won’t ever have to feel that their only option is to take their own life. Please stand with me. Please be the voice of kindness. Please please please talk to your kids about differences, inclusion and acceptance. Let’s continue the dialogue. I’ll help you have the conversation. I’ll bring friends… Let’s talk.

Rest well Verne Troyer. You gave us joy. Joy I wish you could have found for yourself.

International Dwarfism Awreness Day….Dear Mr. President

An open letter to the President of the United States of America:

Today is International Dwarfism Awareness Day and last night I am learned that you have yet again made a personal attack on a person based on their stature. This is not the first time in the last year I have seen this happen. On coutless occasions you have mocked the stature of people. Mr. Trump, may I remind you that people choose their politics but they do not choose their stature.

Today, as part of Dwarfism Awareness Day, I will spend my day on the campus of my grandson’s middle school and use my voice to speak about the life of people with dwarfism. I will have people from the Little People community stand with me to help inspire 6-8th graders and their educators to be kind, respectful and inclusive. This, Mr. Trump, is a lesson you need to learn.

You need to learn about dwarfism, about acceptance, about the difficulties people with short stature face. Tomorrow I will stand tall on behalf of my grandson with dwarfism. This is a continuation of the advocay I do on a daily basis. I advocate daily because it’s needed. Because society still views short stature as an acceptable form of discrimination and you, Mr. Trump, fuel this discrimination. I advocate for Ayden’s future. I advocate for the future of all little people.

Today on International Dwarfism Awareness Day, I will use my voice to help drown yours out. I will attempt to offset the height bias you frequently display. Donald Trump, your words are harmful to far more than just those individuals your insults are directed at. You are showing the world that disrespecting a person based on thier stature is acceptable behavior. I am confident that in your arrogance, you will continue on with your disrespectul words. I want you to know that as long as you do, I will continue to act as a counterbalance to use my voice to speak kindness and accptance.

Happy International Dwarfism Awareness Day. Wear Green, Share Acceptance and Speak Kindness.

Deana Harris, American Citizen
#LoveALittle #TeamAyden #BeKind

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How To Save A Life ~ My Life Transformed By A Little Person

My life transformed by a little person….

What you are about to read is a topic I seldom speak of and yet it is a moment of profound growth and a memory I need to revisit more often as difficult as it might be….
There was a time when Ayden had a lengthy hospital stay. Nearly the entire duration of his stay he had a sweet roommate whom we will call Jake. Jake came into this world early as a result of domestic violence. His preemie body had been ravaged by infection that destroyed his intestines. The lV nourishment that kept him alive was slowly destroying his liver. He was patiently waiting for a liver and intestine transplant. Jake was accompanied by his momma a native of Louisiana who had made her way to Ft. Lewis with her husband (who was no longer in the picture due to his violence) and by his Meme who had come out to support her daughter and grandson. So for weeks on end Ayden’s room was filled with two sweet boys (only a couple months apart in age), two mommas, a DeeDee and a Meme. We all bonded and shared many long nights, great laughs and serious moments. After some time, Ayden mended and headed home but Jake stayed at Children’s waiting and waiting for his much needed transplant. Time went by and Ayden had a spell that caused him to have a return admit to the hospital. After a long evening in the ER we finally arrived to his room on the floor in the middle of the night. Ayden’s nurse that night had been assigned to him previously during the Ayden and Jake show and she knew of our bond. She promptly checked in with Jake’s momma and Meme to get authorization to share with us what was going on with Jake. We were informed that Jake’s condition had deteriorated rapidly and he was not expected to hang on much longer. We were stunned and heartbroken by this news. We settled in to get some sleep. In the morning the nurse came in to tell me that Meme had asked if I would come sit with her as they were going to take sweet Jake off his life support and she would like a hand to hold.

As I entered Jake’s room in the ICU I was stunned by the vast myriad of IV poles and lines. There were pumps and alarms everywhere. The room was somber as I quietly hugged Jake’s momma and Meme. There was not even a fraction of an inch between Meme and me as we sat together hand in hand and watched as each line, tube and monitor was methodically removed from sweet Jake. It was the first time in all the months we’d known him that he was free from the trappings of his illness. They wrapped Jake in a fuzzy blanket and handed him to his momma who rocked him and sang to him as he got his angel wings. Just after he met Jesus, I watched a tear fall from his momma’s face and land on his cheek. It was the most heart wrenching moment I have ever experienced in my life and yet, it was sweet and peaceful at the same time. Baby Jake passed away one week after his first birthday still waiting for a transplant.

My lesson because of Ayden… life is fragile and short and scary and sad. There are babies, kids, teens and adults in need of life saving transplants. Many, like Jake die waiting for a match. I am a registered organ donor. I don’t want to be buried with a single part that can help improve the quality of life for someone else. We can even be living donors. Liver, kidney, bone marrow can all be life saving while we are still alive.

My words of encouragement for you…. Please register to be an organ donor. Register to be bone marrow donor or cord blood donor. You could literally save a life. What if Jake was your child?

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Outside Our Comfort Zone ~ My Life Transformed by a Little Person

My life transformed by a little person…..
Our fist LPA national conference was in Seattle when Ayden was just barely a year old. I remember sitting in a chair in the foyer of the SeaTac Double Tree hotel watching Amy Roloff being inundated by people asking to take her picture and get her autograph. I observed her be kind and gracious as she honored the wishes of those who were making requests of her. At the time, the Little People Big World show was in the height of it’s glory and everyone knew of the Roloff family. As I continued to observe, there came a break in the line of people waiting to submit their requests. With Ayden in my arms I approached her, went down on my knee and introduced her to Ayden, the reason we were at the LPA event. I told her I did not want anything from her such as a picture or an autograph. All I wanted was to simply thank her. How on earth could I ever ask anything from her when she had given us so much already? And How do you thank someone who turned their life upside down to make yours easier? When we got Ayden’s diagnosis, we already had a glimpse of what his future would look like because the Roloffs gave us that view. When we shared with family, friends and curious strangers about Ayden’s condition, it was so easy to simply say, he has the same dwarfism as the mom and son on the LPBW tv show. The ease this brought us was priceless. At that time we were still learning how to share him with the world and the Roloff family made it so easy. What a beautiful gift they gave us. To this day, some of the best guidance I have ever received has been from Amy Roloff. She is a beautiful, Godly, gracious and kind woman who walked way out of her comfort zone and we are the benefactors.

bubble bath

My lesson from Ayden…. It is when we step outside our comfort zone that we often create the greatest change and have the most impact. The greatest gifts we can give are, at times, the ones that have the highest level of sacrifice on our part. And often…. we may not even realize the impact we have made. We don’t all have the opportunity to be on television but there are so many opportunities to extend ourselves to benefit others if only we are willing. I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to speak, share, coach, mentor and be able to extend myself… especially when it isn’t easy.

My words of encouragement to you…. Be a voice, give of yourself, make a difference even if it’s uncomfortable. You may never know the life you might change.

Intent vs. Content ~ My Life Transformed by a Little Person

My Life Transformed By A Little Person….

There was a time when one of the employees of our company nearly walked off the job because of a comment I made. The employee was responsible for inventory management and there was a point in time when we had 7 switches missing from our parts inventory. Of course, that employee wasn’t blamed for the missing items but she takes great pride and ownership in her job and I’m sure she was troubled by the discrepancy. Just a short time later this same employee was experiencing some health issues that required a CT scan. Her ongoing health issue had been of concern to her and in retrospect I can only imagine her worry about the test she had just learned she needed to have. She sent me a text message letting me know she was going to be gone from the office longer than expected because she was being sent to have a CT scan. I admit that I am often at a loss for words when there is a time of worry, grief or loss. I use humor to try to lighten the mood because consoling is not my strong suit. With that being said, my response to the text was “maybe they’ll find the missing switches”. To this day I stand by the fact that I was trying to keep things light hearted but to her… I’m sure I was the epitome of rude and despite my intent, a huge apology was in order.

Often interpersonal communications and life circumstances are left up to individual interpretation. This is a discussion we often have with Ayden. We discuss how there are people who might use terminology that isn’t exactly PC, they may stumble over words or not ask questions in quite the right way. For those people we need to look at intent vs content. Often content that innocently comes from someone’s heart is easily misinterpreted as malice. When, in fact, the malice is actually manufactured in our own head.

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My lesson from Ayden….There are two sides to this content vs. intent lesson…

My own content…. It’s so important for me to stop and really evaluate what I say before I say it. It’s so important to look at all sides and then choose my words carefully. Especially me who clearly has a very small and often clogged filter that runs from my brain to my mouth. I need to ask myself how I might be perceived and proceed accordingly.

The intent of others….As I have lived the day in day out with Ayden I have learned so much and developed empathy on a profound level. But at the end of the day, I will never know what it’s like to be a little person. I have learned, from those who mentor me from the LPA community, that us average height people who love a little person are often more offended than the little person them self. Some days I just need to take a step back and remember that the world isn’t out to get Ayden. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. His community is supportive, his friends are kind, his school is gracious and his village is beyond amazing.

My words of encouragement for you…. Use kind words, play nice on the playground of life and freely tell me if my content overshadows my intent.

Cheering Them On! My Life Transformed By A Little Person

I was a cheerleading coach for 11 years. When Ayden joined our family he stirred my heart to create a special needs competition cheer team. With the help of some incredible young ladies from my senior team, the donation of gym time from a local gym and the trust of a wonderful group of parents, the Evergreen Shooting Stars Cheerleading team was born. I can honestly say that my time as the coach of this team was one of the most rewarding times of my life. When I began coaching this team I had no idea what I was about to learn.

My lesson from Ayden…. Never ever EVER underestimate the abilities of any special needs person. When I began coaching this team it became very apparent right away that I had done just that… underestimated. Within a very short period of time, I adjusted my coaching plan to coach this team exactly the same way I did the senior team. My goal was to find their strengths, develop their weakness, help them develop confidence and to respect their coaches and team mates. The growth that took place was on three levels… 

Me as a coach… I was empowered by the strength and determination of the kids. Just like any other cheerleader, I watched them take on challenges, overcome them and be ready to take on the next challenge. 

Our peer model volunteers… I watched a group of young ladies who arrived at the gym at 8:00 every Saturday morning to volunteer to peer model this team. I watched each of them exude with kindness, firmness, compassion, sincere love and respect. 

And the team… I watched them develop confidence, discipline and have great joy as they cheered on the stage in front of thousands of people. It was pure joy!

My words of encouragement for you…. Volunteer! Make time to extend yourself in some way to those who need you. I promise you will get far more than you give. If you can, create an opportunity. Three of these cheerleaders went on to cheer for their high school cheer teams because they had coaches with hearts that were willing to create opportunity. Ayden had the time of his life playing baseball because North Bothell Little League created an opportunity for him. And one of these team members was recently turned away from working at a local pet lodge because of their unwillingness to create opportunity for a young lady who is the most dedicated animal lover I know. It’s unfortunate that those pets will never have the opportunity to be cared for by such a passionate soul simply because of unwillingness.

I miss these kids all the time and am forever a better person because of the three years I got to spend with them.

Here’s a link to view a video of this incredible team performing.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fkonnie.drews%2Fvideos%2F10151807833757119%2F&show_text=0&width=560” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Evergreen Shooting Stars Cheer Performance Video

To Katie Koons, Jessica Elliott, Courtney Christie, Shelby Knisley, Keely Hajek, Marissa Rene Boswell, Kendra Vaughan, Kelsey Collison. Rebecca Nylin, Cassie Harris, Kayla Marie Nilson, Sydney Smith, Jenna Jackson, Alyssa Johnson, Allie Baker, and Alexis Constatine ….  You all have remained a shining star to me. Your heart and dedication was beyond measure. Thank you for the gift you gave of standing beside this team to help them create a memory.

My Life Transformed By A Little Person

October is Dwarfism Awareness and Acceptance Month 

Historically I have shared facts and information about dwarfism during the month of October. Two years ago I decided to take a different approach to October, I did a series called “My Life Transformed by a Little Person”. It’s a soul rendering of how the addition of Ayden to our family has completely transformed my life for the better. It humbly and honestly shared mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned. I’m looking forward to re-sharing this series via my blog. So here we go!

fireman
My journey began on Memorial Day 2006 when I visited the QFC grocery store in Canyon Park for the first time. We had moved into our new house over the weekend and it was time to stock the frig and cupboards of our new house on the hill. My shopping trip was nearly complete when I turned the corner and made my way into the cheese department. I instantly made contact with a cute “little” boy sitting in the cart being pushed by his mom. So clear in my memory is the look he gave me as he held up his little arms to show me the package of cheese he had clenched in his hands. Without saying a word, his eyes told me “look I have cheese!” I waved, winked and smiled at this little boy who instantly made his way into my heart. I went home from the store and immediately shared with my family the encounter I had with the adorable boy with dwarfism.

Fast forward less than 24 short hours where we sat with my daughter in the obstetrician’s office where we learned that the baby she was carrying would be born with dwarfism. Oddly, I wasn’t concerned about him being little but only that he would be healthy. Because, after all, just the day before my heart had been stolen by a little boy I didn’t even know.

I believe with all my heart that on that Memorial Day, it was divine intervention that led me to the cheese aisle. I was meant to be there at the very same moment my cheese loving friend was there. God used that kiddo to prepare my heart for the news we were about to receive.

That young man is now Ayden’s great friend and his family is a wonderful mentor to us.

I learned that day that if I had turned an eye or dismissed that child because he was different, I would have been robbed of a huge blessing in my life.

Ayden’s first lesson for me, before he ever even arrived on this earth was how important it is to stop and evaluate the way I respond to anyone of difference.

.Parents, as your children encounter someone of difference and they point or stare, please don’t scoop them up and run the opposite direction while telling them it’s not nice to point. Please encourage them to smile, say hello and ask a name. Respectful questions are welcomed and appreciated. We want you to understand and we are happy to educate.

My Birthday Wish

October is not only my birthday month but also Dwarfism Awareness and Acceptance month. I love that I share my birthday with Dwarfism month and since my birthday is the 2nd I always  get to kick off the month with my birthday wish. My Birthday Wish historically involves asking others to speak openly about dwarfism, to share information and to be an advocate. This year my message is very different. I’ll let my video speak for my heart…..