Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Dance

Naples Civitan Club Annual Valentine's Day Dance

There were red balloons tied to every table, festive garland stretched across the walls of the gymnasium and a DJ spinning Lady Gaga, Elvis Presley, and Chubby Checker from the center of the stage.


"They look forward to this night all year," my friend tells me. "It's a really big deal."


I can tell it's a really big deal. There are fancy dresses. Suit jackets and ties. A medley of cologne scents and silk flower boutonnières.


We danced. Oh, did we dance.


And I made note of so many things. How nobody cared about the things that didn't matter and everybody cared about the things that did. Like having fun, making people feel special, stopping to listen. Dancing.


I cried because I was happy, I cried because I am still learning, I cried because my emotions can't contain that kind of awesome and yes, I cried because there were short moments when I felt sad, and it is important to me to let myself feel those moments when they come. They fuel the passion to be proactive. They fuel growth.

I danced with a young man who told me I was pretty. He held my hand and smiled. He was a good dancer. And when he dipped me at the end of the song, he didn't let me fall. I felt so much kindness from him and when I finally sat down after we danced, I cried because I knew that he felt we were different. And I wanted to tell him we really weren't.

There was pure love in the room. The kind that made me sit and watch and take it in.




The amazing thing about feelings is that we possess the reins to our perspective. It is a powerful thing--more powerful than the fate of being differently abled itself--to steer our minds and actions toward where we want them to go. I cannot change the fact that sometimes life is hard, that minds don't always work like they are supposed to, that accidents happen, that bodies fail us, or that an extra chromosome happens to be present on my daughter's DNA.

What am I going to do about it? I'm going to rock it. I'm going to raise the roof.



I'm going to find more ways to be kind and to teach my children to be kind, and I am going to ask others to help me do it. I'm going to fight for my kids equally, and I'm going to stop and take time to teach them to have fun. To never stop dancing and loving life, no matter what the rest of the world does around them.


I urge you to find ways to get involved in your community's programs for differently abled adults. There are numerous programs, support groups and fundraisers for babies and children with special needs, but adult programs are often challenged in finding support. After being present last night, I want to help change this.




And let me tell you something else. That extra chromosome? There are dance genes on it, I am sure of it.


"That will be Nella," someone said, nodding to this beautiful girl on the dance floor. And it made me smile because this girl was vivacious, happy and, Lord have mercy, could she ever dance.

Someday I want THIS to happen in our community. Regardless of your religious views, it's an amazing video to watch.

We are all different, but we all deserve the same opportunities to be respected, to be treated kindly and fairly, and to party with the best of them. I was reminded of that last night, and I am so glad my friend invited me to come. It is a night that won't be forgotten.


For more information on opportunities like this Valentine's dance, contact your local Civitan organization.


Friday Photo Dump:

Friday Phone Dump photos are taken on the Instagram iPhone app (free) and dropped into a 12x12 collage using a photo editing software (Photoshop Elements works). I am @etst (enjoying the small things) on Instagram if you want to follow the feed.


Introducing new sponsor, Melody Joy of Melody Joy 1983, a fun shop full of funky knits, paintings and hand made jewelry.

You may have noticed my favorite chunky bird's nest ring I've worn in several posts the last couple weeks. It's a fun conversation piece and a great way to show some mama pride.


Freshwater pearls are carefully woven from your choice of silver or antique brass wire to make this ring, or you can choose it in necklace form.

Melody's shop is also stocked with paintings and a fine collection of beautiful handmade cowls and legwarmers.

Tell me those cedar branch buttons aren't fabulous?

Melody is offering a generous discount. Use Code 2for2 for free shipping, and for the rest of the month, Melody will be donating 25% of her profits to continue Nella's 2 for 2 Fund.

All mama bird's nest necklaces and rings are buy two, get one free for the month of February as well.

One comment will be randomly chosen from this post to win a $75 gift certificate to Melody's shop.


This was my favorite photo this week. It makes my heart hurt so good.



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Kendra said...

It's amazing how your blog makes me want to go home and just love on my little Marlee! She's only 5 months younger than Nella and I get so excited to learn about Nella's big (and little) moments because I know Marlee has them too! And I just love them!

amber said...

this is so awesome!! i love LOVE what that church did~ man! imagaine if all churches put their actions where their words are...

thanks kelli, for the remeinder to NOTICE and value those around us.

raecatflea said...

Kelle, my heart tell me we are supposed to know one another in some way, form a friendship or collaborate on a project, or write, or or or? I deeply appreciate and resonate with your perspectives on seizing up this life and giving it one giant bear hug. It is clear you live with passion and intention, and you are making a DIFFERENCE in this world, girl! In the lives of the community members around you, and in the lives of your two precious little girls. You are brave and beautiful.

My name is Rae and I too am a writer, a dreamer, an artist, and a new mama of a little man with Down syndrome- Everest! He is my baby dreamboat. We feel incredibly blessed and honored to know him-- how is it possible for this much love to be packed into one body!?

Thank you for being you and for putting yourself and your story out there. I'd love to talk with you more. God bless- Rae

genderist said...

The most beautiful part of this post is your raw honesty.
Not that you need my commentary, but you are a great Mom and continuing to grow into an even greater one.

Kate said...

"I'm going to find more ways to be kind and to teach my children to be kind, and I am going to ask others to help me do it. I'm going to fight for my kids equally, and I'm going to stop and take time to teach them to have fun. To never stop dancing and loving life, no matter what the rest of the world does around them."

THIS, again and again and again. Sometimes a thought just grabs you and holds on, im so glad that today this is the one that got me!

Kate said...

"I'm going to find more ways to be kind and to teach my children to be kind, and I am going to ask others to help me do it. I'm going to fight for my kids equally, and I'm going to stop and take time to teach them to have fun. To never stop dancing and loving life, no matter what the rest of the world does around them."

THIS, again and again and again. Sometimes a thought just grabs you and holds on, im so glad that today this is the one that got me!

Kat said...

An absolutely beautiful and perfect post from you.
Such joy and beauty from it all!
Perfect last pic of you and Nella.
I would be getting that framed!!

Amber said...

This post made me ball my eyes out. I feel sad and happy at the same time and it made me think so much of my brother.

He is 20 and attends every basketball game. The kids always invite him to come sit with them, and they think he's hilarious. Not because of his DS, but because he is a regular class clown.

One of the basketball players is a buddy in his class and felt bad when his birthday came and they hadn't planned anything special. So he put together a surprise birthday party for my brother at the local bowling alley. 20 kids came all without disabilities, all friends with my brother. They wore party hats and had a kings hat for him. They got him a special birthday cake, balloons, and gifts. And to top it all off, the basketball team invited my brother to attend their end of year banquet as their number 1 fan.

It just makes my heart burst! There IS good in this world :) Thanks for continuing to raise awareness and make a difference in this community <3

Brammer Family said...

So, so sweet. Thank you, Kelle!

Danielle said...

Hi, I read your post and usually don't comment but your post about the Valentine's Dance really touched me. My son has an extra chromosome too, but it's invisible and if I hadn't had prenatal testing I would have never known. The impact is not outwardly physical but he may face all kinds of challenges, including not being able to have children of his own. I agree with you, you have to stop and take it all in, you have to allow yourself to be sad, hopeful, mad, happy and ultimately just love this amazing soul that you gave life to. You're an inspiration and I greatly respect you and admire your perspective. Thanks for your beautiful words and images and for being so candid. Not many people have that kind of courage.

Angelina Taumaoe said...

I saw that last picture on instagram.... it is beautiful!!! But, I'm fairly certain I have never seen a bad picture of Nella... or you!

Laura @ SpottyOwlDesign said...

I hate it when the post I really want to comment on is one of those "comment to win" posts... they always get swamped with comments.

Kelle, I just wanted to say that one of my oldest friends was born with a disability so I've been invited to various dances and events like these for years. Which is what made me initially so repulsed by your blog... like thousands of others I was linked to Nella's birth story and although it is a very honest and emotional post and I can see it now as something special... at the time I saw it as someone grieving that "the disabled baby ruined the party"

I'm glad I had a poke around and read some other posts because i actually think we're very similar with almost identical outlooks on life... the main difference being that I was brought up surrounded by happy, successful, valued people with disabilities whereas your exposure seems to have been different and brought about fear.

A lot of the fears are valid and normal... but I wanted to reassure you that all kids have good days, bad days, all kids get bullied or laughed at sometimes and all kids get to have lifelong friendships, relationships, experience love, happiness, music and dancing.

Sara said...

love this post!! I worked at a summer camp that has a week dedicated to working with special needs adults (age 16+). Every wednesday during that week, we host a dance for them. It is probably their favorite night of the week (if not their year) and definitely a summer favorite among staffers as well. i know exactly what you mean when you say that extra 23rd chromosome has some dance moves attached :) ( is my camp if anyone is wondering)

Rachelle said...

My heart sings after reading this post...a great reminder to never stop hoping for the future for our little ones and believing that we CAN and WILL make it great!!

Mary said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog, it always makes me smile, and makes a bad day turn good. Your girls are lovely, thank you so much for hope and inspiration...
MaryKelly Hucko

Growing Up Goffstown said...

I've been working with differently abled people for the past 12 years and in my job, I work to get individuals and their families to see what potential they have to work and have a career when they are done with school just like anyone else. With that means that there are high expectations that they are able people, and in part, those expectations means that they are being treated like any other person would be treated. In the work to help build paradigms where differently abled people are treated the same as other people, I forget to see the softer side, where people just let go and have fun.
This was a really sweet post.

mandi s said...

Oh just wait until Nella is old enough for Special Olympics! There are dances like this all the time, and they're usually the best part of the whole event. And I totally think you're right about that extra chromosome having dance genes ... we can all learn a lot about loving life by watching those dances.

{annie_loo} said...

Gosh! What a sweet post! I need to get more involved. What an amazing time had by all! And taht last picture of you and still my heart. That is precious! I love it! I wish someone would take some pictures of me and my boy like this!!!!! said...

What a great post! Thanks for sharing :)

bINE aSHER said...

Please support elder and adult day services in washington state.(EADS)..before I became a full time mama and after a graphic design career I worked as a center director there. I absolutely loved it and I will always remember my friends!!!and Yes! Agree on the dance gene!!!!

Mands said...

That is amazing..what you attended..and the video you shared...made me cry..thank you :)

the Turquoise Iris said...

Yep, that girl is ridicuously cute! Seriously...I don't know how you ever take your eyes off her.:))) She's perfect, really!

Marian said...

What a beautiful time.
It makes me especially sad, though, as the mom of a teen with autism, mental illness and other issues who, despite average intelligence and being verbally unhindered, has so many learning disabilities and incredible challenges that he cannot function even in a special classroom. The intelligence makes the profound isolation all the more painful to him: he KNOWS how excluded and marginalized and friendless he is. (Yes, of course we, his immediate family are there for him. It is not a substitute for friends and meaningful community. Of course we have worked our butts off to change this, but it's too much for people.) Unlike those with Downs, he has no obvious physical features that indicate to kind people that their kindness needs to be in the "on" position. Unlike those with Downs, he is not affectionate. (This mama has never once heard "I love you" or been hugged or kissed by her son in 15 years.) I hear a lot from kind-hearted people, "Oh, special needs kids are so wonderful and loving!" and I think, "Does 'special needs' only mean Downs to people??" What about those not quite so endearing, at least occasionally? They remain the most marginalized people. "Special needs" programs at our YMCA give people a warm, fuzzy feeling thinking that "they" have their place and our taken care of. Do they know that the programs are only for those with Downs and/ or physical disabilities? Autism and mental illness? No, thank you. Too messy. Too difficult. It hurts.

SamD said...

I am teary, again, after reading this post. Kelle, you're amazing and all you do is amazing!!! I was born with a birth defect, and it's so hard for me, even at 31, to feel "normal" so I appreciate all you do in encouraging acceptance of all people. Thanks Kelle!!!! P.S. I love the mama nest ring! So adorable! :)

Mary said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog! I check it every day, you are such a happy and positive person, and you're girls are breathtaking...thank you so much for sharing your lives with us!

MaryKelly Hucko

Rebekah said...

Love the photos -- looks like so much fun!! My life (anyone's I imagine) is that mix of joy and pain...something about having the capacity for one makes the capacity for the other so much stronger :)

Oh, I know Melody Joy!! Yay for her and you :) So exciting

Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear said...

This post made my day, and it's only 10am. As a sister to a young man with autism and a writer with a focus on sharing the stories of adults with special needs who have changed my life, I just LOVE this. Beautiful pictures, gorgeous writing ... it's just stunning. Thank you for sharing your heart, as well as this amazing experience, with us!

JayBeeDee said...

I just love your blog so much. Everything you write is so life-affirming. You are such a beautiful soul, and a blessing to everyone who reads your words. Thank you!

Crystal said...

Crying and can hardly type.


As always, just beautiful!

Megan said...

I will admit you have brought me the occasion tear or two, but I am standing in my kitchen, this Friday evening, just blubbing like and idiot at that Shine video.

I'm not sure why, but they are not tears of sadness. Thank you.

Megan said...

I will admit you have brought me the occasion tear or two, but I am standing in my kitchen, this Friday evening, just blubbing like and idiot at that Shine video.

I'm not sure why, but they are not tears of sadness. Thank you.

~KC: said...

Thank you so much for writing this heartfelt post and sharing such a wonderful experience! Adults with different abilities have the most beautiful hearts and souls. :)))

LOVE your previous post too: "...we all have ways in which we both lead and follow" So true. I let my soul be the leader of my life and follow my heart's wisdom...And, I feel that reviewing our perspectives is necessary as our path in life unfolds and evolves... xox

"One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these-to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity."
~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Becca said...

Sadly, my daughter's extra chromosome didn't seem to come with that dance gene. She somehow managed to get mommy's can't-dance-no-way-no-how gene. Maybe I can exchange it for one that does...?

d.Rooks said...

love these pictures!

d.Rooks said...

Love these pictures!

Jenny Perry Photography said...

That picture of you and Nella (your favorite of the week) needs to be blown up and framed for sure. It made me stop in my tracks. If that doesn't say true love right there, I don't know what does. LOVE it.

Vero said...

I have been reading your blog since I stumbled on a link someone posted on Facebook. Your posts are inspiring and the love you have for your daughters shines through. Each one of them touches my heart. But this one, about the adult with special needs, touched my soul. My oldest sister has Down Syndrome. She is an amazing human being and we are all better people for having lived around her all our lives. And boy, can she dance...

Thank you for opening your heart and for being moved and telling us. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. And thank you for putting your God given talents to the service of people that very often have no voice.
Veronica, from Argentina.

Kat said...

I absolutely LOVE this post. So much awesomeness in one place! Love all those dancing superstars and sparkling smiles! Magic abounds.

Laura said...

What a great dance and I LOVED the Shine party video. I sober throughout the whole thing because it was so moving and wonderful. I posted it on my Facebook page saying it would be great if parties like that were held annually all over the USA. PARTY ON!

The Broach Family said...


I don't think I've ever commented on your blog, but this post had me smiling from ear to ear! My brother in law is an adult who has down Syndrom. My husband and I for years planned the adult dances and family parties in Houston for the Down Syndrome Association of Houston. My husband's brother would often fly in for the dances (he lives in a different city) and to see him enjoy himself so much always kept us going back to plan the next event. Now I volunteer with The Center, a residential facility in Houston that serves the adult community with mental disabilities - they allow adults of all abilities a safe place to live and work with freedom and choice that all adults should have - an amazing place! I'm glad you chose to highlight adult down Syndrome in this post! Thanks!

Harper said...

I cannot tell you how happy this post made me. I work in development for a non-profit who provides independent living services for individuals with disabilities and the elderly. I have been racking my brain trying to find a new exciting activity for our youth group and I think a dance/prom is just the ticket. Nothing like this has been done in our rural area and I think it would be incredible.

Thank you for the inspiration yet again!

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