Andrew: Faith and Down Syndrome

cathedral or church

When we attend Mass on Sunday, sometimes we’re lucky enough to see Andrew*. More than any hymn or homily, Andrew’s joy in his faith is an inspiration.

He throws his entire being into worship. When the little church band plays, Andrew strums along with his air guitar, eyes closed in ecstasy. And when the pastor speaks, Andrew bows his head and reaches out, his hands touching the shoulders of those next to him.

Andrew was born with an extra chromosome 21. There are different names for this: Down Syndrome, special needs, mentally challenged.

His extra chromosome gives Andrew the usual tell-tale signs. He’s short. His tongue sticks out when he concentrates. He has difficulty saying some words. However, Andrew lives each day with the same intensity he displays at church.candles symbolizing faith

Sometimes I see him at his job, bagging groceries at a local store. As he works, Andrew examines each item and comments on it. A foil baking dish is ‘Cool.’ The ridges on canned cranberry sauce feel ‘Neat.’ Frozen peas are ‘Wow!’

Our nickname for him is The Mayor. Everyone knows him, everybody wants to shake his hand or give him a hug.

And what hugs! Like everything else he does, Andrew loves with intensity. He reaches out to strangers and embraces them. No social barriers for The Mayor, thank you very much.

Andrew goes to the movies each week with his friend Charlie*. Sometimes Charlie comes to church as well, and we get to see how the two buddies sing and dance to a rhythm I’ll never experience.

In church I catch myself wondering what the hell I’m going to make for dinner or how I’ll resolve the latest plot-point in my novel. I get annoyed at my daughter for being a noodge or at my husband for wanting to go to Home Depot after Mass.

No such silly nonsense for Andrew. In the seat in front of us, he raises both arms during the Allelujah and tilts back his head to catch every last word of praise.

golden umbrella among black and white umbrellasLast summer, the eighth-grade class sold ice cream outside the church one hot day. When the deacon announced the sale, Andrew responded with a huge smile. He rubbed his hands together in glee and beamed at us, certain we were all as ecstatic as he was.

I know things aren’t always easy for Andrew, and there must have been some tough times for his family. In 1910, his life expectancy might have been 20 years. Nowadays that number has increased to 60 – still not enough.

If only I could tell him what a gift it is to see him. All I can do is smile, wave, and say a private Thank You for getting to see him for a few golden moments.

*Names have been changed.

All images courtesy of Pixabay.

Five Websites to Help You Write a Book


You have a wonderful idea for a novel or nonfiction book. This brainwave hit you at a red light or, more probably, at 2 AM when there was nothing you could do about it, and it was like a strand of Christmas lights went off above your head.

The question is: what are you going to do about it?

If you’re like 90% of people out there, you’ll think about your idea and never get to it. Your wonderful, bright, incandescent story will face into obscurity.

I’m not saying every story could or should be written. However, perhaps you have a novel you’d like to share with your friends. Maybe you’d like to write down your memories as a member of the Armed Services or the Peace Corps. These things are important and should be remembered by being put into text.


My first fantasy series was born from the idea of a young girl, her magic typewriter, and a frightening train. As I wrote The Night Watchmen Express and the other books in my series, I was working a full-time job.

The difference between the 90% who will never see their own story in print and those who do is time. We all have 24 hours in the day, and the question is this: what are you going to do with them?

Of course we all have hours that are already delegated to work, parenthood, or other obligations. However, there are moments in the day we can steal for ourselves. Are you going to play Angry Birds? Or are you going to write a story?

When I was teaching full-time, I used to come home and pop dinner in the oven. I’d get my schoolwork done and, when I was done, I sat at the computer and wrote for an hour.

60 minutes every day adds up to a lot of time and, over months of dedication, a lot of words. In fact, I began to love my story so much I dug out more time to work on it by getting up early and putting off bedtime. I just wanted to get the story out, a process much like giving birth.

from freestockphotos

Even if a daily hour is out of your reach, you can accomplish much in 20 minutes. If you only write 500 words a day, at the end of two months you’ll really have something.

There are other ways to kickstart your own creative efforts:

1. Many look to NaNoWriMo as a way to kickstart their projects, and I don’t dispute that. For some it simply doesn’t work, since forced word count in the drive to get to 50K in one month results in a messy manuscript. Still, published and successful authors have started there, and perhaps it will work for you.

2. Another site to nudge you to sit at your desk each day is 750 Words. This website logs your typing and gives you badge at the 750 point. If you do it for 30 months you’ll have 75,000 words, which is a nice length for a novel.

Do be advised however, that this site is no longer free and costs 5$ a month for membership. It might be worth it to you to get your wordcount up daily. However, maybe you can set up your own system with your own rewards (sweet treats after each 10K, a shopping trip at 50K) to make this site unnecessary.

from freestockphotos

3. Are you a ‘Procrastiwriter’? In other words, do you sometimes clean out your sock drawer or organize recipe cards instead of finishing that chapter? Head to Shanan’s blog where she gives you advice – and inspiration – to guide your butt back to that office char.

4. Myrddin’s own Connie Jasperson offers friendly advice in all areas: grammatical, structural, and personal. Reading her blog is like chatting with your favorite aunt or BFF. Replete with gorgeous images and amazing links, Life in the Realm of Fantasy is a must for writers.

5. He’s oh so NSFW, but Chuck Wendig makes you laugh at the same time he’s kicking your behind for not living up to your full potential. A prolific author who’s reached the NY Times bestseller lists, Chuck also has several books for writers that are some of my favorite references.

I’d like to add this final point: smartphones are terrible thieves of time. I don’t condemn you for time spend playing games – Lord knows I’m a game freak when I’m not writing, reading, editing, or being a person – but an hour spent on 2048 is time when you could have created a character, developed an outline, or even completed a flash-fiction piece.

In any case, can you imagine the moment when you finally finish your story and type THE END? I can tell you it’s an incredible feeling.