Easter weekend in Cynthiana is strange and surreal

Easter weekend in Cynthiana is strange and surreal

Until this past weekend, I would never have associated the Easter holiday with the strange and surreal. But if it keeps up the same pattern as last weekend, Halloween will be hard pressed to remain my favorite holiday.
Friday morning, I was driving on the Bourbon County side of Headquarters Road. It was obvious even then that the rain was going to cause flash flooding at least.
Water was already standing inches deep in pools along the roadsides and the natural drainage off the hillsides resembled nothing less than old creek beds.
In the meantime, I was getting thoroughly irritated by the two-ton truck tailgating me because, apparently, I wasn’t driving fast enough through deep, standing waters.
Thinking it would be a good idea to get some pictures for this week’s paper, I saw a potential image of creek water running through a barn along the side of the road. Though it was at the height of the pouring rain, I pulled into a nearby driveway, grabbed my camera and went to the side of the road.

I noticed the Nicholas County school bus coming down the road. It’s the one that transports students to the Harrison Area Technology Center every morning.
I did not notice the pool — NOTE: not a puddle! — of water right in front of me. The school bus’ front tire sent a tsunami shooting high above my head.
It was like standing in front of a firing squad. I saw the wall of water coming and there was nothing I could do except take it, shrug, and get my picture.
Later on, as I’m drying off while covering heroin arrests at the Sheriff’s department, I listened with bemusement to a phone exchange between Sheriff Shain Stephens and family members of an accused drug trafficker who were apparently attempting to dictate the terms of their son’s surrender….

“Let me get this straight,” said Stephens. “You’re going to tell him to give himself up ….. To me? ….. Where.”

There was a slight pause.

“The intersection to Shadynook Road? No? Oh, you want me to come down Shadynook a few miles. ….. Alone. … No other cops…….

“How about this, you get your son and drive him here to the station and we won’t add running from police to our charges. ….. I am listening. …. Yes he did run from police …. Those are your demands?! ….  How about this, he comes in now or we find him later…. Yes we will. ….. I promise we will ….. Because he’s a heroin dealer!”

Listening to that negotiation go its expected direction — Nowhere — I forgot all about my experience with the roadside tsunami until Saturday morning at The Frankie Taylor Community Easter Egg Hunt at Ingles Field.
One thing I have learned about kids — when they’re excited about an event, like, say, an Easter egg hunt, they’re as coiled to spring as an Olympic sprinter in the starting block.
Despite being an un-spring-like morning with slightly frigid temperatures, the intense anticipation of hundreds of children surrounding the different Easter egg hunt fields at the stadium generated its own kind of heat.
By 11 a.m., the scheduled start time for the hunt, the kids were looking for any sign, any excuse, to pounce on those eggs.
I saw Leroy Conner walking out to the center of the field with every good intention of arranging an exciting, but orderly, start to the Easter egg hunt.

Lacking a sound system or a bullhorn, Conner raised his arm for attention and that was enough to prove a basic law of physics: Kinetic energy, once released, cannot be stopped.
Once the first few kids launched themselves into the field, the only thing Mr. Conner could do was stand still and let the inevitable tide of children run by him.
I understood a little about how he felt.
But let me tell you, the Kentucky Derby bills itself as the fastest two minutes in sports. Pah! I say.
The Derby has nothing on the Frankie Taylor Easter Egg Hunt. That field of 10,000 eggs was picked clean in less than 60 seconds.
If only there was a way to apply this method to cleaning their room, I heard more than one parent say.
Afterward, on what became a cloudless and warm spring day with deep blue skies, I took pictures of rising flood waters in the west end of town.

After all that, the spectacle of Kentucky losing to Wisconsin, painful as it was, barely registered as a footnote for such a strange series of Easter weekend events.

Signing to the Angels: Artist’s first book is memoir of foster child born blind and deaf

Signing to the Angels: Artist’s first book is memoir of foster child born blind and deaf

When foster parents accept the challenge of caring for a child born blind and deaf, they hope to change that child’s life for the better. They don’t realize, or even expect, that the child has something vital to teach them and others with whom the child comes in contact.

Shelly was just such a child. 

Shelly and Claire signing
Claire Muller signing with her foster daughter, Shelly. With her daughter being blind and deaf from infancy, the two spent a great deal of time in direct physical contact with each other to communicate. Shelly is the subject of Muller’s first published book, “Signing to the Angels.”

Her life made such a profound impact on her permanent foster parents, Claire and Tom Muller, that she inspired the publication of Claire Muller’s first book, “Signing to the Angels.”

The book, released last month by Dancing With Bear Publishing, is a personal memoir of Shelly’s life as a member of the Muller family.

In 2009, at age 23, Shelly’s body finally succumbed to the complications of her medical condition, Muller said. 

“Signing with the Angels” chronicles the two decades in which her adopted daughter grew up. In that time, Muller said, Shelly’s mere existence demonstrated what it means to live a life “fully in the moment,” taking joy in the “pure value” of her life’s experience interacting with the world.

She entered the lives of Claire and Tom Muller when she was nearly 3 years old.

The Muller’s are experienced foster parents. They have often made their home a haven for children and teens who are surviving and coping with life’s worst abuses.

The family are glad to provide a shelter for these kids until they can be placed in stable homes with families that will, hopefully, help them build a life beyond a nightmare existence.

But in addition to offering foster services for children who are physically healthy, the Mullers have also taken in foster children who are medically fragile. 

The children cope with a range of birth defects from Down’s Syndrome to heart problems to developmental disabilities like “Microcephaly,” Claire Muller explains in the book’s first chapter.

Once in awhile, the Muller’s  adopt them as a permanent part of their home, she said.

“We hear about these children and the challenges they have to face. It’s natural to wonder how God in all his infinite power could allow such things to happen,” Muller said. “Then along comes a child like Shelly and you realize that God blessed this Earth with her and others like her.”

 Shelly was born blind at the Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the result of a birth defect in her digestive system. 

“Shelly’s gut was unable to absorb the calories and nutrients. Food and drink passed through her with very little of the nutrition absorbed,” Muller said.

The easiest way to explain Shelly’s blindness is that her body expended so much effort compensating for the defect while in the womb that the child was born without a developed optic nerve, Muller explained. 

But that was just the beginning of Shelly’s medical problems. She also developed a respiratory ailment that forced doctors into a treatment with the unfortunate side effect of stealing the child’s hearing.

“The doctors had no choice. To keep her breathing, they had to use medicine that took her hearing,” Muller said.

The result is that Shelly lacked the sense of sight and hearing from a very early age.

“In terms of being blind and deaf, Shelly was like Helen Keller. She never had a chance to experience the world in the way most children did,” Muller said. “But Shelly also had continuing problems being able to digest food. She was never able to eat and drink normally.”

The Mullers were contacted by a social worker when Shelly was just past 2 years old. The couple agreed to be Shelly’s foster parents. It was not long afterward that the Mullers adopted Shelly permanently.

“I am blessed to have a husband who never questions the children we foster parent. We both simply accepted Shelly in with our other kids,” Muller said.

From the beginning, it was clear that despite her physical ailments Shelly was intelligent and capable of learning, Muller said.

They brought in specialists to teach Shelly sign language and an “intervener” who taught the child the skills blind and deaf people need to orient themselves to place and successfully move about. They teach cane skills and how to navigate a room without sight or hearing, she said.

“One thing I learned is that there are great job opportunities for people to work with blind and deaf persons. It is a unique specialty and a rare field. There is a demand for the skills and the specialists get paid well for their services,” Muller commented.

But as Shelly grew, Claire became fascinated with how her adopted daughter interacted with the world. Being blind and deaf all her life, she did not develop the ordinary fears that most children learn growing up.

“She would explore in the yard, enjoying the warmth of the sun and feeling everything around her. If there was a snake nearby, Shelly wouldn’t react because she wouldn’t be aware of it. And even if she were aware, if it brushed by her, Shelly would be delighted by the sensation,” Muller said.

She and Shelly made frequent flights on a small plane to Columbus to visit specialists. Shelly loved the take-off and she was delighted if there was turbulence, Muller said.

“Shelly loved the sensory experience of the plane’s movement. She had no concern about what these sensations might mean.  Watching her, it made me begin to look differently at the world,” Muller said.

This lesson was not something Shelly only taught to her adopted mother. Her family, and others who came to know Shelly, often observed the pure joy the child took from the simple act of living in this world.

It was not always that way. Shelly’s condition gave her moments of sickness and sadness, Muller said. Her doctors wrestled with the complex challenges that her birth defect presented throughout her life. Shelly pushed them professionally. Eventually, however, the problems became insurmountable, Muller said.

The book, however, is not a tragedy. It is spiritual and meant to be as uplifting as Shelly was to her family and friends, Muller said.

“Signing to the Angels” is a celebration of a person’s life that was far too brief, but managed to be full of a grace one often associates with angels, Muller said.

“Signing to the Angels” is available direct from Dancing with Bear publishing at www.dancingwithbearpublishing.com. It can also be bought through most of the usual book selling websites such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


All proceeds from the sale of the book  will support Valley of Baca Missionary Retreat, an organization the Mullers founded to assist Christian missionaries on their visits to the United States.

 For more information on this service, visit www.valleyofbaca.org.