We're Not in Kansas Anymore - a Column by Helen Baldwin

sky, bloom, silence, feathers, timeHelen partners with Randy, her “retired” husband of 46 years, in assorted endeavors: a rental cabin, carpet dry-cleaning business, and bees — lots of bees! — and all that goes with them, namely honey and beeswax products. Her favorite role is “MomMom” to Clara and James. Originally from Texas, Helen taught kindergarteners with orthopedic and multiple disabilities after a move to Columbia, South Carolina. A few years later, Helen, Randy, and their children, Matthew and Katie, moved close to the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. In the spring of 1997, they welcomed baby Jeffrey, a big surprise harboring an even bigger one — spinal muscular atrophy. Helen’s teaching expertise was called into action until their precious little guy snagged his wings at 5-1/2 months. She wrote a book, “The Jeffrey Journey,” about their special assignment and is delighted to continue sharing in her column, “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore.”

Bound for Glory? All Aboard!

As I last wrote, my 89-year-old mother was admitted to the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. “Oh no,” you might think. “That doesn’t sound good.” You’re right, it doesn’t. My mother, however, had high hopes for COVID-19. *** Our third baby, Jeffrey, burst into our arms…

Dead Skunks, Flashbacks, and COVID-19

Last Friday was a full moon, Friday the 13th kind of day, although officially it was neither. The stink bugs in the house and the dead skunk in the road summed it up perfectly. The day stank. But let me back up. The rental cabin my…

Eyes Opened and Eyes Closed

I spent a school year substituting in various special education classrooms in Fort Worth, Texas, before returning to school for teacher certification. I’d already worked with young children with developmental disabilities and loved their (usually) carefree and good-natured dispositions. My first assignment as a substitute teacher at…

Powering Up (and Out) for Another Year

Goodness, that didn’t take long. We’re already closing in on the middle of the first month of another new year. For most, 2021 felt like a tedious extension of the calamitous year before it. Oh, 2020, I hope never to see a year of your ilk again.

Year’s End Brings a Little Bird and Memories

Our baby Jeffrey snagged his wings in early November 1997, ending the brief active-duty portion of our SMA assignment. A few short months later, my husband, Randy, and I opened a bakery and sandwich shop in one of our county’s tourist hot spots. The business bustled with out-of-towners…

Not All Gifts Are Wrapped in Shiny Paper

December is replete with giving opportunities in the form of holiday presents, donations, and volunteering with myriad charitable causes, making its designation as National Giving Month apt. It’s a natural extension of Thanksgiving. Virtually anything can be a gift. Any time. *** My husband,…

Giving Thanks When It’s Not Easy

November is a month of personal celebrations and Thanksgiving, a favorite holiday. We’re prompted all month via marquees and commercials to give thanks. We shouldn’t need prompting. And it shouldn’t be a one-month effort. Granted, life isn’t easy for many. However, it usually takes little effort to…

Some Special Signs Appear at the Perfect Time

The topics in this column tie in somehow to the death of our baby Jeffrey, as that is our connection to SMA. I’d like this column to provide even a spark of hope to others finding themselves in devastating circumstances. Consequently, I’ve purposely tried to gravitate toward a sense…

When This Column Merges With Memory Lane

Kevin Schaefer was a cute, spunky, almost-4-year-old when I lucked into a plum friendship with his mama, Cindy. My third baby, Jeffrey, had just been diagnosed with SMA type 1. Kevin, her third child, had a milder form. Cindy and I became fast friends. With three hours’ distance…