Life with purpose: Mom writes book about raising special needs daughter

October 2017 Posted in Community, Other, People

DSC_0002By Kristine Thomas

Silverton resident Lindsey Atwell refers to her mother’s book about her life as “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

“The ugly is my ex-boyfriends, the bad is what happened with my marriage and my ex-boyfriends,” Lindsey said, “and the good is my family. My mom and my dad do so much to take care of me and they are very helpful. I don’t say it enough but I appreciate everything they do. I just sometimes show it in a different way.”

Hearing those words brings joy to Silverton author Linda Atwell. It’s another moment to celebrate and cherish amongst the other times of worry and concern.

In her first book, Loving Lindsey: Raising a Daughter with Special Needs, Linda, 59, shares the sometimes complicated and often humorous relationship between herself and Lindsey, 37.

Describing Lindsey as a “strong-willed, high-functioning adult with intellectual disabilities,” Linda honestly shares Lindsey’s journey after she graduates from high school at 19 to her 30th birthday party.

“Lindsey’s 30th birthday day was a really sweet moment in our life,” Linda recalled.

And a moment when she thought things would settle down for Lindsey.

“But Lindsey keeps providing me with such good material for another book,” Linda said, laughing, including a recent Alaskan cruise where Lindsey shared stories with dinner guests about her homeless boyfriend and told an older man to stop flirting with her.

“She definitely says things that can stop all the dinner conversation,” Linda said.

Although Linda recounts personal moments in the memoir, she’s respectful to Lindsey’s privacy and only shared things she thought were appropriate.

“I’m sure there are things in the book that Lindsey wishes never happened because there are things I certainly wished never happened,” Linda said.

When Linda was writing the book, Lindsey asked her mom if she was planning to write about “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Yes, Linda told her daughter.

Lindsey’s response: “Well, I am pretty funny. As long as you tell the truth, it is OK by me.”

Allowing the reader to walk in her shoes and experience her range of emotions, Linda explains what it felt like for Lindsey to start working at Goodwill and move into a cottage in the Atwells’ backyard. And then there’s the phone call she received from Lindsey while she and her husband, John, were on vacation with Lindsey announcing she had had sex for the first time.

When pouring her heart onto the pages, Linda did ponder if she would be judged harshly for sharing her family’s secrets.

In all communities, Linda said, some people have a tendency to gossip. By letting go of her fear and sharing the facts about Lindsey’s decision to have a tubal ligation and to run away with a manipulative man more than twice her age, Linda diminishes the power of gossip and secrets.

“For me, secrets make you vulnerable and feel lonely especially in a small town,” Linda said. “In the game of gossip, sometimes things are told and you hear what people say and think, ‘wow that’s not at all what happened.’ By telling the story, I share the facts.”

What Linda wanted for Lindsey – and Lindsey also wanted for herself – was to live an independent life, to have purpose and to find love.

“When you are teaching your child to be independent, you also have to learn to be OK when some of the choices she is making are not what you would want for her,” Linda shared.

The memoir shares the successes people with special needs can achieve when provided parental, educational and community support. Linda is grateful for all the people who have given support and encouragement both to her and Lindsey, including Analene Waterman who hired Lindsey in 2007 to work at her State Farm Insurance Agency.  

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 1.21.10 PMBeginning in 2010, Linda said it took 40 different versions and about 75 “lovely rejection letters” until she finally received news her book would be published this year. With many positive reviews for her book and media attention from around the United States, Linda is glad she persevered and hopes parents with special needs children will see they can still have dreams for their children leading independent lives.

“I felt it was an important story to share and I poured my heart out onto the pages because I really wanted people to understand what it is like to raise a child with special needs,” Linda said. “The other part has to do with the fact I am so proud of what Lindsey has accomplished. Lindsey is an incredible example of hope.”

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