About the writer

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I have a beautiful granddaughter who was born with Down syndrome. She has enough challenges to face in her life and I want to make sure that finding appropriately fitting clothes will not be one of them.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Back to Work

The next morning I was too exhausted to go back to work at our medical practice, so I took the day off to recover from the trip and to get a head start on the laundry.  I was still on China time, which was exactly 12 hours later; I was like a newborn with my days and nights mixed up.

At this point, I was still working full time running my husband’s medical practice, I also had a very busy weight loss business and I spent many hours working with Jillian on our clothing line.  I also spent two days a week with my 85 year-old mother, found time to visit my two daughters and my eleven grandchildren and worked out at the gym about 3 or 4 times a week. Busy????  Mmmm, just a little!

To add to my already busy schedule, I decided I was going to write a book about my journey.  I thought the blog page on my website was the perfect venue to collect my thoughts.  I tried to find time every week or so to write another chapter.  I didn’t want to forget one thing about my experience while creating Downs Designs.

My day usually begins around 3:30 am.  My adrenaline must be in abundance because I rarely feel tired.  At age 61 most would think I would be exhausted but it’s just not the case.  I feel motivated and driven every day and wake up with enthusiasm to see what each new day will bring.

Well to get back my story:  From the very early stages of creating Downs Designs, I began posting our progress on Facebook and my Downs Designs' page continued to grow more “fans”.  I felt it was important to keep people aware of what we were doing at all times.  Development was a slow process and people seemed interested in its progress.  I also loved to hear input from parents who had children with Down syndrome, young or old.  Their feedback was so helpful and informative for us; we needed to listen to their comments and suggestions.  Facebook had become an incredible media and I was amazed at the attention Downs Designs received.

People from over 25 countries slowly joined my Downs Designs Facebook page.  It was amazing to meet people from all around the world.  The problems were all the same; clothes just don’t fit their kids.  They were desperate for someone to come to their rescue.  It drove me even harder when I would hear their struggles.  And their kind words and sincere appreciation for my efforts gave me encouragement and strength.  Their support kept me going. 

I wished I could have worked faster, but the process was very slow.  I only had a pair of jeans and a plain, long-sleeve T shirt.  It wasn’t much but it was a start.  We really needed to establish a proper size that fit a person’s body with Down syndrome before we could move on to other clothes. 

I was also self funded.  I had no investors nor did I want any.  I was determined to do this on my own.  I poured everything we had into this business and I was borrowing the rest.   I was going to make Downs Designs a full clothing line for all ages of people with Down syndrome.  
But truthfully, I knew people didn’t understand why it was taking so long.  I myself never realized what it took to make an article of clothing.  Who would know unless you were in the industry?  I’ve learned a lot since I started my journey.  I realized the difficulties involved in creating a clothing line, but creating a size that never existed before was even more daunting.  But with the help of my dear Jillian, we forged on.

Our journey back home

Taken from my journal on my Trip to China

Jillian and I got up early and packed up our things. We got ready for our journey home. We had plenty of time, so we walked back to our “favorite” restaurant…McDonald’s… and had our last meal in China. Yuan arrived on time about 8:00 am and we still had a little time to visit, so we went back to McDonalds one last time.

Now it was time to head to the train station. Yuan would stay with us until we got on the train. We loaded our luggage in the trunk of a cab and we were off. It was a quiet ride. My emotions were all over the place. I was excited to get home yet very sad to leave. It had been an experience I would never forget.

When we finally arrived at the train station, it was under construction as well and we were dropped off somewhere nearby. Thank God Yuan was with us because I would have never found my way without him. Once we got into the station, we had to buy our tickets and no one spoke English. Yuan helped us with all of that and we were so thankful he was there with us.

Saying goodbye was very sad for me. I wanted to pack him in my luggage and bring him home with me.  But we had to catch our train and head for home. We had a two-hour train ride back to Hong Kong, a 15-hour flight back to Canada and then a short flight back to Cleveland.

We finally got aboard the train but this train was so different from the one we came in on. It was very modern with two stories; it was more comfortable and much faster than the other one. It seemed like no time at all before we arrived at the train station in Hong Kong. By this time we were more familiar with the area and knew exactly what to do.

We grabbed a cab and headed for the Hong Kong airport.  We got to the airport and made our way through the airport processes. It wasn’t very crowded at all and the lines were very short. We finally boarded our plane and settled in for a long flight.

Time passed so much more quickly. I worked on my computer for hours writing my journal.  I also worked on editing all 450 pictures I took.  I even slept for a few hours this time. Before we knew it, we landed in Toronto. Going through American customs was the hardest of all; they were very thorough and it took a long time waiting in line. We had only a short wait before our plane took off and just like that, our trip was over.

Once we landed in Cleveland, it was like we never left. We were back home and our lives would return to normal. I hugged Jillian goodbye and went back to my car. Jillian is a great traveling partner and I look forward to many more trips together with her. I guess since she didn’t kill me, we must still be friends.

The ride home felt a little strange for me. I had waited for months for this trip and now it was over…just like that! We will need to travel to China every year to pick our fabrics for each year's clothes.  But our next trip will be so much easier.  The unknown is over and we will become seasoned travelers.

Day 4 our last full day in China

Taken from journal on my Trip to China

This was our last day before we headed for home. I was feeling sad about leaving. We have so many misconceptions about life in other countries and seeing firsthand how other people live has changed me. I’m grateful for our country and our abundance but I also see how happy people can be without so many “things”. It’s wonderful to see people respect each other and be grateful for what they have, no matter how minimal it may seem to us.

I also felt bad about leaving my friend, Yuan. We had become such good friends over the last year and finally meeting him sealed our friendship. Having a good friend helping Downs Designs grow makes our relationship even more special. Having someone who cares so much about making our clothes is a gift I have been given. His communication skills are excellent and I’m so thankful for all he has done for us.

On our last day, Yuan made plans for us. He’s planned a trip to a beautiful waterfall in the mountains that was about 2 hours out of town. Jillian and I were up very early, about 4:30 am. It was a good thing we got up that early because you should have seen the hair dryer in this room…OMG…it looked like a big vacuum cleaner hanging on the wall and it took us forever to dry our hair. We finished getting dressed and headed to the lobby for an early breakfast. This hotel had one of those “free” breakfasts included and we needed to eat before today’s excursion.

We tried to eat this food but I can’t tell you how bad it was. It was an attempt at French toast, an egg, sausage (that was only a funny looking hot dog) and orange juice. Not one item on this menu even vaguely tasted familiar. We remembered there was a McDonald’s around the corner so we ran there as fast as we could. I have to say one thing about being a blonde in China, we were a rare commodity. We were starred at everywhere we went. Walking down the street this morning was no different; I was feeling a bit uncomfortable.

We finally get to the McDonald’s and it felt good to be in familiar surroundings. Everything looked just like any other McDonald’s in the U.S. and menu was the same as well. We ordered our breakfast and when I attempted to pay, I realized I had brought the wrong money. I had brought Hong Kong dollars and not Chinese dollars.

So back to the hotel we went. I grabbed the right money this time and we walked back to McDonald’s for another try. A sausage sandwich and orange juice was our meal of choice. I’m not a big fan of fast food, but today it was like a gourmet meal. Every bite was a bit of heaven. To Hell with my cholesterol!!!

After we ate, we headed back to the hotel to wait for Yuan. He arrived on time! It was still early in the morning and the temperature was already very hot. We had to wait on the corner of the street for a bus. That was an experience in itself. Traffic was everywhere and so were the buses. I don’t know how Yuan knew which one to take, but the right one finally came along. He said we would ride this bus for quite a while to another bus station, and then change buses again.

The trip took about two hours. It was a very pleasant ride. The bus was air conditioned and it really felt good to be out of the heat. I couldn’t believe the change in life style once we were out of the city. The farmers live very differently. I saw cows along the way, but they didn’t look like cows in the U.S. They actually looked Asian. Yuan explained that these cows are not eaten, they are used for work. I saw no horses; instead, cows were used for pulling their plows.

We finally arrived at the park. We could see this beautiful, white waterfall very far up the mountain side. We walked for quite a while before we got to the base of the mountain. There were thousands of steps that would take us to the top. The steps at this point were made out of wood and followed along the side of the water. It was beautiful. The huge rocks made for many waterfalls along the way. It was still fairly early and there weren’t too many people but the heat was almost unbearable already.

We climbed for hours and I was able to take so many beautiful pictures. The water was chrystal clear. As we got higher up the mountain, the steps became steeper and wooden steps became stone steps. We held on to the railing tighter and tighter. It seemed like bus loads of people were beginning to arrive. We were hot and tired but the scenery was worth it!

Finally about 2:00 pm we stopped and Yuan spoke with some people who were coming down the mountain. They told him we still had about a three hour climb to the top. We couldn’t believe it. We had climbed almost 2000 feet up and we still had another 2000 feet to go? At that point we thought we better start heading back. We weren’t sure how long it would take us and it was getting late in the afternoon.
So we started our descent. It was obviously much faster coming down than going up. More and more people were there at this point and it was more difficult getting through the crowds. The heat had drained us and people were jumping in the water to cool off. It looked inviting I must admit. We finally made it back to the bus and climbed aboard. The air conditioning felt wonderful! The ride back was quiet. We were very tired. Jillian wasn’t feeling too well and she couldn’t wait to get back the room. We think she was suffering from elevation sickness.

Yuan dropped us off back at our hotel and we agreed we would meet for dinner later. It was our last night and I looked forward to a quiet dinner together. A shower was definitely in order. Poor Jillian just wanted to sleep so she climbed into bed and was out like a light! The shower felt great but I had to deal with that hair dryer again…OMG!

About 8:00 pm, Yuan arrived. Jillian did not want to go with us so I left her there sound asleep. Yuan and I walked to a local restaurant and had our last dinner together. We enjoyed a great meal and talked for several hours. It was nice having a one on one conversation with him. We talked about his childhood; we talked about their government and we talked about what he wanted for his future.

Yuan is highly intelligent and very educated. He speaks out strongly about the things that bother him and he would like to see changes in the way the government runs his country. I learned about how the young people feel about their government through his eyes. They want to make a difference. Because the internet has opened up the world to China the people know there is another way of life. I’m so proud to know him!

After dinner, we walked the busy streets. Not far from our hotel, was another big shopping mall. The malls are on many floors in China. Each floor is a different department; such as, women’s clothes on one floor and men’s clothes are on another. I still didn’t see anything I wanted to buy and the clothes were way too small for me.

It was getting late and it was time to head back to the hotel. I was tired and we were leaving the next day. It was going to be a long flight home. I said goodnight to Yuan and headed up to my room. Jillian was just waking and we talked for a short while. She said I fell asleep in the middle of a sentence. I was truly exhausted by this time. Anticipation for our trip back home didn’t keep me from a good night’s sleep tonight.