Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A plate of cookies to remember 9/11

It started as an effort to help Sabrina better understand the ability of people with disability.

While the kids were in camp during our Vermont trip, Dave and I stopped by a small farmers market. I was a little bored—more maple syrup, more beaded jewelry. Then I spotted a booth with a man in a wheelchair and jars of stuff, and made a beeline for it.

The rows of Mason jars were filled with pre-measured dry ingredients for cookies, soup and even dog biscuits. Seated behind the display: Patrick, a 20-year-old with cerebral palsy who is blind, and a family friend helping him with his business, Purely Patrick. He uses a pouring device to make his mixes, and sells them at farmers markets and at the bed and breakfast his parents run in Stowe, the Brass Lantern Inn.

At work with his mom, Mary Anne Lewis

The M&M cookies looked particularly yummy. "Patrick, I'm going to get a jar of M&M cookies, is that a good choice?" I asked. "Mmmmmm," he said.

Before I had Max, I typically felt sorry for adults with disabilities I'd see on jobs. Now I'm both curious and inspired by them. Especially someone with a cookie business, no less. As the little card attached to the Mason jar says, "I love to listen to music, spend time outside, swing, swim and participate in adaptive skiing.... My hands 'see' what my eyes can't. I enjoy making these products, and hope you will enjoy them, too!"

This weekend, Dave was away on business; my plan was to bake the cookies with the kids Saturday afternooon and discuss that an adult with disabilities made them. Come cookie day, only Sabrina was into it, so the two of us mixed butter, vanilla and an egg and mixed as we talked.

The batter was so incredibly good, we both kept sneaking mouthfuls. 

I told Sabrina about Patrick, who'd made the mix, and that like Max he has cerebral palsy. "What does this tasty batter tell you about Patrick?" I asked.

She thought. "That he is good at making cookies," she said, and I was proud of her. We've had discussions about how everyone has their talents and unique traits. She knows that Max, for one, has an amazing memory, and that he's also good at playing the guitar, coloring pictures and figuring out the iPad. Then I showed her this video of Patrick. "Wow, that's cool!" she said.

The cookies were delicious; Max thought so, too. Sabrina and I started talking about who to share them with. Suddenly, I had an idea.The kids are still young to understand what happened during 9/11, but I thought that we could pay a visit to our neighborhood firefighters on the night before its 11th anniversary and share some cookies.

Last year, Sabrina learned in school about angry people who used airplanes to hurt people in buildings. I reminded her about that, and that firefighters had gotten hurt, too. "I think we should bring some cookies to the firefighters near us to show them that we appreciate the jobs that they do, and also because they may feel a little sad tomorrow," I said. And then, to help Max understand, I said, "Max, let's bring the firefighters cookies to help them feel happy."

When I got home from work last night, we headed over to the firehouse with a plateful.

Sabrina drew this picture and wrote a note that said, "Thank you for all the hard work you do." She handed them to the firefighter who opened the door. "We just wanted to let you know we're thinking about you guys," I said.

The firefighter, Tom, offered to show the kids around.

When we left, we watched a firefighter lowering the flag for the day.

"Do you think the cookies will make the firefighters feel happy?" I asked as we drove home.

"Eeee-yah!" said Max.

"They will," I agreed, "not just because they taste good but because they show the firefighters that we are thinking about them."

Then Max pointed to his mouth to remind me that he needed cookies, too.

Today, I'm going into work a bit late so I can be in our area park at 8:46 a.m.—the minute when the first plane struck the North Tower—for a moment of silence, as I've done for the past several years. I'll say a prayer for the victims' families. Then I'll take the train to work, remembering the horror of what unfolded during my commute that Tuesday 11 years ago, when I was on a boat crossing the Hudson and saw the towers burning. I will force myself to think of the people I saw in photos jumping from the fiery buildings, because they must be remembered, including that woman in the Kelly green skirt and the workers who held hands.

Paying respect to those who keep us safe is a small start to helping the kids understand 9/11. The fact that the cookies came from Patrick made the deed just a little sweeter.


  1. Bawling. You have inspired me to do the same with my kids tonight. Thank you.

  2. Way to go, Ellen - you've got me crying too. I think we'll be making some cookies tonight as well and taking them over tomorrow after school. :-) Thank you.

  3. Ditto. That brought a tear to my eye. That was very beautiful and very meaningful. I'm so glad your kids had that experience.

  4. We're going to do the same, this evening...what a wonderful idea!

  5. Here's a restaurant that employs developmentally disabled adults:


  6. Beautiful Ellen! Thank you for the inspiration!

  7. Thank you - have a gentle day ....
    I'm going home to make/share some cookies!

  8. Nice gestures all around. I'm sure your life must be very busy, so it's great that you think of these things, actually take action, and involve your children.

    After this post my mind is churning as I continue to work out the issue of relating to differently-abled people. This is in no way intended to be negative. Along the way you have encouraged us to see the person instead of the disability, to the point that I've wondered how I'm supposed to ignore what my senses and brain process. Here, you "made a beeline" for a booth with a man in a wheelchair, and made a point of creating a special discussion around the man's cookies. What this suggests to me is that it's not about denying what we see, but about what we do with it next. I HAVE learned to respect the abilities of those have to do things differently on this site. The other may come too, but it will be way down the road once we follow suit and have enough interactions over time.

  9. I just came across your blog recently, and am really enjoying reading your perspective!
    I thought I would share with you a website you might find useful. Here’s a short description of the website:

    Information Connections, a website for parents of children with developmental disabilities and chronic diseases was developed by the Marianjoy Medical Library with funding from the National Library of Medicine. The website serves as an information portal to resources and websites with a special focus on autism, cerebral palsy, ADHD, Down syndrome, and traumatic brain injury, and others.
    Hope you find it useful!

  10. hi Ellen,

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! What a beautiful story, and... I am Patrick's mom!!! Today we got an email from Germany wanting to buy Patrick's products- unbelieveable! They said they learned about Patrick on "Love that Max" so I googled it to see what it was all about and there was your lovely story about your great kids and my great kid (adult:) Thanks so much!!!
    Mary Anne

  11. OK, Mary Anne, you just totally made my day, my month, my year! I am so thrilled to hear from you. I am glad to spread the word about Patrick and his business, and glad that he was part of a meaningful activity for my kids—which in turn inspired other people to do something meaningful. Please, let us all know if it is possible to purchase Patrick's mixes online or in some other way, I looked but couldn't find!

    Anon, I get what you are saying. When I ask people to see the "ability" instead of the "disability," I'm not saying to ignore the fact that Max has trouble, say, using his hands or that his speech is hard to understand. You can't deny it, it's part of who he is. I'm asking people to see what he CAN do, and (metaphorically) understand what he is capable of. It sounds like you do that. Props to you.

  12. Love, Love, LOVE this! Your mind works in incredible ways. I especially love seeing how Patrick and his family have found a way for him to be productive with his abilities! Then to see how you are using that as an example for your children AND reaching out to thank others! Will have to steal this idea for my family. Hope you don't mind! Bless you and yours....

  13. Thanks for addressing my comment Ellen. I'm not there yet, but I'm figuring it out. It's pretty new territory for a good many of us, but I'm listening. God Bless!

    Anon 12:37

  14. BW aka Barbara from BostonSeptember 12, 2012 at 2:23 AM

    Bravo Ellen and family.
    to anonymous(2), you are making the effort; considering, working it out for yourself - that is what is important. Tincture of time (sic)helps too. I have been on both sides of the room, first working with people who had various special needs - even pyromania (fire setting); one too many industrial accidents left me with multiple disabilities. In 14 years in the field I learned more than I ever taught. If I made a slight difference in anyone's life I am grateful. Thanks for the opportunity.

  15. Hi Ellen,
    You are an amazing inspirational person. I continue to be impressed by your stories and the way you are bringing up your children , all very best, Caroline Bowyer

  16. I really enjoyed this post - thanks!
    And wow - you were right there on 9/11?!....

  17. Hi Ellen,

    :) You warm my heart. Can you send me your email address at the inn email (info@brasslanterninn.com) so I can send you a price list? Again, many thanks! xoxo, Mary Anne

  18. Yes, Meriah, I was living in Hoboken at the time, and happened to take the ferry to New York that day for work; when I got on it, I wasn't aware of what had happened. Even as I watched the buildings burning from the top deck, with a handful of other people, we all thought it was an accident. I will never, ever forget the sight of those burning buildings.

    Well said, Barbara, and than you, Ceebee.

    Mary Anne, email incoming!

  19. Patrick's mom shared the price list! Here it is, in alphabetical order of products:

    Bird Seed $6.50 +tax ($6.89)
    Butterscotch Brownies: $7.50
    Butterscotch Brownies (Gluten-free) $8.00
    Chai Tea Latte: $9.00
    Chocolate chip cookies: $7.50
    Country Bean Soup: $7.50
    Crazy Crannies (cookies) $8.50
    Dreamsicle cookies: $7.50
    Dog Cookies: $8.00 +tax ($8.48)
    Hot Cocoa $5.00
    M&M cookies: $7.50
    M&M cookies (Gluten free) $8.00
    Molasses Drops: $7.50
    Rocky Road Brownies: $8.50
    Wool (hand dyed) $6.00 + tax ($6.36)

    *Ingredients available upon request.

    The glass jars do not ship well, so currently Patrick is shipping his mixtures in zip lock baggies. With domestic shipping through the USPS, if you order 1 to 5 mixes in zip lock baggies, the shipping is $11.35 for a flat rate box. If you order 5 to 8 mixes in zip lock baggies, the flat rate box would cost $15.45.

    Orders can be requested through Patrick’s mom, Mary Anne at maryanne623@gmail.com or 802-477-3928.

    Sorry! I do not accept credit cards. Cash or check (made out to Patrick Lewis) only please!

    Thank you very much!


Thanks for sharing!

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