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Don Nordstrom

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The Developmentally Challenged Go Camping
by Don Nordstrom   

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Publisher:  iUniverse Type: 


Copyright:  Sept 2009 ISBN-13:  9781440152306

Price: $5.95 (eBook)
Download to your Kindle (eBook)
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This unique book is based on actual events. A keen insight and introduction into the challenging and humorous world of working (or camping) with the developmentally disabled.

Dave is a burned out corporate exec, who gets talked into going on a ten-day wilderness camping trip with seven disabled adults of various mental and physical challenges.
Dave is totally out of his comfort zone, and quickly discovers his own disability, having been trained to manage systems and not care about people, including himself.
Eventually, nature, and learning that the campers are more adaptive than he is, finally transform his life and he discovers how to celebrate the lives of others.
The interactions with the campers is priceless, and you will often chuckle, but you also might discover your own "disability."

Could this book forever change your life? Pick up this page-turner today and find out!

You can get an author-signed hard cover copy for $17, ($13 for softcover) with FREE shipping (Canada-please add $3.00) by sending a check to:

Don Nordstrom
P.O. Box 693
Big Lake, MN 55309

Hard and soft cover multi-book deep discounts available for fund raising organizations!

A portion of author profits goes to aid the developmentally challenged.


Chapter 2: Rachel’s World

Once inside the entrance doors of the huge, open-design office, Dave looked around and noticed two large desks, one on each side of the room. There were stacks of manila folders and other papers everywhere on the desks, floors, and on top of chest-high file cabinets in the back of the large, disorganized office.

Behind one of the desks was an older lady who was on the phone trying to get flight tickets for someone. She smiled at Dave as Rachel said that her name was Carol. She had clown-colored orange hair.

It’s perfect, he thought, as he remembered Rachel mentioning that she thought the place was run by a bunch of clowns.

Rachel mentioned that Carol was the director of trips, and then Dave met two of Carol’s assistants from India whose names he couldn’t possibly remember—or spell if he did—and finally four of the seven participants on the trip.

Ray was the first client he met.

Dave remembered reading Ray’s application and remarking to a friend at work that it said, “He gets agitated easily—his application says to give him space when he does.” Dave jokingly had remarked at the time, “He’ll probably yell at me when I meet him.”

Unfortunately, his words were most prophetic. Rachel introduced Dave to Ray.

“I’m glad to meet you,” said Dave.

“No you’re not!” Ray shouted back at him.

Ray, age 35, was somewhat hunched over. He was plodding purposefully back and forth while wearing a dreadful scowl on his face. He also had a severe case of overgrown, bushy-black eyebrows that furled over his eyes enhancing the frowned wrinkles on his forehead and the corners of his eyes.

Rachel got Ray’s attention again for Dave, but instead of shaking Dave’s outstretched hand, Ray ignored it, and, instead, glared eye to eye at Dave.

“Well, what time are we leaving, Mr. Dave?” Ray blurted out. Ray sneered through what seemed a now permanent scowl etched on his face. Dave tried to smile back at him.

“I would think pretty soon there, Ray,” Dave said. Ray just harrumphed, turned, and continued on with his plodding.

It was at this point that Rachel took Dave aside and reminded him that Ray had some anger issues. She told Dave to try to ignore them and make sure he and everyone else on the trip had a good time.

Oh great, thought Dave. Not only do I have to put up with "develop-mentals", but there’s one with an attitude. Okay, try to keep your cool Dave … just keep your cool.

“Well, why is he even going on the trip if he’s going to act like that?” Dave asked Rachel.

“I know,” she replied, “I should have personally talked with him as I normally do with all the clients. I was just so busy with other things that I didn’t do it this time. I guess this trip won’t be a piece of cake after all because I think we’re going to have our hands full just with him. I told each client’s staff that it was a basic requirement that they be high functioning and work well in a group, but apparently we have different viewpoints on what is high functioning.”

After she explained herself, Dave started thinking that maybe Ray’s staff had fictionalized the application just to get rid of him for a while.

“Do you think the staff lied on the application?” Dave asked her.

“Perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time, but, not to worry,” she said, her voice getting higher.

Not to worry? Now he realized why she’d had the strange smile on her face at the trailer. This trip wasn’t going to be an easy one. Dave’s thoughts were racing again. The trip agenda stated they were taking these people not only camping, but also back-woods hiking. Then they were going to take a white-water rapids trip down the Snake River, plus a hike down a mountain trail. He knew the responsibility involved in doing these activities. It finally dawned on him that he was going to be responsible for these people as much as she was. In addition, he would have to interact with them and actually care for them. His character weaknesses were beginning to reveal themselves, and he did not like it one bit.

Rachel was used to taking clients on these types of trips. On one trip, which he could only describe as “extreme adventures with the disabled,” she had repelled down the side of a cliff with a person who was securely tied into a wheelchair next to her. She had a knack for this type of work whereas all Dave did in his job was set up systems and then place the right people to serve the system. There was no caring about people or being responsible for them in his job. An acidy-sick feeling began to grow in his stomach.

Dave was still eyeing up Ray, so Rachel had to nudge him over to the next client. The second vacationer he met was Doris.

“She falls a lot,” Rachel quickly quipped, causing Dave to stare back at her in astonishment for a moment.

Doris was a very young-looking age 62. She was sitting on a hard, gray folding chair, and stayed seated while looking up sideways at him through her long dishwater-blond hair. “Hi,” she shyly said.

Dave tried to break the ice and stumbled over words for her.

“Are you … um ... excited to go on this camping trip?” He wondered for a moment if she would say anything else, but she finally nodded yes with a faint smile and then started talking to herself while playing with her hair.

The third client was Dan. Dave quickly found out that Dan was non-verbal. He carried a large picture book with him that he used for communicating. The largest images were a smiley face and a sad face. Dan was quite tall and could have played Mr. Clean, as his head was a shiny baldness.

Dan stuck a large page from his book in front of Dave’s face and pointed to one of the thumbnail pictures on it. It was a sun-colored smiley face.

“Are you happy to be going on this trip?” Dave asked while looking at the picture. Dan grinned from ear to ear while excitedly nodding his bald head up and down, eagerly pointing at the smiley face, and then thumping his own T-shirted chest.

The book also provided a picture of a coffee cup, which Rachel stated he often pointed to also. Dan wildly shook Dave’s hand for a nervous moment or two, then kind of hop-skipped away to a corner to look at his book of pictures and to rock back and forth in a forward and reverse motion.

Most likely the main reason that Dan moved away to the corner was because the fourth client, Todd, age 36, rudely interrupted the conversation. Instead of shaking hands with Dave, Todd pulled out a checkbook calendar from his back pocket and correctly pointed to today’s date.

“This is the day I am leaving on the trip,” he remarked.

“Yep—you are correct.” Dave smiled.

“Is Mike or Chuck going on the trip?” asked Todd.

“Sorry, I don’t know who Mike and Chuck are,” replied Dave.

Dave was studying Todd’s head. He had a pointed face with a severe overbite. He was unshaven, and he spoke with a soft, wheezy voice. If a caricature artist ever drew him, the image would look like a beaver with glasses on, Dave thought.

Rachel then itemized what to do next and where they were going to pick up the other three vacationers. The first item was to finish loading the trailer, and then get everyone loaded into the van. Then it was off to pick up Gene at the local airport. Later on, they would pick up Mitch at another airport in South Dakota, and finally meet Mary at Yellowstone when they got there.

Hmm … Dave was thinking to himself again. That makes seven vacationers, and it’s supposed to be a one-to-three ratio of experienced staff to highly functional people. As it is now, it’s one staff member to three and a half not-very-functional people—and only one staff member is experienced! Maybe the next three people will be better. He hoped against hope they would be better.

After the introductions were complete, Rachel and Dave went outside to finish loading the gear into the cargo trailer. Todd tagged along and started asking more questions about Mike and what he was doing. Then he asked about Chuck, and then someone else.

“Todd, I told you I don’t know who those people are,” Dave sternly responded. It didn’t matter to Todd.

“Where are we going? Are we sleeping in cabins?” Todd continued asking. “I went camping once with Mike, but I don’t like sleeping in tents.”

Whew, no easing into it with this one, Dave thought, knowing there were ten nights to look forward to sleeping in tents.

After the trailer was loaded, Rachel went over the “med schedule” with Dave. Most of the medications the clients took were to control seizures. None of them had suffered any spells in several years, or at least it was so stipulated on their applications. He wasn’t quite sure why she was telling him about their meds since he was not certified to hand them out. Maybe in case something happened to her. The acidy sick feeling was gaining ground in his stomach. By now, the rest of the gang of vacationers had wandered out by the trailer, and Rachel remarked that Dave might as well begin loading them all into the van.

“Well it’s about time!” Ray angrily shouted. Dave and Rachel snuck a weak smile to each other.

After Dave slid the van side door open, Ray climbed in and put his scowling face in the back row. Smiling Dan sat in one of the middle window sections, while wheezy Todd and yapping Doris shared a seat toward the front. Rachel took the driver’s seat, verified that Dave had copies of everybody’s applications in his pack, smiled again, and then asked him, “Do you want to bail out yet?”

“Not in a million years,” he lied.

As the van pulled away from the building and onto the freeway entrance, Dave turned around and took a quick glance toward the back of the van. It appeared that everyone was in a trance looking out the windows—except for Dan, who still held on to his picture book and kept the grin on his face. From the rear, Ray glared back and stuck his tongue out.

What have I gotten myself into this time? Dave was rubbing his eyes wondering if he should start crying now or later. He was already wishing they could pass through some type of time warp that would make the trip come to an end right now.

The wish quickly vaporized as they sped off down the freeway to pick up the next client, Gene, at the airport.

Professional Reviews

This book is a hit!
I work with the developmentally disabled, and laughed my head off with this book. I could relate to so many scenes in here, and how joyful it is to work and interact with the disabled. The two leaders, Rachel and Dave, are remarkably flexible with the campers and all of the calamities they faced. A very honest look at how frustrating it can be, but also the rewards that come from their accomplishments. A true joy to read, and read again! I hope the author does a sequel to this book!

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