Day #8: Zen and the Art of Raising A Child with Cerebral Palsy

March 8, 2013,  Day #8 of our “30 Days of Inspiration, Information & Motivation” series marking National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month.

As parents of children with cerebral palsy, one of the things that has been most helpful to us over the last several years has been been hearing the stories of other parents who are traveling along the same path as we are.  Learning about their challenges, their joy, disappointments and hopes helped us feel like we are not alone.

Today’s wonderful post comes from one of those parents who inspires others with her words and stories about raising her daughter with Cerebral Palsy. Written by Cindy McCombe Spindler, the founder and president of AbilityCatcher, a unique company with the goal of humanizing the way the world thinks and treats individuals with differing abilities. Two events have occurred during Cindy’s life that served as a catalyst for her to create Ability Catcher. Her father died from a spinal cord injury in 1993, and later her daughter was born with Cerebral Palsy. During both of these events, Cindy found refuge in developing herself personally and professionally. She made some “rookie” mistakes along the way, but feels that she is ready to spread her own stories with the world in an authentic and rich way. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two children. Her daughter Jillian has cerebral palsy.  You can read more about Cindy on her website or connect with her on Twitter at @AbilityCatcher.

We hope you are as inspired by Cindy’s story as we are!   Enjoy and please let us know what you think at @Reach4Stars


Zen and the Art of Raising a Child with Cerebral Palsy

By Cindy McCombe Spindler

In thinking back on what I have learned in raising my daughter Jillian, now at
age nine with a cerebral palsy diagnosis, my mind goes back to a Zen
Buddhist koan about a strawberry, which I had explored years ago as part of
a college philosophy class.

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger
after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine
and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from
above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger
was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away
the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine
with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it

After a group discussion, my philosophy class concluded that the strawberry
represents the present moment, the tiger above represents birth,
and the tiger below represents death. The vine means different things to
different people. The situation, although it seems rather precarious at the
moment, represents the middle point one’s in life. It also represents the
present in any situation.

I can conclusively say that it has taken me nine years to get to the point
where I feel like I am seeing and eating those strawberries while raising
Jillian. We have had our share of challenges. But as I look back over
Jillian’s life and our evolving relationship, I see that we have had more
than our fair share of strawberries. I’d like to share a few of them with you.

Read one or two – whichever seem to pertain most to your life.
Download this PDF for a complete list of these stories and pictures at:
1. A Surprising Strawberry – Jillian inching her way up the milestone chart.
2. A Strawberry for Mom – Overcoming my fears on assistive devices.
3. A Magic Strawberry – What’s my role in raising Jillian, again?
4. Strawberry Love – Jillian’s first encounter with her stepdad.
5. A Strawberry Like No Other – Jillian morphs from patient into athlete.
6. The Other Strawberry Patch – Jillian’s “other” activities are often more
fun anyway.
7. Double Strawberries – Jillian’s first best friend and their début.