I am a sister, I am a teacher, I am a caretaker, I am a leader, and I am “you”…Amanda Owen
If you are reading this, that means you clicked on the link to learn more about Amanda, me. My hope is after you read this, you feel like you know and trust me, because at the end of the day this blog is for you.
If I had to describe myself in one word I would say: driven.
If my friends were to describe me in one word they would say: crazy.
If my staff were to describe me in one word they would say: hard-worker.
If my followers of this blog were to describe me in one word, I hope they would choose: helpful.
I am 35 years old, but sometimes forget my age and my husband often reminds me, as I try telling people I am younger than what I am. I will be one of those people who will go through a midlife crisis at 40. I grew up with strong parents who taught me to work hard in all I do. I have always set goals high and work towards them every day. There are many layers to me and if you peel back enough layers you will find a simple girl who is passionate about helping others. Relationships have always been very important to me. Friends to me are the brothers and sisters I never had, so I hold them close to my heart. My life is consumed with camping, boating, binge watching Netflix, being a mom, a wife, a friend, leading employees and a non-profit, vision dreaming, and now, I guess, blogging. I haven’t always been the most confident woman, but somehow over the years I have continued to believe in myself more and more. I try very hard to be transparent in my life’s journey to inspire others to work hard, dream big, own your mistakes and learn from them, be okay with just being you and to laugh. My life has been blessed beyond measure and I know I am following the path that God specially created for me.
My Brother, Nick:
My older brother is the one person in this world who has taught me more about life than he could ever know. My brother, who is 38 years old, was born with an extremely rare chromosome disability, which impacts his cognitive functioning and presents with health challenges. The only thing our parents wanted in life was for their children to live a life full of happiness, and they strive every day to make that happen for both of us. One thing is for sure, Nick is one of a kind and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. There are no words to describe the impact and love he has provided for my life. Most of my blogs will have a “piece” of me that directly relates back to the impact Nick made on my life growing up. To learn more about our story, watch this video.
My Life at Home:
I have been married for 11 years to Justin, who is the only person in my life who can ground me and love me at the same time. He is the love of my life, and although marriage can be challenging at times, I would choose this partnership with him every day. My proudest moments have been centered on our two young boys, Landon (8) and Layne (5). Being their mother has been the greatest blessing in my life, but at the same time motherhood has been the one area that makes me question if I’m even doing life right. My only hope is that they become men who are kind, and one day are proud to call me their mom. The last three years of our life, my family has been blessed to provide a home to an adult who has a disability. He is 31 years old. It has been a learning experience for my kids, my husband, and most definitely for me, however one that has come with great rewards.
My Career Path Inspired by my Brother:
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Exceptional Education K-12 with a dual certification to teach Learning Behavior Disabilities and Multiple Disabilities from Western Kentucky University. Within my first three years of teaching, I secured my Masters Degree in Exceptional Education K-12 with an Autism Certificate. Teaching was a rewarding, but challenging, experience. My teaching years allowed me to build strategies, provided me with hands-on learning by “trial and error,” and allowed me to learn how to connect school-based curriculum to the real-world for the next chapter of my career.
Changing the Community to Create Opportunities:
I am the example of the famous quote, “Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” After teaching for six years, I was disappointed in what our community had to offer for those with disabilities, as it pertained to employment, social life, independent living, post secondary training, and respite for families. I wanted more, not just for my brother, but for my students who had become family to me. I was tired of wishing and hoping for more, so I decided to do something about it. I had a vision to change, empower, and shift the mindset of those in our community as it related to the abilities of those with disabilities.
I started a nonprofit organization called Puzzle Pieces, which extends services to those of all disabilities and levels to provide social life, living supports, post-secondary training, employment, and most importantly purpose. I started the organization in 2012, with 7 employees and 32 individuals with a variety of disabilities, as an adult and after school program. Fast forward 7 years and we currently support over 165 individuals, employ over 6, and operate a $2.4 million budget. Puzzle Pieces has become a training ground for future professionals, providing families with more than they expected, all while encompassed in an atmosphere that is filled with more than just purpose, but LOVE. The experience I have gained as a result of directly engaging with the community, training staff, learning from clients, and implementing a variety of strategies to meet the needs of each client individually, put me in a position to share, relate, and guide others. As a result, I have also had the pleasure these last few years of guiding the focus to be on abilities rather than disabilities and share my story within our community and across the state of Kentucky. With this blog, I hope to be able spread my vision and strategies even further.
The last 12 years of my life has been filled with life-changing experiences that shaped me into a person that wants to walk with others to provide hope and opportunities.
This blog, is now part of my journey to continue to make an impact. This part is for those who haven’t reached out for help, this part is for the struggling moms and families who need something to relate to and validation, this part is for my best friend who has a son with Autism, this part is for my parents who didn’t have guidance, this part is for the passionate advocates, and this part is for that person who might want to make a difference in the life of a person with a disability.
I’m so much more than my blog; however my blog has brought me to you. Walk with me along as I figure out all the pieces — let’s do this together.
Here goes everything.