Inspiring Words for Daring Greatly

It’s finally summer and the living should be easy, right? Or at least…easier?

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This year I’m not quite feeling that summer breeze yet. You have been reading for most of a year now about the massive transition I am doing with Radiant Abilities as I wind down my counseling practice and launch online personal development trainings.

Like most things in life, I did not realize just how massive this was going to be. My web developer and all-around right-hand man, Chris Casey of Techtonic Media, has done a phenomenal job with the new site. It’s fresh, bright, and appealing. It will grab you. You’re going to love it!

And Eden Nguyen of Minimummeans.com has come in as the graphic designer to create outstanding visuals, guide sheets, and PDFs for you that accompany each video.

But we’re still working on finalizing everything before we launch.

Which brings me back to the lack of a summer breeze. I have often ask myself in this last year, why I decided to take this leap of faith at this time in my life when life is already filled with so many blessings. I am in the privileged position in my family life of being “sandwiched” a little boy who needs a lot from him mommy right now and spending precious time with my wonderful parents (who have really given me everything) who are in their upper 80s.

I could have easily kept plugging along with my counseling and consulting business, with the exception of one little thing…..I have such a passion to help people with disabilities to LIVE GREAT AND DARING LIVES!

For me, counseling was no longer quite hitting that professional need in me and I am a strong proponent of stepping out of your comfort zone when our comfort begins to dull us.

Just when I needed them, I came across some words to jumpstart me with some inspiration for this hard work. As you read them, think about the hard work in your life now. Whether it’s living with a disability, caring for a loved one with a disability, or just adjusting to your kids being home for the summer, allow the words to remind you why you do the hard work and dare greatly.

It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Quote is from Teddy Roosevelt’s 1910 “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, excerpt found in Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland.

Posted in Believe in Yourself, Confidence Builders, LIVE your life, Taking Risks | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Who Needs an Amusement Ride When You Have a Disability?

I had another firewalk moment last week.

For those of you that are familiar with my book, Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities, you know that I refer to a firewalk as those moments in life when you take the fear of doing something along with you as you take a risk, rather than allowing the fear to stop you.
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Last week my firewalk involved Slimey’s Chutes at Sesame Place.

Are you laughing or just perplexed by the last sentence?

Last week my husband and I took our three-year old to Sesame Place, a wonderful little amusement park outside of Philadelphia, based of course on Sesame Street. I have been living in the world of Sesame Street for the past three years. My son cannot get enough of Elmo and Abby, so our journey to Sesame Place has become a summer ritual.

This year Jaden is old enough to go on a few more of the rides. Now, I have to say, I am not an amusement ride person. I’m the kind of person who has to take motion sickness pills for long car rides and I get seasick on cruises. I usually leave the riding part of parenthood to Scott, my roller coaster-loving husband.

However, I love the water! So a ride involving me being in water tempts my otherwise queasy self. And there was another factor at work here. Jaden is already beginning to understand there are many physical things I can’t do (run for more than 20 feet, carry him home from a walk when he’s tired, button his shirts, etc). I want him to see me do some physically fun things.

So, using my mantra of “breathing through fear,” I stood in the long, hot line with my family, coaching myself that I could do this. By the way, being a water ride, we were of course barefoot and had to stand on the hot cement for twenty minutes, so it did feel like a firewalk!

Scott took Jaden in his inner tube and I followed in my own tube. I swear the ride was not even thirty seconds, but I uncontrollably let out petrified gasps the entire way down. When Scott greeted me at the end of the “chute” I said, “That was a little scary.” He replied, “Are you serious?”

It wasn’t until a couple days after we got home, that I got the lesson:

When you live with a disability, when you can’t always control your muscle movements, when you never know when you will fall or drool, who needs an amusement ride? You have built-in excitement. Our children will learn far more from how we handle that, than whether or not we go down a water slide.

What’s your take on amusement rides? Love them or hate them? Tell me why in just one word.

Posted in Lessons Learned, Parenting with a disability, The Power of Disability | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four Strategies to Successfully Handle Discomfort…

And How They Paid Off BIG for Me! This would have been the rest of the title but I would had definitely ran out of room.

You always know when someone is uncomfortable with your disability or your child’s disability, right? I’ll be honest, many times my first inclination is to dismiss these people, telling myself I don’t have time to wait around for their comfort level to rise.

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Like all great lessons in life, I learned by doing this I may be passing up significant opportunities to connect with people. Sometimes you may need to allow some room for discomfort and learning about your disability.

The people who may ultimately connect deeply with you may not have experience or knowledge about disabilities – and that’s okay. This creates tremendous growth for both of you.

When this discomfort arises, it’s crucial to not take it personally. Whenever people, whether you’re dating them, working with them, or they’re in your family, have discomfort with your disability, it’s not about you. ,Discomfort with a disability has to do with the people having the discomfort; not you.

Although I had known this all in my head for years, I was able to really get it in my heart several years ago, while out on a first date.

I had “met” this guy online and had been emailing with him for a few weeks before we decided to meet. We had discussed my disability beforehand since I was always pretty upfront about it. He warned me he was quiet and shy and I might be doing the majority of the talking. No problem there for me.

Over dinner he was quiet and reserved, but I knew immediately I liked him. As we got into dessert, I decided to check with him about how he was doing with my disability.

Big tears instantly welled up in his eyes and began to roll down his cheeks. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

My heart sank and I thought, I am never going on another date. I was wise enough to let go of that thinking, knowing it would just keep me at home eating tubs of Ben & Jerry’s.

Instead, I used these four strategies:

1. Take a deep breath.
2. Remind yourself this is not about you.
3. Let go of any expectations you may have and support people as they process their thoughts and feelings.
4. Be courageous and let someone know if you’re interested, despite the discomfort.

My date and I talked for quite a while that night about his discomfort. I let him know I was interested in him and would like to get to know him, despite his discomfort with me. I left the ball in his court, though.

The next evening I received an email that went along these lines, “I’m still very unsure about your disability, but you are beautiful and so confident in yourself, I have to get to know you.”

Two years later we were married. You never know what might come of working through the discomfort.

Posted in Believe in Yourself, Confidence Builders, Dating Resources, How Others React, Lessons Learned | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Does Lady Gaga Has To Do With Disabilities?

Yes, I am writing another post on Lady Gaga. I know, I can’t believe it myself! I would not certainly not identify myself as a fan. I’m not sure if I would be able to identify any of her songs on the radio. Let’s also say that she and I definitely have different fashion tastes.

Nevertheless, I knew I had to write about her message again, after I watched this video last week.

From the Anti-Defamation League website, adl.org

From the Anti-Defamation League website, adl.org

Before I share the video link, let me explain why I believe Gaga’s message resonates with people with disabilities. In a nutshell, her message about acceptance of one’s uniqueness and acceptance of others.

Whether you’re gay, overweight, live with a disability, believe you don’t have the “right” looks, use a wheelchair, or have another difference which sets you apart, Gaga is speaking to you.

She’s telling YOU (yes, you!) to embrace yourself, your difference, and live your life! Ummm…sounds a bit familiar?

Lady G is also saying everyone matters and we just need to invoke tolerance and kindness. Very fundamental lessons we first hear from our parents which really do change lives and the world.

Check out Lady Gaga Accepting ADL’s Making a Difference Award for yourself. The video is on the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) website as part of their No Place For Hate campaign.

ADL is historically known for stopping the denigration of Jewish people, but has become a leading advocate of civil rights for all. Their message and mission also fits well for creating a world that is more embracing of all abilities. To watch the video, you’ll have to provide your name and email address. Hearing a message about the inclusion of all people is worth sharing your info.

If you’re new to my blog in the last couple years, or just want a retread, check out Born This Way, my first Gaga post.

Share with me below what you think about Gaga’s message and if you think it’s applicable to people with disabilities in the comments below. Or join the discussion, like some people did last week, on Facebook.

Posted in Believe in Yourself, Confidence Builders, LIVE your life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Most Damaging Word for Empowerment

Confession time….and this is an embarrassing one.

I sometimes listen to one of those sappy (and I do mean sappy) dedication shows that are on the radio in the evening. There, I said it. I’m not proud of it, but when I’m driving seems to be the rare time these days when I listen to music versus my typical podcasts or the news.

Last week I listened as a guy called in and dedicated a song to his wife. He explained how they met in Columbia, although they’re both from the States. He was there on a work assignment for the State Department. They began to date and then she thought about returning home, but decided to stay and see if the relationship would work out. They have been married five years.

The guy ended the call with, “I’m thankful she has stayed with me despite the fact I am blind.”

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Ugh! That was a disappointing end to a relatively sweet story. Not the fact that he is blind, of course, but that by using the word despite that conveys that his blindness somehow makes him unloveable.

When we use the word despite in association with disabilities, we are negating all the strengths and assets that having a disability can bring to who we are. Despite by definition is a negating word. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, despite indicates a “detriment and disadvantage.”

A disability definitely makes things more difficult and challenging at times. In order to fully step into empowerment, though, it is important that we stop using language that diminishes personal wealth the difficulty and challenge of living with disability gives to us.

If the guy dedicating the song to his wife wanted to mention his blindness, what’s a more empowering way he could had framed it? See my suggestion below in the comment area.

Posted in Confidence Builders, Empowering Language | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Three Ways to Remember Your Why

Do you ever have times when you’re working hard on a project or goal and lose sight of why you’re doing it?

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I certainly have! I often admit I get tunnel vision. I have a tendency to get over-focused. In writing, developing, and producing a training video, I can get caught up in the thousand minute details that it takes to bring my idea to a finished piece.

In working on say a video on sexuality and relationships, I’ll spend hours writing content, checking for typos, and if the video will upload in the format it’s in. While this focus is needed, I can lose sight of why I am making the video to begin with – to provide resources and guidance in helping other people with disabilities be successful in dating and enjoy fulfilling relationships.

In our pursuit for professional and personal goals, it’s so helpful to step back and remember YOUR why. Last week while on vacation, I had a great opportunity that reminded me of my why.

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En route to Virginia Beach, I met a teenager with cerebral palsy who clearly has a great deal of determination. She has participated in 5K runs, is about to attempt a 10K run, and the day before we met, she did a triathlon. She has a specially made bike, which gave me bike envy, to help her participate. To me, that’s brilliant problem solving and that creativity will take her far.

In addition to talking about her athletic feats, we discussed some of the harder issues that come with living with a disability and in a body that’s different. In talking to this spirited young woman, I was reminded of my why: to acknowledge and support people in what is hard about living with a disability while offering encouragement to reach for dreams and get the life you want.

I need to remember my why every day. Here are three strategies I use to remember my why:

1. Stop whatever I am doing for three minutes to consciously breathe, step back and look at the forest through the woods.
2. I literally ask myself why I am doing what I’m doing AND make myself answer the question.
3. As evidenced from last week, get out and meet people. Connecting with others most profoundly connects you with your why.

Your turn now. Take two minutes to comment below on what helps you get connected to your why. You’ll see an additional strategy from me down there.

Posted in Family Support, Parenting Children with Disabilities, Professional Support, Strategies/Techniques | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Three Important Ways to Define Yourself

Let’s face it. We have all tried to define others with our thoughts, judgments, and opinions about them. To some degree, it’s human nature.

It can also be pretty damaging to one’s self-esteem, particularly when one lives with a difference that sets him apart.

Stop Looking For The Magic You Are It Concept

Next week I’ll be rolling out the first personal development training video for people with disabilities, How to Define Yourself: Why It’s So Important When You Have a Disability.

I actually learned to define myself by going to the grocery store. No, it wasn’t the produce or frozen foods that helped define me. Although, if you look at my cart most weeks, you’ll see I generally eat pretty healthy, but have a wicked sweet tooth.

What helped defined me was realizing all the perceptions people had of me as I grocery shopped – “That poor woman…” (pity), “Oh, I really admire her for trying to grocery shop” (misproportioned admiration), and “Someone should really be helping her” (assumption of lack of ability). To defend the general public of Central New York, there were also naturally people who saw me as just a woman with cerebral palsy, doing her grocery shopping.

Every time I encountered these perceptions and definitions of me, I had to say to myself, “Uh, that’s interesting, but it’s not me.” I would highly recommend trying on this phrase when you experience someone trying to define you. It’s a good way of developing a filter for others’ opinions of you, while taking on the role of merely observing how others react to you.

Naturally, it also helps to have a strong definition of yourself to return to as you’re filtering out the misperceptions and false judgements. Here are three very basic, but important ways to do so:

1. What you can do? What are your abilities? These don’t have to be things you necessarily do, but your strengths as a person.
2. What you enjoy? What helps you live and enjoy life?
3. What interests you? What makes you uniquely you?

I would encourage you to begin to make a list from answering these three questions, either on paper, on screen, or in your head. To get you started, answer one of them below in the comment area. You’ll see my answer to #1 down there.

Return often to this list of yours. Let it strengthen YOUR definition of YOURSELF. And remember, no one knows the magic of who you are like yourself!

Posted in Believe in Yourself, Confidence Builders, Strategies/Techniques | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Dating: Put it Out There

Recently a friend told me she could not open the full posts of my blogs at work (a school system) because Radiant Abilities came up as a dating site.

Yes! That’s great news, although not at all true.

My intention is to periodically have dating resources for people, particularly in the areas of having the confidence to date, radiating the Power to Attract, and Healthy Relationships and Sexuality.

However, in keeping with the reputation of being a “dating” site, let’s talk about whether or not you should disclose of your online dating profile if you have a disability. I’ll share my answer through this story.

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When I was doing online dating, I always put on my profile that I live with cerebral palsy. In the dating world, and pretty much in general, I’m a “cut to the chase” person who likes to put everything on the table. When I was dating, I wanted people to know I live with CP so that if they could not live with it, they could step aside and make room for those who could. Remember, You’re Not for Everyone.

This one time, as I was planning to meet a guy for coffee, I emailed him specifically about my disability. We had been emailing each other for a bit and the subject had not yet come up. I remember writing that I just wanted to mention it so that he wasn’t surprised. No response.

Turns out I was the surprised one. He had cerebral palsy too.

As he approached me in the restaurant with the familiar gait and hand movement, I thought, “You got to be kidding me.” Not that he had cerebral palsy, but that he refused to go there. For me, things were over before he sat down.

His lack of acknowledgement about his disability (let alone mine) spoke volumes to me about how he was coping with his disability, and about his communication and problem solving skills in general. Important factors in dating.

Another reason why I say a resounding yes to disclosing your disability on your profile is because I believe that by not doing so, it reinforces the shame of disability.

Put it out there! Your disability is a wonderful part of what makes you YOU!

To reinforce that, share with me below one aspect of your disability that attributes to your wonderfulness. See mine below.

Posted in Confidence Builders, Dating Resources | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Why is it So Easy to Shock People?

I was told two stories yesterday of people with disabilities going out in life, taking advantage of living life, having fun and others being shocked by their desire to do so.

You have a disability and you're doing THAT?!

You have a disability and you’re doing THAT?!

It begged these questions in me – Why are people still so easily shocked by people with disabilities just living their lives? Why is it that some people think a presence of a disability negates the desire to have fun, take risks, and feel alive, enjoying life?

No disability can quell those very human desires.

The first story was about a man who has paraplegia and uses a wheelchair. He was at a wedding recently. During the dancing at the reception, the guests circled around the bride, taking turns getting in the center with her and dancing. When this man joined in, pulling his out his dance moves with his upper body and tipping his wheelchair back, the dancing crowd was shocked.

So were they astonished because:

A. He wanted to dance and joined in on the fun.
B. That he had the courage to get in the center with the bride. (Because let’s face it, we’ve all had that feeling of wanting to get in the center of attention, but feeling held back by our self-doubt.)
C. That he had better dance moves than the other people.
D. All of the above.

My vote is on D. This story reminds me of the new “frontier” we have in disability education – to teach society that it’s not just about getting accommodations and basic rights, but honoring our desire for FULL participation in ALL aspects of living life.

The second story was shared to me by an employee of Arise, the regional Independent Living Center in Central New York. Arise runs a Ski program every winter. The employee told me about giving a presentation about the ski program and someone from the audience asking, “Why would anyone with a disability want to ski?”

Really? People think that having a disability alone would take away the desire for fun, risk, and adventure?

Then I have to silently thank the person who asked this sincere question and the people at the wedding who stood in shock on the dance floor. They are both reminders and motivators for me to teach more and more about the importance of living life in ALL aspects (dance floor and snowy slopes included!).

As Radiant Abilities emerges into its new online presence as an information and training resource, look for a heavy emphasis on the art of living life fully with a disability.

You’re turn now, regardless of whether you have a disability, what action have you taken in which you have shocked people by your zest for life? Comment below and check out my answer.

Posted in LIVE your life, Taking Risks | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Letting Go of Safety: Great Way of Coping with Disability

Some of you may disagree with me on this.

When we live with a disability, sometimes we really do have to throw caution to the wind and just experience life.

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Last week as I was writing a section about my family for the About Page for the new Radiant Abilities website (to be unveiled very soon!), I realized a core reason why I am so focused in helping people live fully with a disability is because my family was so committed to having me experience all the fun and joys of being a kid.

Here’s a snapshot of my family’s philosophy of my disability. I have never been able to balance myself on a bike. Some of my earliest memories, though, are precariously sitting on the very front edge of my brother’s bike seat while having my feet resting on the “bar” part his handle bars and holding on to the handles. He would then sit on the seat and ride the bike. By doing so, he would help balance me on the bike. We’d go tooling around the neighborhood like this.

These were of course the days before the helmet law and when we did not have as much safety awareness as we do today. As an adult, I’m amazed my mother let us do this and so grateful that she did!

This was the start of teaching me to strategized (albeit, not always safely) around my disability in order to have the experience of fully living life. My family had the insight early on that sometimes the best way to cope with a disability is to focus on how to take it along for the ride (literally in this case), rather than having it hold you back.

As Radiant Abilities begins offering online resources to people with disabilities and their families, look for strategies and tools for helping you, or your loved one, take healthy risks (don’t worry, I won’t make you ride the handle bars) to lead the life they want. But first, go ahead, be brave, tell me below the experience you want that is worth the risk.

*photo by Solemar Del Sol Pansol via Instagram

Posted in Family Support, LIVE your life, Taking Risks | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment
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