Happy Holidays – May They Be Wrapped with Love

I want to thank you for reading and hopefully enjoying this blog throughout the year. It truly means so much to me that you take the time to read various viewpoints and resources each week. I know there’s a great deal vying for your saber attention.

I am currently enjoying some vacation time as I get ready for a host of family gatherings. I hope you are having some down time as well with family. Whether or not you’re with family, I hope you also have some time for rest and reflection.

This week I’m offering a replay of my holiday blog about turning frustration into peace and acceptance. Okay, even when it just pertains to wrapping those gifts.

From Wrapped with Love
Originally published 12/23/11

Despite being up way too late all week with holiday preparations and feeling slightly stressed about getting it all done, I love the holidays!  

To me it’s about all my favorite things – family, friends, food, and most importantly, the gift of love and light in these darkest of days.  

I am a person who is most fed by my relationships with others.  I just love time spent with those I love and care for and the holidays are all about that for me.  It truly feels my soul, while all the irresistible Christmas cookies feeds my body.  I have been so happy this holidays season, even in the midst of trying to check off my endless “to do” list…..except for one thing…

The wrapping!  Ugh, the wrapping!  I just have to say it – I HATE WRAPPING PRESENTS!  Clearly, whoever invented wrapping did not have cerebral palsy or fine motor issues.  I always procrastinate on this task.  Everything about it frustrates me to no end.  

Let’s begin with cutting the paper.  You know those fancy craft scissors they have now that cut a jagged edge in the paper?  Don’t need that with CP; muscle spasms do it for you!  

The easiest part of wrapping is where you just take the long sides and tape them to the box.  However, I am usually either too short or too long because I became so frustrated with cutting the paper.  I usually end up ditching the scissors and tearing the paper.

Then come the ends of the package.  Oh, how I loathe those ends!  I can never fold them nice and neat like my mother taught me to do.  I can never fold two sides the same.   I end up using 800 pieces of tape to get the end to stay down.  Then there’s somehow still a bulge of wrapping paper on the ends.  I assure you, kindergarteners could probably put me to shame with their wrapping skills.

The other night as I began my wrapping, in no time I was struggling with an end and pieces of tape.  My husband walked in the room as I exclaimed my obvious detest for wrapping.  He walked up to me, gently taking the present and the tape, and saying in an understanding voice, “I know you do [hate this].”  

I then smiled and admitted to him I cut myself a great deal of slack when it comes to being concerned about how the present looks.  I said something along the lines of  figuring that people understand wrapping is not a forte when one has CP.

That’s the lesson in all this for me – trusting that beyond my not so pretty packages (and believe me, they aren’t pretty!), people see the effort made and understand the love in the effort.  

Isn’t that what we all hope for?  In the messiness of life and the challenges it brings, when we strive for our best, but miss our mark, and when we’re doing whatever our personal best is at the moment, don’t we hope most of all that others see the love in our attempts?  

And isn’t that one of the many lessons of the season?  Beyond the frantic pace and spending, may we remember the love that each of us brings is what we really need.

May all your gifts be wrapped with love this season, even if there’s a little frustration thrown in there.  Happy holidays!

Posted in All We Need is Love, Lessons Learned | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Two Most Important Factors in Empowering Children


My parents had no clue how to raise a child with a disability.

They did, however, know how to parent in general. I was lucky to come at the end of the line, after my three siblings.

If you were to ask my parents today, they would probably tell you that while there are a lot of circumstances that make parenting a child with a disability a different parenting experience, the core ingredients remain. These are what every child needs from a parent to feel empowered to face whatever challenges lay ahead:

LOVE – acceptance and honoring your child for who they are; their being and not what they do.

EXPECTATIONS – discover your child’s abilities and building on those to help him create a successful life.

As Kathie Snow’s (Disability is Natural is a must read for parents) quote above reminds us, our belief in our children carries so much more influence than what the medical profession and society would lead us to believe. When we love a child for who he is that lays the foundation for him being better able to meet expectations.

Let me explain further. Think about your own life. When you feel loved by someone that inherently gives you the confidence to believe in yourself and what you want to accomplish, even when it feels very daunting. The love from others nourishes your own sense of value in yourself.

This is so crucial for children and adults with disabilities, because let’s face it, the world does judge us harsher than others. However, the more we are loved by our family and/or our circle of support, the less that matters. Really and truly.

Furthermore, when we have expectations of accomplishing things, having a meaningful life, and doing what makes us happy, we become so focused on those things, we can more easily filter out the judgments of others.

One of the greatest gifts I received in my own life regarding expectations placed upon me was from the doctor who diagnosed me with cerebral. He delivered the news to my parents in a way that offered them hope and a sense that they could determine my success way more than CP ever could. It was a rarity in the late 1960s that a doctor would be that positive about a diagnosis of a disability. (Interest peeked? Grab a copy of Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities to read the whole story.)

Now For You…
Share below how love and/or expectations have changed your life.

Know someone who could benefit from this post? Please share it!

Posted in All We Need is Love, Empowering Children, Parenting Children with Disabilities | Leave a comment

Ended Too Soon, But Well-LIVED

But on my path to reach you, I promise to grab every opportunity with both hands, to say yes as often as I can, to take risks, to scare myself stupid, and to have a shitload of fun.
-Comedian and disability advocate, Stella Young, letter to her 80-year old self

This quote captures how we should ALL live – taking opportunities, saying a big YES to life, taking risks that even scare ourselves, and of course, having loads of fun. If we don’t do those, what kind of life are we living and what will we say to our 80-year old selves?

You may remember earlier this year, I wrote Are we really inspiring about the belief that Stella Young posed in her captivating TED talk that people with disabilities aren’t inspiring for just living their life.

Sadly, that voice of honest wisdom was silenced on Saturday. Stella passed away from what is believed to be an aneurysm at the too young age of 32. There was so much more we could have learned from her about LIVING with disability.

It was just last month that an eloquent letter to her 80-year old self was published. It’s so worth the bittersweet read.

Below you’ll find my reprint of Are We Really Inspiring in honor of Stella, who did not inspire us, but challenged us to look at things as they really are and to LIVE our precious lives, no matter what. Give yourself a gift and watch or re-watch her TED talk and share your reactions below in the comments.

Are We Really Inspiring?
Published: JUNE 18, 2014

Or are we just living lives?

That is the question posed and challenged to you in a video that ended up in my inbox last week. The answer is articulated beautifully by comedian and disability activist, Stella Young in a recent TED talk. This nine minute talk may challenge the way you look at people with disabilities and this whole notion about whether we’re inspiring or not. And that is a very good thing!

Stella captured what I have been thinking about for years now. Are people with disabilities viewed as typically inspiring for simply living pretty ordinary lives? Is it somehow inspiring when we grocery shop, pay bills, or go to work? If so, why?

“Because we have been told a lie about disability,” Stella says. “The lie is that disability is a bad thing and to live with one is exceptional.”

I love that statement. It so ties into I give on Releasing the Myth of Disability, which essentially teaches people to develop an awareness of the false societal belief that disability is a horrible fate. Stella claims (rightly so) that many people have a tendency to look at people with disabilities and think, “No matter how bad it is for me, it could be worse.”

There is so much teaching to be done to flip this attitude around and let society know there is joy and peace in living with a disability. Sometimes this serenity comes from the very fact we are different, that we don’t easily “fit in,” and we’re just fine with that. There’s also a lot of education needed about how people with disabilities often just lead ordinary lives and there’s nothing exceptional about that.

As I had the idea for this post rolling around in my head and was taking my evening walk with my son, who is still in a stroller, a man stopped along the trail to say to me, “I see you walking him (my son) here quite a bit and I got to tell you how inspiring you are.”

I thanked the man. I was not necessarily offended because I could tell the compliment was from the heart. He even touched his heart as he spoke to me. My belief is that if I can touch people’s hearts, then that’s the doorway to changing beliefs and attitudes.

After I thanked the man, I said, “Well, I have to get my exercise in somehow.” What I thought was how I was just doing a very ordinary thing – exercise – because heart disease does not discriminate against disability….and that I love this life of mine with a disability and want to keep living it for another 45 years!

Enjoy Stella’s talk, I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much; it’s so worth the nine minutes. Take her up on the challenge to question what you think you know about disability.

Posted in Confidence Builders, LIVE your life, Taking Risks, The Power of Disability | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What My Disability Makes Me Most Thankful For


In order to make peace with the adversity in our lives, we first have to learn to appreciate its lessons.

In this week when we’re hopefully trying to stay more focused on what we’re thankful for, rather than the Black Friday deals, I’d like to talk about being grateful for our disabilities, or any adversity we face for that matter.

Naturally, living with a significant difference in my ability to function in the world, has brought me oodles of blessings. I more deeply appreciate the accomplishments I have made. I believe I have a greater understanding of people I otherwise would not have. In my adulthood years, I have learned the art of surrendering to the things I can’t do – and actually being at peace with that.

All these are wonderful gifts that a life with cerebral palsy has presented me, but they’re not what I’m most grateful for.

On a very basic level, I am most indebted to my disability because it makes me me. I would not be Kathy O’Connell as I know her without all the complexities of living with a disability – and I would miss her. My personality would probably be very different, my perspectives would be altered, and I really believe I would relate to others differently.

I would not trade that for all the gross and fine motor skills in the world, because I just would not be me.

On this Thanksgiving week, share with me below what your disability or any other adversity you face makes you thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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How to Believe in Yes When They Say No

Do you sometimes believe in the impossible?

So do I! It has helped me in incredible ways throughout my life to believe in things that people say cannot be done. This is true whether I succeed or fail.

Let’s actually look at failing first. Looking back over my life thusfar, I have come to learn when I believe in something and it does not come to fruition, I learn an awful lot about myself and the experience in the process. Trite, but true.

The recent campaign of Living Fully with Disability is a good example of this valuable learning experience. The campaign was generously funded by 28 people and over $2,500 was raised. That’s great and will fund a few free personal empowerment videos for people.

It is far from our goal of $11,700. Yet I learned so much about the art of fundraising, my views on appealing to people for funding, and the genuine kindness and generosity of people – all of which is so valuable as I further the goals of Radiant Abilities.

Now for a slice of personal success against the odds.

This is also trite but true. If I listened to every person who told me that something I wanted and believed in was not possible or within my reach, my life would be very different than it is today. I would not have the real significant things I treasure most in my life – being an entrepreneur, owning a home, being married, and having my son.

Of those four, my son was the biggest “impossible” that came into my life because I believed so strongly that my husband and I were meant to be parents. I am going to try to give you the abridged story here.

I married later in life and the biological clock was winding down by the time I did marry. Motherhood was something I could never remember not wanting. My husband, Scott, could also not imagine life without children. We were delighted when I became pregnant at age 42. Four weeks later our joy turned into heartbreak when I had a miscarriage.

One of the most helpful coping skills I have is to always look at the possibilities for achieving my goals, rather than focusing on what isn’t happening. Having the miscarriage sent me into grieving for months. I sensed that the pregnancy I loss was my sole chance at having children biologically.

I delved into researching adoption. What came to me was a surprise. After four months of research, I told Scott I believed deep within me our path to creating a family was foster care. I never thought I could be someone to take children into my home, care for them, and be able to let them go if needed. However, something within me, shouted this clearly.

When we have an inexplainable sense within us that something will work, we need to follow that.

So Scott and I began the six month long process of getting approved to be foster parents. Throughout the process we continually indicated our preference for a baby to foster. We were told repeatedly there were few babies needing foster care and we would probably wait years for one.

Despite the improbabilities, I believed that something was going to work out. I kept going back to this belief with every no we got.

On a cold January morning in 2012 I received a call from our intake worker that at last our application process was complete and we were approved to be foster parents. Now we just had to wait for an unknown length of time for that magical phone call, asking if we would take a child into our home.

We did not wait long. ONE HOUR later we received a call for a four week old boy who had been placed in the county’s care when he was five days old. That little baby turned out to be our Jaden, the miracle we were believing in.

I write this post today in honor of National Adoption Day this Friday, November 21, 2014. A year ago we adopted Jaden on National Adoption Day and officially became the family we always believed we could be. This was because we listened to our YES when others said no.

Sometimes you just need to do that. If you feel something is truly right for you, keep going back to this belief with every no you get. Who knows? A miracle may happen.

Now tell me what you’re believing in that feels impossible and how you handle the noes?

Posted in Believe in Yourself, Confidence Builders, Lessons Learned, Strategies/Techniques | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

What’s Your Firewalk?

Wanna hear my story of walking on a bed of hot coals?

As many of you know, my book, Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities, is essentially about my life experience of learning how to lîve happily and successfully with a disability.


Here’s the story about how I really got the lesson in learning to live fully and happily with a disability. Several years ago I was invited as part of a group training I was doing to take part in a Firewalk.

The group didn’t know walking across hot coals was one of our exercises until right before it was presented to us. While the group leaders made it clear that no one had to do the firewalk, as I listened to them talk about it, I thought, “Well, of course I’ll do this.”

As the group broke to walk outside to the firewalk ceremony, one of the group leaders approached me and said, “You do not have to do this.” I began to cry when he said this because I knew the willful place in me that was going to do it, was coming from my ego, which said, “The girl with CP is going to prove to everyone I can do this.”

Our leader just said, “If you do do it, come and get me and I’ll hold your hand.” This was a great relief to me because I was already imagining falling and burning my face or something. Weren’t my feet enough to worry about?

The core philosophy of a firewalk is that if it’s done with the right intentions, one won’t get burned. Well, I knew if I did the firewalk from my ego, my feet would surely feel the pain.

So I preceded outside to join the firewalk ceremony which included drumming and people walking around the bed of coals, meditating on their intention. As I began watching my colleagues take their thoughtful turns on the firewalk and celebrate their process, I realized I wanted the experience of doing the firewalk more than the fear of what would happen if I did it.

I also realized throughout my life of living with a physical disability, I lived with the fear of what might happen if I did things – falling, not being able to do things, needing help – and I was tired of it.

I knew at that moment I had my right intention to do the firewalk.

So I approached my leader and took his hand. Now I was naive enough at the time to think he would actually do the firewalk with me and I led him to the coals, he stopped alongside the coals and I realized he was just there to walk alongside the path of coals and help me balance but I was on my own.

I took a deep breath and place my bare foot on the 1500 degree coals. I did feel an instant hotness, but after that I just felt how very alive I was in that moment and that I was literally walking on my fear toward greater freedom in living my life.

Doing the firewalk changed me and how I approach taking risks and fear’s hold on me.

I’m here today to encourage you to take the firewalk (obviously not an actual one) that is facing you today. It may be applying for a job, trying to return to school, making friends, living on your own. Allow the experience to help you discover how you can live more freely from the fear that holds you.

Make a comment below and tell me what firewalk you’re facing and what fears that brings up in you.

Posted in Confidence Builders, Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities, Lessons Learned, LIVE your life, Taking Risks, The Power of Disability | 2 Comments

Just pick and click!

I really, really want to know what you’re thinking.

I want to be able to design the personal and professional development video trainings I am creating to meet your needs.

Part of why I am launching this video series is because I have found that there’s just not enough resources online that talk about the strategies and tools helpful to living life happily and successfully with a disability.

I, of course, have many ideas from my life and work which I think will be helpful. I have begun to share them in previous posts. However, I really want and need your input!

I created some VERY BRIEF (should really only take about five minutes) surveys to elicit some feedback. Pick what category best fits you and click on the link.

People with disabilities survey

Family members of people with disabilities survey

Professionals in the disability field survey

Give me your feedback here.

If you find you’re in more than one category, go ahead and complete all the surveys that apply to you.

Thank you so very much for your precious time and feedback in helping me improve what I deliver to you.

Lastly, just a reminder The Living Fully with Disability Campaign wraps up a week from today, 11/14/14. Please spread the word to help create FREE empowerment videos.

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Five Affirmations for Living HAPPILY with a Disability

Confidence is key to a happy and successful life.

This is true regardless of ability level. Perhaps even more true if you live with a disability, or any major difference, for that matter.

A disability certainly sets you apart from the crowd – and that’s a good thing! How absolutely boring would the world be if we were all the same. Sometimes though, a disability, a difference in movement, thought, speech, doing tasks, looks, can bring unwanted attention.

Much of my work in recent years has centered on helping people to affirm themselves in the face of going out in life and being “different.” Affirm? What does that mean? To build oneself from within, to recognize one’s strengths and offer the encouragement to bring them forth. Affirming gives our abilities the power to shine.

Affirmations are positive statements we feed our self-esteem that remind us of our strengths, positive qualities, and goodness. Affirmations are most effective when we say them repeatedly and frequently to ourselves and also out loud or on communication devices.

When we say affirmations frequently and regularly (aka daily), our confidence naturally builds. Similar to how a computer gets programmed, we program our minds to focus on the positive within ourselves. Centering your attention on the positive is so crucial when you have a disability because let’s face it, the hardship of having one, can weigh a great deal on our confidence.

Below I have listed five affirmations for living happily and successfully with a disability. Try them on for yourself. See how you feel after saying them several times. Then take the challenge below.

1. My disability allows me the freedom to be different.
2. I have so many strengths within me, such as _____________.
3. By being exactly who I am, there’s so much that I offer.
4. I love who I am, my body, and its uniqueness.
5. There is so much I am able to do and be when I focus on my strengths.

The Challenge
Come up with your own affirmation and share it in the comments below. Some simple rules to effective affirmations are to keep them short and in the present tense. If you use the future tense (I will…) you’re sending your brain a subtle message that you’re not yet what you want to be.

The Living Fully with Disability Campaign is going strong. Please check out the latest video update – Living Fully with Disability

So much is happening now at Radiant Abilities, a monthly newsletter will be launched in November, along with weekly blog posts!

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Tips for Finding Your Purpose

Every single person, regardless of ability level, has a purpose. In fact, your disability has a purpose in your life. I like to say there are no random occurrences in the world of disability.

As challenging as it may be at times, your disability plays a specific role in your overall purpose in your life. What I am learning in my own life is this role evolves over time.

I used to think I was living with cerebral palsy to teach people about differences. It’s become more specific over time. At this point in my life, I realize what I am teaching is about living life to the fullest when you deal with a significant adversity and finding joy in the journey.

I recently came across an easy five-step process in finding your purpose in Success magazine by Tom Corley. It resonated with me because when I talk to people about finding their purpose. I encourage people to focus on what makes them happy and what they’re interested in.

I’m tossing out a challenge to you to take this five-step process and then leave a comment below about what you discovered about yourself.

1. Make a list of everything you can remember that made you happy.
2. Highlight those items on your list that involve a skill and identify that skill.
3. Rank the top 10 highlighted items in order of joy they bring to you. Whatever makes you happiest of all gets 10 big points.
4. Now rank the top 10 highlighted items in term of their income potential. The most lucrative skill of all is worth 10 points.
5. Total the two rank columns. The highest score represents a potential main purpose in your life.

If you don’t come up with 10 items, don’t worry. Go with whatever you come up with.


We’re just over the halfway mark! We’ve hit $1295, thanks to several generous contributions. We so appreciate the people making it possible for people with disabilities and their families to have free personal empowerment videos!

There is a new twist to the perks. You may “donate” your perk to whoever you would like. Just let Kathy know by making a comment.

18 days to go! Please spread the word on social media and in your email networks. You can share the link below:

Living Fully with a Disability Campaign

Thanks so much for your support!

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Why Am I Doing This?

You all need more free stuff, don’t you?

No, I’m not talking about those chia pets we all bought in the 1980s (yes, I’m dating myself) or things collecting dust in the basement.

I am talking about content, information, guidance, and resources to offer tools, strategies, and inspiration for people to step more into their power, embrace their disability, and feel empowered to go out and live the life they want, pursuing dreams and even taking risks. Information like this:

Steps to Integrating Your Disability into Your Self Concept
Step 1: From the embracing process, begin to see your disability as a natural part of yourself.
Step 2: Love your disability, even when you hate it. Remember what we talked about in the embracing process, your disability is with you for the long haul and important teacher for you and everyone else.
Step 3: Focus on how your disability draws out STRENGTHS within yourself. For example, if your disability limits your physical activity, are you more capable in other areas like computer skills or social skills?
Step 4: Become more comfortable with being “different.” No one is completely alike anyway. The fact is your disability will always draw attention, people may be curious, and people may be afraid. It’s all okay. You may not be able to change how your body works or your mind processes, so why not proudly claim the difference that makes you uniquely you?

The above is from Embrace. Integrate. Radiate. LIVE. the first personal development video produced for my video series for people with disabilities. It will be release later this fall along with a free video on Define Yourself: How to Live More Fully with a Disability. Here’s an excerpt from that:

All of us have abilities. There is no one without any ability.
Begin defining yourself by what you can do, what you enjoy, and what interest you. This is how you transform negative perspectives on disabilities, which have been damaging, into a sense of self-acceptance for exactly who you are, the way you are. Develop a filter for others’ opinions of you. Remember, people’s misperceptions do not have to become your definitions of yourself.

Why am I doing this? Taking all this time to create videos and content for people?

After 17 wonderful years of counseling people with disabilities, I feel a strong calling to focus more on helping people live more fully and confidently with a disability and to pursue their dreams. To be honest, in my years of counseling I have seen a lot of heart break and broken spirits by the hardship of living with a disability and by being seen as “different.”

I want to take my message to a new level about uplifting people who feel devalued by their disability and that they have no choices. Life is just too short to let a disability get the best of you.


Please go to the Fully Living With Disability campaign

With limited resources for this and my passion to get my message about living fully and happily with a disability, I have launched campaign to help raise the initial start up funds, mostly for the free content, for this new business.

People can join the Fully Living with Disability campaign at any dollar amount, although there are incentives for particular contributions.

I am also asking you to sharing the link with your network:


I deeply appreciate you taking the time to consider this special request. It means a great deal to me. A heartfelt thank you.

Posted in LIVE your life, Radiant Abilities Video Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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