Thursday, August 24, 2017

Behind the Mic Book Review: Wonder by RJ Palacio

As I was reading this book I was thinking about someone inspecting an apartment to rent, only to find that the apartment is in poor repair.  Despite the bumps and bruises, though, you can see that it has real potential to be a modern, chic, up and coming place to call home.  You start to take steps to give it the care and attention it needs, and in the end, it really does become the most perfect place to establish a life with those you love.  You saw the potential it had when you started to put the effort in to get it how you wanted it.  Anyone dealing with a challenge knows that it takes real effort sometimes to see your own value and potential.  To feel comfortable in your own skin and view yourself as a place you want to call home.  Especially when your particular challenge or obstacle obscures your view.  But the first step to seeing anything, maybe even something you may not like about yourself, is to look at it straight on.  This mindset is developed and worked on over time because it's never easy to accept something that takes so much energy to not let it prevent you from enjoying life.  This funny, uplifting and incredibly moving novel teaches a wonderful lesson about getting out of your comfort zone, pushing the envelope and preparing yourself for growth.  Growth can hurt and sting, but at times, humor can make it less painful.  The star of this book is a boy named August and he has a facial deformity.  His parents knew they couldn't protect him forever by keeping him home schooled.  While they understood why August wouldn't want to go to public school, they also knew that they had to prepare him for life in the real world.  So, his mom and dad started talking about memories of their school days, and before you know it, August was able to contemplate attending his own school.  Three students named Jack, Charlotte and Julian were assigned to take August on a tour of Beecher Prep middle school.  Before August meets these students, the comparison is made through August's past experiences, between younger kids and older kids.  Younger kids usually say things innocently, but older kids say things with greater intent to harm someone.  People spend less and less time being empathic towards each other and it has had, and will continue to have disastrous emotional effects.  On the other hand, it's a two way street.  To help people understand, maybe even to have a better reaction, you have to put away the selfish emotions and put yourself in someone else's shoes.  Jack really helped August in that regard...acknowledging that Julian could be a jerk, but it was important for August to talk and interact so that he could diffuse a potentially uncomfortable situation for himself and everyone else.  When all is said and done, not everything in life, or with people, will be how you want it.  The important thing to get straight in your mind is how to not let it stop you from moving forward or changing who you are.  Situations like what August found himself in, trying to help his classmates see he's just like them, also makes you see who your friends are.  August found out that Jack and Charlotte wanted to be true friends with him and their actions showed it.  Another classmate, Summer, whom August ends up eating lunch with everyday, made meeting August fun.  She didn't assume that August was weird!  Instead, she sought to get to know him by asking him his name and then pointing out that their names had a common theme, so their table turned into the "summer" table.  Only kids with summer names could sit there!  Then she looked around the room showing August the kids who fit the criteria to potentially sit at their table, a non-awkward introduction of sorts!  Way to go Summer!!  Summer, Jack and Charlotte all chose kindness...which ultimately led to them seeing beyond Augusts' face and seeing who he truly was deep inside.  Simply, a boy who wants to be like everyone else.  Support from the people you care about most can make the difference in whether you survive and thrive, or completely crumble. The first step is an easy one: #ChooseKind

Everyone goes through times that seem to be never ending and seem to have gigantic obstacles everywhere you turn, but if you stay with your face to the wind, on the other side you will be forever changed and it will shape the person you eventually become. August's mom was right, through it all, he became a true Wonder...You have that ability to become a Wonder, too...a tried and true WONDER!!

For more on author RJ Palacio, go to: http://rjpalacio.com/

This book is becoming a MAJOR MOTION PICTURE!! Watch the Trailer: http://www.wonder.movie/#

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Monday, May 8, 2017

Being Elmo: A MUST see Puppeteer's Journey!

I've always been curious to know what goes on behind the scenes and hear the personal story of why people are doing what they do.  That's exactly what you get to do in this documentary!  As a young child, Kevin Clash became fascinated by the characters of Sesame Street when it premiered on November 10th, 1969.  The Sesame Street set reminded him of his own neighborhood in Baltimore. He loved everything Jim Henson did including his ability to make his own puppets from start to finish.  It motivated Kevin to take the steps needed to make his dreams become a reality.  When he was 17 years old, his mom Gladys knew he had talent as a puppeteer, so she called Kermit Love, the man who built many of the life size muppets for Jim Henson. She asked Kermit if her son Kevin could meet him since he was interested in puppetry.  Kermit said the next time he, Jim and the team were in town, he could come to the muppet workshop.  The time came sooner than later when Kevin and his high school class took a trip to New York City!  Finally, Kevin could learn more to further his skills as a puppet maker and a puppeteer.  During that once in a lifetime trip, he got to tour the muppet workshop, ask questions about what materials the muppets were made from, and even discover the Jim Henson "stitch".  While growing up, Kevin was teased in school by classmates because they said he was "playing with dolls".  He wasn't just playing with dolls, he was perfecting his craft, which brought smiles to those who needed it most, including children with special needs or terminal illness.  In time, Kevin met Jim Henson and became part of Sesame Street as a curious, precocious three year old monster named Elmo!  Elmo is known for his love of children and children just LOVE Elmo!!  Kevin through Elmo shows that he cares for people and understands that love, support and belief in others really allows them to soar!  Being Elmo is unbelievably well done and shows that with tenacity and determination you can do what you truly love and make an indelible impact on the lives and hearts of all those who need it most, which happens to be all of us!

Thank you Kevin Clash and Constance Marks for coming together and sharing each of your talents to produce this touching and inspiring documentary!

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Monday, May 1, 2017

Behind the Mic Book Review: Going Places. Children Living with Cerebral Palsy.

As people, it's in our nature to lead an active, full vibrant life, with lots of laughter love and adventure thrown in for good measure!  Do you notice, too, that when we live life we get the greatest joy by sharing it with others?  People with cerebral palsy are no different. In fact, the very qualities that motivate us as people, are just as strong in those with the extra challenge of cerebral palsy.  We may have obstacles, but that doesn't put a damper on our desire to participate in life for one minute!  Thomas Bergman, author of the 1991 children's book, Going Places-Children Living with Cerebral Palsy, shows that kids with this physical challenge aren't defined by it, but it gives them motivation to live life the best they can!
The book follows six-year old, Mathias.  He has a mom, dad, a younger sister Emma and a cat!  Does that sound like your family? :)  Mathias was diagnosed with being deaf and having cerebral palsy when he was two years old.  His mom and dad were sad for a bit, but Mathias' happiness made life a little easier!  Attitude is the foundation for how you will be able to cope with things and make adjustments.
Through the words and pictures that make up this book, Mathias never loses his bright smile or that undeniable sparkle in his eye!  He goes to school, plays with his sister, loves rock music, goes to the doctor and has physical, occupational and speech therapy.  He types on a computer so that he can communicate with those who might not know sign language like his family does.
All of the adaptations that Mathias uses to help him either to physically function or otherwise, doesn't mean he's not smart or funny.  Those who may not have the ability to speak because of how cerebral palsy affects them have many valuable things to share and with the aid of communication devices, can give voice to those valuable things and connect with those around them in a meaningful way!
This book is a wonderful resource for children, parents and teachers.  It has a wonderful glossary of supplementary information, encouraging kids to ask questions about cerebral palsy because asking questions and taking in information is a great thing!
Thomas Bergman shows in this short book, that no matter what it takes to get around, those with disabilities, in particular cerebral palsy, are going many places, indeed!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Getting to the HEART of it all!

We all remember how the Tin Man in the Wizard of OZ desperately wanted a heart.  Who could really blame him! The heart is an extraordinary organ.  Your heart is one giant pump! Listen to this fun fact!  Every minute, your heart pumps about five quarts of blood through a system of blood vessels that's over 60,000 miles long!  That equals about 2,000 gallons every day!  We do countless things with our heart, if you think about it.  When our feet hit the floor in the morning, we list everything we are grateful for.  If you're like me, not only are you grateful for another day of life, but you can't WAIT to take the first sip of your morning coffee!!  You may have a heart to heart with those you love dearly.  Your heart has the ability to show love and compassion to someone who needs it.  Joy and laughter come from your heart.  Determination and passion spring from it.  Our heart is our number one side kick, as it were, wouldn't you say? Without it, life couldn't carry on!  To show our gratitude, we need to do our best to take care of it, before there's a problem..right?  That's what my mom and I did not too long ago!  We showed some #HEARTLOVE to our giant pump!  So, we went to  the hospital in Lafayette to get a heart scan as a preventative measure.  We checked in and went to the room where the heart scan machine is, which looks like an MRI, but is open on both ends and even has cool air flowing through it!  Mom went first, which allowed me to observe before having my own scan done.  They ask you to relax so that the machine can take the best pictures to check for plaque, clogged arteries and so forth.  My mom relaxed so much that it looked like she was on a European vacation!  When the technician hooked her up to the heart monitor, she very sweetly said: "Now Gayle, your heart rate is a little high, it's around 80 and we need it a little lower, so just relax and go to your happy place!"  Mom had no problem finding her happy place and just like that her scan was done!  Now, it was my turn.  I got hooked up to the heart monitors and things are good, right?  WRONG!!  My body decides to have a MASSIVE panic attack! My heart rate went from 80 to 160 in seconds flat!!  My panic was so high my body wouldn't stay still on the table!!  I was so embarrassed that I almost burst into tears. The technicians were so sweet, though!!  While going through this horrible attack, they were asking me what I usually do to calm my anxiety attacks at home.  I couldn't even think, but thank goodness for my mom!  She said: "She enjoys listening to music!"  I said I loved *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys.  The next thing I knew, I heard Justin Timberlake's voice singing "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You."  One of my favorite songs!!  The technician had pulled it up on her phone for me!  I kid you not, my heart rate went down to 80!  The moral of the story is this: Show some #HEARTLOVE to your giant pump...Oh, and a little *NSYNC thrown in never hurts either!!

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Behind the Mic Book Review: Chloe's Journey by Claudia Orrett

"We have been truly blessed to witness Chloe's milestones.  The fact that she walks independently, attends a regular school with regular friends.  That we hear her laugh more than cry.  It's all magnificent."  This statement from author Claudia Orrett perfectly describes the title of this beautifully written heartfelt book!  Every emotion within me was touched, not just because I related to the book because I have cerebral palsy and a ''typical" sibling, but I also felt for Claudia and her husband John.  It was difficult for them to grasp that their beautiful little sassy, sweet girl had something that could be so life changing!  You as the reader, go through all those ups and downs with Claudia and John.  Through years of research, and traditional and non-traditional treatments for Chloe, you see the fog start to clear for Claudia as she started to be able to distinguish what would work and what wouldn't work.

I was trying to imagine how difficult it would be to write this book, having to relive all the hard moments this sweet family had to endure... but, in the same breath, writing it down would help them to see just how incredibly far they've come!  Through all the uncertainty, frustrations and feelings of despair, everyone on "Team Chloe" never gave up!  Instead they said: ""She CAN!  We will support Chloe all the way!"  Because of that mindset, Chloe and all those in her circle THRIVE!  Claudia gives you a wealth of information, including pictures of Chloe doing her exercises in therapy with diagrams and notes.  She's also included pictures of things Chloe's friends have done to show how much they love her.  All of this gives us a glimpse into what is involved in navigating the cerebral palsy journey.   Through her own journey with Chloe, Claudia mentions how family support has been an invaluable source of strength, but what I appreciated the most, was the unwavering love and support that Claudia and John have established between each other.  It provided a strong foundation which made them successful, as a couple, but ultimately as a family when things got tougher.  That foundation has truly had an impact on Chloe.  Her parents have helped her to push the boundaries of what she can do, so she can realize her dreams on her own merit and determination.  Trust me, Chloe has some determination!!  My heart was connected to this family from the first page until the last, and my hope is that you will feel the same!  If the Orrett family can make a success of this journey, many others can too....Reading this book is one of the first steps to that success!!

Claudia, John, Samantha & Chloe: Thank you SO much for sharing your journey! Thank you for including my story and journey in your book as well...It touched my heart!  I wish you much success with this book!

Michelle Fischer is the host of A View from my Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Boost your Self-esteem... go ahead! Its good for you!!

I wish I had known about Boost your Self-esteem Month when I was going through my self-defeating teenage years.  Now that I know that there is such a thing, I'm advocating for you to click on this post, to boost your self-esteem now!  It will benefit you now and in the long run, as you navigate life's ups and downs.  Self-esteem is the confidence in ones' own worth and abilities.  Having a physical disability clouded my view of any abilities I had, yet in the same breath, I was developing the not so attractive trait of feeling entitled to something.  Feelings of having everything under control, yet, falling apart at every seam!  As I woke up from being so consumed with myself and started to be more aware of GIVING to others, I really started to see what positive things I could give to others!  Now, when I look in the mirror, I'm loving and smiling at the girl staring back at me!  The greatest gift you can give to yourself is never allowing anyone or anything to dull your sparkle!!  Who should determine that?  You, you, you!  Make the determination to not allow the seeds of negativity to become entrenched in your mind, heart and outlook! You don't deserve to lose all sense of your identity!  You deserve to be who you are, no apologies required!  I remember not too long ago, shopping with my mom, and I was having a good self-esteem day.  That day I looked into the mirror and I was so thankful that even though it is a daily effort to work on my emotions, it is worth the effort!  Fighting the urge to give in to my less than positive emotions is an uphill battle, but I'm glad I've put up the fight.  The mirror doesn't lie, it will show you the positive changes you've made, but it will put a BIG glaring light on the things you need to change.  When you put in the hard work, you will see someone who glows and that glow has a ripple effect....You may have been beat down at one point, but you got back UP!!  You are beautiful, strong and ready to pay it forward to others!  I have found that my faith has really been a stronghold for me in working with my emotions.  Even when I deal with the days when my self-esteem is a little lower, I know my heavenly father, God and friend will always see me in the most positive light possible even when I can't see it myself!  One of my favorite scriptures I always have in my memory bank is Isaiah 40:29 "He gives power to the tired one And full might to those lacking strength"  Remembering these words and many other scriptures as part of my daily routine does wonders for my outlook!  As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, tending to my spiritual needs as well as giving to others, keeps my outlook bright!

There you have my prescription for boosting my Self-Esteem, now, its your turn! Now, Go Forth and Conquer low self-esteem!!

To read more ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem, Check out this article from The Positivity Blog! http://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2013/09/11/improve-self-esteem/

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A look back through the Window of the past year!

It's hard to believe that another year has come and is almost gone.  What has never left, though, is the love I have of interviewing, meeting new people, hearing their stories and bringing them to you... It truly never gets old or boring!  If my Grandpa Applegate could see me now... he would be beaming with pride!  He was my mom's dad.  He was always such a stable, caring man in my life! I was proud to call him one of my grandparents!  He was the one I was sitting with in my living room the day I decided I was going to be in news. When I looked back at him and said: "Grandpa, I want to be a news anchor", I knew that I would have his support.  He's been gone for 22 years and still to this very day, I wish I could call him or sit with him and celebrate the achievement of the goal of doing what I love!  He was my loudest cheerleader and my most sought after support...just like my mom is....her daddy taught her well!  How I was raised and how my family treated me and others around them, really shaped not only myself as a person, but also the kind of anchor I have become.  I was always included in family activities, never excluded, but loved, and very much embraced.  In all the interviews I do, that is the mindset I come in with, striving to make the person feel at ease.  An interview style that allows the the person's voice and story to shine through, showing them dignity and empathy, as the story takes shape and starts to unfold.  Reflecting over this past year, my emotions and heart are always touched to see the resilience of the human spirit and the determination of those whom I have the pleasure of meeting.  I want you to know that all the interviews I've done this year and for the past 7 years, have all had a great impact on me.

Another major milestone of the Arc of Indiana, was the opening of the Erskine Green Training Institute and Teaching Hotel in Muncie.  It's been the first year for the training program to teach students a variety of skills in the hospitality industry.  It's been amazing to see what this institute has done for all those who have taken the leap to climb out of their comfort zone and realize what they are truly capable of.  It's been incredible to see!

THANK you so much to all of you who have listened to the podcast over these last seven years.  I'm truly grateful for all of you!  Thank you for allowing me to bring you the important issues and inspiring stories that the podcast covers.  Thank you for taking the time to meet me and telling me why you listen to the podcast and how it has brought a smile to your face!!

Thank you to ALL of the Arc staff and especially my team... my producer Sally Morris and my sound engineer Bryce Dickerson.  Thank you for making my work so rewarding...we are truly a team!  I can't imagine this podcast without you!  You bring stability to me when I'm nervous and a pat on the back when I'm unsure of myself (which happens more often than not..right? haha!!) The best medicine we throw in though, is laughter!!  Thank you as always...The Arc is VERY special to me!!

To my Mom: You had the hardest job: raising me!  Your love, confidence and hilarious humor has always gotten us though!  I will always be forever grateful for your support!

Here's to more podcasts and much more in 2017!