Thursday, October 19, 2017

Behind the Mic Book Review: a special education by Dana Buchman

 "What was going on inside me - what still sometimes goes on - was a frightening identification with my daughter and a feeling of being revealed as less than perfect.  On the outside, I project a very together exterior; hard-working fashion designer of a popular label, happy wife and mother of two, with any unpleasant feelings neatly tucked in.  But on the inside, I am messy.  I am insecure, incomplete.  I always feel I'm not the best I can be, not an "A." Underneath the glam exterior, I'm vulnerable, flawed.. I have always been afraid of these very human emotions, and I've always done everything in my power to block them out" ----Dana Buchman

Well, this pretty much ends the writing of this book review, doesn't it?  Period. Ok, blog finished!  Ok, ok.. really, there is just a couple more paragraphs to this review, I promise!  I couldn't help but totally relate to the sentences above when thinking about my challenges, but the cool thing about having someone like Dana Buchman, one of the most recognized designers in women's clothing write a book and share her story, is that it shows she is made up of the exact same things we all are..flesh and blood.  That flesh and blood makes us all human.  No matter your situation in life, famous or not, able-bodied or not, married or single, black or white..the list could go on and on, we all have stories of triumph over difficult hurdles and obstacles.  Dana writes about discovering herself, which helped her in understanding that showing you're not perfect in every aspect is what makes you more relatable, and in the end, more comfortable with yourself.  You can't give to others from an empty cup.  In my own personal circumstances in coming to terms with cerebral palsy, I was ALL about denial and burying my head in the sand. Just like Charlotte though, no matter how hard I tried, it was there like a glaring eye sore..in order to cope, I had to face my challenges head on..Me, Me and only ME! That's the way Dana had to approach the roller coaster of challenges that would characterize her daughter Charlottes' journey with learning disabilities.  Fear, anger, confusion, deep sadness and pain.  This was not how Dana usually lived life... she was very in control, the driver of her own success.  Just when it seems that there is a boulder that wants to shatter her life in pieces, Charlotte slowly but surely proves that learning differences will not define her or those around her, especially the love and bond of her family!  This book was published in 2006, but the moral of the story is the same: Whatever your destination, there's a million beautiful, ever-changing ways to get us there!

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



Monday, October 9, 2017

Looking through my writing archives...A piece written for the HandicapThis Team!

This is a #Throwback post! I wrote this piece a couple of years ago for the HandicapThis Team! Hope you enjoy!

Emotions are what connect us.  We can speak to each other through emotions.  When someone cries, they need comfort.  When someone is angry or upset, they need a listening ear.  When someone is so happy they can’t hold it in, your heart bursts out in happiness with them!  What helps motivate you to connect with others through your emotions?  Understanding and fellow feeling.  These two qualities help you to put yourself in another person’s shoes.  You remember that, at certain times in your life you have also felt the weight of heavy emotions - the ones where you feel like you could break and shatter and not be able to go on...  You have also felt the feel good emotions, happiness and contentment, feeling so good that nothing will stop you!   You may say to yourself, “Negative thoughts, what negative thoughts? I’m ecstatic” ...as you bask in your happiness.  As you go through these emotions in your lifetime, who is there for you?  Whoever the person is, you no doubt feel so much better after you talk about how you feel.  Whether it’s pouring out your heart or getting set to accomplish something you have always dreamed of, someone you love, respect and care for is and was there, for...YOU.

Those who love you, may have taken the time to share insights into what helps them get through certain situations without letting their emotions take over and keeping a level head.  Then you may decide to pay it forward and share it with someone else.  For example, let’s say you try to give encouragement and positive help to someone and you walk away feeling like you helped them.  However, the next time you see them, they seem guarded and closed.  Within yourself, you may feel like the help or advice you gave, didn’t help at all.  Here’s something my mom has always said to me, “People can only give you what they can give you on that day”.   Everyone, disabled or not, deals with stresses, emotions and disappointments in different ways.  These things weigh on people, and there are days when it would just be easier to stay in bed!

A good thing to remember, though, is that the time you take to be there for someone will always be remembered.  When something is on someone’s shoulders, it sometimes takes time for the advice to sink in.  At the time, they may not be able to see how your advice will help them, but in the long run, it can have an impact on that person for the good - helping them to keep moving forward!  That’s such a wonderful gift you can give to another person - using what’s in your power to help.  A kind word or a gentle hug, can help that person to recharge and become resilient again!  

I often talk about how people with disabilities should be included in groups with those without disabilities so that each can benefit from the other.  People with disabilities are often thought of as needing something.  However, we can give something, as well.  Since there is more happiness in giving, I propose that we start something new.  All those who have disabilities (I’m included in this group:), can make an effort to give of themselves everyday.  Talk to someone without a disability.  Talk to someone with a disability!  Say hello and put on a warm smile. If you are able to have a longer conversation, you might be surprised by what you find out about them.  You may find out that you have more in common than you first thought and you might just be the person that makes their day a bit brighter.  Practice makes perfect and the more you practice relating to people, the more you can give of yourself to them.  People will observe the way you view the challenges and obstacles that come up in your daily routine, and how you handle them.  As you work on your perspective and your positive emotions, you will become a person who can be there for others.  As you give back for all the times others have given to you....the impact will be lasting and priceless!

Emotions are powerful for the good or bad, building up or shattering to pieces.  Ask yourself: What part do I want to play in how far Disability Awareness rolls on?  What kind of ripple effect do I want to make for those around me?  Emotions are what connect us.  Putting our heart into our emotions - the motivation behind how we use our emotions - will help keep us together!

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window a podcast podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana www.arcind.org/podcasts/





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