Monday, December 30, 2013

It all started around the kitchen table.... :)

Have you ever really stopped and thought about how important the kitchen table is in your house?  It’s at the center of where everything important happens.  Memories are made, decisions are reached, and bonds are forged.  In my case it became one of the foundation building blocks that would take me through my rough times.  I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Fischer’s kitchen table so fondly even to this day!  

That kitchen table was where I learned kindness, compassion, and support.  I grew up in a family where getting together and seeing everyone was a refreshing intimate time to catch up, laugh and rebuild each other!  When entering the house, I remember even as a little tike, a feeling of instant comfort and coziness inviting me in.  I was never ignored, but included.  I was cheered on, helped and most of all...LOVED!!   I was part of the weave that was my family.  I always felt like if I wasn’t there...I knew they would feel like something so important was missing.   I was never put to the sidelines or less valuable because I was different physically.  Everyone, including my parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents were a team, and we helped each other out.  When we were making food for a family dinner, I was always in my high chair close by or included in the action somehow.  Or, sometimes we would simply look at old photos or look outside at the beautiful lake down the lane.  Whatever we did, I was never far away!! 

Children learn by example. The example set by the people in my family was never unnoticed or unappreciated in the least!  As I have entered adulthood, and have learned to grow into my own skin, I’m incredibly grateful for the the time, patience and love I was shown by my family members!

All of us get caught up in the “on-the-go”, but it’s important to slow down and take time to be with family.  Nobody loves you like your family does. Nobody will cheer louder or harder for you. And your family will use all their power to lift you back up on to your feet when you fall.  Realizing the strength and need for the bond of family happens around the kitchen table.  Never underestimate the need for family time for all in the family. The routines and memories you establish now, will make an impression and be a source of comfort during those hard times. Trust me, you will be thanked.  The advice and sometimes tough love family members have given me sticks with me.  When I’m not confident in myself one day, I hear my mom’s voice say, “Honey, you are doing things you never thought you would be doing, be proud of that”!  Or I hear Grandpa’s voice saying,  “Whatever you choose to do, you can do it and I will support you!”

The support and belief in me from those whom I care about is easy to see now, and is the very thing that started the spark of belief in myself to accomplish things I wanted to do.  Home is where your heart is. Family is where your STRENGTH is...and it all starts around the kitchen table.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The power of telling other people's stories helped me heal from the inside out, and a dream job took shape!

“DREAM BIG”, something that seemed to be my motto as a little girl and going into my pre-teen years.  My family and friends never treated me like my disability was any big mountain that would prevent me from going for and reaching the goals I wanted.  So off my mind went into dreams of training dolphins, being a teacher, or an actress living in places around the world, having kids and a husband.  “I will have these things, I thought, whatever challenges I face, they will fade away and everything will be fine!“

It’s almost as if I went to bed one night with optimism on my side and then the next day, it seemed, my life came crashing down around me. I was a train wreck of emotions....I didn’t know the person I saw staring back at me in the mirror.  I hated who I was seeing!
The things I thought I knew about myself, my values, my likes and dislikes....all my goals and roads to reach those goals were cloudy and distant, filled with mountain-like boulders that I was in no way prepared to tackle!  Gone were the days in the latter years of being a teen when I looked forward to getting out of bed and on with the day!  I merciliously beat myself up over something everyday, and everything I did, I questioned: Would a guy love me someday?  Would I make a good wife?  If someone asked him who I was as a person what would he say?  What kind of a mother would I be?  If my mother was asked by someone about the kind of person I was, what would she be able to say?  Was I considered a good friend?  These and more filled my head and slowly broke and eventually shattered my spirit.

Each negative thought that spun inside my mind just made me more upset and angry that I was disabled in the first place.  Why do I have to go through this?  Why didn’t anybody tell me that it would be this painful to grow up?  Why didn’t I realize that I needed to take steps to be more independent?  I was riddled with guilt and despair every second of the day!

At one of my darkest moments laying awake in bed, I desperately tried to think of ways to pull myself out of this emotional  tailspin.  That’s when my dream of becoming a journalist started to form as one of the many things that would heal and restore me from the inside out.  The ability to push my problems aside and allow myself to learn from other’s stories and give them a voice for their pain and struggles.  A healing for them and a healing for me.  You become a snapshot in time, a memory in that person’s life as a journalist, for as long as you tell their story.  All the while, remembering that its not about the glamour of the job, but its about showcasing the power of the human spirit to be resilient!  Anderson Cooper, my favorite journalist, said it best: “Be honest about what you see, get out of the way and let the story reveal itself”

The most beautiful gift: The power of someone’s story being voiced, and through that, showing them that they are a valuable, beautiful person.....and through THEIR story....realizing that I CAN think the same of myself! :)

**** This article appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of Unique Me Magazine :)

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

Monday, December 23, 2013

The image in the mirror...the perception of beauty.

The is a changin’...and I applaud companies who have started to recognize  people with disabilities for the beauty that is within them and on the outside too!  Real people facing real issues, like for instance: being teased, taunted, and made fun of as the punchline of someone’s joke.  But now, a new opportunity arises for them.  Public awareness of what they can do!  Whether it’s a being model, an actor, an author or an athlete, the list is endless!  For a moment in time, allowing the disability to fade away, and being treated with the dignity they deserve.  All too often, the emphasis is placed on the outer beauty, and the inner beauty is ignored completely.  If a company is promoting feeling good about yourself, and they use a model who possesses outer beauty, yet is known to be self-centered and ugly on the inside, how in the world can you expect to believe anything that they say, and how can you truly feel confident in what you see? The actions don’t back up the words. Can that person really be considered a role model of what true beauty is?   Similarly, it becomes obvious that the models used today, while beautiful on the outside, lead lives that offer no example for young people with challenges to look up to.  Unfortunately, we’ve been trained by advertising to believe that beauty is only on the outside.  While outer beauty is a precious gift, it can be unappreciated by those possessing it, and the inner beauty needed to make it real, hasn’t even been considered as the most important factor.

But, when you feel beautiful on the inside, the outside beauty bursts out!  I remember when I was a little girl, I would sit outside the bathroom door while my mom would put  her make-up on and I just marveled at the the end result!  She would highlight her eyes with vibrant colors and use the eyelash curler and mascara to add the drama.  A little bronzer here, a little blush there, and voila!  It fascinated me to see how she could enhance her beauty by using make-up.  The outside beauty of my mom now matched the inner beauty she has always possessed.

People with disabilities have incredible inner beauty, as well.  And that makes the outer beauty burst out, but many times people lose out on seeing that inner beauty because the person they see in front of them doesn’t fit the mold of what they’ve been taught to think beauty looks like.  The reality is, people with disabilities are beautiful.... and you, by encouraging that beauty can help bring it out!  How cool is that?  You are a part of helping them realize their own unique beauty and TRULY embracing it!!!! 

Let’s face it, when going into the doctor’s office our parents heard the diagnosis and we all fit that “look” to a tee, masking the beauty that is in us....making us feel inferior, resulting in a self-esteem that is completely burst!  Plain and Simple: It should NOT happen!  When people realize that, it may be a small thing to most people, but when we see someone else’s true beauty and then help them see it too, its a big deal to them.  Their image in the mirror becomes most of all beautiful to them!!  A True Role Model Indeed!

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

***This article originally appeared in the Fall 2012-13 issue of Unique Me Magazine 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Doctor is in: Dr. Will Miller discusses the need to be connected and Refrigerator Rights

The 2013 Arc of Indiana Annual Conference was a great success again this year!  As the opening speaker, Dr. Will Miller got the conference off and running on a high note.  Dr. Miller touched on many subjects that the audience could relate to, which at times stirred our emotions.  However, the majority of the time, he had us laughing until our stomachs hurt.  He really stressed the importance of closely connected relationships, which he affectionately called "Refrigerator Rights".  These are friends who don't have to ask permission to be in your life...they can walk into your house, open your fridge, grab something to eat, sit down, throw their shoes off and feel right at home!  They are not mere acquaintances...they are friends who truly become family!  I am very fortunate to have these types of relationships in my life and I'm grateful for them.  I related deeply to this concept of "Refrigerator Rights", mostly because I had to develop these types of connections to cope with the growing pains of cerebral palsy.  As I came into adulthood, the reality of my disability came into focus and the negativity along with it.  I would beat myself up for countless things - mercilessly!  I was a train wreck, that is, until I started to listen to what others felt about me.  Unwavering support, love and strength were then in place.  When I took advantage of this support - I was rebuilt, refreshed and encouraged with things during that rocky stressful time - things I still draw on to this day!

Refrigerator Rights relationships help the human spirit be resilient!  In the disability community, helping those who have special needs be resilient is critical to their well-being and how they view themselves.   We all deal with difficult circumstances, but when you have a disability, sometimes, no matter how many steps you take forward, there is always a feeling (at least in my experience of dealing with my situation) that you take twice as many steps backward and are always in catch up mode. Those whom you choose to be in your intimate circle of support will always be there when you fall..never forget that and don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help.  People with disabilities deserve to find happiness and joy in life, and reach for goals and dreams that they love,  While not being defined by their disability everywhere they turn, they deserve to be who they are best at being: themselves!  I ask you, please, make an effort to be the kind of friend that brings resilience back into another persons' life... Feel what they feel, step into their shoes or roll in their wheels!  The more you understand what others are going through, the stronger the connection becomes...and then you will witness something extraordinary...  They will begin to come alive again, believe in themselves and start to see themselves in a bright shiny positive light!! 

Refrigerator Rights...pass them on!  Develop these types of relationships!  You never know who needs them and how a life can be forever enriched because of them! 

Thanks for the reminder Dr. Will :)

Listen into my interview with Dr. Will after his speech here! We had a great time talking! :)

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The value of Friendship: A treasure!!

I've always made friends easily, and I've been very blessed to have relationships that have remained strong for many years.  I'm grateful for friends in my life who are like family, and I'm in constant amazement that all of these friends saw something in me that they loved and connected with.  The blessing of friendship is one SWEET reward!   Friendship has always been a stabilizing force... I feel useful and valuable and it has been a source of strength.  Everything seems right with the world when I can give of myself to a close friend, whether in a time of unimaginable happiness or heartbreaking sadness.  I try to give back to people I care deeply about, who've made a place in their hearts for me...they deserve that.  I'm always quick to give a smile, a warm hello, a kiss on the cheek, an arm around the shoulder, a pat on the back.  A kind, loving gesture to let them know I'm happy to see them and that I care.  As I reflected on my friendships, I would often fight with a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that was almost impossible to suppress - I'm not good enough for my friends.  Was I even doing a good job being a friend?   Whenever a friend would talk to me about what they were feeling, a recent trip, getting married, being pregnant, buying their first home - I wanted to excitedly shout at the top of my lungs, I REALLY know how you feel!!  But, I really didn't know how they felt.  The pain of wanting to really connect to them was deep and intense.  With that desire being so deep, I realized that it was overtaking my thinking so much that it was squeezing every ounce of self esteem out of me.  The question was, would I let that happen?  For what seemed like an eternity, I sat stagnant, hating my situation.  The ultimate question for me was, how was this helping me be a good friend?  Of course, it wasn't helping at all.  My bad attitude was creating a wide gap that was taking me away from the thing I wanted...friendship!   The next question that came to mind was, how do I move forward and fix my bad self!?  When I quit focusing on my situation, I had time to love others.  It changed my life.  Take this, for example, my friend Michelle, whom you see in the photo with me...(our friends call us Michelle squared) ... is married, has two older kids and just had her third baby, Ava!  We have become so close, that Michelle and her family are like our family!  I've always dreamed of having a family, but being pregnant would be a big job for me physically and caring for children would take its toll, as well.  I still have the job of being "aunt" to my friends' babies though!  If I would have been so consumed with what I didn't have, I wouldn't have been able to soak up every moment of being able to be with Michelle at the hospital and holding Ava after she was born, and be a part of her life!! <3
My girlfriend Monique and I- on her wedding day 2008 :)
My girlfriend Michelle Serna and I :)

My girlfriend Angela and I on her wedding day:)
 My friend Monique met her husband Eric and fell head-over-heels in love!  Their first date was dinner at our house, because we had to see if he would really be her knight in shining armor. :)  It didn't take long for us to understand why Monique was falling in love with him. In 2008, they were married at our house!  Yes, that's right...we had their wedding in our home!!  Its been 5 years since that day, and it is still one of the happiest times of my life!!

My girlfriend Angela fell in love with her husband Matt within 3 months of meeting him.  When they got married in 2007..I was so excited for her...yet weddings can be hard for me.  But, I told my emotions: "NO, I'm not going to let you get me down"!  Seconds later Angela's dad, Bruce, put his arm around me, and said some of the most precious words, "Angela is getting ready, and she wants you to see her in her dress".   I went into the room where she was and everything stopped...I remember crying and saying "oh my" more then 1,000 times. :) It was a wonderful moment!

International Friendship Day is what inspired this blog. Even though it's past, friendship lives on!  I have many friends that I cherish, and I love each and every one of you!  I celebrate you and the bonds that we've made!!  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives!!  Friendship is such a precious treasure!! <3

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

Thursday, August 15, 2013

People with disabilities want to say: "I have a Job!"

"This business is an Equal Opportunity Employer".  That very statement is music to the ears of someone who is looking for a job.  Looking to spread their wings by being responsible for themselves as they make the transition from a being a child to an adult.  People with disabilities want to be seen as everyone else and having a job is just as much a desire for them as someone without a disability.

Employment equals Empowerment for people with disabilities, and many people have hopped on that train (for which we are ever grateful!!) to see that it continues to happen.  Gone are the days when people with disabilities are not employed, or working in a sheltered workshop was the only option. They are being integrated, accepted and embraced more and more, as people who can offer a great deal to their employers and co-workers!

Why should I hire people with disabilities? may ask.  There is a warm fuzzy side to the story that can be told.  You, as the employer, are contributing to their emotional well-being, their self-confidence, and breaking the barriers of what people with disabilities are perceived to be able to do.  Fantastic, really!  What's more fun?  Let's take the warm fuzzy feeling side of the story out of the equation for just a minute and look at the facts.  Whether you are a self-employed business owner or are managing a business for someone else, you, as the boss, need and want employees that will uphold your standards, provide good customer service, good work ethic, etc.... You may chime in: They can be hard to find!  Yes, they can be hard to find, but, people with disabilities quite often meet all those qualifications!  No kidding!  They are individuals who are committed and dedicated to their jobs, love to be part of the team and actively giving back to their communities...... What's better than that?  I'll tell ya: NOTHING!!

As with any anticipation of reaching a long awaited goal, there are always hurdles to get around!  One of the biggest hurdles for those with disabilities is transportation.  Transportation?  That's the easy part, you may laughingly say to yourself.  What if, though, their car breaks down or they don't have the money at the moment to buy a car... Take the bus! you say without hesitation... What if the bus doesn't run their route until after they have to be at work?  Several situations can rear their ugly heads making it a struggle to think about doing it one day, let alone several days in a row!  But, with determination, the individual can find a way to work if they continue to look.  Maybe a friend or relative can take them to work.  Many times people are willing to help, if asked.  As the employer, you may be able to suggest viable options, as well.  Taking a genuine interest in this regard goes a long way!

Would you like to know of some businesses who are shining because they made the decision to hire people with disabilities?  The Arc of Indiana had the privilege of recognizing people who were described as the "top of the building block" in hiring people with disabilities.  They were presented with the Keystone Award!  Congratulations to Walgreens of Kokomo, Turkey Run Inn, Bits and Bites of Evansville,  Community Access Television Service out of Bloomington and Nathaniel Butell, a photographer out of Columbia City!!  My warmest congratulations go out to all of you!!!

What's your definition of success?  Hiring people with disabilities who will work hard and bring their attitude of striving for their best, is one of the stepping stones needed.  Won't you please consider hiring them?  I promise, adding them as part of your team will be the greatest success you will ever experience!!

Being part of a team.....having a job = SUCCESS!! :)

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

Bloggers Note: This blog was written from notes taken after the interview on Employment. :)

Listen to the my full interview will Jill Ginn,  Rebecca Scherpelz and Melody Cooper from the Arc of Indiana at this link:

If you are interested in working and interning in a government position you will want to check out this podcast show on the INTERN program Listen here to Emily's experience with the program and what she's doing now!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Autism Awareness Profile: HANDS in Autism

                                                                                                                                    When a child is diagnosed with a spectrum disorder such as autism, it can be an emotional roller coaster like no other. The sad part is watching your child have to struggle with having to "learn" the very things that give us closeness as human beings... a touch, a hug, holding hands, a kiss and countless other social interactions that are so vital to our emotional and physical well-being.
     What is incredibly comforting to most of us, can be awkward and uncomfortable to someone on the spectrum.  In going through this puzzling process, there are many uncertain times.  Times where you may ask yourself - Where do we go from here?  On my podcast, I have had the privilege of interviewing some outstanding people who help those with autism.  One of these, Hands in Autism, is an organization that seeks to help families in making their way through what seems to be the never ending dark tunnel of the diagnosis. They provide a listening ear while being proactive in starting the process of seeing light at the end of the tunnel - with hope and help.  One of the keys to providing help for families and those who have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), is being able to provide resources that answer questions for families and caregivers.  They need answers as they cope with different stressful and challenging circumstances that they and their loved one may go through.  All of these topics are covered, and more, on the Hands in Autism website.  I was blown away and delighted to see that Hands in Autism goes far beyond the call of duty when it comes to resources. They are rockstars in the resources department!  Once you see this website, you'll see what I mean!!   Just as the name of the organization suggests, you are not ever alone...they are with you every step of the way!

Here are just some samples of the treasures you will discover on this site: 

This section deals with Visual Supports and Practical tools:

Here's a handout that talks about 10 things you can do to support those living with ASD:

Hands in Autism has wonderful information Cards to help people understand more about ASD and it helps promote Disability Awareness These are Fantastic!

There is life after the diagnosis of autism, and Hands in Autism wants to show you how to achieve that life...  Autism is not the end, in fact, it can be just the beginning of finding out that you can reach your dreams and goals and let your disability know that you are in control of YOUR life!

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

For more information on Hands In Autism, Follow them on Facebook!

Listen into my interview with Assistant Director  Tiffany Neal talking about the great things Hands in Autism does!

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Life, My Choice: You deserve to choose how you live

Choices, Choices,  Choices.... From the time we wake up in the morning until the time we lay down to sleep at night, we make choices that affect us.  Sometimes we're affected in little ways, sometimes in life altering ways.  Whether it's how to have your cup of morning know... black, cream, sugar, cream and sugar, etc, etc...  one choice out of endless combinations that makes that cup of coffee... YOURS.  Don't you just love being able to pick out an outfit that expresses "YOU" any day of the week?  Just think about it: every outfit chosen fits an occasion, whether its a wedding, a party, or a day out with close friends.  Every outfit has little touches like a scarf, purse, shoes, necklace and earrings....that make it...YOURS.  The list goes on, but the point remains that the choice is: YOURS. You don't ask the barista at the coffee shop how you should have your coffee, or the fashion consultant at your favorite store what you should wear.  Other people may give you tips as to what's in style or what's popular among other customers, but in the end, it's YOU who makes YOUR decision!

Sometimes making decisions can be difficult, especially if you feel pressured, perhaps. You may not want to hurt someone's feelings by making the wrong decision, so the tendency is to put it on the back burner, or if someone asks you what you think about might choose to answer with a shrug, "Oh, I don't know...I'm not the greatest at making decisions."  It may be that you just haven't been given the chance to make decisions, especially by those who don't know you or your situation.

What if a person was willing to help you understand the options you may have, so that you can make informed decisions.  As far as where you want to live, if you can live with a roommate, or which services are available to support you in making the life you dream of a reality.  Well, good news!  The Arc of Indiana has you covered!  The "My Life, My Choice" project was launched from July through October 2012.  A team of two gathers information to assess your unique situation.  One of the team members is a person with a disability who understands where you are, how hard it can be to make decisions that can be life changing, but, also how good it feels to take control of your own life.   Don't be afraid to talk openly about how you feel, where you see your life going, or who you see being part of your support team.  There are no right or wrong answers in the interview!  It's a time for you to be heard and supported!

This project touches me very deeply!  The dignity and respect shown to people with disabilities in doing this project is outstanding!!  How deeply it touches a persons' heart to know that are heard, understood and cared for!

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

Hear the interview about My Life, My Choice with Rebecca Scherpelz, the Arc of Indiana's Self Advocates Administrator and the Arc Network Employment Advocate Here:,%20My%20Choice%20Project.mp3


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Barton and Megan: A Match made in Wheelchair Heaven.

If you have ever read a good fairytale, there is always an object that brings the boy and girl together. We've all seen it and experienced that audible "awwwwwww" moment, with copious amounts of tears.  Remember Cinderella?  She lost her slipper at a ball and the handsome prince that found it looked far and wide to find the owner of that delicate glass slipper.  That slipper was the start of their hearts becoming one.  For Megan and Barton Cutter, it was a small turquoise stone with Megan's e-mail address on it!  Talk about a modern twist!
                                                                                                                                Their fairytale began when they met each other at a Martial Arts seminar in Tucson Arizona.  Little did they know, that was just the beginning.  They both used their interest in martial arts to help come to terms with certain periods in their lives.  For Megan, martial arts was used to mend a broken heart from a failed engagement and the unimaginable loss of her mom.  As she found her confidence once more, she was able to embark on a career in writing.  For Barton, martial arts was used to persevere in reaching for what he wanted, despite having a disability.  This outlook is not new for Barton.  He's not afraid to try new things.  In their book, Ink in the Wheels: Stories that make Love Roll,  Barton talks about the first time he was intrigued by a power wheelchair and the freedom it gave him.  I had to laugh when I read this part in the book.  I've been in a manual wheelchair for quite a number of years myself, and I love power chairs!  What I marvel at more though, is the seamless coordination that people with power chairs have when driving them.  I NEED to take lessons, Barton! :)  What I found absolutely fascinating about these two is that they both had unique perspectives.  Barton, was who he was.  He had worked on exploring and pushing himself.  He understood his limitations but never let himself be confined by them.  He uses a wheelchair and may need assistance in doing some everyday things, but he is very capable of living life to the full...and he does just that!  Megan saw beyond the challenges that presented themselves and saw Barton for who he was, a man that was willing to be a husband and take that responsibility seriously.

There were things that Megan told me she had to get used to as she and Barton started their life together.  One was the realization that Barton needed things that were independent of her.  For example, his having a personal assistant come in to care for him...or he would want things done a certain way, differently than how she would normally do it herself.  The most beautiful thing though, is that she wanted to do what ever worked best for him because she loved him so deeply.  They are in it together, no matter what.

The love story of these two is getting around and inspiring others.  Their story is a platform for others to have hope of finding and cultivating their own love story.  Giving back and empowering people. Together.  Making love roll on.  Megan and Barton - Here is to many more miles and many more years of strengthening your remarkable bond of love that unites you!  The power of people's stories is what helps people have hope. Your story is one remarkable story of hope.  And to think... the fairytale began as Barton pulled from his pocket, the small turquoise stone with a special e-mail address on it...  that stone came from an amazing woman and was the start of two hearts becoming one.

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

Learn more about Megan and Barton Cutter here:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Could it be.....that YOUR an Ironman??

In the summer of 2011, my friend Nathan Criswell competed in the  Iron Man.  From the research I've done and things I've heard about the amount of energy it takes to train and run this Triathlon, first I thought, "That's a big job, will he be able to do it?"  No, this question wasn't a doubtful thought.  Nathan and his wife Alyssa are avid runners.  But the amount of energy and the beating a person's body will take is known to be  brutal!  140.6 miles total! (2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike ride and 26.2 mile run) Talk. About. SORE.  As the weeks went on, via Facebook pictures and statuses, I was taken along for the ride as the time inched closer and closer to the big race day!  I was really excited and pumped for Nathan.  In my mind, I was the coach in the movie Rocky, "C'mon, Champ you can do this"!!  Nathan had lots of support in his wife Alyssa, his happy newlywed cheerleader by his side. (their wedding was two months before the triathlon)  So, you could say their marriage got off to a strong running start.... ;)  On the day of the race, there were status updates from Alyssa saying Nathan was in good spirits and he was making good time.  Then...hours went by.  No word on if he finished or how he did.  The next morning I logged on to facebook and lo and behold, the journey was done and Nathan could now be called an IRONMAN!!!! Victory was his!!!!  Sore, tired, yet he finished!!   SO INCREDIBLY INSPIRED!!!!  Why?  Why Not?!?!?!?!  I mean think about it: First of all the enormity of the race was huge!!  It was hot!!  Oh!! Did I mention, EVERY, yes every muscle in his entire body, even muscles he never thought he used or even knew he had....HURT!!!  And yet, the goal was reached with determination and desire!!
Love (and running) is a perfect bond
of union! 6-18-11 <3

2.4 mile swim (must begin with a picture with his
Biggest fan, wife Alyssa) :) <3
It got me to thinking....Nathan's running the Ironman and Alyssa's support of him, give people with disabilities so much hope!  All of us have different challenges we face everyday, our own hills to bike, rivers to swim, and things that take energy to run with...... but just like Nathan if you have determination, desire and support, even after using every muscle, real and figurative, to push through....Victory can be yours!!  So, the next time a challenge or struggle comes your way, think of Nathan... He is an Ironman! What about YOU?  Could it be that maybe, just maybe you are too?!?! :)
Finish Line!!!! :)
112 mile bike ride :)
26.2 mile run :)
 Michelle Fischer is the host of A View from My Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Ironman Photos courtesy of: Alyssa & Nathan Criswell

Thumbnail Quote photo courtesy of : Just Feelin' Good

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Disabled turns into IN-abled: Chad's story

Photography is a passion for Chad!
Dweezil, the Mascot!
Cover your space,  Change your world!
Chad and sons Micah and Ben :)
                                               is the brainchild of President/ Founder Chad Moore.  The company celebrates the accomplishments of people who have not allowed their limitations to stop them from doing what they dream of and living life to the   full!        The idea for this company came after spending the day with his friend Noah Hiles at a Special Olympics event.  Chad is an avid photographer and it seems like the camera is never out of his reach!  That day was no different.  450 photos of Noah, his friends and fellow athletes were taken.  Chad said after he took the pictures he was more than inspired, but the inspiration didn't stop there.  Everyone who saw the pictures kept talking about them and using words like happy, accomplished and free!  Positivity was at an all time high and it was too good to keep to himself!  Along with Vice Presidents Amy Parker and Chris Hiles, they put their heads together and thought,  How can we share these pictures with the world?  Chad's background as a Director for the State of Ohio in the area of re-employment, is what lead him to start asking that question.  Part of his job meant time spent going into employment offices presenting workshops and training courses.  For as many buildings as he went into, he always felt like there wasn't really anything a person could connect with.  Nothing to celebrate the abilities or passions of the potential employees.  Nothing to give them hope about the positive outcome of re-entering the workforce.  Not only did this thought cross his mind for the people he served, but for himself, as well.   You see, Chad was diagnosed with bipolar in 2003.  It's classified as an "invisible disability" but with the challenges he faces it doesn't always feel invisible.  When I met Chad, the first thing that stood out to me was his captivating personality!  He seems to walk in the room and own it in such a warm exuberant way.  He views the work and the challenges he faces as things that have helped him be more creative and more accepting of other people's challenges as well as celebrating their successes!!'s main focus is on ABILITY and INclusion. With their person centered, vibrant eye-catching designs, it doesn't take long to see that people with disabilities seek to step up to their challenges and prove that they don't just want to exist... they want to LIVE as people IN-abled!!       That is SUCCESS indeed!! :)

The staff are the nicest people I have met!!  Thank you, Chad, Amy and Chris for all you do!!  You are all ROCKSTARS in my book!! :)

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

Listen to my interview with Chad!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Music Therapy: Your brains' best friend! :)

A three day weekend is coming up and you just got a call from one of your best friends, "Let's go on a road trip filled with our favorite shopping stops, delectable food stops and conversations that make us laugh and cry until our stomachs hurts!!" Exactly what I need, you think.... No sooner than you hang up the phone, you hop in your car, put your shades on, pop in your favorite tunes, turn it up, and dance like nobody's on the road and sing like a rock star!  Seeing your best friend lifts your spirits and puts you in the happiest of moods!  Did you know those tunes that are in your CD player are your brain's best friend???  Who knew!?!?!  It makes sense though, right?  When you have to clean the house, what gets you motivated more? Dead silence or a favorite song?  C'mon now, don't lie, we all know that you use your broom handle as a makeshift microphone as you jam to Michael Jackson's Billie Jean and do the moonwalk in your kitchen!!  It's ok, your secret is safe with me....;)  We are all motivated by music!! This motivation helps us all be productive and it calms our nerves.... It even helps me when I sit down to write blogs like this one!  It helps the ideas and words flow when you, as the reader, read this blog it's a really enjoyable experience for you! :)   Music therapy is a fascinating field that is helping people with disabilities in remarkable ways!!  Lindsey Wright, a music therapist that sat down for an interview with me some time ago said music therapy is used to work on communication, cognition,  motor skills, emotional and social skills.  The music therapist uses different techniques and motivators to get the clients they work with to work on new skills that they wouldn't maybe necessarily be motivated to learn if the music wasn't there!!  The results are remarkable!
When your brain and music form a bond,
Remarkable things happen!!! :)

I'm always so happy to meet and interview people like Lindsey!  She recognized as a child how happy music made her and she wanted to share it with others...especially those with disabilities.  People learn and are motivated by different things....that's normal. Music therapy is just one more tool to help accomplish the goal of educating others that we are all the same. The outside may be different, but music is the universal language of of the motivators that we ALL can groove to!!

Listen into my interview with Lindsey to get to know more about this sweet music therapist and learn more about music therapy!

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

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A look back at the Pathways to Employment Premiere :)

The Narrator (me) and the filmmaker  Ken :)                        
We all know the excitement that's in the air before an awards show or the premiere of the movie we have just been dying to see.  No, I haven't been to an actual awards show or movie premiere in Hollywood, but I have felt it.  I decorated my living room with pictures of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon when I watched the movie, Walk the Line, because I wanted to feel like I was there.  I even wanted to eat Johnny Cash themed snacks during the movie! :)  I always think to myself, "If I could just be a fly on the wall!  I want to see how they made that scene look so real," or "I wonder what was happening in the background that made that actress say her line like that!"  I appreciate the time, energy and effort that goes into the movie even more when I know those details.

Brandon Boas, A photographer featured in the film!  :)
I got the same feeling when I went to the premiere of the documentary series Pathways to Employment.  I got to go to the premiere, get all dressed up, (I looked adorable, by the way) ;)  have my picture taken on the red carpet, and eat and mingle with many of the stars!!  OH OH!!!  I got to be a fly on the wall too!!  I got alot of tips and tricks on what the sought after, soon to be Oscar winning filmmaker, Ken Oguss used to get the breakout film stars to tell their stories of inspiration...he used lots of fun looking technological toys to capture them!

Aside from the technical aspect though,  Ken's heart comes straight though the screen to touch your heart! It comes from the fact that Ken isn't just a filmmaker and storyteller in title only.  He invests time, energy and interest in the subjects whom he films.   For the Pathways to Employment documentary, you become a fly on the wall, as it were, by being taken along for the ride as the viewer and given a very personal view into the lives of the six individuals featured.  What you will first notice as you watch these videos, is the amount of positivity that is in each video.  Sometimes, to an outsider, the person with a disability may seem to have a lot of roadblocks and some may wonder, how will they ever accomplish the things they want?  These videos show how each person has accomplished their goals by replacing the word "CAN'T with CAN and they see the challenge as an opportunity.  Their team of cheerleaders and supporters focus on their potential, which makes their differences fade.  Simple equation: Find a way to turn the seeming negatives into positives.  That's what is fully showcased in these six videos....and when you have a filmmaker who fully understands that and embraces that idea, in collaboration with the Arc of Indiana, the end result is a motivating beautiful piece of work!!

What made it such a happy night for me was not only seeing Ken's hard work be recognized, but I was happy for the stars themselves!  I've heard their stories, many of them being guests on my show, telling me about the pain of being told they can't, or that no one understands them.  At times they have been stared at, or laughed at.....but not on the premiere night!  That night they were applauded and their faces glowed!  I was so glad to be a part of that night...words can't even begin to say how much!

Sally,  Jill and my Mom! :)
Three of the many great supporters I have on my team! :)
Behind the title of Pathways to Employment, Ken took a picture of a road and the two yellow lines on the road look like an equal sign.  So fitting, as everyone who looks for and wants a job, the same is true for those with disabilities....employment is their goal...and there are many pathways to get there!
Jennifer Schwab, Special Events Manager
with the Arc and one of the many hard workers who brought
this event together! :)

Hear some exclusive behind the scenes extras from Ken in this interview he did with me after the premiere!!

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sisters forever bonded <3 <3

My sister Christine and I.
Summer 2010
"Christine, let your sister in your room, open your door!"- this was something my sister dreaded hearing, as my mom said this from the bottom of the stairs.  I was usually outside her door, screaming at the top of my lungs, so my mom would plead my case for me!  My sister would eventually open the door, but with an "I'm doing this because I was told to, not because I want you around" attitude.  As her younger sister, everything she did was absolutely fascinating to me!  Her world of make-up, boys, and high school were "big girl" things that I just NEEDED to be in on!

Eventually, she realized that no matter what she did, nothing would ever keep me away!  She would come home from school, drop her books and run upstairs with her friend, Kim, and slam the door.....but, it wasn't long before I was crawling up the stairs to join them!

The truth is, my sister and I will be forever bonded, even though there is a significant age difference.  We are nine years apart and going through different times in our lives.  She is the mother of 3 beautiful children.....but I have yet to be a mother or be in a serious relationship for that matter - all those things aside though, the impact she has had on me as my sister cannot be denied!

She was nine when I was born and not one speck of jealousy was seen.  She had a human doll to love and care for, and care for me, she did!  Who, at nine years old, would put the interest of her newborn sister ahead of her own?  MY sister did!

She has always been a fierce protector of me.  While always seeing my potential, she never really saw me as disabled.  Always wanting me to be just like everyone else, she encouraged me to focus and move forward, not taking the easy way out!  She wanted me to have a good year during my freshman year of high school,  so she became my aide that year.  To this day we still laugh about the time we were looking for the girl's bathroom on the first day of school and though we both thought the bathroom looked took a while to realize that we were in the boys' bathroom!  We quickly made our exit!  Or the time when we were going between classes and she started talking to a teacher and without realizing it, she had pushed me into a classroom full of students during class!  Christine said the look on my face was hilariously priceless!! :)

Having a sister who has a physical disability has to have been hard on her.  I say it that way because she has never said it's been hard, but in the same breath, it must have been!  In most ways, I have had to take little steps to reach goals and have life experiences that relate to her in some way.  Usually sisters become bonded because they have gone through similar experiences....marriage, kids, boyfriends, break-ups, heartbreak....and I haven't even had some of those experiences yet.  So when I think of her, I wonder:  Does she ever feel like she has a sister who understands her and can relate to her?  Even though she sees me as not having a disability,  does she ever feel like the disability is a burden?

I never meant to be disabled, sometimes things just happen... but one of the most valuable gifts in my life, is a sister who loves me even so.  I have grown out of the need to do "big girl" things now, because I'm doing them....and loving it!  But I'm still fascinated by the person my sister is and has become.  I love my sister and will be forever grateful for the love she's shown me!  We are SISTERS!  Forever bonded!! :)