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