Monday, July 6, 2015

The Ups and Downs of being a teenager while dealing with Cerebral Palsy: Zach's Story

After I read "Off Balanced" by Zachary Fenell, I was amazed by his writing ability and the way he was able to describe to his readers, the challenges of being a teenager with a disability. I could really relate to his story, since I was born with cerebral palsy, also.  I'm not a teenager anymore, but the frustration resulting from cerebral palsy has no age limit.  It was such a comfort to find this book and know that someone else struggles with the same feelings. He said something when I was interviewing him that I had never thought of when describing cerebral palsy, but after he said it, I knew it was the perfect description!  He said, "cerebral palsy has a way of playing mind games with you."  I thought that was a brilliant statement that should be inscribed on a coaster or cross stitched on a pillow!  Throughout this book, you experience the journey of almost crumbling under the pressure of being different and feeling like an outcast, to feeling liberated and ready to live life to the full!  You will smile, laugh, cry and cheer all at the same time as you read this book!  I appreciate books like this that are so candid and at times, raw.  Zachary Fennell was not afraid to expose the vulnerable roller coaster ride that is called, cerebral palsy.  It's not easy for those of us dealing with this disability to talk about how it really makes us feel.  We are just so used to talking about the happy, less rocky times, but this book shows you that there are two sides to the story and it's perfectly fine to acknowledge both sides, and in turn, help others find their voice and realize that they are not alone.

Thank you Zachary for sharing your story! Cerebral palsy may make you feel "Off Balanced", but your book shows that you can regain that balance and achieve more than you could ever imagine!

Listen to Zachary Fenell's interview here:

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

Perserverence despite unforeseen obstacles: in the words of Jay Ruckelshaus

When I first started doing research for Jay Ruckelshaus' interview, a mix of emotions welled up inside me. On the one hand, I asked myself what I had to complain about and then the feelings of shock and sadness for him because of the complete suddenness of his situation and how it unmistakably changed his everyday life.  He was in a diving accident that caused a spinal injury.  Then the interview came, and you know what?  When I met Jay, all I could do was smile!  His demeanor is positive and happy.  Period.  Getting to the happy and positive part took some time, but what helped Jay was the support he received from his family, his community and the college he eventually attended.  You may have heard of it...Duke University!  Jay kept his eyes fixed firmly on what was ahead and was determined to reach his goal of going to college!   I learned so much from Jay!  One lesson I learned is, if plan A doesn't work, ask yourself: What's plan B?  Plan B may have more twists and turns, and in Jay's case a few more obstacles to jump over, but, it's a plan nonetheless and a plan that has given Jay the motivation to reach out and lend a hand to other spinal cord injury patients who are wondering what their plan B looks like.  Showing others that going to college is attainable, led Jay to create his website The Ramp Less Traveled providing scholarship opportunities, mentorship and financial support to those dealing with these injuries, to succeed.  Yes, SUCCEED in going to college and really succeed in life!  Jay Ruckelshaus is proof that Plan B can work!  If Jay can do it so can YOU!  Always remember, when life gets tough or something doesn't go just exactly the way you planned....What's YOUR Plan B??

Listen to Jay's interview here:

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

There are more "doors of opportunity" that need the right "key" to open them!

The title of this blog was one of the first things John Dickerson said to me not long after the first episode of "A View from My Window" was done.  I was beyond thrilled!  I was actually doing the thing I thought I could only imagine doing or see being done on TV.  With ecstatic gratitude, I thanked him a thousand times over for giving me the job and he said, "Sometimes, you just need to find the right "key" to unlock your door of opportunity."  That statement rang so true.  I had been trying so hard to get noticed for my abilities as an anchor, writer and interviewer, that I told everyone and their brother about it.   I wanted to get my foot in the door of the broadcast journalism field.  When I met John, I was a clerical assistant at Wabash Center in Lafayette.  I was also the Honorary Spokesperson which allowed me to do various media work and TV spots for them.  Yes!  A stepping stone to my goal with the added bonus of gaining confidence in my ability to say how I really felt about my dream - that of being an anchor.  John and I started talking about my clerical job and several other subjects...and then the weighter matter: "So, what is your DREAM job?" John asks.  I remember pausing for a moment, trying to somehow avoid the subject, not wanting to hear, "Well, I really hope that happens for you" or "I wish you all the best in your endeavors."  I had always heard through my job search that it's all about the people you know and your connection with them.  At this point, I was unaware that John was the Executive Director of the Arc of Indiana!  So, I thought, "Maybe this guy knows the right people!"  If I didn't say something, I knew I would regret it.   So, I told him about my dream and felt happy I had talked to him about it, but then I put it out of my mind.  Two weeks later, I got an email from John saying that he really enjoyed meeting me and really appreciated me telling him about my dream of becoming a journalist.  He then explained that he had been thinking about doing a radio type program about issues facing people with disabilities.  I will never forget the very next sentence for the rest of my life..."I think you would be the perfect person to be the host".  I BURST into tears and couldn't contain my happiness!  I may have even screamed! That day, in November 2009, my life was changed.  As I got to know John and interview him over the past few years, I found that he has worked for decades, helping others like me, change their lives for the better!  We all love him for it, too!

So, now, it's my turn to be John's cheerleader as he goes on to accomplish more great things for people with disabilities in his next venture.  Being the "key" to many more doors of opportunity that need to be unlocked, and more hearts and lives being touched through his willingness to lend a hand to a person in need of a dream realized!

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