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Saturday, October 19, 2013

expectations

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A woman I have come to love posted this picture on her Facebook in the last week. On the first read through I thought of Atticus Finch, that well known and well loved man from "To Kill A Mockingbird." Atticus says: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." 

And then as I considered the heart behind the woman who posted this I considered the ways she has been hurt, the ways people have judged or stereotyped or thought they had understood her. I see the ways she struggles to trust those in her life, those who may desperately want to love and respect her. We can only do so much to understand the life and journey of those around us by watching them, listening to them. If we really want to get to know someone, to love someone, to build trust and a relationship, then we must join with them in their journey, sit, stand and walk with them through the good and the bad. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tomatoes

I have learned a lot from food and about food. Four years ago I lived on boxed macaroni and cheese, popcorn, hot chocolate, ice cream, and who knows what else. But I have learned about eating healthy and cooking in carious forms. I have learned about organic v. Pesticide and genetically modified good. But I didn't realize I learned about knowledge and wisdom until I read this. It speaks for itself. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mistakes

A friend posted the picture below on Facebook with the caption: so true. It broke my heart. I thought of all the people I interact with each day. What do I notice about them and the things they do? I desire to see all of a person. I desire to walk with rhen in the good and the bad. So I make the commitment to see the tears and pain and sadness. I choose to see more than the mistakes. 

And I also choose to see the joys, the victories and the blessings. I hope I'm not one of these people. 


Monday, October 7, 2013

Top Ten foods I miss eating....

So...there is a growing list of foods that I miss eating. Some of them are foods that I don't actually want to eat again because I know their content...others are foods that I still would love to eat...or find ways to make myself that I can eat...or that I find myself cheating with.....

1. Macaroni and cheese
2. Pizza....specifically with extra cheese and PEPERONI
3. Nutella
4. Cheese cake
5. Mom's chocolate chip cookies.
6. Cheese Burgers...I don't mean like a McDonald's Cheese Burger....but I mean a REALLY REALLY good cheese burger
7. Chocolate milk....it is an essential part of my life when visiting my grandparents
8. Soft Pretzels
9. Sprinkle sandwiches....if you don't know about this side of me....you will think I'm weird if you ask
10. french toast/pancakes/waffles....

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What I learned....on the couch

We go through our days and learn many things. We learn from the time we spend reading, journaling and interacting with those who mentor us. We learn from our work: our interactions with our boss and coworkers, our professional development, and the time we work with our clients, consumers, customers...or whatever we are calling them today. We learn from our friends and the time we spend surfing the internet. But for me this week I learned by sitting on the couch.  Here are just a few of the things I learned, was reminded of, or relearned this week....

1. Muscle memory for cane travel serves you nothing after a seizure.
After my most recent seizures I attempted to go to work and get through my daily activities. What I found the most difficult Monday morning was simply swinging my cane left and right. I had lost all ability to move the cane and father the necessary information from it over night. That doesn't mean that I won't regain it, but it set me back in leaps and bounds.

2. Our needs will be met....above and beyond.
One of the most difficult parts of my physical state is the discouragement that comes with each setback and the support I need to physically get through each day. Overtired, sore and emotional I was slammed with extra work on my first day back to work after my seizures. After calling in sick on day two I had the opportunity to be vulnerable and honest with my supervisor and a few of my close teammates. They expressed their desire to support me in any way they could. One coworker consistently checked on me to provide support and encouragement. Another drove me home and ensured I had a ride to the team building activities. My boss went as far as to give me a "motherly talk", provide the necessary emotional support and inform me that she was driving me home when I apparently looked like I was about to pass out.
Outside of work friends provided assistance with making sure I could get things done that needed to get done, helped me to make the decisions I needed to make with out telling me what to do. Others helped me to explore various environmental factors that could assist me in physically getting through the symptoms. Another friend just sat with me to keep me company as I was physically compromised.

3. I find odd things relaxing.
Though I couldn't gather the strength to go for a walk, do yoga or leave the house...I found other ways to feel relaxed and productive. On Tuesday evening I sat on the floor and organized my food shelf and tupper ware. I purged a closet, my bookshelf and some other not needed items. This afternoon I sat on my living room floor with a cutting board and other essential items to prep food for my soup for tomorrow's work event.

4. Saying no is sometimes the best decision and he hardest one.
I was supposed to go on a prayer advance (retreat) this weekend with my spiritual family. I didn't want to miss it despite the fears and anxieties I had in going. But....I said no. Why? Because I recognized that the cost on my physical body outweighed the benefit. So instead I will spend the weekend on my couch or in my bed praying, singing and gaining physical and spiritual strength to move forward.

5. I am not superwoman and no on expects me to be.
Sometimes in my head are htese expectations others have of me to do outstanding things....or rather things that aren't outstanding but quickly add up to insurmountable lists of activities. I don't need to do everything. I don't need to be superwoman. I don't need to prove myself to anyone. I don't need to seek anyone's approval. The reality is that my human body can't physically take the strain that others can. I can't run marathons. I can't function on limited sleep. I can't eat fast food, take out or frozen dinners....not that anyone should... and that is ok. I know my limits...or rather I am learning them and it is ok to say no. I don't need to be superwoman.

I wouldn't say that I am fully ok with all of this...but I would say that I am growing.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hate what hates you

I have learned to love what loves me back. From fruits and veggies to the world of organic, from running, biking and swimming to weights and stretches and proper posture. Thus is incredible and has had a significant impact on my life. 

But now I need to learn to hate what hates me back. I cook, shop and eat super healthy. I don't buy the "crap" that makes me unhealthy. But the temptation to fill up on this "junk" is so strong. Especially at work. My coworker brings in homemade cookies... And one cookie ends up being a number I can't even remember. 

So after finishing a short run today with a dear friend and eating a wonderful salad for dinner, I lay in bed considering what hating junk looks like. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The other side

Last Fall I counted the cost of using my cane...and today I can say that I have pretty much reached the other side.

Now I can always see the benefits of using my cane and asking for help. I can see the benefits of being transparent and open. I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned in dependence and interdependence. I experienced the difficult moments and the joy of my mask of independence being stripped away. This hit me yesterday while giving a presentation to a group of future social workers from a local college. As I sat listening to my other coworkers speak I glanced around the room at each face that I could see...and I thought just for a moment about what made each of these students an individual, what made them, them? And as I got up to speak I was reminded that each of them has something, big or small that could hold them back from being the best social worker. And yet, if they use this aspect of themselves, it can also be used to strengthen and grow them to be more effective and influencial. I was reflecting on this while thinking of a conversation from the movie The Guardian. The below conversation occurs when Jake Fischer is potentially getting kicked out of the academy for getting arrested after a fight in a bar. Obviously, the whole conversation doesn't apply to me...but having context helps:

Ben Randall: [refering the the accident that killed Jake's friends] I've read the report Jake. Your blood alcohol level was zip that night. I'm guessing there was a flip for designated driver, you lost.

Jake Fischer: I guess that just makes it all go away, huh?
Ben Randall: No, it doesn't make it all right, it just makes it an accident. At least that's how it reads. You were 16 years old Jake. I'm not your priest, but if I was I think maybe you deserve a pass.
Jake Fischer: You're giving me a pass. You think you know everything, with your psychobabble bullshit. Why am I here? Why are you here, huh? Your too old to be doing this, you washed up here. You don't want to be teaching a bunch of kids in a pool, am I right? I don't give an eff what you read or who you talked to. You don't know about me.
[now yelling]
Jake Fischer: I have me under control.
Ben Randall: I can see that. The only difference between you and me is that I don't wear the ones I lost on my arm. I know where your at Jake. I'm there myself. I ask myself everyday why I was the one who survived.
Jake Fischer: And?
Ben Randall: And if I can't answer that for me, I'm certainly not going to try to answer that for you. Have a seat. I want you to start being a member of this team. The team you have now. You have a gift Jake. You're the best swimmer to come through this program, hands down, by far, and you've got a whole record board to prove it. But you know what I see when I look at it? I see someone fast enough who's going to get there first. I see someone strong enough who's going to last. I see someone who can save a life maybe no one else could. You really want to honor then initials on your arm? Then honor your gift. Save the ones you can Jake. The rest, you've got to let go.

  The difference between me and the person sitting on the other side of the desk, is that I have come to a place where I can acknowledge that God has strengthened and refined me because of my disability. He has transformed my heart and my mind to meet people where they are at because of the challenges I have overcome. I can empathize with these individuals, I can see that it sucks to be where they are  at, however I can see that there is a greater hope than isolating in your house because you are afraid to leave familiar surroundings.   I also knew that this change had happened in my heart when I went to leave to spend time with friends a couple of times last week and thought to myself; "ok, what do I need in my purse?" And when the answer always included "cane" with out a second thought, I knew that this had become a part of my life. It si a part of me that I don't resent, a part that I don't regret. It is simply a part.   I am so grateful for the things God will continue to teach me and do through this journey and so grateful to recognize the victory on the other side of what felt like despair and hopelessness.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I will not be your poster child, nor will I disgrace your name

I have had some unfortunately awkward interactions with a member of the senior leadership team of the organization I work for. I have been continually placed in a position where I feel like the "poster child" for success for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. At first it was just awkward, but as the wrestling of my heart continues I have come to a different attitude. I can't be this so called "poster child." There are so many reasons. First of all it is not in my nature to take on this role. And, while I can be a liaison between the individuals we serve and the individuals who serve, taking on this role would jeopardize my professional career. I can not wholeheartedly do the work of a social worker while meeting the goals of this individual. Most importantly, it is not the role a disciple would take. Yes, I am a "success story", but at the same time, I am an individual who is part of a family. And this role takes precedence over my role as a social worker or advocate. I cannot and will not publicize my experiences or successes in any way that will negatively effect my career or the individuals I serve...

On the other end of the spectrum I get many irrational comments from individuals in public while I am on and off the job. For instance yesterday a mother asked me "can you see?" And downtown on my way to the Y two individuals stepped out of my way as I came down the sidewalk using my cane. On saying "thank you" one child punched the other and exclaimed "see, I told you she could see us!"  My boss once said to me; "you don't need to be nice when you are off the job". And While this is entirely true, I can't take on that role either. My mother taught me manners and I will live out those manners and principles. As a disciple I will not treat anyone with disrespect. And on principle I don't want to give a bad name to the population of people I represent in the public mind. Yet I do wonder that if I were bigger in a physical sense if my response would be different. If I wasn't smaller than the people who belittle me, I wonder if I would have a more bold response than just ignoring and walking away.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Grass might be greener...but...

This week was overwhelming...but not in a bad way. Yes, its not ideal to NOT eat lunch some days....or to eat lunch at 2pm while kneeling in front of your boss's desk asking her lots of questions. But...it wasn't bad. the overwhelming part comes as I take the steps to moving forward on my own journey.

I had my first O&M lesson this week. It went wonderfully. The grass is greener.... A cane two inches longer made a huge difference in my ability to navigate my environment. But just because the grass is greener on the other side...doesn't mean its easier. Two inches on a cane adds a little more weight to what I carry on a regular basis. Adding a rolling tip means that I have more to learn. With a rolling tip I am able to use constant contact techniques...these are more effective in knowing the surface of what I am walking on and the objects in front of me...but it means more vibrations reaching my arm. I need to build up some muscle memory and strength to use my cane regularly. In walking to the Y this morning I was in excruciating pain with my larger tipped cane because of the amount of messages reaching my arm. I think that it would be a huge adjustment to move to this cane tip.

I also began my adaptive tech assessment Friday.  For so long I have just used the minimal accommodations available to me by changing the resolution and settings on my computer...but that is now not cutting it. As my coworker and I began exploring the different options I began to get so excited. Most adaptive tech doesn't work for someone with my eye condition because of field loss. It is difficult to follow jumpy programs and see large print. When things get blurry or too big...they become too difficult to see...so we are working with a small frame. But these simple modifications made to my computer could make things much easier. It will be a learning curve of becoming used to using a screen reader. And as we explore these options I am reminded of all the ways using these modifications will make it that much easier for others to see what I am doing from a farther distance.
Then she showed me these simple handheld magnifiers that I could use in many environments. Like...I am in the grocery store and won't have difficulty reading an ingredients list or allergy notes? I can read the instructions list easier when i'm cooking? or how about when I am at a restaurant and can't read the menu? How about the times I am in intake and can't read the tiny papers someone hands me? It might help with all of t hem. Its one more thing to carry. Its one more than to learn to use.

I have choices. I have the choice to accept the joy of being able to do these things....or I have the choice to be weighed down by the annoyance of one more thing to carry or learn to use. Its a hard choice. Its a choice I have to make each day for that day...not for tomorrow. Not for next week...but for today. Today...I choose to be honest with myself and do my best to be honest with others. That's what I can do today...tomorrow might be another step forward.

Friday, February 8, 2013

looking back and moving forward

Yesterday I had the odd opportunity of attending a play therapy class with a friend of mine. I went for many reasons, many of which I didn't tell people before hand. I went because I respect and admire the professor who teaches it and I wanted to see her. I went because I miss education...ok so that is a loaded response. But after sitting in the class I walked away with a new perspective on my education, my career and who I am.
As I sat in class something the professor said stuck with me. The topic was on Filial therapy and a conversation proceeded as to why parents were reluctant to participate. But the answer is simple: because it is uncomfortable, because we don't want to fail, because we don't want to look stupid. Its the same with school. We don't want to do the presentations because it means putting our vulnerable selves out there. This is one reason I was comfortable going back to class. Because it is comfortable, known and I know that I can overcome the challenges it brings. But it was more than that. I hunger for knowledge. I hunger to learn and grow and become a stronger and more effective social worker. I desire to further who I am in my position. I desire to learn the things that I lack. When I was in school I focused on what I thought was beneficial. I focused on what I thought I would need to know in order to achieve success. But now that I am on the other side, now that I am putting that practice to knowledge...I am wishing I focused on other things. I am wishing I had invested my time in the things I know now would be beneficial. I wish now that I could go back and get my degree now. To have that opportunity to learn these things again.
While that is not possible. I am inspired to learn what I can. I am inspired to press through what is uncomfortable now. I look at my team leader, my boss, the woman who leads our fearless group through the everyday challenges and desire to have her experience and knowledge. For a while this intimidated me. It made me cower in frustration and fear. But then I realized that she is my go to person, the person that can share all of that knowledge and understanding. She in her own way is teaching me as I had been taught in college.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wind Chill

In case anyone in the Greater Rochester area has not gone outside today...Its 13 degrees and feels like 3. Its cold. I try my best not to let the weather conditions affect my daily activities. But some things at this temperature are just stupid. Today when a coworker offered me a ride half way to work...I accepted it. Today after work...I will NOT be going swimming. To go swimming and then get in your car and drive home is one thing. To go swimming and walk for 20 minutes in the cold...not smart.

I, in this head of mine, was coming up with this great analogy for wind chill and life. See, we often find ourselves in the mids of something hard, something cold and difficult. But we can handle it. It is the speed and intensity (wind) at which it hits us that makes the situation or situations unbearable. The faster and more intense the presentation, the more difficult, painful and cold the experience.

Alright..that's all I got on this bitterly cold day.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Things I have considered...

I find myself doing a lot of "considering" these days. I consider how I should spend my time, who I should surround myself with. I consider what I "feed" myself and the things I am devoted to. But here are just a few things I have been considering lately...

What does it look like for me to continue finding my identity as a disciple of Christ while seeking to fully accept who I am as a person who has a disability.

This year I joined the Y so that I could get in shape and get back into swimming. But what I have been considering is how to connect with people, build relationships and serve the people I see at the Y. It would be easier if I was walking on the track or using weights. But when you are swimming your head is under the water and it is impossible to converse with anyone whole paddling through the water. 

Something I never thought I would consider is getting a guide dog. Let's not start rumors, I am NO WHERE NEAR ready to do so...but I have been thinking about it. I don't necessarily want the responsibility or the financial commitment. I don't necessarily want to devote the time...but I would have a companion. I would enhance my independence in traveling. And yes....dogs are a great conversation starter. 

What does it look like for me to serve my coworkers? My coworkers are almost entirely older than me and mostly by a significant amount. I actually thoroughly enjoy this. My coworkers have a significant amount of wisdom and experience. They have a gift, a gift they are readily giving to me and to any student or new employee that comes to our department. But as I sat in my supervisor's office yesterday and she began talking about curriculum's she had used...I had a desire to strive for excellence in my career and profession. I desired to be that source of knowledge and support for others to come. With this also comes a desire to serve my coworkers. I desire to support them, pray for them and be there for them in the good and the bad. I desire to be God's hands and feet in their lives...figuring out how to be this for each of them is the challenge in front of me. 

I have also been considering what it looks like to "be an adult". There are people in my life who consider someone who is stable in a job and living independently as "being an adult." There are other people in my life who consider "married (maybe with children on the way)" as being an adult. I don't want to be defined as an adult by a script. I want to be considered an adult because I have made it known that I know who I am and who's I am. That I have set a purpose for my life. I refuse to compromise who I am for anyone else's idea of what "adult" means. I refuse to play into that script, role or relationship. I will continue to be my God's and that is all that matters. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Life in 3D

A few nights ago my roommate and I wanted to go see The Hobbit. I loved the book and I know the book is always better than the movie...but I was throroughly excited to see it....

So when I searched for showtimes and found only 3D showings at times before 9pm....I got angry. Life happens in 3D...so it makes sense that as technology progresses it wouold move to 3D. I get that. I get that its enjoyable, its an experience much more enhanced than the old school 2D movies. I get that. But I also understand that not everyone likes it. Some people are unable to see 3D because of vision loss. Some people find it sickening due to motion or light. Some people just don't like it.  So offer both. That's all I have to say.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ranting

Dear City fo Rochester,
I regret to inform you that you do a crappy job at plowing. You seem to do an "ok" job at plowing the main roads...but side streets are MESSY. And what happens to the side walks, bus stops and such? Side walks are piled high. Bus stops are blocked by mounds of snow from plowing and not cleared out. Side walk entrances are blocked by the snow left from plows.
I understand that there are thousands of streets, sidewalks and bus stops in the city. But I also know that you pay people to do this work, work that it doesn't feel like is getting done. Ok, its a holiday and people want it off...but there are still residents that would like to safely navigate to and from their jobs, homes, and places of importance. Yesterday I hiked through knee-high snow to get home. Today I almost fell flat on my face...twice...because of the slickness of the sidewalk.
I would greatly appreciate that you make a concerted effort to properly clear your sidewalks and bus stops to make traveling safe for pedestrians as well as motorists. If you need an example of the quality of work that is possible, take a look at the sidewalks in front of ABVI.
Sincerely,
One cold and frustrated walker