Writing Process Blog Hop

My friend Mary, of Finding Joy In All Things, invited me to participate in a blog hop. I’ve more or less given up on blog hops, for obvious reasons, but I’m making an exception for this one.

For 3 reasons:
1) I consider Mary a good friend, it’s a JV/FJV thing, and it’s really hard to say know to a fellow FJV, even if you have yet to meet in person (and that’s only a matter of time). Plus she happily agreed to guest post & it’s about time I return the favor.

2) This is far from your typical blog hop.

3) The end of summer session is staring me in the face & I should be further along in my coursework than I should be. As in I should’ve done more work in June, like I had planned on, in between lengthy naps.

The point of this blog hop is to answer questions about my writing process. Then I’ll introduce you to other bloggers who I hope will participate in the blog hop.

What am I working on?
Blogging: Admittedly this is the one area where I’ve dropped the ball, at least compared to how much attention I used to devote to it. I used to think blogging was my outlet, until recently. I still like blogging but things have shifted for me. These days I go for quality over quantity. I’m finding it more worthwhile to grow in other aspects of blogging & the outreach involved rather than simply pumping out weakened content at an alarming rate and wonder why no one is reading it.

Speaking & Other Ventures:
My hours at my job (the consistent paycheck) were cut back a few months ago. As much as I miss (and depend) the money I was hoping that the “free time” would allow me to work on this area as much as I’d like to. It’s been going well and I’ve been booking more talks than ever before. It’s more overwhelming than I thought (there’s paperwork no one tells you about, for example) but so much more exciting and fulfilling than I ever thought possible.

See reason number 3 above.I’m devoting most of my time to school these days, even as a part time student. It’s taking up my life full time, but not in a bad way, in fact it’s quite the opposite. I’m really enjoying learning (HUGE for me), even with the unpleasant things like midterms and papers.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My work differs from others because I don’t think it fits into just one genre. I talk about a few topics, special needs/disability, faith/religion, and most recently life as a grad student. Let’s not forget about those times when I write about whatever comes to mind.

I’m probably not the only disabled Catholic who’s also an advocate and theology grad student (to name a few things) out there, but I’m sure there aren’t that many of us out there.

Why do I write what I do?
I started writing because a friend asked me to & I needed an outlet. These days I write what I do because there’s a need to have differing opinions, especially in the special needs/disability community. I also write because I don’t have the attention span to write a book. Also let’s not ignore the fact that I find myself in situations that you just can’t make up. I can’t not tell people about them either, I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work.

How does my writing process work?
There’s no process in my process, especially if I’m left to my own devices. Seriously.

As intense as HAWMC is it’s a lot easier for me in a sense since there are prompts for each day. I try to have a plan when I know I’m going to be posting more than usual. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I make a plan and change it last minute.

I tend to go through “spurts” of blogging. I can write multiple posts at a time without any trouble and then I can go weeks looking for ideas or struggling to write one post. Let’s just say I thank whoever invented the ability to schedule posts on a regular basis.

I like when readers (or other people) have questions for me the most. They’re not always easy to answer as you would think, not because I don’t know the answer. It’s more of how to explain it. Sometimes my internal thought process is so automatic I don’t see how others may have questions. I like being able to break things down for people (and myself). Plus answering questions usually gets me thinking more. More thinking means more posts. Win-win.

Look ma, no process.

In closing, I’m passing the Blog Hop along to Emily, Tiffany, and Zach

The Matter Of Vocation

Discernment leads to vocation, typically. Vocation is another topic I’m fuzzy on, at least if you compare my understanding to my peers (but if you’ve new to the concept, I’m pretty much an expert).

Finding my vocation and my discernment process appear to be two distinct things, which I’m sure isn’t the norm. I’m also pretty sure there’s a connection between the two somewhere, just don’t ask me what it is because I haven’t found it.

I can sum up my vocation story in one sentence.

My vocation found me.

As in I did not go looking for it. I went looking for a vocation, but my vocation pretty much jumped up from behind me and then bit me in the ass.

I was busy doing what I thought would lead me to my vocation because I had been led to believe (or maybe I miss understood) that you should go looking for your vocation. So I went looking and waited for something to click as my “sign” that this was it.

All the while there was another gigantic neon sign behind me telling me where to go.

I’m sure God was saying, “Would you turn around already?”

I’m not going to say I’m “finally firing on all cylinders,” because I’m not. I am beginning to notice all of the seemingly pointless little things that have let me to now.

Just for the record having someone come up to you in the school cafeteria, after you’ve known them for less than an hour, and tell you they can’t wait to see where you’ll end up in ten years totally helps too (even if it is a little odd).

I will tell you though; it’s nice to feel like things are “clicking.” It’s not a stress free and easy existence, like I was fooled into thinking, but it’s been pretty amazing.

It’s nice to say to people, “This is what I’m called to do,” mean it and believe it for myself. It’s a new thing for me (and I hope it sticks around for a while; forever would be great too).

Granted I’m not going to run around shouting proclamations from high places. I’m not that confident in myself, nor am I that type of person. But a little extra self-confidence goes a long way.

I always marveled at people who just knew their vocation, especially at a young age. I didn’t get how someone would “just know” without a shred of doubt. How can you possibly “just know”?

I’m still not sure how you just know but I can tell you that you just know.

Now just what my vocation is; that will take more than one sentence. It could probably fill up more than one encyclopedia volume.


The Matter Of Discernment

The matter of discernment puzzles me.

I was 20 before I even heard the word discernment, and then I heard quite regularly at that. It didn’t take long before “discernment” sound like the magic word for some secret society. It annoyed me to no end for a long time.

I’m not much closer to discovering what discernment really means ten years later. Although I have been told on numerous occasions that it’s not a “get out of jail free card,” so I should really stop treating it like one.

Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

It’s one of those necessary evils of life, especially if you’re Catholic, if you ask me.

There seems to be an implication that one cannot possibly find their vocation without some sort of discernment.

While this is more or less true I don’t think it can be expressed in such a cut and dry fashion if people are really going to understand discernment.

I understand that there’s no definite “right” or “wrong” way to discern.

However I’m not sure I’ve ever done it “right,” or at least the best way for me.

I have, however, done what everyone else has done.

I’ve gotten up for the sunrise masses and before class rosaries (mostly).

Gone to prayer groups and Bible studies.

Rarely ever, and I mean ever, missed fellowship or adoration.

Made every retreat possible, even a yearlong SEEL retreat that included spiritual direction.

I even joined a discernment group (albeit for other reasons, at least initially).

And they’ve had great success, although a different definition of success than the secular.

I have the dubious distinction of being a religious sister’s prayer partner for a few months during our junior year (during her final pre-nun years). Just to give you an example. I like to tell people that I helped facilitate her discernment process, because that’s how things happened in my head.

It took me a while to really get that discernment has no timetable. Although it eats on my nerves when people say they’re discerning something and you know for a fact that they’ve been doing it for years. Talk about using discernment as a “get out of jail free” card.

Let’s not even talk about the people who are so certain of their plan because they’ve discerned it within an inch of their lives and then after a day (or what feels like a day) they do a complete change of direction.

Because the mysteries of discernment go both ways, and every which way.

Discernment’s never been my thing, at least not in the same way swimming or encountering unpleasant people seem to be my things.

It would be awesome if God would just speak very loudly and very clearly after a period of prayer and self-reflection.

Unfortunately discernment doesn’t work like that either, at least not for most people.

Discernment is important. It’s also becoming a lost art in some aspects. Just don’t ask me for advice on it, because I have no idea what I’m doing.

Resisting The Inner “Angry Cripple”

I’ve been something of a “fan girl” of Maysoon Zayid’s since watching her TED Talk earlier this year, so you can just imagine how surprised I was when I noticed she noticed one of my tweets & then replied to a DM (or 10).

One of her DMs has stuck with me, “Say no to angry cripple face.”

Typically the word “cripple” sits on my last nerve longer and harder than “the r-word” ever could. This time was different, yes it was coming from one of my peers (which always helps), I realized she’s onto something.

I think most (if not all) individuals with a disability have “an inner angry cripple,” like people have an inner child; however some people are better at controlling (or resisting) their “inner angry cripple” than others.

I, myself have an inner angry cripple, who I often have to keep at bay; especially when various news items end up in my eye line that I happen to disagree with, and disagree with more than a little bit.

There’s a picture floating around the interwebs that says, “I’m Italian I don’t have an inside voice.”

An uncontrolled “inner cripple” is the same way. It won’t shut up, unless you shut it up.

I’m not sure when it starts for people. All I can tell you is that I have no idea when it started for me, but I have a feeling that it’s just getting started. Something tells me it starts around the time you get shoved around one too many times and no one else seems to give a crap.

There seems to be an ongoing conversation within the disability community of “how much is too much.”

This same question applies to advocacy and activism.

How much is too much?

I’m learning that the saying, “he who screams loudest wins” isn’t the best route (no matter what the “inner angry cripple” says). There are times when it is called for and it can be very effective but it’s hardly a long term plan for successful advocacy.

One of the most frustrating things about the disability community is that we’re painted with a broad brush by “outsiders.” If someone has a negative interaction with someone with a disability then the first someone will often carry that over to the next person with a disability that they meet, even though it’s two separate anything and everything.

What I say has an effect on the next person. What someone said before will affect me.

It makes no sense and a lot of sense all at once.

It’s not fair, but it’s reality.

For this reason my biggest obstacle in having an impact is myself and my “inner angry cripple.”

I’d venture to guess it’s the same for a lot of people.

The “inner angry cripple” has its place in my head (and any advocates). It’s the engine that drives the train. However resisting the “inner angry cripple” and its first instincts are important.

Yelling at every person whose done wrong may feel good, at first, but it won’t really make the same impact as a sane rational discussion will.

I will resist my “inner angry cripple” and her urge to jump out and play at every available opportunity.

Do you resist yours? If you don’t, will you try?


On Dignity & Disability

I’ve been told that it’s a good idea to set up internet alerts to keep up with the news that may interest me. While I think it’s a good idea and I have come close to doing so on more than one occasion, I’m glad I don’t have any of it. There are plenty of days when I want to pull the plug and throw my computer out without additional influence. Can you image what would happen if articles ended up in my inbox the second they were published? No thanks.

Over the last few weeks there have been a few articles that have grasped my attention and just won’t let go (and raised my blood pressure exponentially).

Please note (and respect) that I will not be linking directly to or mentioning any specific details of these articles. I’m choosing to use my “linking power” wisely.

I’m not expert on dignity but it’s been a recurring topic in my continuous inner dialogue lately. What is it? How does one achieve it? How should you go about protecting it? I think you get the idea.

The issues surrounding dignity or lack thereof and disability are really starting to get to me. I’m not the most diplomatic person (read: at all) & I have a temper so my first reaction is usually anger and it takes me a little time to get my thoughts out so someone else can know what I’m trying to say and want to listen.

Dignity in regards to disability is not a new frontier. However it is one that needs exploration by the able-bodied (and those related in any way to someone with a disability). It can be a tricky subject to approach in mixed (ability) company; it probably has something to do with sympathy vs empathy, or other similar topic.

I remember the first article I read that made me question how people saw dignity for people with disabilities. It made me so angry I just sat on my feelings for a while, because I wasn’t “into” being a disability advocate then so throwing my feelings out there would’ve been shocking to everyone. I kept my feeling to myself, mostly, but it’s never left my mind.

I’m pro a lot of things but I draw the line somewhere before preforming medical procedures to stop individuals from growing up, literally, because someone going through puberty and adulthood are more difficult to care for.

It’s a fact of life, disability or no disability. There shouldn’t be a separate set of rules for those with disabilities. That’s the exact opposite of what so many people fight for.

If the same thing were to happen to an able-bodied person masses of people would be up in arms and it wouldn’t even make it in front of an ethics board, never mind be approved by an ethics board.

Let’s not even discuss what would happen if a child were to ask to stay child-sized forever, because I think we can all guess what would happen.

One area I tend to struggle with my thoughts the most is in an educational setting. I’d like inclusion for all, of course, but there are situations when I wonder if it’s really possible. I’m against self-contained classrooms mostly but I’m not completely against them. If you want to reinvent the mold for your child to fit into the mold that’s fine, but not at the expense of other children, that’s not OK. A child needs to be given the best environment to flourish in the long term.

Creating a short term solution and hoping that it “just might” evolve into a long term plan is not only irresponsible but further proving the long held myth that people with disabilities are handed opportunities because they can’t afford them for themselves.

Let’s not forget about a certain photo controversy that’s become a virtual powder keg of opinions.

To be clear the differences of opinion are with the photo. I haven’t read a single comment from someone with a disability who has a favorable opinion of the photo. At the same time the majority of positive opinions have come from parents (or caregivers etc.) of a child with a disability. While both groups (PwD & parents, etc. of PwD) are part of the disability community each comes to the community with a different point of view.

I will not be talking about the point of view of parents, etc. because I am not a parent and I am not close enough to “the etc.” to be able to speak on it effectively.

Speaking as a person with a disability I can tell you that the photo was an immediate turn off. I’ll often read articles even if the photos turn me off the subject. I’m a visual person so I understand the value of a well-placed visual, whether positive or negative. Sometimes I have to “override” first instinct and give something a chance. However using this particular photo was foul play on the part of journalists and parents.

Just because you’re OK with complete access (and/or are given it) doesn’t mean it’s OK to take advantage of it.

How many pictures have sparked controversy because a parent posted it online? Pictures of able-bodied minors in a diaper or even a questionable outfit are posted every day and someone somewhere always had an unfavorable opinion of it. And if the backlash is big enough social media accounts are suspended.

Why isn’t the same curtesy extended to an older individual who cannot speak for themselves just because a relative or caregiver gives the OK?

And what would happen if someone who could speak for themselves is perfectly fine giving a journalist full access and a similar photo was used? I doubt people would have a similar reaction. In fact I doubt a photographer would even take such a picture.

I’m going to take it one step further (maybe a step too far even). Child predators toll the internet 24/7 looking for images of people, most of them are seemingly innocent images.

People get upset and “cry porn” if a mom posts a picture of a three year old proudly wearing her “big girl underwear.” Yet it’s a “beautiful image” to see a disabled 16 year old wearing nothing but a diaper.

Isn’t this a double standard?

I could probably go on and on with more examples, in fact I know I could, but I’ve said enough, for now.

A friend said things better than I ever could, “because disability is involved, we accept the notion that disability means less-than-human. We must remember that a person is a person, no matter their abilities. Everyone deserves to be presented to the world around us in a manner of dignity and respect.”(source)