Monday, March 20, 2017

Dignity (Thoughts on Ableism)

I love the new comedy on ABC - Speechless. The show stars Minnie Driver as the matriarch of the DiMeo family - husband Jimmy and kids JJ, Ray, and Dylan.

The things that makes the show unique is that oldest son JJ has Cerebral Palsy. He is wheelchair bound and can't speak. The initial premise of the show is the family is moving into a new neighborhood - something they've done before as they seek out the best place for their oldest son to receive a quality education. The family is quirky and funny and most of their lives really revolve around JJ.

This past week's episode had a situation with the family in a grocery store. JJ is at the meat counter and, using his word board and laser pointer, is communicating with the store employee about his order. Then a business man in a hurry comes along, steps directly in front of JJ and then reaches back to the joystick that controls JJ's wheelchair and literally pushes him back.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend shared a meme/video thing on Facebook about a woman in a parking lot who encounters a man in a wheelchair. What we're supposed to get from the story is that we shouldn't be afraid to reach out to help someone. The end of the story is that the man is a lonely veteran, his wife had died, he was sad and this person being forceful about grocery shopping with him and buying him what he needed helped lift his spirits and should inspire us all to help others.

At the start of the story, the woman approaches him and he says he doesn't need help but she starts pushing his wheelchair toward the store anyway. He again insists that he is fine but she just knows what's best so continues to push his wheelchair and then that beautiful thing happened where he opens up about his sadness and such.


Ableism is discrimination against disable people. Or, favorable treatment of those seen as "normally" abled.

Ableism is when you see someone and define them by their wheelchair. Or cane. Or braces. Or limp. And so on.

Ableism is when a person with different abilities is seen as less than - less capable, less of an asset, less than human.

Like deciding to push them through the grocery store, even if they have protested.

Like handling the controls on their wheelchair to put yourself ahead of them.

I am not any sort of an expert in this area. But it's something that has been popping up more and more in my life lately. From those examples given above to real life situations - hearing people use the word "retard" or hearing from a friend about the struggles of finding a bathroom that is truly accessible to the differently abled.

Can we talk about that bathroom thing for just a second? Bathrooms have had a lot of attention lately with the government sticking their noses in to where transgendered people should be allowed to urinate and defecate.

Bathrooms are something that I think we often take for granted. My biggest complaints in a bathroom are cleaniness and what type of toilet paper holder is installed. I don't have to wrestle with how heavy a door is, if the door swing towards me or away from me, the width of the stall door or the width of the stall itself. I don't have to keep a list of businesses that do the bare minimum to meet building codes vs businesses that have bathrooms that I can actually easily use.

And how about transportation?

Check this out for a little touch of insight:

You might be saying to yourself - I treat everyone the same! How would I even know if I'm being an ableist?

Here are a few links to give you some insights. Click over and see if you've ever heard yourself in them.

The Ridiculously Simply Way to Know if Something is Ableist

9 Things That Might Not Seem Ableist but Actually Are

7 Ways You Might Be Ablesit Without Knowing It

15 Common Phrases That Are Way More Ableist Than You May Realize

The month of March is Disability Awareness Month. In my state, this means:

Each March, Disability Awareness Month is celebrated throughout Indiana. And given that adults and children with disabilities represent slightly more than 19 percent of Indiana’s population, disability awareness is important for all of us. Led by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities, the goal of Disability Awareness Month is to increase awareness and promote independence, integration and inclusion of all people with disabilities.

To promote independence, integration, and inclusion.

Meaning ramps and parking space and bathrooms that people of all abilities can use.

Meaning offering the same opportunities in schools and workplaces and places of worship and grocery stores and theatres.

Again, I'm no expert. This is just something that has been coming up time and time again over the past few months.

It isn't about treating everyone the same.

I see it as treating everyone with dignity and love.

I see your cane/wheelchair/different way you walk or talk. I see that you process the world differently. But I'm not going to treat you as "less than" or decide I can somehow help or save you because of it. That I somehow am smarter or kinder or, ahem, more able than you are to navigate the world.

But what can I do about it?

1. Educate yourself. Learn about ableism. Learn about the laws that impact disabled people. Learn about policies. Start googling and you'll find plenty of information. You don't have to be an expert. There is always room to learn more.

2. Be aware. When you walk into a restaurant or library or business or church or school, pay attention to the walkway, the entrance, the doors, the bathrooms, the seating. Try to determine if this would be an easy place to maneuver through in a wheelchair, with braces on, without sight or hearing, with sensitivities to light or sound.

3. Be an advocate. Learn about what policies and laws are in place that impact people with disabilities. And then add your voice to those who are seeking equal treatment and opportunity. Or maybe you frequent a local business and you realize that their handicap accessibility isn't really very accessible - let the owner or manager or corporate office know that you think it needs to change.

4. Be a friend. Say hello to someone that you notice is differently abled. Don't add to potential feelings of rejection or isolation by avoiding them or avoiding eye contact. Say hi. Be friendly. Maybe strike up a conversation. Make a new friend. Not because they "inspire" you or out of pity or because you think they're "adorable." But because you realize how politically savvy they are, how witty they are, how smart they are, how funny they are - all the reasons you'd make friends with any person.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The 2017 List in March

1. This is looking both more challenging and more possible to accomplish. On the one hand, we are seeing more anxiety from the kids about being away from us right now. On the other hand, we have become friends with a family that Teagan thinks she'd be ok to spend the night with. Our original plan was to basically just trick the kids - we act like it's just date night, Christy puts them to bed and they wake up to find Christy still there! I think it will be a bit later in the year before this one happens.

2. No effort made on my part for this one. Yet.

3. Heading to Gatlinburg in a few weeks!

4. I haven't done anything specific to really deep dive but I did listen to this on NPR about Islam and recommend it for everyone -

5. I'm waiting for spring.

6. See #5

7. Getting there. Slowly. This final color belt is challenging.

8. Prayer and reflection - check.

9. Working on it.

10. Getting there. Also slowly. Reading Henri Nouwen's "Discernment" and getting a lot from it.

11. Not happening aside from tae kwon do. Need to move this up the priority list at some point.

12. Yoga - similar to #11.

13. Again - slacking. Need to make this happen.

14. Spring - I promise!

15. Spring and summer

16. Free hugging has been done once. I have a plan for a second time but haven't made it happen yet.

17. I am about to finish book #9 (Black Man In A White Coat) for the year. I think Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom will be next. I've had to step back from the book club just due to my schedule being too crazy right now. But we do have our first family book club meeting coming up - 3 families getting together to discuss a book we all read. Here is what I've read so far:

18. I am journaling. Even had to get a new journal. My last one lasted almost exactly 2 years. And Teagan and I have a mother-daughter journal we share.

19. This one is going very well.

20. Need to up my commitment a bit on this one. We have a system but we need to be more strict about the kids doing the assigned daily chore.

21. I think this will be one that I reflect on at the end of the year more than anything.

22. I have not done this. And I could count it as time in nature and prayer time if I'd just commit to making it happen.

23. I'm wearing it. But I need to work at using it to motivate me to get more steps. I do like tracking my sleep, too.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Season of Discernment

I am in a deep spiritual place.

I would like to go wander in the woods alone to simply receive and contemplate.

I attended our Ash Wednesday service at church last night and there were many things that spoke directly into my soul.

There was a "read and response" to open our time together. I've completely chopped up what was spoken. I've written it down and moved it around and mixed things up. I've taken pieces from other parts of the service and mixed it in.

Here is what it comes down to for this "season of discernment" (Lent).

For everything in me that may hide God's light

To receive this blessing, my heart must break open

What is in me that hides God's light?
A lack of reverence for truth and beauty
Going along with mean and ugly things
Arrogance that "knows it all"
Artificial living. Artificial worship.
Being pompous. Being rude.
Cynicism about others
Intolerance and Indifference
Being satisfied with the church and the world as it is
Failing to share my outrage about injustice
Selfishness, self indulgence, self pity
Token concern for those in poverty, who are alone, who want to be loved
Confusing faith with good feelings and emotional responses
Confusing love with wanting to be loved

From dust I came and to dust I will return

How are you using this season of Lent? Is there a call on your heart to draw closer to God? Are you feeling nudged to take more action? To draw within yourself?

I read an article on Vox and it ended with these words:

Lent is specifically designed to dismantle the egotistical ideas we sometimes have about ourselves, to identify the places in our lives where we’ve grown arrogant or complacent, to remember that we are going to die someday, and to repent and renew our dependence on God. Lent is meant to be uncomfortable. And it’s meant to end in gratefulness.

What in me is hiding God's light?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Taking Sides

Over the past however many years, even as I've stood up for people on the margins and called senators and shared opinions and information, I've still always maintained that there is a way to see both sides. There is a way to bridge the divide. There is a way to meet at a crossroads.

The truth is, that meant I was willing to maybe overlook or tone down someone else's racism or homophobia. In the interest of meeting them where they are and hoping to be an influencer to show them a different way.

The truth also is that I was scared to ruffle feathers or make enemies or have people not like me. And I was scared to admit that hate is very real. That racism is a thing and white privilege is a thing and violence against women is a thing and hate crimes towards gay people are very real things. I wanted nothing but love and peace and kindness.

I am seeing a lot of people trying to find that middle ground now, in the Trump era. And it's admirable. Heck, I still long for love and peace and kindness.

But I'm not there anymore. I can't just focus on those lovely things and brush aside or hide from the realities that are around me every day.

I'm too angry and fed up, I suppose. I tried to be all nice and crossroadsy before. And there are certainly days when I'm willing to be more patient than others. But there are fewer of those days.

Part of me wants to hear the "other side." But part of me is fed up with giving the other side a voice, a chance, a pulpit, a pat on the back.

I don't think it's time to bridge the divide. I think it's time to take sides. Trump isn't drawing a line in the sand - he is blowing up a canyon between people in this country. If I try to stand on both sides, I will fall in.

I'm usually very willing to see a lot of gray.

But when it comes to how we treat human life and how we value one another, it's pretty damn black and white.

I'm not saying I won't have the conversations. If people want to engage and truly learn and are ready to leap across the divide to at least visit, I'm all for it. But I'm done tip toeing around in "enemy territory." Again - been there, done that.

This also does not mean that I am cutting people out of my life or anything like that. There are people I love dearly who hold very different values than my own. I will keep loving them. And they will keep loving me. But the divide is there. And it's real. The divide changes how you perceive someone, changes how you hold them in whatever level of esteem.

And maybe this Trump divide means that some of those people who had been at the crossroads are now standing on the edge of this side of the divide - because they may not fully understand it but they can feel and see that Trump is not good for humanity. But it's going to take a lot of the crossroads people to make an impact by choosing their side.

And maybe there are people hiding on that side of the divide - that wish they could be over on this side but they don't want to cause pain or be picked on or be tossed into the divide.

Being silent is a privilege. Being silent means you are allowed to turn the other cheek and love your enemy. We like those platitudes in the Bible. We like being able to quote them and hold them up like a shield. Pointing out the rosey, sunshiney parts of our faith.

It's time to find your voice, folks. And use it. The Jesus I read about in the Bible did love people. But he loved them radically. He loved the people that others considered disposable and less than. He didn't preach that everyone should embrace the Pharisees and try to better understand archaic Jewish laws.

He taught a new way. A vastly different way.

This is about people believing they now have license to be openly hateful. Harmful. This is about homophobia and racism and sexism. How those things play out take different forms for different people. But we're at the foundation of the issues. The baseline of choosing the value of people or choosing the value of power.

Choose people or choose power.

That's it. And with that as the divide, I choose people.

Jesus chose people over power. He admonished the powerful and the rich. He healed the sick and broken and embraced those who were "less than."

So I'm taking the side of people. Specifically the people who need someone to stand up with them, for them, beside them. Black people and brown people and gay people and refugee people and immigrant people and under 18 people and female people and disabled people and non-english speaking people and poor people and....

Monday, January 23, 2017

January 2017

When the new year started, I shared that I wasn't so much into the idea of making a resolution or setting a "focus word." Instead, I made a list of things I wanted to focus on, continue, or start up.

1. I have to admit, I thought I was cheating a little with that first one. When I made my list, I had a plan for Jeff and I to sneak off for 1 night at a hotel. But then the kids got sick. So now I have to find another night when we can book a hotel and sneak away!

3. We are looking at plans for Spring Break. Gatlinburg, I think!

7. After next week, all 4 of us should be on our final belt before becoming Black Belts. Teagan will get there well ahead of the rest of us. And she will certainly continue her training while the rest of us will be satisfied with the achievement of Black Belt.

8 and 9. I need to make a plan to focus on this one in Feb.

10. I've been thinking about this one. One thing I want to get more deeply involved in is fighting homelessness in my city. I am involved with a mission through my church but want to look into doing more.

11. This one is slow. I'm trying to get out and walk regularly. I am a wimp when it comes to walking in cold and wet weather, though.

12. I need to work up some courage on this one.

13. We had a date night - the overnight ended up just being dinner in celebration of Jeff's birthday. Need to plan a February date night now!

16. I did Free Hugs at the Indianapolis Women's March (Rally)! It was fantastic! One guy gave me a huge hug and then borrowed my sign so he could go hug people. Another woman hugged me and then handed me her hat (one of those infamous pink knit ones). A couple people would hug and dance at the same time! One event down, 2 to go!

17. I have read 2 books so far - A Dog's Purpose and Born A Crime. I have also been invited to join a book club and am working on forming a book club between some families!

18. I've been doing this one - especially loving a journal I'm doing with Teagan.

19. I've had some lovely time with friends - some highlights are coffee with a friend, a night watching Beaches before the terrible Lifetime redo came on, and a game night with another family.

20. We have a new chore system in place and it's going very well so far!

23. I've been wearing my FitBit almost daily. Sometimes I forget it for a day when I take it off to charge it. I really need to up my daily steps.

Making progress in some areas - not bad for the first month of the year! I plan to do monthly updates to keep myself accountable.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Chores - Trying a New Approach

My kids do not have regular chores. We've tried here and there but it never sticks - mostly due to failure on the part of us as parents to follow through on rewards or tracking. We've been most successful in the summer break when we have a nanny and the kids are required to do chores in order to earn screen time for the day. But when we try to use the same idea during the school year, it fails. Mostly because there are many days where there is no time for personal screen time anyway.

For 2017, I am trying again.

In our home, we do not pay for chores. And we will not be earning personal screen time by doing chores. Instead, this approach to chores is about the family being a team and everyone having responsibility in taking care of our living space.

The reason I think chores are important is because I do see positive growth in my kids when there are daily expectations - read for 20 minutes, do chores, get physical activity. They like having responsibility, they like achieving goals.

I don't have strict rules about how the chore gets done. If you've done what's on the list, great. If you do more, even better. You can team up and work together. You can ask for help from a parent. You can do it in the morning or after school - as long as it is done before bed (exceptions include taking care of Bandit and taking out trash bins - those have to be timely).

I created calendars - 1 for each child and 1 for us (Mom & Dad). I created a list to explain what each chore is. The basic idea is that the daily chore should only take about 15 minutes of actual work but should make a big impact in how we keep up our home.

I used the provided calendar template in Excel. Nothing fancy. The calendar for the month is posted on each child's bedroom door and the list of what is expected for the chore is posted in a common area (we have a specific space in the hallway). Over the course of 2 weeks, each child will have done each chore at least once. Sundays are a day off - except for feeding the dog, of course.

I am hopeful that this will be a clearly communicated way of getting basic housework done and creating a sense of teamwork in our family.

Saturday, December 31, 2016


I've been mulling over the idea of summing up 2016, of coming up with a word to focus on in 2017, whether or not I should resolve to make any changes in the New Year.

2016 was an interesting year. At the start of the year, I had decided that my focus for the year would be to be more open to the ways people love me - to Be Loved. I'm not sure I focused on it well but I do know there was a lot of love in my life in 2016.

Teagan was in a musical at school. I saw The Force Awakens 4 or 5 times in theaters. We went to GeoFest at the Indiana State Museum. Teagan had strep throat. I had my first ever gel manicure. We took a dream trip to Disney World. I call it a dream trip because we stayed in a higher end resort and added on some special treats like a ferry cruise for fireworks and a dessert party for fireworks. American Ninja Warrior was taped on the Circle in downtown Indy - but we didn't go because filming happens overnight. We continued our advancements in tae kwon do - with a big achievement being that each of us can break a board with our bare hand! The kids finished 5th and 2nd grades and started 6th and 3rd.

Zach learned how to swim! Teagan marched in 2 parades with our tae kwon do school. As a family, we attended Cons and Rallies - both representing things that matter to us. Teagan and I got more involved with music at church - singing in special ensembles and both of us joining the handbell choir. We enjoyed several days at the Indiana State Fair before school started. Jeff had his knee scoped due to a meniscus tear. Liz had IT band issues and went through some physical therapy. This delayed our progress in TKD for about a month or so.

Teagan ran cross country. Jeff got involved with the junior high youth group at our church. Our whole family got involved with a ministry in our church to help house families who are striving to get out of homelessness. There was a really, really ugly presidential election with results that were shocking to many. I had a very brief health issue with my heart. Zach and some friends started a club to "build up" people in their school and community.

It was a year of loss for a lot of people in my circles. Death, job loss, serious health problems, ending relationships.

Instead of a focus word or a resolution, I want to make a list of things I want to do in the coming year. Some of them are things I already do but want to keep a priority. And some are new things I haven't ever done. And the list will change, I think.

1. Spend a night away from my kids with my husband.
2. Spend a weekend away from my husband and kids.
3. Take a family vacation.
4. Learn more about other faiths like Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam.
5. Spend quiet time in nature.
6. Spend active time in nature.
7. Achieve Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.
8. Find time for prayer and reflection.
9. Pray more.
10. Find a single passion and focus my efforts.
11. Commit to more exercise - daily walking or finding a group exercise thing (Zumba, etc).
12. Take a yoga class.
13. Plan regular (at least every 6 weeks) date nights with my husband.
14. Participate in at least 3 5K events.
15. Ride my bike.
16. Free Hug in at least 3 places / events.
17. Read / Listen to at least one book per month.
18. Journal
19. Make time with friends to stay connected or strengthen connections.
20. Get consistent about family chores.
21. Continue to love others in bigger ways.
22. Walk the labyrinth at my church quarterly as part of my prayer/meditation.
23. Wear my FitBit.

What are you wanting in 2017? What will you hold on to and what are you wanting to change?