Okay, it's been a little over a year since my last post and those who know me best know that's a long time for me to be quiet. The truth is I've had a lot going on (inside my head) that I haven't wanted to share until now. If you read my post last January, you know that after two years of being unemployed I finally met an employer willing to focus on what I could do instead of what I couldn't. Well, sadly I only worked for that employer for roughly 9 months before I made the tough decision to resign. The student's I worked with were great young men, but their needs together with my physical limitations and my need for a position with more hours and benefits meant the position had to end. Through God's provision, I found a full-time job with great pay and benefits. Ironically or maybe purposefully (the jury's still out on that) my path came full-circle and I have been employed for the last year-and-a-half by the same agency that I interned at 16 years ago. I am thankful for my job, but I am not doing what I set out to do when God put social work in my 13 year old heart, to help differently abled individuals become all they can be, no matter their challenges.
Why? Because I can't drive, can’t be on call, can’t do home visits, can't do CPR, can't perform hands free restraint, can’t work without benefits and my personal favorite, I don't have enough experience, which I can't get. That's a lot of “cants” that I don't know how to squash. What's even more disheartening and maddening is that I have started to believe I'm not good enough, not able enough (capable of meeting certain quota's because I may not be physically able to; my able-bodied co-workers sometimes can't, so how could I?) I hate this person, this person is a doubter, this person is stuck and this person is questioning her purpose and yes sometimes God. This person has been known to read Galatians 6:9-10 (a verse that once encouraged her to keep going) and burst into tears. This person is me. I've always felt God was going to use me to help other differently abled individuals and in my heart of hearts I believe He will, but I am tired. I am tired of knowing I have the smarts to be a good social worker mentally but questioning my physical ability. I'm tired of rejection, tired of advocating for myself and my desires and getting nowhere, tired of people questioning what I know. It's hard to explain, but sometimes it really feels like people question my judgement (and it feels like they question it because of my disability). On the other side, sometimes it feels like people forget that I'm disabled, so they expect me to do a job in the same manner. Sometimes I expect that too, all too often I expect that I should be able to do a job perfectly and with the same speed and accuracy, but I forget that I may need to do it differently because I forget that I am disabled (I've never seen myself that way). However, I now see myself that way and I don't like it. I use to be someone who, when faced with challenges or cant’s would become like the bull charging the matador daring those who would tell me I couldn’t to “watch me.” Individuals have been known to go bald because they bet against me (book). Deep down I know that spirit is still in me, but it’s become harder to access because the way I see myself has changed. This shift in thought has led to depression and anxiety because I have been way too focused on my limitations and I stopped seeing the person God created, I stopped remembering His promises. I know I can't accomplish my heart's desire on my own, but I don't know what to do, or how to live out my purpose anymore. I have tried helping others who have challenges through motivational speaking, but let's be honest, marketing yourself is a full-time job and when you now have a much needed full-time job it's impossible! I know, I know, nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26). However, I don't know how to make that work either...If you have ideas please share. If you’re still reading this, I know you’re thinking Amy, where's the joy? Well, surprise, surprise I've had it wrong, very wrong. Sin entered in and I forgot that God, put this desire in my heart and someday, someway, He'll see it through. I just hope I can get out of my own way when He presents an opportunity for me to move, to change, because right now I'm struggling to believe, to have faith, not in God, but in myself. So what am I going to do? I’m going to remember that God knit me in my mother’s womb (Psalms 139:13-14). I’m going to remember that He is the one who makes humans lame or makes them leap (Exodus 4:11 I’m going to remember that He will make all things, even my lameness, work together for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28)! When I grow tired and anxious (which has been happening way too much lately, so much so that I haven’t always felt His presence in my life), I have to remember to turn to Him and His word. I have to remember that His power is made perfect in weakness, that He calls me to Him, that He calls me to be strong and courageous because He is with me wherever I go and He is guiding my path, I just have to continue to call on Him (2 Corinthians 12:9, Matthew 11:28-30, Joshua 1:9, Proverbs 3:5-6, Philippians 4:6-7 and Psalm 16:7-8 &10-11). Here’s the problem with that, my flesh doesn’t want me to remember. I pray, but my prayers seem to go nowhere. Nothing seems to change and I start to feel very alone. But I’m not alone, I’ve never been alone, and I never will be alone (Joshua 1:5, 1 John 5:4, Deuteronomy 31:8 and Philippians 2:13). Thank God that He is stronger than my flesh!
We’ve been studying how to have relentless joy in church, through the book of Philippians and God has been beating me over the head with it, which I need because He knows that I am very hard headed, stubborn and not patient, which is good when you have a disability but very bad when your whole plan for your life feels like it’s going up in smoke (Isaiah 55:8-9, Proverbs 16:9). Here’s what I’ve learned, what I’ve always known, but had forgotten (darn flesh)! I hope it blesses you as it has me.
Tomorrow's the annual International Day of Acceptance, which is a day dedicated to the social acceptance of disability. For me, acceptance is something I am always striving for and hoping for. I am hopeful that there will one day be a world where we are no longer judged by the color of our skin, our limitations, or other differences that set us apart. As I share in my book, Difference is what makes us all unique. Everyone has challenges or differences that should be embraced, not seen as a mistake or something that needs to change. God doesn't make mistakes (Psalm 139:13-14 and Exodus 4:11, NIV). I know this and yet, sometimes I still feel judged for what I can't do, instead of being celebrated for what I can do, and the contribution as well as the credibility that my difference brings to society. Like Dr. Sexton, I was asked by an academic adviser if I was sure I wanted to continue pursuing a career in social work because classes would only get harder and they wanted to ensure I could handle it. I'd say I handled things well, getting my masters in a year and graduating Suma Cum Laude. Like Dr. Sexton, I've been told (by potential employers) I wouldn't get hired because of the things I couldn't do, Like Dr. Sexton, I didn't give up. Even though it took two years, three months ago, I got hired as a social worker for a therapeutic day school. I am so thankful to my employer for seeing something in me that others couldn't or wouldn't see.
Several months ago, Donka contacted me and asked if they could share my story. For those who don't know Donka, they're a non-profit organization that provides computer training and job readiness services to persons with physical, visual and limited learning disabilities. Through the use of computers and assistive technology, our clients become more self-sufficient and independent members of the community. I was once a student of theirs:
Dates for 2017
Dates for 2016
Today, my interview on Opening Bell aired. I only hope that Steve got to ask all his questions. Those who know me know I like to talk, but I must have been nervous because every time he asked me a question I ran away with it. Anyway, as I share on my home page, I still feel strongly that I am supposed to use my experiences to educate others, to be an encouragement and a beacon of hope for other people with disabilities and their families. It is my heart’s desire to help individuals become all they can be, no matter their challenges. It is my hope that being an author, motivational speaker, and consultant will help me to fulfill my desire while I wait for the perfect employment opportunity within my field. So if you know of any places or populations that could benefit from hearing my story, the whole story- not just Yazzen's, buy my book and/or invite me to speak!
So, I just finished this book today...Finally! It took me a long time to read it, not because it was boring and wasn't holding my interest (it was actually quite an engaging read), but because it was such a sad story. In my opinion, 264 of the 321-page story was sad and really unfair. As a result, I found myself wondering how much more the main character Denny could take before he surrendered to his circumstances and gave up? As sad as this story was, I'm glad I kept reading because Enzo, his faithful dog, had important reminders to share and in the end, there was a silver lining.
Sometimes in my own life, I wonder how many more challenges I have to overcome before something good happens, or how much more disappointment and heartbreak in regards unemployment can I endure. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the answer is "it's limitless." As I read this book, I was reminded of Linda Ellis's The Dash. Life isn't just about our beginning or our end, but it's more about how we respond to the stuff that happens in the middle.
Through the reading of this book, God reminded me that life's a race and I need to run it with patience and endurance ( Heb. 12). As Mr. Stein writes, "There is no dishonor in losing the race." There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose." There's no guarantee I won't experience disappointment in life, but with God by my side, the only way I can lose is if I give up and stop believing in myself. Therefore, I must keep going and keep trying. My race isn't over, He's not done with me yet, I have yet to accomplish His purpose for my life. Thanks for the reminders Enzo! Despite the sadness, this book is a good read and I give it 4 stars
On this, the one-year anniversary of my book being published, Portland and I spent a few hours hanging out with fellow author Wayne Turmel and 39 others at Gail Borden library’s second annual authors fair. It was fun and as always, I learned a lot. I am learning that marketing a book is even harder than writing one. I really feel that for now writing and sharing my story is what God wants me to do, but in order for me to do it well, I need to have “groupies!” In order for me to have a decent following, I need help getting my name out there. If you read my book, you can help:
March is Cerebral Palsy (CP) Awareness Month and the butterfly is the chosen symbol. I’ve always loved butterflies. They’re a symbol of resurrection, endurance, change, hope, and life. CP is so limited. It can't cripple love, it can't shatter hope or corrode faith. It can't destroy peace, or limit friendship. It can't damage memories, silence courage, conquer the spirit or delay joy. But people can.
I’ve gone through a lot, I've overcome a lot and as a result, I have a love/hate relationship with the limitations I have due to my CP. I love my limitations because they have made me strong, courageous, stubborn, compassionate, and determined to make a difference. I hate my limitations because they can cause self-doubt and because of them, I have always had to work extra hard to prove myself - I get very tired of that. Yes, I have limitations but they are only a small part of me and although I wouldn't be me without them, they DON'T define me. I am so much more than my limitations or my circumstances.
Like some people with disabilities, I also struggle with being an inspiration, ironic since I’ve written a book described as heartwarming and inspirational. I think I struggle with it because I don’t see myself as different or disabled. I am uniquely able and I want to be accepted and seen as an equal (i.e. I’m your coworker, not your inspiration). I still want to be accepted and seen as an equal, but when I read Joni Eareckson Tada’s devotional “Audiovisual Aids”, I gained a new perspective on being an inspiration. Joni talks about how God uses those who struggle, but continue to persevere as a way to strengthen others (Philippians 1:25). I smiled – thankful for this perspective. I never thought of it that way!
I’m still struggling to find a job in social work and I’m also having difficulty marketing my book and booking paid speaking engagements. It’s very hard to see myself taking steps to move forward, only to keep spinning my wheels, like a hamster. Because I keep getting stuck, it’s hard to find the strength to keep going. Yet somehow I do, and I know that the testing of faith produces perseverance/endurance (James 1:2-4; see also Romans 5:3-4, Romans 12:12, Romans 8:28 and Psalm 119:50). Now, can you see why I love butterflies?
Everyone has trials they must choose to overcome if they want to have happiness and joy in life and I’m no different. If I inspire or encourage you, great! However, I hope it's because of the person I am, not because of what I have had to overcome.
A nice memory popped up on my Facebook feed when I logged in this morning: "Excited to start a new venture, which I hope will lead to a second career in Motivational Speaking. Wednesday night, I will be sharing my story with parents and students. I'll be speaking about how I have chosen to defy disability and delight in diversity. I will talk about the importance of self-acceptance, perseverance, independence and advocacy...Teachers, social workers, parents, organizations etc., if you are interested in having me come speak at your events PM me your contact information and I'll be in touch."
What a year it has been! I don't know that I'll ever be able to charge the $1,000.00 fee the internet suggests for Motivational Speaking. Since I started, I have done seven speaking engagements, five for free. Although I'd like to get paid, getting my message of acceptance understanding differences and positivity to those who could benefit from hearing my life's story is important. Most recently, I spoke to two fourth grade classes at a local school. They're currently reading Sharon Draper's Out Of My Mind.
The (fictional) main character Melody's 11 years old and she has Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy. She uses a wheelchair and is unable to walk, talk, or feed herself, but Melody is very bright and has the gift of the photographic memory. Sadly, no one but those closest to her, know what she is capable of. To the other people in her life, she is the girl in the pink wheelchair who can't do anything for herself. Doctors told her mom that she won't potty train, can't learn, and should be institutionalized. Thankfully, her mom doesn't listen, and she enrolls her in school. As a result, Melody's subjected to peers who pick on her, calling her a "liar" and an "idiot." Melody also must deal with teachers who assume she's incapable of learning. Through it all, Melody perseveres and eventually receives the gift of speech, but will the people in her life be ready to listen to what she has to say?
Melody's story is a "must read" for anyone and so is mine. I too have Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy, and I use a power chair and a service dog for mobility and independence in my everyday life. Although I can walk, talk, and feed myself, I can relate to Melody. Doctors also told my mom that I would never potty-train, and when I was five years old, school administrators told my parents that my school was "not equipped to handle a child like me." As a result, I was bused an hour away to a "special" school in Joliet. I didn't think I'd ever get out of there. When I did, some administrator’s teachers and peers tried to make my life miserable. Administrators tried to make me stand out from my peers even more than I already did, some teachers couldn't understand that I needed accommodations to be successful in school, and some peers bullied me. They were repeatedly mean and excluded me from activities that most kids my age would've loved to be a part of like going to the movies or on trips to Great America. Some of them even accused me of not doing my own homework/class work, especially if I got better grades than they did. I wondered would I ever be accepted by them. Would the people around me ever see beyond my wheelchair and my limitations?
If you want to know the answer to these questions, read my book or have me come and speak to your school, your community group or service organization, your church, or even your place of employment. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Not convinced yet? Well, maybe the words of satisfied customers can convince you.
Welcome to My Blog, the place to find more information about my book, my motivational speaking, my other musings.and my media appearances.