It Does Exist

For some reason, I haven’t really had the desire to keep up with the various blogs I follow. I regularly read some, but put others off to the side for another day.

Today, I was casually reading through, Rolling Around In My Head, trying to catch up, and saw this entry.

The entry really hit a cord with me because not only have I felt this way, but I remember thinking similar thoughts while in my social work classes.

During my two years in the social work program at McMaster University, I learned about sexism, racism and the importance of child welfare. In total, I took about ten different courses, and even though each one was supposed to prepare us for our future careers in the field of social work, not one looked at disability.

As a person with a visible disability, I tried to voice my feelings and bring forth the fact that people with disabilities also experience discrimination and should be given a voice, like those who experience sexism, racism and homophobia. Unfortunately, my words went unheard, and my voice was drowned out by yet another student bringing up a situation they witnessed where a woman or person of colour was discriminated against.

I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. And, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned. But, I feel that it is time for people to help us, people with disabilities, have a voice.

Maybe Dave is right, and the able bodied people of the world just think we should be quiet, and thankful for the generosity they are bestowing upon us, but like Dave, I don’t agree.

Just because someone holds a door for someone in a wheelchair, or moves something out of the way for me and Cessna to get by more easily, doesn’t give them the right to feel good about themselves. If I saw someone approaching, I would do the exact same thing, does that mean I should feel good about myself?

Just like there is sexism, racism and homophobia in the world, there is also discrimination happening towards people with disabilities.

and, just like sexism, racism and homophobia needs to stop, so does discrimination against people with disabilities.

Do You Agree?

Today Time Magazine released this article, and I thought I would share the link here.

The article looks at the way people view members of the opposite sex when it comes to their choices in dog breed. According to the article, both men and women tend to be more attracted to those who choose the retriever breeds (Labrador & Golden) over those who like breeds like the Chihuahua or Rottweiler.

Personally, I’m a retriever lover, but I found it quite intriguing to read about how someone’s choice of dog could affect their love life.

What do you think?

What If Your Dog Were Your Life Coach?

If Cessna were my life coach, she’d tell me to stop trying to be someone I am not. She’d tell me to celebrate my uniqueness.

If Aspen were my life coach, she’d remind me that no matter what life throws in my direction, I’ll never have to face it alone. She’d tell me that there is always going to be someone to catch me if I fall.

If Canyon were my life coach, he’d remind me that happiness is not found within the things I possess, but within the things I enjoy. He’d tell me to forget about everything that does not bring me joy.

If Rogue were my life coach, she’d tell me that enthusiasm is always the way to go. She’d remind me that no one ever reached their goals without it.

If your dog was your life coach, what advice would they offer?

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

This past week Huib and I watched a movie on television called the Memory Keeper’s Daughter. It’s about a doctor and his wife who have fraternal twins, a “healthy” son and a daughter who has Downs Syndrome. The doctor had a sister with Downs Syndrome that only lived to be twelve years of age, so remembering the agony his mother went through after her death, he decides to tell his wife that their daughter did not survive. He asks one of the nurses in the delivery room to take the infant to a home for the mentally ill, but the nurse ends up keeping the child, and raising her.

I was so angry watching the movie. To think that such practices existed troubled me. I am not naive. I know this happened and still happens today. But, it really bothered me.

Huib and I are in the process of completing a home study to adopt through Child and Family Services. We began this process almost two years ago with the goal of first fostering and then adopting, but given the obstacles of my visual impairment, we’ve decided to just adopt.

The worker who is doing our home study is great. She asks a lot of questions about how I will do this or that with my visual limitations, but she’s honest about the reasons for her questions and is quite willing and eager to learn.

It’s exasperating to know that people still think individuals with disabilities cannot successfully raise children, but I also recognize that there are people out there who should not be doing so and understand why the questions are asked.

Huib and I are close to finishing our home study and should know by May whether or not we are accepted. We are hoping to adopt a young child around three years of age or younger, so know that it will take time for the right child to enter our lives. From what the worker has said, it is quite rare for children as young as we’d like, to come into care and go up for adoption in this area (which is a good thing), but she has said that other agencies will also have our information on hand.

Now that all of our background checks, reference checks and basic interviews are done, Huib and I need to start child-proofing our home so the worker can give the agency the all-clear. It’s kind of strange to know that we have to spend the time child-proofing before we even know whether or not we are officially accepted, but then I’m sure the worker would have told us by now whether or not it’s not going to happen.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter angered me so much because Huib and I would love to have a child of our own, but due to unforeseen circumstances this is not going to happen, so to see someone give up their child because of idiocy is just infuriating.

Huib and I would never consider such a heartless act, and would love to adopt a child with special needs.

No Thanks Cupid

Today is Valentine’s Day.

Historically, February 14th was a holiday meant to honour the Christian martyrs who were all named St. Valentine. According to a Google search, the holiday was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD, but was removed from the Roman Calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.

Around the 15th century, the holiday developed into one where lovers began to express their love for one another.

In the early 19th century hand written notes gave way to mass produced greeting cards. And in the mid-twentieth century additional gifts such as roses and chocolates were added. Finally in the 1980s, the diamond industry began marketing Valentine’s as a time to also give jewelry.

Valentine’s Day has become an overly commercialized holiday where we are bombarded for weeks with advertisements and messages telling us to make sure we get the perfect gift or we’ll be in the proverbial “doghouse”.

It’s no longer an opportunity to celebrate the special bond between significant others, but has become a day of stress and disappointment. Men rush from store to store, trying to find the perfect gift for their girlfriend/wife, while women imagine the ideal present, only to be disappointed when their husband/boyfriend arrives with flowers, chocolate or a cute little teddy.

Huib and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. We don’t see the need for a special day to say “I love you” or for giving one another a gift. We believe in saying “I love you” daily, and giving one another gifts when the opportunity presents itself.

Even though I love chocolate and could always use another teddy to add to my stuffed animal collection, I’d much rather have huib surprise me with one out of the blue, instead of being given one because it was expected.

So, instead of Happy Valentine’s Day, I say no thanks Cupid!

Accepting Differences

Like my dogs, I am different. I do not follow the crowd. And I march to my own beat.

From a very young age, I have understood difference. I didn’t look like other children. My mom was not like other moms. And my childhood was not like that of other children.

But, that’s okay.

As I grew older, I began to understand difference in other ways. People not only looked and grew up differently, but also thought and behaved differently.

But, that’s okay.

I have friends from all walks of life. We look different. We grew up different. We think differently. And we behave differently. Most of my friends would never become friends with one another.

But, that’s okay.

After completing my Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Policy, I decided to work towards a Bachelor of Social work. I learned about even more differences between people. I learned of attitudinal differences. And of differences I cannot appropriately name.

But, that’s okay.

Because I’m different, I work extremely hard to accept the differences of others.

I try not to judge. I question, in an attempt to learn.

This is why, it really bothers me to see others judge and make assumptions about myself and others.

We’re all different. We all come from a different beginning. We’ll all end up in a different spot.

Why is this not okay?

Why must we stop talking about the differences? Why must we only acknowledge the similarities? Why can we not ask questions, learn from one another, and accept each others views?

It’s because we’re afraid to leave our own experiences and beliefs at the door.

And, that’s not okay.

Just Listen

This week Dave, over at Rolling Around In My Head, wrote an insightful post. While reading his words, I thought about the times, where I felt pushed aside while trying to share an experience.

I haven’t really had much to write about here over the past couple of weeks, so I thought I’d take some time to express my feelings and discuss my own experiences.

There are times when all we should do is listen.

There are times when words of encouragement, or sympathy, are not welcome.

There are times when relaying your own experiences is not appropriate.

We have all been guilty of overlooking these simple rules, at sometime or another.

It’s just part of human nature to want to comfort.

To want to help others see that they are not alone.

To share our own experiences.

But, we need to learn how to just listen.

I’ll give you an example…

Before Christmas, Huib and I had a disagreement. I was upset about a broken promise. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to explain my frustrations. When he left for work, I wouldn’t give him a hug or say goodbye. Later that morning, he e-mailed me to apologize and validated my feelings.

In the afternoon, I was talking to a friend via MSN. I told him about the disagreement and how I was shocked to have received an apology. Huib has never been one to say sorry, so when I received the e-mail, I forgave him immediately. My friend asked for details surrounding the argument, I told him everything. I wanted someone to listen. I wanted someone to be happy for me. I wanted to share the fact that I had finally heard (well via print) the word ‘sorry’ from Huib.

I had chosen the wrong person.

Instead of just listening, my friend proceeded to tell me about how I shouldn’t have gotten upset with Huib. He told me that I was being unreasonable to expect that any of the promises could have come true. He didn’t understand why Huib had to say ‘sorry’.

Maybe it’s because my friend is a guy. Or maybe it’s just the way he views relationships. But, his response is not what I needed.

Here’s a more serious example…

When Phoenix began refusing to eat, I again chose to talk to my friend from the above example. I told him how I was trying to do anything possible to get Phoenix eating. I told him that I worried this was a sign of things to come.

My friend wasn’t supportive. My friend wasn’t helpful.

He told me that his guide dog trainers had said, a dog won’t starve itself. He told me they had instructed him to only give the dog one choice, and if the dog chose not to eat, then to wait until the next mealtime to try again.

He neglected to take into consideration, the fact that Phoenix was almost 15 years old. He neglected the fact that I was sharing my fears with him. He just thought about the fact that Phoenix was a dog, and that he wasn’t eating.

Never once did he think about me. Not once did he think about Phoenix.

When Phoenix passed away, and I told my friend…

He simply told me that Phoenix was old, and had lived a long life..

This was not helpful. This was not supportive.

I needed a friend.

I needed a shoulder to cry on.

I didn’t need someone to point out the obvious.

I didn’t need someone to push aside my experiences.

When someone comes to you and shares their story, stop and think. Does this person need advice? Does this person need to hear my thoughts? How can I best meet their needs?

Often, the answer to these questions, is to just listen.

The Occupy Movement

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After participating in last month’s Disability blog Carnival, I decided to take part again. This round is being hosted by Sharon of After Gadget, and the topic is Occupy – as in the Occupy Movement.

When the Occupy Movement first began, I thought it was kind of an interesting concept. People joining together to “take back our democracy and build a new economy”.

As time has passed though…

I have found myself more and more skeptical of its effectiveness and continue to wonder if the ‘99%’ includes people like myself.

If the Movement were successful, would I benefit? Would the world become more accepting and accommodating of people with disabilities?

Or would we be pushed aside, and left to fend for ourselves in an even more undemocratic and economically unbalanced society.

I’ve given these questions a lot of thought. Though I do not feel my life is where I’d like it to be, I’m not sure I want to support a Movement that lacks clear direction and that has not explicitly told me how my life will be any better without the corrupt politicians and money-hungry corporations.

I wonder if Canadians realize that in order for the Occupy Movement to truly succeed we would have to agree to reduce our standard of living…

Maybe I’m wrong, but I really do not see that happening.

I have friends who are huge supporters of the Occupy Movement and feel that this is the beginning of something better, but I do not fully agree.

If we didn’t have the multinational companies such as Apple and Microsoft for example, people like me would not be able to be independent, participate in social media or even work in some cases. Do you really think a “Mom and Pop” shop would choose to invest in creating accessible products for people with disabilities? The products made by the multinationals are already expensive because the target user group is small, so why would a “Mom and Pop” shop choose to take such a risk?

When Steve Jobs passed away in October of this year, many disabled bloggers wrote posts on how he had changed their lives. Without companies like Apple, who have made accessibility out of the box a priority, many of us would not be able to enjoy cell phones that connect us with the world, or even communicate with others independently outside the home.

I couldn’t imagine a world without screen readers, Braille displays and accessible cell phones – could you?

Even though I think it’s wonderful to see people from all walks of life joining together for a ‘united’ cause, I’m not sure, a single person has stopped to think about the repercussions of such a movement succeeding.

I have, and this is why, I am not willing to support The Occupy Movement.

Where Were You?

Over the past few weeks leading up to the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, the same question has been posed all over the radio, television and internet –

“Where were you?”

I’ve thought about this question for weeks. Where was I? What was I doing? Who was I with?

On September 11th, 2001:

• I was starting my 3rd year at the University of Guelph.
• I was living with Phoenix in residence.
• I had been dating Huib for ten months.
• I was looking forward to a bright future.

I remember that morning. I remember walking down the hall from my residence room. I remember hearing a lot of people crying and talking in the lounge. I remember hearing the television. I remember stopping at the door of the lounge to listen. And, I remember the feeling of shock that came over me.

I had not lost anyone that day. I had no real ties to America. But, I knew this day would change my life forever.

September 11th, 2001 is a day that should never be forgotten.

It is a day when we all learned that no one was safe. A day when the world stopped, and cried together. A day when thousands of people and special dogs were lost.

Please take a moment, to remember and thank all who were lost.

Monday Is For Music – Seven Nation Army

This selection is for my buddy, caleb. I also like the song, but was actually going to forgo an entry this week, but he was really looking forward to one.

Here’s the music video.

“Seven Nation Army” was released in March of 2003, as a part of White Stripe’ album “Elephant”. The song stayed at number one on the Modern Rock Tracks list for three weeks and then went on to earn White Stripes a Grammy in 2004.

According to Wikipedia (2011), Jack White used to think the Salvation Army was called the Seven Nation Army. This explains where the title came from, but does not really explain the meaning behind the lyrics.

Through doing some simple Google searches, I was able to find three different meanings for the lyrics. Some fans believe Jack is writing about his feelings surrounding his celebrity status. They feel he is getting tired of the prying eyes and just wants to leave it all behind. Others think he is writing about war and revenge. Then others feel the song has a religious undertone

“Seven Nation Army” has been used in many different ways. For example, the Italians used it when they won the World Cup in 2006. But, most notably, the song was featured in the broadcast of “Democracy Now”, where it was linked to the pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt. The opening line of the song “I’m going to fight them off. A seven-nation army can’t hold me back” is a great illustration of what the world witnessed in Egypt – nothing was going to hold the people back.

Here’s a few links to show what happened in Egypt –

Middle East & North Africa In Turmoil
Thousands of striking workers join Egyptian uprising
Timeline, Egypt’s Revolution

Then, we’ve got the uprisings in Syria and Yemen.

If anyone has suggestions on other songs that could be featured in a “Monday Is For Music” post, please leave the title and artist in the comments section.