Wednesday, February 06, 2008


My daughter is a VERY helpful child and rather fond of routines. So when she got home from school a while back she emptied the dishwasher for me.

All the dishes were put away in the cupboards….silverware in the drawer…all drawers and doors shut…’cause that’s how she rolls.

Yeah great, except I had run out of soap, the dishwasher had not been run. All around my kitchen dirty dishes were now mixed with the clean dishes in every cupboard. I hadn’t started supper yet and we had a full evening ahead. I might have cried but my daughter told me not to be a “drama mama.”

We ordered pizza and I began the task of cleaning every dish I own and wiping down the cupboards. Because I had nothing better to do.

Later I sat down with my computer for some well-earned blog noodling. I have a ton of favorite blogs—some about disability issues like this and this, non-profit issues and social change like this and this, some about scrapbooking like this and this and home and decorating blogs like this . The creativity out in the blogosphere is amazing.

Just a few weeks ago one of my friends and I were laughing about the women who post pictures of their tidy organized cupboards—something we agreed we would never be able to do.

Mid-surfing that night it dawned on me, because of my daughter, I had (for one brief and shining moment) designer blog-worthy cupboards!

Now I know disability struggles are often (usually) more daunting than a bunch of dirty dishes. But there’s also (usually) another way to look at things.

My friend Jackie the LEND Family Faculty Member at the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of Rochester has this quote from fellow family faculty member, Darla Cohen, on her office wall: “Whether or not you planned to be the parent of a child with a disability, what are you going to do with this opportunity?”

Thinking about disability from this perspective is helpful in two ways.

Looking at our past struggles and cataloging the challenges we have met makes us realize how much we have achieved—even when we have felt like we were treading water. Try this exercise:

Divide a paper into 3 columns. Title the first column ‘challenge.’ Title the second column ‘what did I get to learn or do.’ Title the third column ‘what I do now—or could if I felt like it.’

When I did this I realized that I had learned and practiced advocacy skills, learned a lot about education and medicine, had had board appointments, had been the newsletter editor and president of a small non-profit support group, and more. And making a list of all the ways those skills help me (or could if I wanted them too!) was very reinforcing.

This works if you are a parent or have a disability yourself. One of my friends has had really huge challenges around transportation. To address these challenges he also learned lots of advocacy skills, he’s learned time management, to use a cell phone, creative problem-solving, and his way around our city. The transportation issues were a pain and nothing takes that away, but nothing takes away his new skills either.

Facing new difficulties from the perspective of recognizing opportunities is helpful too. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by the level of needs we face—at home, in our communities, in the country, and the world. Feelings of helplessness flood our engines.

Recognition (or creation) of opportunities under duress helps us stand back from our problems rather than under them. It allows our creative problem-solving engine to start.

For example, perhaps the horrors committed around the world toward people with disabilities in recent weeks may be an opportunity…to blog…to write a newsletter article…to start an organization…to pressure the US to sign the UN Disability Rights initiative…

Overwhelming or energizing? The choice is mine.

This is what I have learned from having a child with a disability—well this and not to run out of dishwasher soap!

(Image from here—my own cupboards are back to normal!)


Blog [with]tv said...

This is my first visit to your blog and I'm glad I stopped by. I found my way here through your comment on Blog [with]tv where just this morning I had published a post about a new blog called The Hate Crime Dossier. I think you'll appreciate it.

Blog [with]tv said...

P.S. The post is called "Disability Knows No Boundaries"

Terri said...

Thank you for this link. I do like your post--we have to keep our attention on these abuses if they are ever to end!

Thanks for commenting--I just love a good comment!


The Nester said...

Oh Terri, thank you for linking to me!! I'm blushing! I like it when people say "this" and link to it--so daring!

FYI: I'd rather see photos of peoples' messed up drawers, cabs, and pantrys any day over the neat and orgainized ones. How boring!