Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Ultimate Measure...


Last night we had a storm hit DC. Before this storm hit things were quiet, when my roommate went to the store for me earlier that evening, she even commented on the stillness and humidity. Twenty minutes after she returned, though, the wind picked up rather quickly and very strongly. I was pretty sure the tree outside our window was going to snap. Then, this morning I woke up to the sun shinning with the only evidence of a storm being the bits of tree debris on the ground.

Life works the same way sometimes. Things seem so calm and peaceful and than BOOM it all blows up in your face sin a moment. I have never been very good at handling these boom moments in my life. I am getting better at it but, for sure, I have some work to do. Since getting down to DC it seems that one thing after another has hit me. My grandmother’s death, some other family stuff, the realization that statistics are against me living a full independent life and my body being uncooperative. It has been very freighting and part of my came vey close to snapping under the pressure.

Today I went strolling through the National Mall and I ended up at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. One of the quotes on the wall was the following: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I was convicted by this quote. You see, my faith has always been what has sustained me. Even before I came to understand God through the lens of Christianity I still believed that God existed and that alone sustained me through life’s storms.  Yet, through this particular storm I have been ignoring God, except as a recipient of my anger and fears.

This evening I read the following verse: “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15). I will trust that my God hears my cry even in the midst of this storm. I will believe that He will deliver me. I will also trust Him with the way He chooses to deliver me. It may not be what I would want or expect but I know that He is trustworthy and that I exist not for my own desires but for His glorification alone. I will stand on my faith in this time of challenge and controversy because my faith is the ruler by which I want to be measured. 

Something Out of Oz: There's no Place like South Hall

        My first experience with hurricane-like weather...

        Winds blowing at speeds I have never seen, enough to trip car alarms. The scene unfolds; I am carrying my leg braces in my arms, chanting, "oh my god. Oh my god." Minutes before, the three of us speculated that the storm could be a potential tornado greeting.  Krystan asks, "What should we do?" I reply, "We should go in the closet. I open the door. Neither of us enter. Frances walks back into our suite after running downstairs to let a young woman inside the dorm who was out in the storm. Again, I'm carrying my braces and cell phone around.
         After unsuccessfully trying to strap on my braces, due to my jittery nerves, I join Krystan and Frances at our little kitchen table.
         Outside the wind is howling. I start to hyperventilate. Then the street lights shut off. Panic clutches me. I yell, "FRANCES! I don't want to die!" Frances takes my hands and in a calm voice assures me that everything is going to be alright. She suggests that we sit in the hallway. She gets me a chair. I tell her, "No, I want my chair [from my bedroom]." I have standards, even in crises. As we sit, Krystan is providing witty remarks (per usual) and Frances is talking--telling stories of what is happening outside. In no time at all I ease into the familiar bond that the three of us have created. I have finally managed to get my socks and braces on. Time passes. The storm begins to quiet. I state the obvious aloud, "I could never work on a crab boat." Both Krystan and Frances burst out laughing over my realization.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blog #4

This past week, my friend and I went looking for a place to swim. We thought we would be able to swim at George Washington University's facility, but when we arrived we were rejected. Apparently there was some sort of event in the building so they closed the building to everyone. We probably should have just said we were part of the event. Anyway, after a Google search we were on our way to the nearest public pool. At this point in the day, I can't wait to swim. We arrive at the pool and note how strange it was that there wasn't a single person in the pool, that wasn't going to stop us though. We made our way to the edge of the pool and were about to get in, when a lifeguard taps on my shoulder to inform me that the pool is closed. The lifeguard told me that the pool would be closed for about an hour because some kid puked in the pool.

That would have been some information I'd have liked to have before paying admission into a pool I COULDN'T swim in.

Monday, June 25, 2012

the sun keeps shinning till winter


This is my fourth week of my internship. I have started a new project. The project that I am doing entails looking at a European Draft in regards to accessible technology. In the draft the Europeans created a chart that maps out different accessible technological standards and compares them with different categories of disabilities. Essentially the draft determines which standard would apply to people with specific disabilities. My job was to analyze this chart and determine the validity of it and to correct any mistakes that they made. I also must explain why they made the mistakes that they made. After im finished correcting their draft. Staff members  at the Access board will look over my work and ultimately add it to our draft on accessibility standards as well as publishing it. Tomorrow June 26th I have a meeting scheduled with the staff member specializing in Accessible websites and I will go over my work with him. This weekend I made some new friends at a Jewish organization called Chabbad. On Friday night I ate dinner at the Rabbis house, sung some Jewish songs, prayed and had some good conversations. I found out that every Friday we will be doing the same thing which is really awesome. I am really glad to have meet people that I can relate to on a religious level. Last night I went to the smithsonian with  a friend that I meet at the chabbad house and later 10 of us went out to eat at a kosher restaurant called Ellis.

Week 3 of Work

This past week has been packed full of both fun and work-related things to do. I'm happiest when I'm busiest, and DC certainly lends itself to this very easily!

From the day I started, Work has been pretty fast-paced, maibly because United Spinal's nationwide policy conference Roll on Capitol Hill was only a few weeks away. It really was a great time for me to start because I got to help prepare for the event. Contacting senators, organizing data, researching policies, was all part of the steps leading up to ROCH and taking part in this gave me a first-hand glimpse into, not only United Spinal as an organization itself, but the politics and workings of Washington, as well as event planning.

Well, ROCH is here--kicking off today in downtown DC. Today, I covered the event as "social media reporter," tweeting photos and updates. Tomorrow, I'll go on a few hill visits with my supervisors and the conference attendees. So far, it's really been a fun experience.

Speaking of fun: Saturday, AAPD organized a tour of the FDR Memorial for us interns. Leading the tour was Jim Dickson, who works with voting issues for the disability community at AAPD. Although I've toured DC before, I had never seen FDR's. It's beautiful. There are several 'rooms' within the structure, containing waterfalls and lovely sculptures symbolizing various stages of FDR's life and career. There really are mixed sentiments within the disability community about the memorial--it is both a triumph and a disappointment. For example, although braille is included in one room, it is only an 'artist's interpretation' of it. So, not only is it fake, but it is set 6ft. above the ground.
I guess it just serves as a reminder that we cannot yet give up the fight for equality.

All for now,
     Liz H.
 

The Best of Roommates

There are so many things I love about the AAPD internship program, but my getting to know my fellow interns has been one of the biggest blessings of this program, particularly my roommates.

Although they may not realize it, my roommates have helped me come out of my shell. I'm not exactly shy, but I have trouble talking to new people and I tend to be quiet until you get to know me (once you know me, not so much). One of my goals for this summer is to take risks and put myself forward.

My roommates made that remarkably easy. Within the first few days, we were getting along like old friends. It was our first two shopping trips that really did it. You have to get past the superficial pleasantries when trying to navigate the Metro and Metro elevators with one woman using a chair, another using a scooter, and a third who keeps almost getting stuck in elevator and Metro doors (The last one would be me—I’m really bad at getting out of the way).

My roommates have also helped me grow through their encouragement. Krystan coaches me along when I get nervous about introducing myself to new people. Jess is the first to support me when I'm unsure about presenting or disclosing my disability. We are all very different, but we are also three peas in a pod. We're all incredibly stubborn, silly, and optimistic. Most of all, we are passionate about everything we do, especially when it comes to disability rights and advocacy.

There is an innate understanding and alliance that comes from having roommates with disabilities. There’s none of the judgment and pity, but all of the support. There is also an incredible level of humor. I don't know if I have ever laughed so much. If you put the three of us in a room, we will inevitably start cracking up. We've got too many inside jokes already. We've had our fare share of serious discussions too. I've told them things about my disability and my life that usually take me years to tell others.

They’ve also taught me an important lesson (which Jess plans to put on a t-shirt someday): Falling happens. It’s inevitable, both figuratively and literally, when you have a disability. It’s what you do after you fall and who is still there after you fall that matters. Although I’ve only known them for a month, my roommates are people that will be there after I fall. Knowing them, they’ll tease and encourage me until I get back up again. That’s the very best kind of friendship.

Good times and great fun!

Last week was absolutely amazing! We held a summit on Aging and Long-term Care, and heard some pretty compelling statistics on why we need to reform Medicaid. As part of the conference, we were up on Capitol Hill at the SVC. Senators Cardin, Durbin and Brown came to speak to us. They were literally maybe 10-15 feet away from me. I felt like I was in the Pollywood or the Political Hollywood! A number of Congressmen also showed up. I can't believe we interns get to attend events like this and see the guys who run our country up close and personal! The picture above is of yours truly holding the JFNA sign in front of le Capitol!

We also attended an AAPD event on Schedule A hiring--everyone should know about this program. If you don't, google it ASAP! On the way back that evening, we stumbled upon some ducks hiding under a car. My fellow interns rescued them and sent them along their merry way to a Wildlife Rescue (by way of Animal Control). So that was kind of cool. I mean, I knew that D.C. had cockroaches and wasps. But ducks? Talk about a diverse wildlife population!

This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a Shabbat dinner with a Holocaust survivor who spoke about her experiences in the camps and the Death March in '45. Working with victims of mass genocide is a major passion of mine, and I love volunteering with these remarkable individuals. I believe it is important to spread awareness-especially as the immediate memory fades from our collective conscience. As more and more survivors pass on, we need our generation to carry the torch and ensure that horrific events like the Holocaust never happen again.

Along with working on my thesis this weekend, I went out to a Latin club with a few fellow interns, which was a lot of fun and on Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit Friendship Heights and meet up with an old friend.

This week also promises to be quite exciting...but I'll save that for next time.

The Fight for Disability Rights


This week, I continued my lobby experience by attending a meeting with representatives of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD).  Here, I learned more details of the Convention on the Rights of people with Disabilities and the importance of getting it ratified.  We discussed our game plan and went our ways to lobby to the legislative assistance and interns of various senators.  This week, I got to lobby with a really cool person named, Rachel.  She is just a few years older than me, but is doing so many great (like the awesome, greatness of great) things like teaching special education and training teachers abroad how to better accommodate their students who have special needs.  This summer, she is headed to Lebanon.  How cool!! 

Oh yeah, back to the story.  Lobbying is fun mixed with challenges, which I'm not complaining because I could always use a challenge.  However, it's kind of discouraging and frustrating when the people you're talking with don't seem to be on the same page as you, and when you try, they just seem uninterested.  But we won't let this keep us down.  We will keep on fighting for the rights and equality for those with disabilities here and abroad.

Aside from the terrible heat and humidity on Saturday, I had a wonderful time trekking to the FDR Memorial and learning more about the great works of this great (grand, cool, awesome, remarkable, all the good stuff).  He really paved the way for rights of those with disabilities.  It was fun seeing the replica of the “wheelchair” he invented himself.  It only went straight and he had to have people push him.  I wonder if I would have had that patience…. Probably not! 

It's so cool to see how far we've come in terms of disability rights in our country.  Now, we need to get this treaty ratified, so we can pave the way for other countries to follow us on this trek of equality for persons with disability.


Power!


Power is often referred to as the ability to control or manipulate a situation.  We are told that we have the power to change our surroundings through various means such as prayer, force, or other means.  I am told that having faith in God can cause mountains in your life to move.  Of this I am a firm believer, but my Power seems to be nonexistent in one area of my life given that others control it. 

How do I feel powerless one might ask?  Given that I have been blessed to be selected as an intern with AAPD and the internship at the site is going really well, then what is the problem?  I feel powerless in helping others with things that neither of us have control over.  Unfortunately, we are both powerless in this situation.  It is something I am forced to think about each morning I rise and each night before I sleep this summer.  So my faith is tested with this issue, and I am struggling. 

Given my daily struggle, I do have the power to understand man or woman does not have the power control my thoughts.  For you see through God’s eyes I can see all that he has planned for me.  I may not have everything but still I am abundantly blessed.  In spite of the insensitively of others, I am still moving forward in what God has purposed for my life.  I have never been forsaken by him and I will still trust him.  That sustains me each day!!

Finally, I may not have the power to change my current situation, but I am not powerless! Although the scales may seem imbalanced with regard to power, I have to constantly remind myself of my favorite biblical verse Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me”. 

Life Together
Angela Denise Davis

           The past week of my internship has carried the usual weight of great opportunities. In addition to my continuing work with IDAC (Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition), I attended two intern events and one event on Capitol Hill.
            Tuesday evening, the interns gathered for a workshop on careers in the federal government. The workshop was facilitated by Michael Murray, Diversity Manager in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. We discussed the significance and process of obtaining a Schedule A letter, and other aspects of job seeking within the federal government.
            On Friday, I attended a series of conversations on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Congressional Black Associates & LGBT Congressional Staff Association in conjunction with FIRE Initiative of the Center for American Progress. The event was entitled “Invisible Lives: Conversations on the experiences, struggles, and triumphs of Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Americans.” I was glad to be in the room, and felt compelled to remind the group that the LGBT African American community needs to remember their brothers and sisters with disabilities. A man came up to me after the event and thanked me for my comment. He said that he had never thought of disability as an issue.
            On Saturday, the interns gathered again for a tour of the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial. Our tour guide was Jim Dickson, Vice President of Organizing and Civic Engagement at AAPD. The tour was excellent. I do not think there could ever be a better tour guide than Jim for this memorial. His extensive experience in community organizing and activism within the disability rights movement made this event spectacular.

           

Love Letter to a Law

You know how sometimes, you don’t realize how much something means to you until you start to worry you’re going to lose it? That’s the situation I have been in over the past week, as I await the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act.

On Friday I had dinner with my internship mentor, Day Al-Mohamed, and when the topic of the pending decision came up, I realized something that startled me: I wouldn’t be here, doing this internship, if the Affordable Care Act hadn’t passed. Because if it hadn’t passed, I would probably still be pretending to be non-disabled.

When I entered college in 2009, I wanted counseling to help me adjust to living more independently. My family and I considered using the insurance parity diagnosis of PDD-NOS, which would mean the insurer would cover more of the cost of talk therapy. This wasn’t an option that my family had had in the past, because many of the autism-related services I’ve received weren’t covered by insurance at all. This time, we could get insurance to cover a lot of the cost – but we didn’t end up doing that. My parents chose to pay a much higher rate for my counseling, during a time when they were struggling financially, so that my insurance wouldn’t show that I had received services related to my disability. They explained to me that they were doing this because soon I would have to apply for health insurance on my own, and if the insurance companies found out that I had autism, they would reject my applications.

This was about the same time that I started feeling an urgent need to connect to the Autistic community and the disability community, to write about autism and go to events where I could meet other disabled people. Transitioning to college was very difficult for me, and I wanted to talk to people who would understand why. But when I wanted and needed this connection the most, I was learning that I had to be cautious about disclosure. I knew, for example, that I couldn’t use my full name when I was writing about disability issues, or be listed as an attendee at an event for disabled people, because being out in this way could keep me from getting health insurance in the future.

And let’s be clear: coming out as disabled is not easy. You have to struggle with your internal shame, open yourself up to societal stigma, disregard years of training that have taught you to suppress rather than show/display/discuss your disability. As a new college student, my desperation for disability community was starting to overwhelm these factors, but there was one more obstacle in my way: my desire to be able to get health care in my adult life.

So I’m not exaggerating when I say that I am able to be out and proud as an Autistic person because of this law. And being out has changed and improved my life completely. Before I was out, I expended a lot of time and energy trying to act “normal.” Now, that time and energy can be used for other things. I used to think of my disability as something that would keep me from getting a job – now, I think of it as a career asset. Before I was out, I felt isolated in my experience as a disabled person – now, it is disability that connects me to my community, my culture, and my friends. These things could not have happened if being publicly identified as Autistic still meant resigning myself to a future without health care.

Drive Through the "Push" & Floor It!

Let's discuss being Disabled. Now, let's discuss being a woman. A wonderful and tantalizing concoction. Such a concoction DOES NOT include the new "hit" reality TV show "Push Girls". Where does a activist/advocate begin? Let's start with, would I encourage young disabled women to watch and take example? N-O. Combating stereotypes is simply the beginning of being a woman with a disability, it should not be the end goal. Nor should being beautiful, let's add our intelligence. That's firepower. As a fellow AAPD member pointed out, they [the women of the show] are not advocates.

They should be. 

While it is understandable and even admirable that the women of "Push Girls" are raising an awareness to societal perceptions of disability. Their awareness, however, is limited. They also lack diversity, having all been disabled later in life from spinal cord injuries. If you took a group like AAPD and followed us around, the world would get a clearer-more-balanced understanding of living with a disability. Can we say we're a diverse group of empowered and savvy individuals? Absolutely!

My message to Disabled Youth, embark on the momentum started by the Riott Grrrl scene. Participate in Do-It-Yourself art. Make TV shows. Let "Push Girls" be a seed.

A Special Day on the Hill

This week I was invited to a special Capitol Hill Briefing on more affordable ways to deliver and pay for high-quality long-term care services for persons with Alzheimers.  Experts were brought in from government, public policy, and business communities to share their own perspectives on services.  One of the panelists sells private long-term insurance policies and argued that they can help people from exhausting their resources in the event they need nursing home care. This was of special interest to me, because my senior field placement in social work is going to be in a long-term care facilitiy, where I will be working with families who must now navigate this system.  

                                        

Astronaut Lee Morin and I on Capitol Hill.

After the briefing, I was walking down the hallway when I noticed two tables set up with information about NASA and the Space Station.  In a room just beyond was a technology exhibit for NASA Day at the Hill.  I was very curious to see the exhibit, and thrilled when I was invited in to see first hand some of the latest space gadgets.  A special treat was getting to meet two astronauts, Lee Morin and Pat Forrester, who were kind enough to autograph photos and pose for pictures with me.  You never know who you are going to meet in Washington!  Pat Forrester is a veteran of three shuttle flights and four space walks, and Lee Morin is a veteran of the space shuttle, Atlantis.  It was such an honor to meet these men. 

                         
                                          Astronaut Pat Forrester and Theresa Taylor


Astronaut Pat Forrester and I at the NASA exhibit.

Warning! this blog is very much a random ramble!

 Wow! This week went by quick. This whole experience is going by too fast. I’m learning a lot in my internship about the power of social media. I get to both observe and participate. This week I hope to observe a reporter in the field. I’m also learning about covering a story from a news perspective, as opposed to what I’m familiar with, a documentarian and social analyzer.

 I got a chance to talk to a very important individual in the passing of disability rights laws and advances to our community. I think it’s interesting what philosophies are in power in the disability community today. As opposed to the personalities and leaders that were the head of establishing the movement originally. I don’t completely understand the obsession with FDR by the disability rights community. I think we have enough leaders in our history who hid their disability and even today this is all too common. I have noticed a difference between being born with your disability and acquiring your disability after an injury or illness. Not that one is more part of the disability community than the other, the fact remains that there are so many stories and relationships between people and their disabilities that I’m kind of sick of hearing about only one of them.

 This whole experience so far has helped me to define success in my life. I have never been in an environment, before now, where individuals measure their success by how much authority they have. This is not how I define success And individuals who do define success this way, I tend not to agree with. Some of these individuals are seen as important people and inspiring people, but to me the egoless leaders I tend to have more respect for.

 I’m really nervous about the conversation happening on Capitol Hill surrounding restraints and seclusion in schools K-12. I’m trying to figure out a local angle in order to get this covered by NBC4, if you have any ideas or know about any actions please let me know.

I could use some help from my fellow a AAPD interns. one of my next projects is a survival guide for interns working in Washington DC. I will be doing a do’s and don’ts fashion shoot. if you’re interested please hit me up! If you would like to check out my take your dog to work Day story, which features our very own Liz, attached is a link.


http://www.nbcwashington.com/video/#!/the-scene/events/Take-Your-Dog-to-Work-Day/160025545

The Waiting Room

Throughout this past week, I continually heard reference of the heat and how miserable it was going to be. While I do think the weather was warm, nothing compares to the heat and humidity that Kansas brings. The high in KS today was 103 degrees, then lowered to a "comfortable" 90 degrees by 9:30pm tonight. Needless to say, folks in D.C. need to get over it.



Last week was great. I attended a screening of "The Waiting Room", a documentary focused on the healthcare system and the challenges that most Americans face. It shared the human side of the healthcare system struggle and stirred a healthy discussion as to why the system is broken. While we often like to point fingers as to why a system is broken, I don't believe there is anyone to point the finger at - except ourselves. We as a society dictate what the next social issue of our time is, and we just recently decided healthcare was one of importance. Just as we evolved our thoughts about suffrage, racial inequity, and (slowly) immigration - we've now decided that healthcare deserves some reworking so everyone can live a healthy life. Click link to watch the trailer.

Finally Getting in the Swing of Things


By now I’ve gotten into the swing of things. The 7:30am wake-ups, the 30 min metro rides to work and even the lunch break runs to the store. As I pour my first cup of coffee and sit down at my desk that is now decorated with my name plate and read my e-mail, I now feel a sense of importance. This week I was given the task of helping prepare for a meeting we are hosting on the 24th of July as well as to write a couple blogs about transitioning from college to the workforce. 

On Thursday we had the opportunity to listen in on the HELP committee’s hearing regarding Olmstead and the inclusion of people with disabilities in the community.
Thursday was also the first day of our office’s Intern Brown Bag Luncheon series. We listened to our president talk about the history of IEL while eating the food we each brought from home. Strawberry pastries were even provided for dessert. We then each had to write down something interesting about ourselves and place the cards in a bucket. The objective was to try to correctly match up as many interns to their card as possible. It was a great way to get to know the other interns working for IEL as I don’t get a chance to interact with the interns from the other departments within IEL as much as those within the CWD (Center for Workforce Development).

One highlight of my week other than attending the FDR memorial tour on Saturday, was meeting with my mentor, Seth Bravin for lunch. Between the small talk and catching up from our last meeting, he was also able to provide me with a lot of good advice and even some potential job opportunities in the future. With our similarities in interests, I am looking forward to our next visit.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fast and Furious

I titled this week’s blog “fast and furious” because that’s how my life feels right now: fast and furious. I am fully integrated into my office, and handle a whole slew of tasks on a day-to-day basis. I am called upon to carry out important tasks, such as delivering sensitive documents to offices all over Capitol Hill, and helping draft correspondence regarding issues. This week was not all about work on the hill, however, as my family paid me a visit, and I got to go on an awesome tour of the FDR Memorial. My parents and sister were on vacation in Virginia this week, and spent a day in DC so they could see me. It was great to get to spend time with them in our nations capitol, especially since it was my dad’s first time there. It was great to get to take them on a personal tour of the Capitol Building, and get to show them where I work. I’m really glad I got this opportunity, it’s not often you get to play tour guide for your family at such a historic site. I also got to visit the FDR Memorial with the rest of the AAPD interns. I had seen the memorial before, while wandering the mall, but Saturday’s tour was incredible. Jim Dickson, who has knowledge beyond compare about the memorial, led the tour. We started the tour by getting to see an exact replica of FDR’s wheelchair, which was much different than any in use today. The original wheelchair could only move forward and backward, but could not turn. I can’t imagine how hard it was for FDR to get around! As we moved through the various outdoor “rooms” which make up the memorial, Jim was able to point out flaws in the memorial, and we even took time to sing a song about FDR together. It was a truly eye-opening and inspiring experience, and I can’t thank Dana and Jim enough for putting it all together. Right now it’s the fast and furious life for me in DC, but I couldn’t be happier. Everyone has been great, and I’m already dreading having to leave. Until next week, Paul

A full work week

An exciting week ends.  After all of the searching I finally have work!  Currently, I am temping in  the main AAPD office.  I go to a computer and do work from it.  Mainly, I work with one of the AAPD's allies, David.  David is a contractor who works with the AAPD on matters relating to healthcare.

The result is an incredible learning experience for me.  For one of my jobs, I learned what the Affordable Health Care Act offers.  I also had to read the trandscript of a  congressional hearing on Security Supplemental Income, and I attended a hearing held by Senator Harkin on the Government's enforcment of the Olmstead Supreme Court decision.  The expereinces were wonderful.  They have helped my own political views become more nuanced.  And I am not gonna lie..being in a room with three Senators, and seeing part of my face on C-Span (I was right behind one of the witnessess) was awesome!

Also, a major personal development occured in my life. I have used tv to relax for a long time. In the last couple of days, I have decided upon some physical exercises to try as a substitute. Hey, they say our generation watches to much tv, right? Hopefully, this can serve as a substitute.

Other than that, life has been fairly ordinary around here.  Slowly I have settled into a pattern, eating reasonably healthy, doing what I need to maintain myself, having fun.   I am curious about what this week will bring, as I feel I have figuredout a lot of the basic stuff I need to do to keep myself on task. Still, as I sit here typing this, a thought occurs to me....will this be the week I join DHS, or stay at AAPD?  Both are great oppertunities. 

Well, almost time for sleep than work.  I wonder what will happen this week.

Family Dinner


Upon attending the AAPD program, I had little to no expectations about the people I would meet. All I knew was that the cohort would be filled with students of all ages with disabilities; whether or not we would get along was a mystery. And to my pleasant surprise, I have loved my time getting to know this diverse group of individuals! Whether it has been at orientation, networking events or in South Hall, I have had the honor of learning from my fellow interns. I am so thankful to be in this group, as we have been able to laugh, debate and contemplate together. Specifically the connections in my apartment have been well beyond my hopes. In fact, we now have a weekly Sunday evening dinner that is entitled “Family Dinner”.  The opportunity for students with disabilities to come together and form “Family Dinners” is rare; especially as we all have different backgrounds, identities, and connections to disability.

Sitting around a table with these incredible people, discussing, learning and challenging, is a chance for new pockets of the movement to develop. As we were taught this past Saturday, connections made through personal and group agency were the catalysts for the disability community’s push for representation of FDR in his wheelchair at the FDR memorial.

I may seem like a dreamer, but I belief that through connections I form at “Family Dinner” and with the rest of the AAPD interns, we can transform our discussions into ideas and our ideas into actions. Before we know it, maybe we can spark all sorts of change, just as the disability rights community sparked for FDR.


D.C. in D.C. week 4

Man it gets HOT in DC!!! I come from Ohio and it can get up in the 90's but this type of heat made my breathing difficult at first but I managed to make it through the week. We had a Working in the Federal Government Workshop with Frances Vhay (a fellow intern) and Michael Murray and I must say it was very informational! I really enjoyed it and Mike Murray is a really cool, laid back guy, I also must say I find him to be hilarious! I am still doing very well at my internship at the USDA, I am about to do a project with some data analysis with some of the Mathematicians/ Statisticians within my agency which is really nice if I do say so myself! My ultimate goal this summer is to find a Government agency to hire me in and if necessary I will relocate and finish my schooling here if the opportunity presents itself, which I have gotten some feedback from some potential employers so as always I must say God is Good! This is truly a test for me to see whether I would like to be this far away from home on a permanent basis. I never really wanted to be too close to home. I don't know, I am ok with it so far only time will tell and I do miss my family back home. I have come to the conclusion that I have to do what's best for me and my family will always be there to support me no matter what! It does suck that I won't be home for the 4th of July though, NOW all of a sudden everyone wants to throw huge barbecues while I am all the way in DC but its cool, I know me and the other AAPDers will find some type of festivities to attend!

So, we checked out the FDR Memorial on Saturday and it was nice. I was really impressed by the structure in which they built it and I thought that it was a nice tribute to our only four-term President, who also had a disability himself (#winning). He served in office amidst the Great Depression and World War II which is a testimony to how thorough he was. I was a big admirer of FDR in my middle/ high school Social Studies days, he is definitely on my favorite Presidents List with JFK, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. I also want to note that politics is a messy subject matter. I initially wanted to do politics when I started college but it was clear to me that a lot of people who are elected 1) don't go into office and do what they were elected to do and 2) have personal vendettas against each other to the point were it is just a name calling and slandering match. Thank God that politics is not a mandatory career here in DC! Although a lot of our Government is revolved around it inevitably, I would very much like to leave that to the people I voted for to put into office.

I am very anxious to see what my Federal Career will turn out to be once I get into my actual field of Computer Science! There is so much still to learn on my behalf so I have to constantly tell myself I am doing good and I just need to take it easy. A lot of my friends graduated this Spring and I kind of beat myself up about it because I am just now reaching my Junior year. If I would have not been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder or if I had just went to college right after high school I would have been walking this Spring too. It is somewhat depressing to know that but so many people tell me that you went on to serve your Country so don't worry about this, I appreciate all of the Interns who have told me that this Summer, those are very encouraging words! I need to buckle down more and keep taking this Internship day by day because it has been 3 years since I worked full time, it is not something you can easily adapt back into overnight!

In conclusion, I want to give a big shout out to all of the Interns, especially Zoe who went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the baby ducks who were stuck under the car were rescued!!! I enjoy being around so many bright, enthusiastic people on a daily basis, plus we all have a good time with each other! Well there is work to be done and I must bid you farewell, until next time.

STAY BLESSED!!!

FDR


Note: Since my disablity, dyslexia, is a hidden one, I have decided not to spell check my blog post this week so that people can gain an insight into a part of my exspernce with disablity. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

I really enjoyed the trip to the FDR Memorial. While I had seen the Memorial before and really liked how it was layed out and structured. I was able take it in through new eyes with the help of Jim Dickson and his stories of the demonstrations which helped to garentee that FDR’s disability was part of the memorial. It was wonderful to hear the story of the advocacy process surrounding the Memorial. I was particularly fasincated by the role chance played in some of the successes of the disability demonstrations. I wonder how many times it is mistakes on the side of the powers that be, rather then successes from the oposition, that really decide things. Of course, it is a combination of the two. The oposition has to be able to identify opertunity to exsploit the mistakes made by those in power and to make use of them in a way that untilizes their full potential.

The story of the Memorial is also a good remender that as a movement, we are still fighting for a seat at the table. The fact that the disability movement was not considered a meaningful constituatnacey at the beggingin of the Monument planning process, even just considering modern assesiblity standards, is shocking. But further, the notion that the monument committee should use FDR’s choice to hide his disability as a reason to not showcase it really surprised me. Spending so much time at AAPD and at the National Council on Disability has made me forget what a unsung issue disablility rights continues to be in our society. 

Busy! Busy! Busy!


        My fifth weekend in D.C. was the busiest by far. Since I finished all of my projects for the week by Thursday, I only had to work a couple hours on Friday, which meant I had a whole extra afternoon to explore the city. YES!! Plus, my parents were in town for the weekend, and I had an extra long list of sights to see and things to do. I packed two or three weekends’ worth of activities into one.  Fortunately, they both have tomorrow off from work and will be able to recover from our exhausting expedition. 

After taking a couple rides on the metro and walking to pretty much everywhere in the 90˚ weather, I think they quickly learned what D.C. is like—hot, crowded, and a little crazy. But, I love every bit of it mostly because it’s the opposite of Michigan.  (The best part is that you can order dessert after meals and know you’ll be able to burn off all the calories before reaching your next destination.)

Our schedule Friday was filled with visits to Chinatown, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, WW2 Memorial, Pentagon Memorial, the Washington Monument, Arlington Cemetery, and SHOPPING! Despite my dad’s protests, my mom and I dragged him to the mall at Pentagon City, and he of course went up, down, and across all four levels and was calling us to see if we were ready to leave before we left our first store.  Saturday and Sunday were just as exciting (and tiring).  More monuments, memorials, museums, and shopping excursions were crammed into our limited time frame. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that I got my picture with Justin Timberlake. Jealous?
Me with a rather waxy Justin Timberlake at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Washington D.C.

Week 3

Work is going great.... I'm learning so much! The long days are filled with abundant opportunities to learn and I feel as if I simply can never take in enough knowledge in a given day. I am truly grateful to AAPD (and the sponsors who fund this program) for providing me with the springboard needed to get my career off to a great start. The Washington, DC experience (filled with networking and hands-on opportunities, as well as time for introspection) has been rather positive overall.    

In addition to work, we have also been provided with great opportunities to continue to grow in knowledge and understanding of the disability rights movement. The highlight of the week (for me) was when we had the opportunity to visit the FDR Memorial. I've always loved history and looking back at what helped form the greatest power in the world. Similarly, I've always been fascinated with many of the great things we have accomplished in this country. Our tour of the FDR Memorial helped to reaffirm the fact that no matter what struggle we face in this great country, we will overcome!

My two favorite Presidents this country has ever had are: JFK and FDR. Both were rather remarkable individuals! While Kennedy's service to this country was cut short, there were many lessons learned during his Presidency. Conversely, Roosevelt's service is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Former President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) was the only President ever to serve (4) terms, quite an amazing feat in and of itself-not to mention the tough times in this country and personal struggles he faced. Through it all, FDR persisted- he overcame, he continued to move forward as an individual and help the conutry move forward as a whole. In my mind, it is actually quite similar to what each intern in this program has had to do at one point in life- persevere and overcome obstacles presented by their respective disability.

There was a quote I made sure to write down while at the memorial.... A quote that inspired me personally. The quote by Eleanor Roosevelt spoke to me and many of the experiences I've had in life. Mrs. Roosevelt said, "Franklin's illness... gave him strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons-infinite patience and never-ending persistence." Something for all of us to think about....    

This week

This week also went by really fast. I had to sub in for one of my cowokers at the libeary this week. I also had to help a blind guy to the restroom and help him get to the metro. It was a long and hard week. Now I am helping one of my coworkers on a project that she has to get done for her group. Yesterday was alot of fun. I got to see the FDR Memorial and hear alot of things about FDR that I did not know. I also met a helper dog named Percy. He had to be kept in the shade because he was getting so hot and thursty. I am getting to like him and I know he likes me. GOT TO GO NOW

Melissa