Uncovering Opportunity Amidst Life’s Messes

July 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Posted in Barton's Blogs, Ramblings, The Nitty-Gritty, Uncategorized, wheelchairs, Wild Stories You Just Wouldn't Believe | Leave a comment
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Last week, Megan recounted my recent experience with local police & EMS, and those oh so well intentioned folks who inadvertently caused unneccessary mayhem while doing their best to help. In the days since, I have spent countless hours processing and attempting to make sense out of conflicting perspectives on what transpired, many of which exist purely internally.

While I am reconciling my emotions, I have had the opportunity to speak with a member of the EMS team in order to understand the point from which they were orienting from during last week’s events.

Through this conversation, it’s become apparent to me that there was confusion and misunderstanding on all sides in many ways, and in many ways, the EMS who were on the scene did the best they could.

Yet, from a personal perspective, it felt as though that during the intent to disengage my wheelchair, it felt like they were inadvertantly taking my power. As it was only after an hour of attempting to communicate that I needed no help, that I gave in. There’s such a fine line.

I gave in because I was at an impass, but I did not give permission to disengage my chair nor would they let me drive independently.

During the conversation with the supervisor, we came upon a mutual understanding, the result of which was an invitation to serve as a resource and to explore opportunities to collaborate, going out into the community in refining their understanding and practices of assisting people with disabilities.

The Thank You List

May 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Megan's Blogs, Our Love Story, Ramblings | 1 Comment
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I'm thankful for you!

I’m thankful for you!

We might be a dorky couple, but every night after we get into bed, we cuddle for a few minutes and tell each other our thank you list out loud. Usually we take turns of who goes first- Barton always remembers who went the night before. Many times our thank you list is full of what happened that day, something meaningful, big and sometimes small. We thank God in times of doubt, each other for where we are in our relationship or those who have come to support us on our journey.

There are times when we’ve had a day- you know, the kind of day that smacks you like a truck and you’d rather hide underneath the covers than crawl out of bed to face whatever disaster is going to hit or so overwhelming it’s like you can’t breathe. Or we’ve gotten under each other’s skin, those little irritations puckering up like a blister just waiting to be popped. These are the days when our thank you might be a one-sentence statement.

“I’m thankful to be alive… Your turn.”

And at first, it might seem like a cop out, but this is a powerful, powerful statement.

This week I found out a young man I grew up with, who lived just a couple of doors down from my father’s house passed away after a stroke earlier in the month.

Sunday is Mother’s Day, and I always post a picture in my mother’s memory on Facebook and take time during the day to honor her in my own special way. After her death 10 years ago, I experienced a tangible fear about dying in the middle of the night, and once this experience passed, I found myself walking with personal epiphanies seeping out, about living, and how utterly amazing life is. Our bodies are living, breathing universes.

Being alive is a miracle in the scheme of things. And lying under the covers, wrapping my arms around someone I love is heavenly, even in times of fear or heartache.

No matter what happens during the day- the greatest high or the worst possible day, our thankful list grounds me, it puts brackets on the day. It helps me not to forget all of the minute moments that we so often skip over- that word or phrase that someone says, how a certain experience impacted us, the smell of rain, a dream from the night before.

And this thank you list brings me back to what is so important to me, to us. It’s not about what I got done or didn’t get done- the successes and failures will melt into the background. We are awakened in this reflection, and yet we must lie these moments down to awaken to a new morning, a new time.

What’s on your thank you list?

Embracing Unknown Possibilities

May 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Posted in Barton's Blogs, Ramblings, The Nitty-Gritty | Leave a comment
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Do you ever find yourself in a position where you are struggling to fight off the inevitable? I found myself in this vary situation last week, as, for various reasons one of my largest and most foundational contracts was frozen for renewal. I had known this was a possibility and yet, as the news hit my ear, during last week’s meeting, I found myself in a panic, struggling to find a way to hold on. Yet, there was none.

At the beginning of this year, I remember working with my own coach to design what I would like to the next twelve months to look like. As I worked through this vision, I noticed even in January that much of my focus and intention was placed on expanding in other areas namely completing and publishing our book as well as growing my coaching practice.

Indeed, I had been waiting for an opportunity to dive off the cliff and soar into the greatness of being a full-time coach and mentor. But the truth is, there is a bottom line that we have to account for to maintain sustainability. As I absorbed the shock last week of the fact that this contract might be placed on hold for an indefinite amount of time, I found myself examining how to balance this need for sustainability with my passion and love of coaching and mentorship.

And indeed, I am still in the process, but as I hold these two aspects side by side, I notice that I have been offered an amazing opportunity to transform my professional direction, like I’ve said in my previous posts, this will not be a denial of my writing skills, but rather a more holistic embrace of them. And, by the same token, a more holistic approach of the compassion and love of coaching.

As I have begun to search for other work, I find that my skills as a writer are indeed most essential, particularly as I notice that I cannot abandon my background and success in public relations. Yet my skills as a writer need to be harnessed and utilized within an organization that carries the same passion and commitment to supporting people as I carry in my work as a coach. I suppose when I do discover this perfect match or combination of matches with multiple organizations, I hope what I will find is an environment in which my writing abilities will be put to task as a catalysis for an transformative experience for the human soul in the same way that I witness the shift in the spirit of others after a powerful coaching session.

In a conversation yesterday with the head of a local non-profit organization, I found solace of his understanding of how the use of the tools that I bring to bear need to be implemented in such a fashion.

It is not merely about building the brand and messaging of an organization, but instead cultivating and transforming the hearts of those that work for and are touched by the organization. Herein lies the foundation for building inclusive communities.

Facing the Mirror of Vulnerability

April 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Posted in Barton's Blogs, Ramblings, The Nitty-Gritty, Uncategorized, Work | Leave a comment
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Recently, Megan posted about the importance of courage. How, with each word, we find ourselves uncovering the vulnerability to tell the truth of who we are without hiding from it nor apologizing for it.

I find myself struck by how, as we enter again into refining our book for publication, we are continually being called to embrace great courage in our daily lives, almost as a living reflection of our editing process. Over the past several weeks this need for courage and honest vulnerability is re-emerging as a central theme in my own life. More specifically, I have been exploring how this vulnerability informs my capacity to care for my family and progress in my professional endeavors as well.

In the face of some recent transitions, and the looming possibility of having to navigate changes in contracts, this question of vulnerability has called me to reassess how I understand my personal mission of supporting others to embrace their full potential and the best means by which I can execute it. As many of you know, coaching and mentoring has been an on-going passion and over the past few years, has taken center stage in terms of the direction in which I’m headed. At the same time, this has always been backed by the security of projects in other arenas providing for our basic needs.

It is clear to me that I am most comfortable and most fulfilled working within the realm of developing others to be their absolute best be it personally, professionally, within organizations or whatever possible format may be applicable to them. I am also equally aware that as a professional myself, many of my most valuable assets also include my writing abilities, public relations, and marketing.

Understanding these two realms, both where my personal passion and ambition lies as well as understanding when others perceive the bulk of my talent causes me to carefully examine how I can interweave the two so that both aspects are utilized to the fullest without compromising either my love for personal development or my skills as a writer.

Herein lies the heart of vulnerability, as this recognition is not one-sided. Nor does it hold one aspect as being more favorable over another. It is through this honest conversation with myself that is unraveling a new framework for the next evolution of my professional and personal life.

In facing these realities fully and understanding who I am, I become less attached to having a specific ideal and rather feel more comfortable designing an integrated, and ever fluid professional life that incorporates elements of the whole range of talent, experience and passion. Indeed, this conversation requires the same courage and vulnerability that Megan and I are facing on a daily basis as we re-engage with our manuscript. And, it is through this vulnerability that we discover a fullness that we were previously unaware of, no matter our endeavor.

Wheelchairs are Hazardous to Your Health

March 16, 2012 at 10:30 am | Posted in Around the House, Megan's Blogs, The Nitty-Gritty | 1 Comment
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wheelchairs

Playing in the sand was fun, but wheelchairs can also be hazardous to your health!

This week was turned upside down, literally. I don’t know what it was- the time change, movement in other areas of our lives, but it was one strange week. Monday afternoon, I found Barton at his next computer, unable to move his wheelchair out of position.

All of a sudden, there was a flurry of logistics that had to be altered and calls to the computer repair, and a discussion of what now. Luckily, he was able to get a temporary joystick on Tuesday until we are able to purchase another, a $500 replacement. And we thought we were finally treading above water.

Monday night, however, I woke up in the middle of the night, and in my dream-state, ran head on into Barton’s manual chair sitting in the middle of our bedroom. I thought I had only stubbed the skin off my toe, and went back to sleep without another thought.

Yet, in the morning, I felt a horrible pain in the back of my ribs. In running into Barton’s wheelchair, I had crunched my whole body. I was unable to catch my breath, and every movement just plain hurt. I grabbed an ice pack, and we took extra care in getting Barton up, using a back brace to make sure I was stable. The appointment to my dear neighbor and chiropractor Donna Hedgepeth couldn’t come fast enough, and I’m so appreciative how she was able to move things back into place.

All week, I’ve had to take it slow- move slow, work slow, focus on my body and what I am doing, even if I am sitting at my computer. It’s taught me to be more patient with myself. And Barton took more care too- refusing to let me pick him up if I didn’t have the back brace on.

Now, to be honest, this is not the first time I have run into Barton’s wheelchair. It’s just one of those things. One time, when the weather was gorgeous, we were running together. Barton had the dogs and I was behind him- just trying to keep up. We saw two women who waved and said hello. Barton stopped- and I didn’t- it was a full on impact. I wondered how funny it would have looked to the two women who had gapped at our position, as I almost flew over the top of the handlebars.

I admit, too that I have run Barton into people, waiting in line, not paying attention. It’s easy to do- there’s a whole spacial shift that takes place- with a metal frame and foot petals. Many people ask how Barton can train in martial arts with a wheelchair. Believe it or not, a wheelchair provides many hard and sharp angles, hidden places to wedge an opponent’s foot or arm- and that’s when Barton’s in his wheelchair.

It’s an entirely different issue when the wheelchair is empty, and apparently the opponent is me!

The Importance of Our Own Voice

February 29, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Posted in Megan's Blogs, The Nitty-Gritty, Work | Leave a comment
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Each of us has our own distinct voice.

Each of us has our own distinct voice.

While we were out and about this weekend, someone came up to Barton to compliment him on articles in our local newspaper, but then mentioned that it was great that we write them together, implying that I wrote Barton’s articles for/with him. While I’m sure this person didn’t mean to offend, Barton took it as somewhat of an insult, because there was an implication that he wasn’t capable of doing it on his own.

So let’s dispel some myths right away: I am not allowed to touch anything that Barton writes, and if I am transcribing and miss a word, I put brackets around it so Barton can go back to edit what he meant later. In fact, I am not allowed to touch anything we write until the editing phase. It’s really important to me that when our book comes out, that others know Barton’s sections are his own writing.

Digging a bit deeper below this particular misconception can hit on an even more profound concept for those with and without disabilities. My work as a writer and coach for others- adults and young adults alike, is to provide the avenue for each person to find their own voice, whatever that voice may sound or feel like.

It’s easy to dismiss the communicative arts. I’ll get comments like, “My daughter can’t write.” Creative expression may be in a look of the eye, a cry or sound, a green scribble or a body movement. We can build these relationships and communications over time. Who am I or you to say what it should look like? One of my best successes is one of my students who told me there were no adjectives to describe love. We can build goals around learning our own voice or expression, to tell someone how we feel for example or to navigate within our community.

Recently, an episode of Switched at Birth looked at the determination and challenges of a young man learning to speak with a hearing impairment. In many ways, his learning to speak verbally was a direct reflection of his identity, wanting to relate, be a part of and connect within a hearing world.

When do you feel like you may not have a voice? It could be during a discussion of a particular issue, wanting to keep a job, in the midst of a health crisis or illness. It could be when you feel that no one else could possibly understand where you are. There are many times throughout our lives when we feel like we don’t have a voice.

For me, it was when, as a child, I would write stories under the covers of my bed or hide notebooks in my school locker because family, teachers or professionals thought my writing stories was somehow interfering with other aspects of my life. Years later I was still questioning if I had all of my childhood notebooks, still trying to claim my voice.

The vitality of owning our own sounds, words, non-verbal communication, language is an essential piece of who we are. Claim it, own it and value others who have their own voice, no matter how it may manifest itself.

Honey, We Have a Problem

December 12, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Posted in Megan's Blogs, Ramblings, The Nitty-Gritty | Leave a comment
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Barton and I had spent the morning making revisions and changes to the memoir we are writing, and we returned home to implement these revisions into our working document, and I also had planned an afternoon of catching up on work. I turned on the computer, opened all files, and a few seconds later- it all froze. Frozen- completely.

I pressed the power button, and the computer booted up with a purple and green striped screen, which looked like Christmas wrapping paper, with an error message to reboot, in more than one language. I did try, with the same result- in which case you know not to try anymore otherwise you will hit a high level of frustration just from producing an identical result.

Barton was on the deck with the dogs, and I made a face through the windows. “Honey, we have a problem.”

I turned the computer around so he could see the ‘70’s tv color stripes on the screen. I was determined not to freak out.

The afternoon ensued with preparation in case I had lost all data, and a trip to Apple amongst several hundred Christmas shoppers, to thankfully discover it was a graphic card failure, known to fail, and the repairs would be at no cost. As chaotic as the store was, I was still impressed with their customer service.

Barton mentioned more than once that he was proud of my reaction- a far cry from a few years ago. And when I needed a minute so that I could keep my composure and not get lost in the fear of computer crashes, Barton was gracious enough to give me the space I needed.

Several years ago, with a PC, I was working on an article for the News and Observer North Raleigh News, and interview contacts were in an email by the editor who had sent them just as he was going out of town. I don’t know why, but I had this nightmare that my computer wouldn’t turn on, and well, I must have been on that weird wavelength because I woke up early to find the computer would not power up. 7:00am, and poor Barton woke up to my blood curling scream and hyperventilation. Several trips to Best Buy, $100 data recovery plus repair costs to the power strip- all in early December, and it just happened to be the day the Wii was making its debut. What a nightmare it was.

Even with a calmer response, for a writer, any technical glitch can be frustrating and set one back on their deadlines. More than once I tried to get up “to check my computer,” sitting back down to realize there was nothing to check. I sat with my Tension Tamer tea in hand, realizing that whatever work I thought I was going to get done just went out the window.

I breathed in a mixture of peppermint and chamomile, and pulled out a notebook and pen.

Meeting the Day in Play

October 24, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Posted in Around the House, Barton's Blogs, Ramblings, The Nitty-Gritty | 1 Comment
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Barton training in AL.

All clear for take off: Barton training in AL.

A couple of night ago in martial arts class, we were working on a technique that had a particularly light feel. The person who I was working with was a rather large guy who tends to rely on his muscle to make techniques work rather than relaxation and body mechanics.

At first, I was a little worried about how to make something so light work against a person who appeared to be so sturdy. The first time I did the technique, I felt myself picking up on his tension as I moved in to take him off balance. My teacher came over and watched for a minute. Grabbing a chair and plopping himself into it, he said, “No Barton, try it this way.”

With just as much grace and softness, he dropped the same 200-pound guy with a turn of his head and a bend at the waist. I got a feel for how to maintain that feeling of easy playfulness despite what the attacker was bringing to the interaction and tried again. As I began to incorporate the feel, I noticed that the less effort I put into making it work, the better the outcome.

Toward the end of class, the technique came more easily to me, and what I began to notice was that as I moved and allowed myself to have patience with my own movement, the rigidity and tension in my training partner began to dissolve. There were even a few times where, after he collapsed onto the floor, we looked at one another and wondered, how the heck did that even happen. All we knew was that one minute he had tried to punch me and the next he couldn’t stand and was on the ground.

The next morning, Megan and I were chatting about how busy the past few months have been, and how there was still a feeling that in spite of all we had done, there was still even more to do. And we wondered how on earth we would ever get through it all. Don’t get me wrong, all of this work is dear to both of our hearts and we are completely excited by every facet of it. Yet, the sheer quantity of “to do’s” is at times overwhelming.

All of a sudden, the lesson from the night before flashed in my head. I laughed as I looked Megan deeply into the eyes. “What’s so funny?” She questioned.

I told her what had happened at class and said, “I think it’s the same thing. Somehow we need to drop all of these to do’s and just play with what ever it is that we are working on. The to-do’s will always be there, don’t worry about them getting lost. For now, let’s pick one thing and work on it lightly.”

And so we did. As I suspected, it worked itself out just as the technique in class had the night before. No effort required, just a soft touch and a light heart.

Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast

October 24, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Posted in Around the House, Megan's Blogs, Ramblings, The Nitty-Gritty | Leave a comment
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One of my mentors talked to me about how as creative peoples, we have a tendency to go until we drop, especially when we get inspired. It happens to me when I get on a writing kick- I’ll wake up at 2am, writing before a full day of work, and find myself crashing the next day at six or seven in the evening or I get so wound up I can’t go to sleep. I feel that if I don’t get it down on paper at that moment, it’s gone.

And I mentioned about how- no matter how early I get up, ten minutes before I leave the house, I tear through every room finding keys, papers, notebooks, lesson plans, phone, books. There may be times when I am working on two lists- what I need for the day and what Barton needs for the day.

I was reminded to slow down, on a couple of fronts. To prepare for the next day, not just in logistics, but also in projects. I noticed a huge shift when I found myself ten minutes late, and I was not freaking out at all. I moved from one place to another, and I found myself actually on time for the event.

I’ve also felt like I’ve planned projects out better, giving myself enough time to complete them, and while nothing seems to go as I fully expect, I’m able to adapt to necessary changes in flow or needs.

Yet, I’ve completely resisted the notion of slowing down that I know will smooth the day out even more. During this time of planning multiple events, creating new brochures and working on the best ways to reach new youth and families, I’ve been itching to get to the to-do list. It all seems to go too slowly for my racing mind.

On the days when Barton & I have worked together, we’ve been focused and while we may have only gotten one item off of the long list, we know that we’ve done it well, and that has been a great feeling.

Uncovering the Space to Play

September 30, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Posted in Around the House, Barton's Blogs, Ramblings, The Nitty-Gritty | Leave a comment
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It’s amazing to me how growth comes. Recently, Megan and I caught the inspiration to reorganize our house to make space for a creativity studio. This studio, as we envision it, is intended to be as shared space where the two of us can work together, see clients, and serve as a room for creative play as we build our new business. In only a weekend Megan had excavated our dining room, and embarked on designing the space to meet its new destiny.

It soon adorned a padded floor, a comfy arm chair fit for coaching clients, bookshelves filled with games and children’s books fit for a range of ages and desk waiting to support a range of creative projects. In the process, we found ourselves not only re-evaluating the space for this room individually, but we also began to examine how we were utilizing space throughout our house and the further we explored the greater transformation took place.

As we assessed each furniture item for the purpose it served our family, we noticed that our relationship to it shifted as we assessed it in relation to a new vision for our lives, both as a family and as business partners. As Megan, in particular, went through items associated with her family’s history, I noticed that there was a clear shift in her priorities, which, to be honest, amazed and excited me.

I have always been one to hold a deep value of open spaces and utility in my personal possessions, and many times, I have been somewhat extremist in my drive to eliminate the unnecessary. Megan, however, grew up with what I understand to be a different set of values in which the sentimental value of an item was highly prized and therefore justified its place within her space. Because of this, I have learned over time to curb my urge to purge.

You can imagine my amazement then, when it was she who went on a purging spree. At first, I was somewhat hesitant to join her, and in fact at the beginning of the process, I was the one making sure that nothing got purged that she would later regret. Yet, as we went through the process and I gained confidence in her vision and commitment, we both had a great deal of fun getting rid of what was outside of our new vision. What emerged from this process was quite unbelievable. Virtually every room in our house was transformed into an open and spacious environment.

I knew that, at the completion of this transformation, this offered us far more than either of us had imagined when Megan commented, “I can finally feel our house breathing again.”

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