Tags: disability, disability and love, disability and marriage, disability and relationships, interability marriage, love, love story, Megan Cutter, Speaking Engagements, time together, vision, Work
This past week, I’ve posted updates about our travels to Tuscaloosa in my creative blog, Writing 4 Wellness. Yet, in taking a moment to step back, I am utterly taken back at how profound the time in Tuscaloosa was- because Barton came.
Originally, I was going to pack paintings and photography up in our little white Honda, cart it down, set it up, have the reception and drive home, and because of our budget, I was going to do it alone. But when Barton and I began discussing how we could support Tuscaloosa beyond the reception for the art show, it was clear that both of us needed to go.
I wasn’t prepared for how our trip would be a time of reflection and of honored time between us. Even as we drove into Tuscaloosa, we got off the highway at the normal exit I took to go to my mother’s old house, and as we made our way into town, Barton asked me, “Are you ready for this?” In that moment, I am so thankful I was not driving alone.
As I held a photograph up to the wall, Barton would give me directions- a little to the left, a little to the right. He was also keeper of the hammer, and in times where our energy waned, he provided comic relief as the hammer flippantly dropped out of his hand onto the floor and I became the character out of an “I Love Lucy Show” trying to hold the picture while reaching in vane for the hammer, just out of reach.
As the patterns of my photography and my mother’s artwork emerged on the walls, I found myself excited that Barton was present, able to witness the artist peeking out behind my written words. And to see how my mother’s creative spirit was very much alive and at work in my own life.
Even in the work outside of the art exhibit, as Barton and I led three creative expression classes and walked around my neighborhood with care packages to hand out, we bantered back and forth, playing off of each other, building off of the other.
Friday, the day we left was the most dramatic and intimate space held between us. It was the time where Barton and I were driving through the neighborhoods of Alberta (one of the hardest hit areas) alone- it was the time where we grieved the destruction and recovery work that lay before us in this town where we had been married and I had lived. And at first, I did not see the pile of children’s toys, until Barton took my hand, and we sat in the car a moment, crying together.
There are times when we must walk our own path set before us, and there are times when walking with another gives us strength, determination, and encouragement. I am honored enough that this time, this experience, we could share it together.
Tags: Barton Cutter, disability, disability and love, disability and marriage, disability and relationships, disability self advocacy, disabled defense, disabled protection, disabled self defense, self defense for people with disabilities, Speaking Engagements
This past week, we were given the opportunity to give the keynote presentation for West Virginia’s People First Conference. We had the pleasure of addressing 200+ people on “Staying Safe in the Community,” and what that entails for people with disabilities, their direct support and their family members. Much of our discussion focused on the importance of developing a greater awareness of one’s surroundings in order to not only recognize potential danger before something happens, but more importantly, to define one’s own safe space.
One participant described this space as a bubble around someone that is unquestionably one’s own. For many people who have disabilities and rely on the assistance of others from many daily living tasks, maintaining the space may not often be as clear-cut as others who don’t rely on the same level of support.
Because of this, it becomes all the more important that people with disabilities have a clearly defined sense of what is and is not acceptable for those around them to do. It is equally important for them to have the skills, ability and courage to be able to reinforce these boundaries when necessary.
While there are many levels to this, many of which may be considered self-advocacy skills, Megan and I had the chance to go beyond what is often covered in other type of advocacy training and address issues of personal safety and protection in direct and tangible ways. Working with smaller groups of participants in several breakout sessions, Megan and I took participants through exercises to enhance their awareness, set their own safe space and protect themselves if that space was not honored. Each person, no matter what their initial level of ability was, came away with a more defined sense of empowerment and ability to act.
It is such an incredible experience to witness the transformations that occurs in others when they are not only given the tools to empower themselves, but also have the space to explore these tools and discover their own capacity to survive and thrive in an overwhelming situation.
Tags: Barton Cutter, disability, disability and love, disability and marriage, disability and relationships, Poetry, Speaking Engagements, vision, writing
It’s not often that you get to spend an evening listening to your favorite poet with the one you love. As Megan mentioned, we had the opportunity to listen to David Whyte speak at the Poetry & Medicine Conference last weekend in Durham. He was phenomenal! The way he presents poetry for both his own & others brings anyone listening into an immediate state of presence and contemplation. He is also able to draw out the big questions and use these questions as a mirror for the audience or the reader to examine themselves.
This is interesting to me, both as a poet and as a coach. I’ve always used images, situations, and events to frame and drive my poetry. The result of which is typically visually rich, yet while it may be introspective for me as the author, these poems rarely challenge the reader to delve into themselves and explore what is true for them. Ironically, my work as a coach is the exact opposite in that I abandon all attempts to explore my personal makeup to focus solely on my client in their journey toward deeper growth and understanding.
In having the opportunity to speak with David after his keynote, I asked him when he first began using powerful questions as a means to enter a poem. He pointed out to me that questions are a natural aspect of observance and the life of a poet is driven by observation and curiosity. It crossed my mind then that perhaps my poems are simply driven by different questions and rather than simply bring forth my own discovery in the poem, my new challenge is to call the reader forth into the greatness of the question for themselves as well.
Tags: disability, disability and humor, disability and love, disability and marriage, disability and relationships, Megan Cutter, Speaking Engagements, vision, writing
Last Friday night, Barton and I heard poet David Whyte, keynote speaker for Lifelines: Poetry for Our Patients, Our Communities, Ourselves Conference at Duke Medical Center. And of course, knowing us, it was not without adventure. As part of the OLR Roundtable Discussion Group, I had gone earlier in the morning to hear David Whyte speak to medical students in grand rounds at Duke Medical Center. Within an hour, I was literally transformed as I listened to David Whyte’s words.
Knowing that Barton would be at another conference in downtown Raleigh, and not expecting him to make the Friday evening talk, I asked David to sign a poem I had printed out (of course Barton has all his books on Audiobooks, and to be honest, we did not have one hardcopy).
After the morning talk, I had some time to myself and ended up at Duke Gardens, camera in hand. I found an off-beaten trail that lead to a quiet stream. Behind some rocks, I noticed a duck and her chicks swimming in a small pool, and sat on a rock at the edge. I was mesmerized by the fledglings, dipping their tiny heads just under the surface, the clacking of their small bills along the reeds at the edge of the pond, and their mother’s awareness as other strangers walked by. Eventually one chick scrambled out of the pond, and the mom totted the other two under her breast.
In that instant, and probably even before this moment, I realized I could not hear David Whyte without Barton. I just couldn’t. Period. I left the conference early, racing back to Raleigh in hopes to meet Barton. Now along the way, I tried to call him as Barton was on the buses back home (the buses cannot be relied on for any timely thing). Not only that, but most of the time, I have a 95% recall for Barton’s speech, which dramatically reduces down to 10% or less if we are both on cell phones and I am in the car. I won’t tell you how fast I was driving, and all I could think was I had to make it home before the 5pm Friday traffic began.
A divine moment- we arrived home at exactly the same time. Ten minutes and we were back out the door on the way. We were going to make it- together.
Inspiration isn’t just about a person, a place or event, it is about our interaction with it, and David Whyte mentions this interaction as a conversation. There is the conversation and interaction with our relationships, work and ourselves.
There was no one else I had wanted to share this experience with, in the particular place, at this particular time. And when it all came together, alchemy ensued.
Sitting there next to Barton, we are both blown away by the meditative poems, powerful words, funny stories and thought-provoking messages. These were things we needed to hear- right now, at this particular time. One passage that stuck in my mind was “Start close in. Don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take…” How meaningful as both Barton and I are embarking on potential new work, individually and together.
Afterwards, Barton asked him about powerful questions, which makes so much sense, but I had never thought of the direct connection. This was especially important to Barton as he begins his coaching work, of which powerful questions are essential to assist a person engaging in conversation with their lives.
The rest of the conference was powerful as well with a powerful discussion among a few writers, presentations by many incredible writers in the field, talk and reading with Jane Hirshfield accompanied by a symphony of thunder and lighting, Open Mic reading which lasted long into the evening, and Master Class with Jane Hirshfield where she talked about her revision process and work-shopped selected poems. There was much to take from the conference and look at integrating into my own writing, work and life. What an inspiring weekend!
Tags: Blooming Lotus Coaching, disability, disability and love, disability and marriage, disability and relationships, disability self advocacy, Megan Cutter, Speaking Engagements
The past few days, we’ve been at the Community Resource Alliance (CRA) Conference: In Such a Time as This…Responding Wisely in Difficult Times held in Durham, NC. It felt familiar to be working on displays, printing literature and packing a supply box for the exhibit. I hadn’t realized that it had been almost five years since I had organized a trade show display. Before moving to Raleigh and working as a contracted writer, I organized trade shows for a manufacturing company in Alabama for almost seven years.
The difference: the conference Barton showcased Blooming Lotus Coaching, his life coaching practice. I also began speaking about my transition into the connection between writing and wellness. Over the weekend, while we were working on preparations for our display, I realized how much I missed working at trade shows. I was able to use my skills to bring all the tools and materials we would need, and being able to work on something that we are so passionate about makes it even more enjoyable.
When I worked organizing corporate trade shows, leads were talked about quite a bit, first with the number of people coming into a booth, then qualifying those leads that would turn into actual sales.
What was so wonderful about being at the CRA Conference with Barton is that it did not matter how many people stopped by our table. What was more important was who stopped by our table, and the depth of the conversations we were able to have in our space. Sometimes I would repeat what Barton said, but more often than not, I didn’t need to. I had great fun seeing Barton’s excitement about this new angle to his work, and how he communicated that joy to those around him.
In addition, we spoke in a panel discussion about self-advocacy alongside several other local leaders in the community. Afterwards, I realized I had spoken more than I thought I would as I reflected on how self-advocacy has been important, not just in my work with Barton or being married to Barton, but for each of us individually as well. I have found that the more I am able to speak up about what is and isn’t working efficiently, whether it’s in our community, at work, at home, our voices can break through limitations and obstacles.
What I love about speaking on a panel are listening to the other stories that people have to tell, the experiences in their lives may be so different and so similar to my own. Each one of us has a story to tell!
Tags: Barton Cutter, disability, disability and love, disability and marriage, disability and relationships, love story, Megan Cutter, Poetry, Speaking Engagements, Work, writing
This past weekend, Barton and I traveled to Atlanta, GA where I spoke at the Annual Writing and Wellness Connections Conference. I was excited to be with other writers who practiced and facilitated writing specifically for health, healing and wellness. We enjoyed a night out with family and drove back early Sunday morning just in time to help set-up for the Annual North Raleigh Author Showcase, where we facilitated the Open Mic section of the event.
We are lucky to be in an area where there are so many writing networks and events, supporting the literary community and finding an opportunity to give other writers a voice. There’s not a week that goes by where we aren’t reading at an open mic, facilitating a workshop, working on a story or attending writer’s meeting.
Barton has dipped back into writing poetry, while I enjoy writing poetry and longer non-fiction pieces as well. When we first met, Barton and I would email poetry and short stories back and forth as a part of our courting. Because of the time difference between Alabama and Arizona, I would receive e-mail with a poem in the morning and in the evening. Little did I know that Barton would spend an hour or more writing each email because he uses a head pointer, technology assistive device, to type.
Last year, we traveled to London and Scotland to attend a family wedding, Barton and I attended A MidSummer Night’s Dream at The Globe Theatre. We were right up against the stage, groundlings, and it was so incredible to see the best actors and actresses in theatre, with natural lighting, drawing the audience in. We could have reached out & touched them!
The day before, we just had a few hours to ourselves, and we literally raced up cobble streets to get to The British Library to see the original works of some of the greatest literary writers in Europe including Shakespeare’s first manuscripts, pages from Leonardo Divinci’s Notebooks, letters from Jane Austin, drawings from Galileo and Isaac Newton, Captain Cook’s Diary, the Guttenberg Bible, Dante’s Divine Comedy- the list went on and on. From Barton’s view, he was able to see printed text and designs not only from above, but from the side view, inside the pages, as well. There was no one else that could have shared the delight and joy of looking at these delicate treasures.
While we still write poems for each other, we find we are now united in bringing a voice and opportunities for others to express themselves, to tell their own stories. This November, we’ll be completing Ink In the Wheels: Stories to Make Love Roll, to be published in 2010, and we are excited to be telling our story, inspiring others to live and love.
Tags: disability, disability and love, disability and marriage, disability and relationships, disability self advocacy, Megan Cutter, Speaking Engagements, vision, Work
This past weekend, we’ve been at Coach Training Institute (CTI) Fundamentals, a workshop to learn, play with and practice personal and business coaching. We found out about CTI through our own personal coach, Phil Okrend with Stepping Stones Coaching, and through the course of the year, Barton found that coaching and mentoring is a part of what he does naturally, and wanted to explore expanding upon his skills and tools, integrating coaching more fully into his work.
When we first called to register and asked questions about if it would be all right if I came as Barton’s assistant, we actually could feel the fear through the phone lines. It was clear no one had asked the question before. And the administrator was clearly questioning. Could someone with a disability be a life coach? From this individual’s doubt, we then actually began to question if it was the right place and the right path. We were encouraged to sign up for the first class, but to wait to see if it was the right fit before registering for further workshops. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that we persevered through that process- this training was clearly where Barton needed to be.
Throughout the weekend, I saw the excitement and inspiration return to Barton’s eyes. He was on fire. He had found this space that encouraged and inspired him, pushed him further into new areas, redefining and introduced him to new skills, and a foundation and framework to work within. As one of the instructors said, he had come home.
The first day, I translated quite a bit, especially when Barton spoke within the large group or one-on-one practice sessions because it was difficult to hear with background noise. Slowly over the course of the weekend, I backed off more and more, and there was a more direct connection. By Sunday, I was able to fully let go, stepping out for the majority of the day.
What was so interesting was that I was working on my own stuff throughout the weekend. For example, I am on Barton’s line of thought so much, I tend to finish his sentences, which can be cute until I overstep my bounds and not let Barton finish talking (I can do this quite a bit). During one of the practice sessions, I could feel the energy rise to my throat and get stuck there, because I wanted to speak for Barton. I began to breathe, allowing the energy to come back down, and allow myself to be guided by Barton telling me when I needed to translate and when I needed to back off. And Sunday morning when I was working on a project in the hotel room, I also had to let go of the thoughts running through my head- will people understand Barton? Do I need to be there? Of course, he’s fine- he’s Barton! I don’t need to be there. There was so much freedom in fully letting go, and I know this was true for Barton as well.
What a privilege it was to be a part of this weekend, and I’m excited to see where things will go, what will be ignited from this process.
Tags: Barton Cutter, disability, disability and love, disability and marriage, disability and relationships, self advocacy, Speaking Engagements
Last week Megan and I had the opportunity to speak at the People First conference in West Virginia. It was a wonderful experience. The conference, this year, focused on building and maintaining healthy relationships and we were asked to present as one of the keynotes in addition to leading two breakout sessions. It was a rich experience for both of us.
We spent most of our larger presentation discussing how we met and using our story to encourage those in the audience to explore and develop their interests as a way to build relationships. One point which slipped my mind during our talk is that by connecting with people around a common interest, people are less likely to react based on preconceived notions and stereotypes if they know that there is a mutually shared interest.
Our breakout sessions got a bit more nitty-gritty as we talked about our lives as a married couple, the joys and challenges that we face from day to day and ways we’ve learned to move through and around those obstacles. We were fortunate enough to have lots of audience participation in both breakout sessions which made for lots of wonderful dialogue and questions.
As usual, our work didn’t end with the closing of our sessions. The second half of the conference focused on the risks involved in inappropriate relationships. Though much of the second keynote aimed at educating people about abuse toward people with disabilities, Megan and I had the opportunity to show those in attendance that there is an alternative to being a victim. This also opened the door for us to talk about the self-defense program we teach for people with disabilities. Perhaps next year we’ll have the opportunity to present on self protection and empowerment.
All in all, it was a wonderful three days and I hope we get the chance to do it again next year.
Tags: Barton Cutter, disability, disability and marriage, disability and relationships, disability self advocacy, Megan Cutter, self advocacy, Speaking Engagements
I wish I could say that all of our stories are filled with laughter of dented doors and wild puppy stories; after all, we could fill your ears all night long with them. But then we’d be looking through rose-colored glasses. Occasionally, we experience the heartache of pretty blatant discrimination (let’s just be frank and just call it what it is), especially from the professional community. How could there possibly be a community leader with a developmental disability?
Last year, Barton and I attended a session at a disability conference where a nationally known speaking organization talked about the ways in which their speaking group can be beneficial to people with disabilities. We visited a local group several times, with members that were both colleagues and local community leaders.
However, when we wanted to join, we hit a brick wall realizing that certain members were intimidated and concerned about Barton’s slurred speech, and they were stalling when we offered other ways in which those concerns could be accommodated. I could join, but Barton could not.
I was amazed not only by the blatant discrimination, but also by my reaction to it. I had looked up to several members of this organization, who are also prominent motivational speakers and people I personally had wanted to work with in other arenas. I was speechless at how angry and betrayed I felt, which I had to look at more closely. I had to separate the actions of a few members, which did not represent those attitudes of others.
Barton has dealt with discrimination in one way or another is whole life, and has learned to “just do it anyway,” no matter what. I am still in the process of learning how to move with ease through some of these experiences. While I was labeled one of the outcast kids in school growing up, I didn’t really experience blatant discrimination until I spent a semester in Australia.
In this particular situation, we did write a letter to the national office, not really expecting any response back but needing to call it out and voice what we had experienced. Since we have not received a response, we have blocked out any identifying information. Self Advocacy Letter
Fortunately, Barton and I continue to speak together and individually at many types of events- meetings, conferences, community events, open mic nights, and readings, which are held both on a local and national level. We’re continually amazed to see how sharing our story offers the space for others to open their eyes, overcome challenges and for many, lead to a place of healing.
Barton and I are continually working on how we present together when we speak as a couple, which I guarantee isn’t taught in a speaking workshop.
And, you know, we’re okay with that.
If you’re interested in attending one of our speaking engagements or are interested in having us speak to your organization, please visit http://www.cuttersword.com/events.html.
Tags: Barton Cutter, disability and marriage, disability and relationships, Megan Cutter, Speaking Engagements, technology
We’ve written a blog about speaking at the International Conference on Self Determination on May 3, 2009 in Winston Salem, NC. We had hoped to include the video of our speaking segment as well, but alas, it is not to be, not yet anyway. Through a barrage of technological disasters, we decided to refrain from showing you our pitiful video, upside down, mind you. To read our full explanation of technological turbulence, see our additional blogs below. Instead, we bring to you an unedited audio file of our segment as panelists. Please note that this panel discussion is very informal and lighthearted.