BB Squared: Beautiful Brains, Bold Bodies

Starting and Celebrating Conversations About Differences

An “Until Next Time” Post September 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — beautifulbrainsboldbodies @ 8:43 am

Dear BB Squared Readers,

I’m writing this to let you know that we at BB Squared have decided to take a break from posting on the BB Squared blog for awhile. All of the members of BB Squared are still working hard to determine exactly what BB Squared will be, and we thought it makes sense to wait until we have a clear vision before we continue to post on the blog.

On behalf of Jill and Aaron, I would like to thank-you for reading, commenting and supporting BB Squared. We are truly grateful. Perhaps we will return to this blog on occasion to update you on what the members of BB Squared are doing, and if you have any additional questions or comments, please do not hesitate to e-mail me at sutherland.carmen42@gmail.com.

Thank-you again for everything.

Carmen, Jill and Aaron

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Guest Post: Nicholas Wendler, on Politics (Kind of) September 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — beautifulbrainsboldbodies @ 7:50 am

Over the last few weeks, 10 candidates have had the opportunity to run campaigns in the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo after the resignation of Elizabeth Witmer occurred in April.  It seemed like an interesting turn of events, with the Liberal leader (Ontario’s Premier) appointing the long serving MPP of Kitchener-Waterloo provincial electoral district to chair the Workers Safety Insurance Board (WSIB).  I never thought too much of any involvement in the by-election that would result from this shuffle of positions, however I ended up having some involvement.

I decided that I would offer to volunteer for the Green Party of Ontario, for something different to do and as I agree with principles that seem to be behind the party.  Things like prevention of illness, promoting health, being fiscally responsible and trying to ensure the world endures into the future for our children and their children are some of the things I find to be valuable aspects of the party’s policies; it does not mean I intend to blindly follow each and every little thing without consideration of the logic behind it or anything like that.  But this is getting a little off track.

In helping out with data input for the party from their foot canvassing, I have been able to communicate a bit with Stacey Danckert, who is their candidate in the by-election.  You might be wondering by this point what this post has to do with anything about BBSquared, and I’ll explain.  In one of my emails back and forth with Stacey, I said I thought she did a good job in one of the debates I watched.  In this debate, there was a question raised from the audience regarding the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).  Also during the debate I noted candidates discussing heritage buildings.  The two topics were unrelated as far as I remember, but being a person with a physical difference, I connected them.  I live in an apartment which is advertised as “accessible” but the bathroom doorway is not 36”, but closer to 30”, and you have to cut a semi-tight corner to get in as well, or take a slight angle in from the living room through the short hallway that connects the bedroom/bathroom/living room door ways.  It isn’t the most pleasant, and if buildings could be emotive and express pain, I’m pretty sure that my apartment walls in that area would be screaming, yelling, or moaning out in pain because of the fact that they are banged up due to my travels between these rooms.  It is not designed the way I would expect something designated for people requiring personal care assistance/accessibility features to be designed.  The bathroom also has a roll-in shower which collects a nice puddle in the middle of its floor rather than draining every drop of water down the designated drain.  Water frequently ends up out of the shower and on the bathroom floor; the shower space being narrow does not help this at all.

So I briefly explained my living arrangement to Stacey saying how I had thought about it based on the two topics I heard raised in the debate.  I also noted that I sent an email to an MPP about it in the past, and received a form letter in response.

In my email, I said something about not intending to complain but just stating what had gone through my mind.  The response, which I actually forwarded to Carmen as I thought she might also find it interesting, was much more responsive to the issue than saying thanks for the “Good job” email.  The short email brought some sense of her personally understanding that those who do not live with a difference are not privy to such challenges faced by those with a difference.  Her response referred to arranging for accessibility for Green Party members from out of town to go to a restaurant, and her findings about how limited accessible options can be.  She also expressed that she was going to look into it a little further.  The response made it seem as though understanding the issue further was somewhat of a priority as well; though I’m sure that many voters have a lot of other priorities in mind which Stacey, as a candidate speaking to them, would have to consider so .

It seems rather infrequent that a candidate gives such a personalized message; albeit I have helped with the campaigning of the party a little bit.  I’m familiar with form letters, or emails which seem sort of personal but are really written in such a way that they are rather general and not speaking necessarily to anything specific.  I am familiar with the response that is non-existent as well, which is really helpful (sarcasm intended – well actually, it is helpful to enable me to use the deduction method when making a vote choice).  There are also times where things are said by politicians that seem completely irrelevant and of no benefit to them to say, such as that which was recently spoken in American politics.  I could be wrong though, maybe the concept of legitimate rape is on everyone’s mind.

Maybe also, if we legitimately want 100% accessibility for people of differences, it could just, you know, happen.  That’d be kind of neat, also rather helpful for me not to have to throw out the question of accessibility time and time again as a precautionary measure.  Then again, my friends, family, and others in group events have tended to prove that if you legitimately want to be inclusive, you can make it happen through a little team work, planning or otherwise.  I’ve had my wheelchair carried up a few stairs now and then by a couple of people on either side lifting.  The methods involved in making the inaccessible become accessible are generally explainable though, or so I believe as of this writing.  Feel free to prove me wrong.  But I think I’m slightly off topic.

My point in this post is not to discuss random issues in politics, it is not necessarily to provide you with a philosophical rant about anything political or otherwise, as a tangent from the main point, though this may or may not have occurred within the post.  My point is that it seems uncommon for the human touch to be a part of politics today, and that the human element can really create a connection which is enlightening to those being connected.  Politics is often like a game.  Many players sit this one out; perhaps they’re just not finding that human connection with a candidate, which strikes a chord with what the “player” values or believes with regard to political issues.  Anyone can say they know what the citizens want or value, but the interaction which this post is based upon teaches that a candidate (or any human being) doesn’t innately know everything going on in the inner workings of a voter (or other human being’s) life or their mind.  It has been nice to see even a small amount of that human connection in politics, which isn’t strategically placed in order to try and win votes.  Perhaps in this case, because I have been more of a volunteer for a campaign and am actually ineligible to vote in the by-election on Thursday, September 6th, the communication could have taken a different twist than it would otherwise.  However, Stacey also mentioned to me how an event she attended which was focused upon poverty and was really informative about how we treat people.  It is quite nice to see someone truly caring and passionate in their role as a candidate to represent an electoral district.  It will be interesting to see the results roll in this evening once everyone gets out their vote if they live in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding.

 

Growing Up August 30, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — beautifulbrainsboldbodies @ 7:12 am

I (Carmen) was in Illinois this past week – where I lived before coming to Ontario – to go to some appointments and, much more importantly, see old friends. All week long, I kept marvelling at how incredibly grown-up my friends seem: one has a great job, a fabulous marriage, and a beautiful baby boy, and the rest have some combination of all three of these. Do they all have everything they desire? Absolutely not. But the point is that their lives are markedly different from how they were in their university days or before.

Now, those who know me might say, “But so is yours, Carmen!” And they wouldn’t be wrong: instead of only being responsible for my own success in life and school, I am now in charge of several activities and groups that will and do – hopefully – contribute to the happiness of others, my BB Squared friends want to start a business that will also help improve the lives of persons with differences, and I love that I am at a point in my life where both of these things are the case.

The problem is, that even though I am 28 years old, in many areas of my life, I do not feel “in charge.” I think I am used to attributing much of this to caring too much about what my parents think, and a lot of it is definitely due to that, but I remember talking to one of my friends without a difference several weeks ago, and telling her how lucky she was because if she chose she could do “whatever she wanted,” (while envisioning her teaching English in a far away country) Her response was, “No I can’t! Do you know how many student loans I have?”

This conversation let me remember two things: (1) just because someone does not have a difference potentially preventing them from doing what they choose, that does not mean that they don’t have something equally key standing in their way and (2) that money dictates many things in people’s lives. The first reminds me that, even on the occasions when I do think of my difference as a “problem,” it is certainly not the only, or biggest, problem that exists, and the second is that it reminded me that money is a game changer. Unfortunately, it dictates the life paths of many people.

I know enough about Jill and her ideas for BB Squared and other organizations to know that she has a keen awareness of all of the realities mentioned here, including the fact that some people with differences feel that they do not get the opportunities to accomplish milestones at the same rate as their counterparts without differences. I believe that whatever BB Squared does, it will try to directly or indirectly address these issues, and I look very forward to seeing how that plays out.

 

Guest Post: Nicholas Wendler-Part 2 August 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — beautifulbrainsboldbodies @ 6:36 am

When I wrote about focusing more on writing blogs, I did not mean that I would give up looking for more of a job.  On the contrary, I would love to have a job and be more of a contributor to society than I am able to be now, in the sense of the economy.  As I stated in the post last week, it might be helpful to be fully focused on the search for a job in order for the job to appear.  In order for the job to come, a lot of energy should be focused on the job.  This is not a contradiction to the video I referred to last week, as putting energy into the job search could involve speaking to the current situation and giving it love but saying also that it cannot last forever.  It also involves putting out feelers to potential employers and others with potential connections to jobs that become available.  This is not something I intend to stop doing simply because I’ve paid attention to something I’m being drawn to do (i.e. writing), but doing what I am drawn to is no different than the things I have been doing in a sense.

I’ve been volunteering with The Working Centre in their Computer Support position.  I am also on the Advisory committee for a new Waterloo Region Family Network program to commence in January 2013.  I will be participating as a counsellor in the K-W Counselling Walk-In clinic starting up again in September.  This is also a volunteer position.  So I continue to give of myself in more ways than one, and believe that in order to achieve employment I must endure giving of myself in more ways than one.  This includes giving time and energy to the search for employment.

Stereotypes exist—they always will.  They can be a downer, or they can motivate change to occur.  It all depends on positive vs. negative thinking.  The biggest task in the job search can, at times, be continuing to keep that positive thinking at the forefront of the mind.  Enduring—never giving up.  It may just exterminate the negative thoughts if it is pursued long enough!

Also in the process of writing drafts for my last post, I pondered personality traits (which take a look at “difference” in a different sense than is generally referred to by BBSquared).  Introverted tendencies can be toward doing things more independently of others.  Such is the case with writing; it’s independent while you’re in the process of creating.  The job search involves more social interaction because networking seems to be at the core of making things happen, along with making good impressions on potential employers.  Plus, there are probably a number of people banking on my success in finding a job.  This could be taken in two ways perhaps: (1) if I have a job, their tax dollars wouldn’t be used toward providing me supports for daily living, and (2) if I have a job, they could be confident in saying “hey, I know that guy with a difference, it’s pretty awesome what he’s done with his life, isn’t it?!?”  It’s not like I need to live without a job or that I am unemployable, by any means.  If I can complete two degrees in a span of 8 years, along with dealing with aspects of having a physical difference (including dealing with personal care needs being met and ensuring the work environment is satisfactory for my personal care supports to be able to comfortably help me achieve my needs which can be more social than I’d like first thing in the morning or last thing before I go to bed) and just regular things that occur in life, then I have the ability to be successful in employment.  I have no doubts in my mind that it will happen that I will have a job; it’s a question of where/when/how it will happen.  Things sometimes happen in unique ways sometimes for me, so we’ll see what the future holds!

I know I’ve never been overly fond of having attention focused on me.  One example was when I was younger, I recall using a transfer board that lays across from one surface to another.  In this case it was my bed and my wheelchair.  I can use this board to slide myself from the bed into the wheelchair.  What sticks in my mind about the experience is given congratulations for doing it independently of others.  It’s just living my life the way I have to live it by doing things my own way.  It’s always been the case for me that if I put my mind to something, I can achieve it.  It doesn’t mean it’s anything extraordinary, though I know if I actually get somewhere in life, there will inevitably be at least one or two individuals who think of the ordinary for me as extraordinary from their perspective.  The reason I mention this, about attention on me, is that interviews kind of involve having attention focused on the interviewee who is seeking the job at hand.  It is a social thing, an art that the introvert may need to work at to succeed.

 

Guest Post: Nicholas Wendler August 16, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — beautifulbrainsboldbodies @ 8:12 am

Inspired by other posts, and just thinking about the job search in general, I asked BB Squared’s friend Nick to tell us about his thoughts and experiences in terms of job searching. Please enjoy: 

When I was asked to write a blog posting about my experiences in job searching, I couldn’t help but say “I’ll do it.” But at the same time, this underlying feeling said “What do you even have to say, Nicholas?”  I don’t have an answer for myself really, but I have lots of thoughts on a variety of topics so maybe that’s a place to go with such a post, I thought.  Seeing as I have not made a job out of finding a job exactly, I’m not likely to receive a job because the Universe is not convinced that I live, eat, and breathe a job; that a job is what I live for, but maybe I’m not even convinced of that myself.

I often think of the stereotypes, being that I live with a physical difference (or disability, though my mind disables me more than my physical differences—just because I allow it to do so some days) that I’m unemployed which could mean I’m not able or not willing to work, or that sometimes the neighborhood I reside in (due to the fact that it had “accessible housing units” available, and it’s subsidized which helps being that I was a student when I moved in here and post secondary schooling isn’t free) isn’t considered to be the best of areas to live.  Such things should not affect who I know I am and what I know my accomplishments are that would be good for the occupation aspect of my life.  However, I think to some extent “who you are” and “how you feel about yourself” can definitely affect progress in the hunt for occupational successes.

If I have some level of fear, which I probably do, whether it be consciously or unconsciously doesn’t really matter.  A fear that because I fit these stereotypes could easily be a major setback in achieving what I want because of what I fear that I could be instead of believe wholeheartedly in what I am and what I want to be.  I’ve found the words to most clearly describe this through a video I watched today of Wayne Dyer’s daughter Sage Dyer talking about having flat warts as a 5 year old, and the lesson she learned from her personal process of ridding herself of this problem, you can watch it here  I’ve often thought there’s something awesome about being a child, that seems to somehow sometimes either disappear or weaken into adulthood when “reality sets in” or something.  Maybe what Sage describes is where my mind was located, but only on a subconscious rather than conscious level.

Of course I have only had one interview during my job search so far, having applied to a few jobs here and there over the last few months since finishing my Master of Arts in Spiritual Care & Psychotherapy as of April, and having only had my convocation on June 15, 2012.  I do see real value in the community feel provided by programs such as those offered by Waterloo Region Family Network that are in effect or are intended to come into effect in the coming months or years, as well as organizations such as The Rose Centre with their online forum which allows discussion around issues people with differences encounter in their daily lives in a world that is sometimes seemingly more connected to those without differences than those who are with differences.  On their Community Blog they have a post by none other than the co-founder, Tim Rose, regarding an experience he has had with his job search here.  It’s pretty crazy hearing some of the experiences, such as the one in Tim’s post, of people with differences in doing something as seemingly straightforward and likely simple as searching for a job.  As of yet, I cannot report such experiences myself, though I have had the pleasure of thinking a lot about the potential complexities of job search and the people with differences community.  You may or may not hear more from me in the future.  For now, I’m feeling that I’m being drawn to blogging and other writing rather than to the search for a “job”, as I also have a blog post which is posted on The Rose Centre’s community blog regarding accessibility and housing and am working on writing a novel.

 

Some (Hopefully) Good News for Canadians with Differences August 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — beautifulbrainsboldbodies @ 7:15 am

Jill posted a couple of cool things to her personal Facebook a little while ago, about a new employment task force that the government is putting together to examine employment for persons with differences. I thought I would post the links to the CBC Radio One Interview and article here today:. Here is the radio interview:

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Local+Shows/Ontario/Ontario+Today/ID/2262327532/

and here is the article:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/07/30/pol-finley-disabilities.html

I will be interested to see the information that the panel produces come the end of December. I hope that at the very least – as was mentioned on the CBC Radio interview with Keenan Weller , executive staff co-leader of Live Work Play an organization that supports people with intellectual differences – the task force will create more awareness of employment issues for people with differences. I will read any information that is made available to the public once the documentation is put together, and comment on it here on the blog. In the meantime, I’d love your thoughts!

 

Guest Post: Lauren Pink August 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — beautifulbrainsboldbodies @ 7:18 am

Hi Guys, today you are in for a treat! Today, my lovely unique friend and Personal Support Worker (PSW), Lauren is going to give you a look at what it’s like to work for yours truly. I hope you enjoy these words and you get a sense of what an amazing joy it is to work with Lauren

Two years ago, in my third year of university as an Honours English Literature and Rhetoric student, I came across two opportunities to work and befriend individuals with differences.  These opportunities were the catalyst of me picking up a minor in Social Development Studies (which may lead to a Masters in Social Work, who knows

While going to a presentation about the opportunity with Elmira District Community Living, a friend of the family who works at Renison University College, handed me a sheet about a family looking for a Personal Support Worker for their adult daughter – the one and only, Carmen.  Yep – the Carmen that’s mentioned on the BB Squared People page and writes a good number of these blog entries.  The flyer, really a piece of paper, stated that the job opportunity was for a Personal Care Assistant.  I thought it was another great opportunity like the one in the Elmira District Community Living (EDCL) presentation, but, didn’t want to go for both at the same time and have to choose between the two (as they would definitely conflict with each other) if I, somehow, got lucky and was offered both, so I made a choice and applied for the EDCL one as I could work, help, and take part in four individual’s lives, not just one.

But, alas, that path didn’t pan out the way I was hoping to, and I’m glad it didn’t.  Though disappointed, it opened the door for the other opportunity, even though I didn’t know it at the time.  I thought that going to a University College that is the center for Social Work, the job would be snatched up like the Signal for Mr. Universe (I’m a Geek and a Nerd if you haven’t noticed, and that was a Firefly/Serenity reference.  Means very, very, fast.).  Well, imagine my surprise when my dad comes home from a meeting at Renison (he’s on the Board of Governors) telling me I need to send an email to Carmen’s dad who posted that flyer because NO ONE, yes no one, applied.  I was surprised, flabbergasted and, using another quote from both Firefly and Russian proverb, thinking “Eto kuram na smekh!” (translates to “That’s ridiculous!”).

So, I took the business card my dad had procured from Carm’s dad, went upstairs to my laptop, opened my email, and sent an email.  I got a response quickly and set up a time to meet the family later that same week. (Is it weird that I still have the flyer in my possession?)

My first meeting, looking back at it, was and probably will be one of the most informal ones I’ll ever have.  I pulled up to Carm’s house and honestly, my first thought was “I live in a shack.”  Her house is HUGE!  After gawking at the house, I went in (I can’t remember if I rang the doorbell or if her dad saw me first and let me in), and I met Carm’s mom and dad, her two dogs, and her all at her kitchen table while rubbing the one dog’s head who decided I was there just to be her personal head masseuse.  We talked about what I would need to do, when I could come over to do some training with another PSW and her family, depending on who was there, and the like.  Everything thing they told me didn’t sound too hard.  That first meeting (interview?) flew by and when I left I realized that they never even asked to see my résumé.

Everything seemed to be smooth flying from there.  I learned what I needed quickly and the fun began.  Yes, fun.  Carm and I found we have things in common and do lots of fun activities.   We’ve gone shopping, out to games, watched countless episodes of Firefly and Castle, untold Coffee Club gatherings, eaten lots of food both at her home and out, and I’ve even gotten her to do a watercolour painting which is up in her computer room.  Watercolouring is a great fine motor skills activity and fun for kids and adults alike, if anyone would like to try.

But, it’s not all fun and games.  There are things that Carm needs me there for.  Like getting ready for bed or the day, making sure medications are taken at the right time, getting her things around the house or whereever we are, moving her manual wheel chair around her house, sometimes helping her with eating (cutting up food mostly), taking her to places she needs to be and subsequently driving on streets I normally wouldn’t, helping her with computer problems, editing her own résumé every-so-often (I am an English Major) and basically being her slave (note: this is said in good humour if you can’t tell).  And, you know what? I lied.  We have fun doing all that too!

I’ve also learned a lot by working with Carm and her family, and not all if it’s related specifically to being a PSW, but life in general.  For one, I’ve learned how to do life skills from another perspective or even as a parent would for their kid.  For example, I’m used to brushing my own teeth.  I’d never had to brush someone else’s (I don’t think I ever brushed my younger sister’s…) and helping Carm with this was something I learned.  And I always ask specific questions as I do this and I’m sure by now Carm is annoyed by them.

Some of Carm’s activities have also related to things I’ve had to study in my classes, like forming a group in the community and all the stages one goes through in community organizing.  Let me tell you, that was an interesting day for me.  I was doing my own work at this point in time as Carm was with both Jill and Aaron (can you tell I’m talking about the beginnings of BB Squared?) and while doing this I looked up at what they had been doing.  Then down at my work.  Flipped a few pages in my textbook, and looked back up again.  I took my headphones out and informed them that they were following the exact steps laid out in my textbook.  That was surreal.

After working with Carm for two years, I also become privy to some inner thoughts of Carm’s parents.  My dad said that Carm’s dad was a little unnerved with how confidently I walked around their home after a short time and he’s not the first to note that about me.  My neighbour also told me this at my weekend job doing paperwork for truckers, though; his words were more along the lines of creeped-out.  Funny thing about Carm’s dad and this whole thing?  He’s really, really tall.  And me?  Not so much.  Which leads me to Carmen’s mom.

Carm’s mom’s thoughts on the other hand were definitely funny to hear.  When she met me for the first time, her first thought was along the lines of: She’s so tiny! Is she even capable of doing this?!  The answer?  Yes.  Yes I can.  Well, mostly.  The only thing I can’t really do is lift Carmen up in my arms.  If you’ve seen me you’ll understand.  If not, I’ll paint a picture for you.  I may be 24, but people think I’m more around the age of 18 because of how I look.  I’m less than 5 feet and I can’t give blood because I’m ‘too light’ in the weight department (yep, not giving blood anytime soon, if at all).

I’ve learned lots in only two years and made lots of friends, Carmen being the first.   I’ve taken a new perspective of the world around me and seeing things that could be improved for people with differences.  Carmen also called me a genius when I came up with a quicker way of doing something for her.  It takes countless minutes off our evening routine, though we’ll see what she thinks of it when winter hits.

Even though I’ve got a minor in Social Development Studies, which can lead to an MSW and work like a PSW, there’s only so much textbooks can teach you and things that they just can’t prepare you for.  How do you know you’ll be cut out as a PSW before you actually try?  Yes, I had prior experience working with individuals with differences, but, that was at KidsAbility through their school program and during my high school co-op, but I sure didn’t have any experience as a PSW before working as one for the first time.  And working with Carm and others with differences has been a gorram shiny experience that I wouldn’t trade with anything and I’m sure I’ll have many more in the near and far future.