Presenting the Sunshine Award

As we near the celebration of Thanksgiving, I veer slightly off-course from my typical content in the spirit of appreciation and giving thanks.  

The main reason for this post is to announce that I have been nominated by blogger Zachary Fenell for a Sunshine Award! A Sunshine Award is an opportunity for readers to learn more about the nominated blogger (that’s me!) and provides an opportunity to highlight fellow bloggers who he/she feels make a significant contribution to the blogging community.

Here are the rules (as listed on Zachary’s blog):

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger (Thanks again, Zachary!).
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)
11 Random Facts about Me:

  1. My favorite color is green. 
  2. I took Spanish in high school.  I was also a certified lifeguard & water safety instructor.  I combined both and taught a swim class at my local YMCA to children who spoke English as a second language. 
  3. My younger brother swam in the Olympics twice (2000, 2004), medaling each time. In 2000 I became his “press manager” as I was too pregnant
    with my son to travel to Australia. Yes, I have held an Olympic medal. 
  4. Believe it or not, I do not like being the center of attention.  I’m not an introvert, but I’m also not a “hey look at me and all the awesome stuff I can do” kind of person either.  Self-promotion is hard.  Writing 11 random facts about myself is hard. 
  5. My husband taught me that you have to eat sushi three times before you can decide you hate it (and seriously, why would you do that??) I fully believe his theory.  First try is, “OMG, I’m eating raw fish”.  Second try gets you over the texture.  Third try is when you can say, “ooh…yum; I like this one! 
  6. I am not a huge television watcher, but my favorite shows are Big Bang Theory and Survivor. 
  7. I love to people watch. 
  8. I love to cook. I hate to bake, but I love to cook. 
  9. I had to be convinced to start this blog.  It never occurred to me that people would be interested in my experiences and insights.  I am humbled to learn that I was wrong. 
  10. I’ve always wished that I had learned how to play an instrument,         specifically the piano.  
  11. Guilty pleasure: I could watch Chopped on the Food Network over & over & over….

Answers to Zachary’s Questions:
1.  What’s the most memorable birthday card you ever received? The most memorable was when I got the exact same card from my husband two years in a row, and he had no idea it was a repeat! (Sorry, honey.)

2.  How often do you vote (every election, only Presidential elections, not at all)? No need to share your party affiliation!  My voting patterns are pretty inconsistent.

3.  Fill in the blank: Butter is to bread as jeans & a sweatshirt are to me. (They’re a comfortable go-to, but not the only option one could choose.)

4.  What was the best concert you’ve ever been to? Lady Antebellum; when I was also surprised with a Meet & Greet and time with the band after the show in their VIP room.  

5.  Forget whether the glass is half full or half empty. What is in the glass?  Water…or a martini.  Depends on the day. ;-)

6.  How does country music make you feel?  Country music immediately makes me think of a close friend who used to work for Country Music Television and reminds me of a great trip to visit him in Nashville.

7.  What is your go-to spot for a fun night out? A sushi restaurant for dinner.

8.  What characteristic makes your very best friends stand out from your other friends? Trustworthiness, loyalty, good listener.

9.  Name the last great book you read.  I love to read, and I tackled a lot of books this summer, but two stand out:  Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper and Relational Judaism by Ron Wolfson.

10. Finish this sentence: When I hear someone reference Wikipedia I don’t really have much of a reaction, to be honest.

    11. What ordinary food item would you like Malley’s Chocolates to cover in chocolate? Fritos

Here are the blogs (in no particular order) that I believe deserve the Sunshine Award:

  1. Eliminating the Box
  2. Off the REKord
  3. JanetheWriter Writes
  4. Ollibean
  5. onthebarbedwire
  6. Handicap This!
  7. The Mobility Resource
  8. The Inclusive Church
  9. Surprising Treasures

The first nine blogs focus on disabilities, inclusion, Judaism or some combination of all three. The last two are faith-based, with messages of including those with disabilities; and while I may not always agree with all of the theology shared, I admire the way in which they share their positive messages.

11 Questions to Nominated Bloggers:

  1. If you could cast yourself in any reality TV show, which would it be and why?
  2. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
  3. Favorite place to vacation?
  4. What animal most describes your personality?
  5. Favorite ice cream flavor?
  6. Cookie or cake?
  7. Describe your ideal day.
  8. What is your favorite season?
  9. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
  10. How do you relax?
  11. What did you have for breakfast?

This is Autism: From An Advocate

I am an advocate. I care. My voice matters; Removing the Stumbling Block

I have been debating whether or not I would contribute to the This is Autism Flash Blog. I eventually felt that it was important to share the perspective of an advocate, and in my case, an advocate who cares deeply about the faith-based opportunities available to those with autism and other disabilities.

For those who need a little background: Suzanne Wright, the founder and CEO of Autism Speaks (and grandparent of a child with autism) wrote a blog post that caused quite a bit of an uproar.  In it, she refers to "the autism crisis" and suggests that families with autism are "not living". She repeats the phrase "this is autism" throughout her post with tremendous negativity, citing the many things autistics can't do, ending her post by saying that we are facing a national emergency.

Her post caused the sole member of the Autism Speaks Advisory Board with autism to resign. You can read the beautifully crafted resignation of John Elder Robison here. That's it, no one else with autism serves the largest organization claiming to represent the autistic community.

Nothing about us, without us.

And so I felt I had to join the conversation.  I am an advocate. I care. My voice matters.

If you are interested, there will be hundreds of posts written by autistics, their loved ones and their advocates sharing beautifully crafted thoughts all along the theme of "This is Autism." Autism brings challenges for many, and difficult days and frustrations to be sure. But for most, it is certainly not the misery of crisis proportions described by Suzanne Wright.

I know many people with autism. I have shared on this blog some beautiful stories of relationships, Max and Wayne: Reflections of Shabbat Together, and I have had the good fortune to get to know Sam Gelfand, who continues to support Autism Speaks (it is not for me to undermine his choices) and his amazing abilities to educate and empower.

Your choice to support Autism Speaks or to speak out against them is your own. Reform Judaism is based on the premise making educated choices. My choice is to educate and continue to advocate.

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We Can Move From Affiliated to Included in Jewish Organizations

Jews with disabilities are often separated from the community; Removing the Stumbling Block

We are fortunate when we can look to mentors who guide us, encourage us and support us in our work. For me, one such person is Rabbi Lynne Landsberg. I would encourage you to read her story.  She is an amazing role model, teacher and colleague, and I am lucky to call her a friend. 

I wrote a reaction to the Pew Study where I wondered if anyone even considered Jews with disabilities. Lynne wrote her own deeply insightful reflection:

"The researchers at Pew asked important questions about Jewish self-identification and affiliation, as well as questions about child-rearing, attachment to Israel and remembering the Holocaust. As a person with disabilities, I would have loved to have seen the folks at Pew delve more deeply. I would have loved to see them ask questions like:
  • Can you even get into your synagogue building?
  • Are you able to read the synagogue’s prayer book? Is it available in large print? Do they have one in Braille?
  • Are you able to understand the teachings or the sermon through an interpreter or CART? Do they have an assisted listening device?
  • Does the synagogue’s religious school offer special-ed accommodations?
  • Can your family member access the facilities inside the synagogue’s building?
Our sages teach, “Do not separate yourself from the community.” However, Jews with disabilities are too often separated from the community through no fault of their own.  If synagogue leadership could answer “yes” to the above questions, we could expand our reach in deep and important ways.  There are Jews out there who are “religious” and want to belong."

You can find the rest of Rabbi Landsberg's article on the Ruderman Family Foundation's blog Zeh Lezeh (For One Another).

It's time for us to do more than read Lynne's article and nod along.  It is time to read those questions as a charge. We must do the hard work to be able to answer "yes" to all of them. 

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