Fears, Promises, & Wonders by Kelly

Well as I start and stop to write my piece for Empowered and Poised, I am overcome with so many emotions regarding the woman I have become. You say empowered and poised, I couldn't agree more of how those two words fit the product of what you see, when you look at me. I have overcome so many obstacles, or what others may call obstacles. My story is one, I did not realize until a few years ago, how life’s circumstances would mold and shape me into a multifaceted human being.


I am a giver and server by nature. I am a product of divorce. I am a part of the sandwich generation. I am a good wife, mother, sister, cousin, and a darn good friend.  The picture I selected reminds me that life can be what you make it; this picture was taken with my Mother, my Aunt and their friend, one Saturday in October of 1976, at an amazing restaurant in Painesville, that had a fabulous staircase. I did not know the wonders and fears this four-year-old girl would face. I remember growing up I wanted to stand with confidence, elegance and light up a room like my Mother, I can do that. I remember wanting to be strong and have an authoritative voice my like my Aunts, I can do that. It’s what it took to become those things. I could have chosen various aspects of my life to let you see how I have become who I am. The years that best molded and shaped me into who I am were my teenage years.

To make a lengthy story short, I considered myself to be a normal teenager. I was still active in the arts, music and extracurricular activities at school; while handling some major responsibilities. I can remember my Grandmother (my Mother’s Mom) telling me I can be anything I want to be, but I better learn how to walk, without throwing those hips (which in my mind were non-existent) and only move at your waist, as you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. And then with my Mother so keen on etiquette and poise; sit up straight, do this or that exactly like this so it’s right. So, of course being obedient I practiced very often, until both of them no longer mentioned my “inadequacies”. My Grandmother, was such an intricate part of my life. Very few words were spoken by her to me as a teen, but what was verbalized permeated my heart and my mind. I will never forget the years I spent helping to take care of my Grandmother and another Aunt that had cerebral palsy. Those teenage years that were supposed to be fun filled and fancy free; were more so work and responsibilities; with sprinkles of normalcy. However, I did not see it like that at all.  You may wonder why I did not stay at home with my Mother and 2 brothers during those years. It was primarily due to my Grandmother and Aunt needing help. My Mother volunteered me to be the one to do it; as she worked at the Nuclear Plant and dealt with her MS. Hmmm, I was a teenage caregiver, imagine that!

Yes, there was some heartache as I faced bullying or teasing from other students because of my large nose, or my hair might not have been quite right, or my clothing may not have been the latest fashion.  Sure, there were days I felt like an average emotional teen dealing with issues among my peers. But, I overcame that, because of the reinforcements from all the strong women around me! I think having the responsibility of cleaning a home (with help); preparing breakfast and dinner; writing out the bills/checks; learning how to triage tasks (because they would rattle off a few items at a time and don’t ask to have it repeated, that showed a lack of attentiveness): getting them ready for doctor’s appointments; forming relationships with the “old folks” that would visit; all of this prepared me for what I would face as an adult in business and family life.  Through it all I have learned to trust and depend on God. Reflecting now and then, I thank God for allowing me to care for my Grandmother and Aunt; and being able to receive guidance from the women in my life during those teenage years to help propel me into the life I live today.

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From Overwhelm to Joy by Angie

For most of my life, I believed that I wasn’t enough ~ Not good enough and not doing enough. I believed that there was something wrong with me for so many reasons. I struggled with my emotions, and at a certain point in my life, spent most days feeling trapped and full of overwhelm, sadness, fear, and stress. I didn’t know what to do to help myself.

A lot of my time and energy would go towards these emotions and thoughts of not being good enough. I would spend a lot of time trying just to feel better, but never really being able to. I would spend time procrastinating on doing things, because I was afraid I wouldn’t get it right or perfect. And I would spend A TON of time in worry, worrying about what could happen, and worrying about things I thought were wrong with me and I needed to fix.

As a result, I wasn’t clear on what I wanted to do in life or really who I was. I was focused on trying to control my environment desperately trying to feel ok, rather than being able to tune in to myself and feel the innate security that already existed within me.

I would feel these things throughout my body - the constriction, and a sense of wanting to be able to jump out of my own body and run away from it all. And I felt totally blocked from not only doing things I enjoyed, but even knowing what I enjoyed in the first place, or being able to relax enough to be present and take it in.

More than anything, I wanted relief from this anxiety and these fears, and relief from the burden of feeling not good enough. I wanted to feel free from this weight that was on me, feel a sense of peace, and know who I was and what I was meant to do in this world. I wanted to be able to enjoy life and love everything about myself! I wanted beautiful relationships, and to have fun again, like I did when I was a kid.

I longed for these things, and became committed to finding answers. I began to find teachers and healers who believed in me and what was possible. Slowly but surely I started to believe in myself too!! I started taking steps towards how I wanted to feel, the life I wanted to live, and the things I wanted to discover about myself.


And over time things started to shift and change. I stayed dedicated to doing whatever it took, no matter how much it challenged me. I started to feel more confident. I started to love the body I was in! I began letting go of the need to control things, and started letting things roll off my shoulders. I was having so much fun again, and actually present and able to ENJOY it!

I kept dreaming, and then creating those dreams, and seeing the dreams even beyond what I originally imagined! I continued to reach out for coaching support, and take action in the direction of the life I was now imagining.

I started to learn more and more about who I was, and what I was being called to do with my life. As obstacles and challenges or negative experiences would come up in my life, I began to see them as opportunities - a chance to discover what I truly desired and then go out there and create it.


I even did deep work around relationships and was able to release all the blocks and baggage to having an amazing romantic relationship in my life, and shortly after that, met the man of my dreams. We’re getting married next August :)


I now have the most amazing community of women around me, supporting me, loving me, and cheering me on.

Truly, if you had asked me five or ten years ago what my life would look like now, I could not have even fathomed all of this. If you had described to me my life and experience now, my head may have just exploded. But each step I took showed me my next step. And I just kept going. I kept listening to that voice inside - my intuition and the voice of my true self, my soul, and my inner wisdom - even when it was just a whisper or barely discernible. I kept taking those baby steps, and sometimes giant scary leaps.

And now, I have the business of my dreams helping other women do the same! Helping them step into their light, and begin to release the things that are weighing them down and blocking them, so that they can be free to live the life of THEIR dreams, feel peaceful, and ENJOY life.

So if there’s a whisper inside of you that’s saying, “I want something better. I want something more…” If there’s a dream bubbling up inside of you… Trust that! Trust that voice. Trust that dream. Keep going. Take a baby step. Find the coaches, the teachers, the healers, the community and sisters who can believe in you when you’re finding it hard to believe in yourself.


The following is both cliche and also true - Anything is possible. So go get ‘em tiger :) The world is waiting for you!

If this resonates with you, and you've got dreams just like I did, and want to learn more about how I achieved those dreams please feel free to reach out to me at angie@angeilg.com or message me on Facebook any time! You can check out more at angieilg.com, or on Instagram @angieilg .

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November - National Family Caregiver's Month by Kristi
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Have you ever provided care to someone you love? Children...grandchildren...emerging young adults? Maybe aging parents...siblings in need...extended family? What about neighbors, friends or even colleagues? My guess is just about every one of you has cared for someone you love in one way or another.

November is National Family Caregiver’s month. I happen to know there are A LOT of caregivers out there. Actually, there are about 43.5 caregivers who “have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months.” - National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.

I have provided care to many people over the course of my lifetime, yet, one caring relationship has actually changed the course of my life.

On a regular day in June 2010 my younger brother called me. It was a call no one ever wants to receive. He shared that he wanted to end his life. While our family knew that he was having a hard time managing, we didn’t realize how bad things had become. He had routine surgery in 2008 that left him in chronic pain. Up until that point he had done a pretty good job managing his depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I knew enough to ask some hard questions. Do you have a plan? Do you have the means to execute your plan? Can you hang on until I can get to you? He shared that just knowing I would come to be with him calmed him down.

What followed was four years of being one of my brother’s long-distance, mental illness caregivers. My family and I supported him through a difficult divorce and custody battle, finding a new home and transitioning him to single life.

As a long-distance caregiver, it was all about listening. Really listening. I always thought I was a good listener, after all, I’m a trained Stephen Ministry Leader, trained to provide one on one caring support. Yet, when it came to my brother and suicidal ideations and unmedicated mental health challenges, I was challenged in new ways. What did my brother need most? No judging, unconditional love and a caring ear.

I spent countless hours on the phone through those four years listening and trying hard not to solve any problems but empower him to be able to make the best decisions he could. There were plenty of times I didn’t agree or felt impatient with how long it took for him to execute his plans. There were also times I was angry – why was this so HARD? We did our best to celebrate progress and his achievements – no matter how small. Yet, it was still so hard to watch someone you love very much struggling – whether they can see it or not.


Ultimately, on May 30, 2014, I received a very different phone call. This time it wasn’t my brother calling for help, it was a detective calling to say that my brother had taken his life. I choose to think he ended his battle with mental illness. What we have come to understand is that no one wants to end their life…they want to end the pain.

Soon after the dust settled from my brother’s suicide, I had an idea. Surely, there had to be a better way to support someone you love with mental illness? The idea for Courage to Caregivers was born. As I began talking with family and friends to share my idea, I had a young ‘accelerator’ who loved my idea and encouraged me to move on it.

I am not a risk taker or natural entrepreneur…I’d say I stumbled into this through my deep love for my brother.

I started by talking to hundreds of community stakeholders to vet the idea for supporting mental illness caregivers. There are a few agencies who support caregivers, yet, I saw a new model with potential.

So, what’s the difference? Courage to Caregivers is entirely focused on the caregiver and their self-care. You see, while I was actively caregiving for my brother, I consistently put myself last. It was hard enough taking care of everyone else, let alone myself. I wasn’t making healthy meals, I didn’t make time for exercise and I quickly gained 40 pounds. Now, I’d love to ‘blame’ my brother for this weight gain, yet, it was my lack of self-care that got me into that mess.

At Courage to Caregivers we absolutely believe in the mantra to “put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you”. We know that self-care is the oxygen mask for the caregiver. The flight attendants message almost sounds selfish, doesn’t it? Yet, if it really were an accident, and you were to pass out, what good would you be to those around you? YOU matter.


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Kristi Horner, Founder and Executive Director

Courage to Caregivers

Kristi graduated from Denison University with a BA in Economics. Throughout her career she has worked for a variety of nonprofits as Director of Special Events, Director of Volunteers and Director of Admissions.

In 2014, she lost her brother to suicide. She had been one of her brother’s mental illness long-distance caregivers for four years. He lived with depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. As someone who supported someone she loved very much, living with mental illness, she knew there had to be a better way to support mental illness caregivers and the idea for Courage to Caregivers was born!

Courage to Caregivers is a new nonprofit serving Northeast Ohio with the mission to provide hope, support, and courage to caregivers and loved ones of those living with mental illness. We are piloting three unique programs for one year including: One-to-One Caregiver Support, Support Groups and Breathing Meditation.

Connect with Kristi at Kristi at CourageToCaregivers.org

Follow Courage to Caregivers on Facebook @couragetocaregivers or Instagram @couragetocaregivers.

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My Two Saving Graces by Jennah

My two saving graces and what positivity can really do.

If you’re tuned into the self development world, you probably have a good sense of the positivity movement that is going around. From a realist turned optimist, let me tell you, it can be a little overwhelming; even suspect. How could someone seriously be positive about everything, all the time?

Well, honestly, you can’t. You’re human. Not a robot. And because of that, you have emotional ranges that span beyond that of a robot. But, I will say, the whole positivity thing? There’s some merit there.

A study I heard about some time ago featured a scientist who conducted a split test of verbal positive and negative energy towards flowers. What stuck about that study was the fact that simply talking positively and directing positive energy at the flowers, prompted steady growth.

For some reason, I never forgot that, and I realized the weight of those results as I found my footing as a solopreneur (aka: “entrepreneur”, “one-woman-shop”, “business owner”).

Here’s why.

When I decided to start my own business, I was catapulted into this world of self reflection and study. It was definitely unexpected, but it was the reflection of myself, who I am, what I want, and how that plays a part in the bigger picture, that really helped switch my mindset from negative to positive and resulted in literally speaking things into fruition. Which is why I tend to associate my branding studio with all things magic.

Simply by believing it, you can make it happen.

That might seem like a simple concept: just start speaking more positively about things; right?

The reality of it is: we don’t always have a personal cheerleader or support group around us to encourage us, motivate us, or even reflect positive attributes back to us, as we take on all the things life dishes out (both beautiful and hard). It’s something that we, as individuals, need to be aware of as we wake up each morning and take on the day. That a positive and open mindset:

Contributes to our emotional health.

Contributes to our mental health.

Contributes to our ability to embrace our strengths and love ourselves, fully.

So my mission was to find a cheerleader (or a few) that could help me create a routine of natural positive thinking. It goes without saying, finding a support group played a pivotal role in my success; it’s been one of my saving graces. Here’s how it works….

These committed few will often see what we don’t and remind you of the positives in your life and endeavors. It’s relatively easy to form friendships that will serve this purpose when we’re younger. As an adult, especially a business owner, this may not be as easy to come by. We just feel awkward admitted that!

A support group might seem strange to you if you are not already in one; but the idea is the same as family, friendship, or any other relationships: you’re there for each other. Give and take. And they tend to come in all shapes and sizes.

My support group is comprised of like minded women who help me through tough times, celebrate with me in good times, and remind me of how sweet the normal-ness can be. They’re not local to me; but the most important part is that we’re committed to the group. Accountability for ourselves and for each other. And because of that, we’re able to measure the abundance happening in all of our lives and keep each other in a positive mindset.


My second saving grace is a little obvious, but it looked like simply changing the way I speak about myself. I find that when we are able to shift into speaking positively about ourselves, we can easily do so for others. Which might be easier said than done; let’s be honest. As women, we tend to give first.

And honestly….

This has always been tough for me (too?). Even as the little rebel Jennah that I was (spitfire, fun, and loud), I’ve always been hard on myself. Which is probably why I never really got in trouble and maintained good grades through school. The world can be harsh though; especially for women. We need to actually re-learn how to love ourselves. Something that probably comes easier for our the younger versions of ourselves.

Learning the idea of speaking positively to and about yourself, allows you to hand our kindness and positivity to others like M&Ms. This whole concepts shifts you to a state of gratitude. And there’s no better way to find abundance in your life than giving gratitude for what already is.


These are my two saving graces. They really do seem like simple concepts, but my journey has not been easy so a lot of self development and work has gone into understanding how positively thinking and speaking can shape my world. I share this because I believe girls and women alike need the tips and tricks to embrace the best versions of themselves to live a full life. That’s been my personal mission and I hope these two concepts can help you achieve yours as well.

About: Jennah Lear is a CSU alumna with a passion for business and creativity. She owns Blue Loui Studio, located in Lakewood, OH. As a Branding Designer & Strategist, she works with purpose driven business owners to transform their brand and bring their big vision to life visually. This means playing bigger, consistency, and calling in ideal clients. It's power move and it's magic.

Jennah is fiercely devoted to empowering women and promoting confidence in all aspects of life and business. She knows it starts with believing in yourself; when you do that, magical things start to happen

website: www.bluelouistudio.com

email: helloblueloui@gmail.com

facebook: @bluelouistudio

instagram: @bluelouistudios

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"Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder."   -Henry David Thoreau

I’ll be so happy when__________. I’ve probably filled in that blank space with hundreds of words, ideas, dreams, goals, and intentions, that I believed would lead to my ultimate happiness. So, for years I chased it; only to realize that my choice to experience happiness is purely an inside job and not the responsibility of other people, things or circumstances.

I wish I could say this understanding of happiness came quickly, but it did not. It took years of learning lessons and changing my perspective.  So here are 7 lessons that literally changed my life and hopefully won’t take years for you to learn and/or share with others.


There is nothing that I have to achieve or change in my life that makes me “Somebody” because I was born 100% complete and amazing. Although I will continue to grow and change, I now realize that I am enough. I am worthy to be loved and respected for who I am and not who I aspire to be personally or professionally. I hope you feel the same way about yourself, because I believe happiness begins with this belief.


Holding grudges has a negative effect. It makes both our faces and our attitudes wear a frown even if we aren’t aware. The truth is, forgiveness is not about welcoming toxic people back into your life or giving an “Okay Pass” to the pain they caused. It is about letting go of the invisible rope that keeps you tied to that pain. Forgiveness creates a powerful freedom that can only be experienced when the mission is complete.


Being intentional about appreciating the “Now” in every day has really helped me to enjoy moments in life that I previously rushed passed and took for granted. Taking time to smell the roses is more than a common phrase, it is wise instruction on how to enjoy the gift of today.


It is important to be open to new people, places and opportunities that cause you to stretch your comfort zone. Saying yes to learning new things, meeting new people, visiting new places, and accomplishing new goals, can be nourishment for your soul. When you brighten up your life with new experiences, you create opportunities to enjoy more happiness.


Let’s face it, there are some irritating moments in life you can’t change, you just have to ride them out. Instead of worrying and complaining about things you can’t change, use those moments to remind yourself to be the change we want to see in the world by creating opportunities to help others. Knowing that no matter what you’re going through, you can still be of value to another person, community, or cause, can bring about a deep feeling of happiness and hopefully encourage you to share that happiness with others.


There is so much fun, creativity, and self-care that can be gained when you purposely take the time to rest and recharge yourself. It can be anything from moments of quiet and meditation to singing and dancing to your favorite songs. Spending time alone, while doing things you enjoy, helps you to stay connected to your dreams and refreshed enough to accomplish them.


Although there are days that may leave you feeling like there’s nothing for which to be grateful. I’ve learned that a little time spent reflecting on each day will help to you appreciate the many things that deserve your gratitude. Regularly focusing on what you do have creates a positive mind shift that grows happiness and sustains joy.


Angela Spring is a wife and mother of 4 amazing children ages 10 – 29 years old. She is also a Professional Keynote Speaker, Workshop Facilitator, and Certified Professional Coach. Angela is the owner of SUCCESS BY DESIGN PROFESSIONAL COACHING, LLC. Her company helps entrepreneurs, career professionals, and community leaders create effective strategies to create their desired success. Check her out at www.successbydesigncoach.com

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You Are Enough! By Alexandra

Being enough is something that I have struggled with off and on for most of my life and especially in the last 5 years. Feeling good enough compared to what I see of my friends, or on social media, and on TV can be a daily struggle for most people. Did I say the right thing, do the right thing, or even do I have on the right outfit? These are struggles that I have seen many women and myself face daily. I want to tell you that you already are enough. Just the way you are. If you were like everyone else, all your individual gifts would be lost. And ultimately, your gifts and your story, the good, bad and ugly are meant to help someone else.

Four and a half years ago, my health started rapidly declining. Going from being a trained professional dancer, to limping on my right leg, not only shook my world but left me scrambling to find answers of what was wrong with me. After being misdiagnosed for two months, I received the phone call that I had a tumor and needed to see a specialist the next day. Perplexed and dazed, does not even begin to describe how I felt in that moment. The fear of loosing my life and missing seeing my son grow up was terrifying. Feeling like I hadn’t reached my potential in life and would never have the chance to fulfill my purpose left me feeling lost. The next day, after 4 hours of testing and an explanation of what they found in my femur bone, I was scheduled to have major surgery nine days later. Those nine days were filled with preparation and temporarily shutting down my business for the recovery time it would take. Every detail was planned and I was praying what they found would not be cancer. By the day of surgery, I felt as prepared as possible, but little did I know or understand what was in store.

The surgery left me with a twenty-eight-centimeter scar down the center of my right leg and without the ability to lift my leg an inch in the air. Sitting there seeing the lack of ability to move and the pain to rebuild the muscle left me in a place of deep depression. I had no desire to do anything at all. I was so angry that this was happening to me. I was also angry at the pain it would take to recover. At the time, I felt like I would never fully recover and that my life would be filled with pain forever. Five months of excruciating pain through physical therapy gave me the ability to walk. However, finding the grace of God is what gave me the will to push through and keep moving forward.

When everything was stripped away, even the ability to walk, I found myself wondering who I was without my natural physical abilities. Leaning into God alone is what saved me from giving up and feeling sorry for the tragedy that could have easily become my life. When my strength was gone, I had my family and God alone to turn to and at times carry me through. I chose to find my identity in not what I could do, but who I am called to be, a daughter to the King. Because of who He is; I am enough. It doesn’t matter if I have a bad day and make mistakes; I am enough. If I fall flat on my face or roll out of bed not wanting to face the day; I am enough. When everything seems to be falling apart, I look to God and know I am enough because He says I am. He hears my every cry, sees my every tear, and loves me where I am. Because of His love, I can show love to others even in the storm and offer something to this world even when I don’t feel like I have anything to offer.

If there is one thing I want you to take away, it is that you are enough and amazing just as you are. There is greatness inside us all and we can help others even when we feel broken inside. I urge you to press through the hard moments and become stronger despite the obstacles you face. Know you are loved and being your authentic self can change the world! You Are Enough 😊

Loving My Journey by Katie

I am empowered and poised because I am learning to love my journey.  


I often find myself wishing I was in another city, working another job, or having life experiences I see my friends having.  It feels like I keep waiting for my life to start.

Ever since I was in high school, I remember being upset because I had stricter parents than my friends.  I remember wishing I was older and had more freedom to go where I wanted and do what I wanted to do with my friends.  

Fast forward to college.  I loved the newfound freedom I had.  I could stay out late if I wanted and be with my friends all the time.  Even though I got what I wanted when I was in high school I realized I wanted something new.  I wanted my life to be put together. I wanted to be ready for the future. I saw my friends preparing to be doctors, nurses, teachers, and business professionals and I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  My new wish was to have my future figured out and have a plan like I thought everyone else had.

Now we catch up to where I am today.  I graduated and found a job that I went to school for, but I find myself wishing I was having the experiences my friends were having.  My friends were off vacationing in Italy or exploring Iceland. They were living in exciting cities where there is something new to do every second. They were living with their friends and having new experiences.  I see them having these great times on social media and I find myself downplaying my experiences and my situation because it isn’t the same.

Feeling inadequate or wishing you were somewhere or someone else is something that can make you feel like your life hasn’t started yet.  It is great to set goals and be ambitious, but if you aren’t living in the moment you will let life pass you by. You won’t see the good that is happening and you won’t appreciate your own individual experiences.  Thinking back I realize I am grateful that my parents were strict. They taught me to be safe and have a good moral compass. I am grateful that I didn’t know what I wanted to be after college because it gave me the opportunity to explore different careers.  I was able to meet people who didn’t know what they wanted to do either and we supported each other through it. Now I am grateful that I am living back at home in a small town because I can still be with my family before moving. I am able to save money to one day go on a trip that I am excited for.

The future will always be unknown, but if you trust your journey and you are grateful for what you have it’s hard to be stressed about where you will end up.  There will always be the temptation to compare yourself to other people, but everyone has a different journey. You may have a tougher journey, a longer journey, or a short and easy journey for some of your goals. The key is to enjoy that journey because you can miss a lot if you are only thinking about what is next.  Practicing being present and loving where you are in your journey will help you to not just wish for better days, but make every day better.

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People First Language by Professor Scott Sparks

There are many subtle ways that the empowerment of young women can be challenged.  How others speak about them using language that may be condescending is one example.  In this blog post, I would like to talk about a related movement, using people first language when speaking about people with disabilities.  How we speak of and to people with disabilities is often based in sympathy. We feel that a life changing disability is something to feel sorry about.  While this is a natural human response to perceived misfortune, it overlooks the human dignity of overcoming the limits of disability and becoming as independent as possible.  Of course, there are many young women who have disabilities but the disability community is not generally gender driven. The issue here is putting more focus on a person’s disability by referring to it before referring to the person who has the disability.   When we refer to someone as a disabled person, we see their disability first and the person behind it second. That requires a person with a disability to develop even more skills just to be seen as competent. Seeing the disability first creates other barriers as well such as taking away a person’s independence.  If someone in a wheelchair looks pitiful enough, others will gladly push them without really thinking that you are making the person in the wheelchair more dependent on others. This must be minimized, there are times when such intervention is appropriate but that should be the exception. Use of non-people first language can also create a self-fulfilling prophecy for the person with the disability.  If you are constantly exposed to non-people first language, you may begin to see yourself as more disabled than you actually are. The media is full of reporters, producers, etc. who generally do not use people first language and couch there reports of disability in sympathetic tones. It’s not that sympathy is a bad thing generally, it does not provide the person with constructive support. When a person is constantly referred to in a specific way, they tend to behave in that way.   Becoming an independent adult is the primary focus for people with disabilities. Their disabilities present a number of barriers that are associated with living in communities. Physical barriers are for the most part, well known, but people first language is about psychological barriers. We should all expect others to refer to us in respectful ways. Another issue in people first language is the stereotyping of persons who have disabilities. People with disabilities are as diverse as any other group in a society.  When we see disability from a global perspective, we tend to define it in very narrow ways. People with disabilities are not a homogeneous group, each one is an individual with their own strengths and challenges. With school age children this is recognized by individualizing their education through the Individualized Education Programs (IEP) that are developed for each child. When we see people with disabilities as people first, we see the wonderful diversity that is within each person. By seeing them as a disabled person, we take away that diverse element.  The process of changing common language is very long. People first language has been demanded by disability communities for decades and has yet to reach fruition. Through this change, we will see greater empowerment, and thus independence, on the part of persons with disabilities. This same process would work for young women who are seeking empowerment, demand that others talk about you with respect.

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Scott Sparks, Ph.D


Professor Scott Sparks holds the B.A. in Special Education from the University of South Florida and the M.A. in Special Education from the University of South Florida. He earned the Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Florida. Professor Sparks currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in special education technology, as well as courses in introduction to special education and supervises the graduate practica in special education. Professor Sparks Is a site visitor with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and makes two visits a year.

Most Recent Publications:

Sparks, S.S., & Alodail, A. (2014).  Educating Native American learners with exceptionalities.  In Obiakor, F.E., & Rotatori, A.F. (Eds). Multicultural education for learners with special needs in the twenty first century (pp. 105-123). Charlotte:Information Age Publishing.


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Self-Mastery Is Essential for Success by Charisma

I am Empowered and Poised because I struggle to juggle.

Having a big family has brought me to a place where I am realizing that I am unlearning and relearning most of the things that were taught to me.

Like most women I had this notion that I had to be everything for everyone and whatever was left would go to me but I am quickly learning that I was wrong.

Nurturing a family and recently giving birth, while building a startup has forced me into a better mindset.You guessed it, I burned myself out.

I am learning that self care and self mastery is a essential part of mastering anything. Without it you have nothing.

In my efforts to do so and failing miserably several times, I feel the need to share my new found self care regime in hopes to inspire someone out there.

From the time I wake up, to the moment I lay down, I give thanks and deep breathe. This process keeps me encouraged by knowing that I have so much more to be grateful for than what may be present at the moment. This way when confronted with a situation that could drain me, I am already ahead of the game.

Another way I take care of myself is by making sure that I stay away from things that leave me feeling empty. My life requires a ton of energy. I don’t need anything that takes that away without replenishing it in a positive way. I do this by censoring my social media, avoiding news outlets, and staying away from problematic people to name a few things.

Lastly, I make sure that I schedule some time for myself. That can mean reading a book before bed, sipping my favorite red wine, meditating or getting my hair done. I have to have time everyday to look forward to even if it’s as small as washing the dishes in peace. This is how I remain hopeful.

These small changes have shifted my struggle to juggle mindset into a enjoy the ride and be present mindset. Now I am living for what’s in front of me.

Founder of Parents in Motion

Charisma Curry







Parents in Motion

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Bright Pink Lipstick by Laura

I love myself.  I speak these words, out loud, each morning.  In fact, a few months ago I wrote on my bathroom mirror “I (heart) Me!” in bright pink lipstick.  Research has shown that the majority of our self-talk is negative and therefore, is working against us rather than for us (Helmstetter, 1982; Stranulis & Manning, 2002).  Consequently, positive energy and positive self-talk must begin with you. It is imperative to retrain your brain to be your best friend. The critical choir in your head that you have permitted to perform… kick them out now! Drop the mic and draw the curtain.  

Self-care is not selfish. It’s love. Love for oneself.  After surviving years of abuse as a child and calling myself “a stupid, fat, ugly idiot”, I have learned that, in reality, I am none of those things. I am kind, compassionate, smart, and worthy of every single breath I take.  If you become what you speak, then you must choose words of love and kindness and repeat them out loud. Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

  • Increased life span

  • Lower rates of depression

  • Lower levels of distress

  • Greater resistance to the common cold

  • Better psychological and physical well-being

  • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease

  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Begin tomorrow and wake up to love yourself.  Make it a part of your routine just like brushing your teeth. Soon, this new pattern of empowering self-talk will extend throughout the rest of your day.

I really love myself and am reminded of that each morning when I look in my mirror.  Thanks to a little help from my bright pink lipstick.

 Laura Gray is a proud mom of three sons and three dogs. She is the Founder/Executive Director of  IPride , a self-esteem program for youth based on meditation, mindfulness, fitness and creative expression. Additionally, she is a published author and certified personal trainer and lives by the mantra "Who can I help today?"

Laura Gray is a proud mom of three sons and three dogs. She is the Founder/Executive Director of IPride, a self-esteem program for youth based on meditation, mindfulness, fitness and creative expression. Additionally, she is a published author and certified personal trainer and lives by the mantra "Who can I help today?"

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