Monday, March 02, 2015

My disability Q&A: On the day-to-day work of a blogger

Note: This is the final installment of My Disability Q&A. You can read parts one, two and three for more fun times and inside scoop. No, really, there is lots of inside scoop to be, well...scoop?... xoxo

Do you think your exceptionality has impacted the success of your career in either a negative or a positive way?
I hope that my disability has positively impacted my life and my career. I had my moments where it felt like it negatively affected me -- especially when I was younger and having all my surgeries -- but now that everything has seemed to settled down, I'm finally starting to feel like a normal thirtysomething. I don't feel so out of place among my peers anymore, and that is a great feeling!

How do you self-motivate yourself when you work for yourself?
Trust me, it takes A LOT of practice! When I was working as a newspaper adviser, it was pretty easy because I was actually going somewhere every day. I had clearly defined "work hours" so things went smoothly. But since I started working from home full-time, I've had to work to create a schedule and stick to it. I'm a big fan of to-do lists, and thankfully, blogging is pretty rhythmic. There are certain things I do every single day, like finish blog posts, comment on blogs, work on ad stuff, answer emails, create editorial calendars, etc. There's always something to do, so there's never a dull day! A lot of time, I find myself wishing there were more hours in the day!

How do you self-evaluate your progress on your blog?
That can be a trap sometimes because it's so easy to start comparing yourself to other bloggers. What are they doing? How popular are they? Do they have a big social media following? But, it is important to regularly reflect on your own progress and a big thing for me is making sure I'm moving in the direction I want to go in -- writing the sorts of posts I want to write and making sure I'm enjoying it. The day I cease to enjoy blogging will be the day I know I'm in trouble.

Do you self advocate for yourself? If so in what ways?
Of yes! That's always been number one on my list of priorities. My parents were my biggest advocates growing up, and they taught me to speak up for myself -- in a respectful way, of course, but with firm confidence. Whether it's speaking up to doctors about what I need to standing up to those mean Internet commenters, I've developed a pretty thick skin over the years!
As future educators, thinking back, do you have any advice for us that you wish your teachers had said or done to give you that boost of confidence in following your dreams?
It may sound weird, but sometimes saying something is worse than not saying anything. Just give me as much reassurance as you would any other student because that will show me that I really am just like everyone else. In this case, not singling me out would be a good thing!

[Photos via We Heart It]

My Dream For 2015: Elle from ElleSees

Hey you! That’s how I greet all of my friends, and I’m hoping you’ll be a new one! I’m Elle from ElleSees, a beauty blog based in Atlanta. I love to chat about all things beauty: tips, tricks, tutorials, reviews -- even beauty DIYs are thrown in. There’s truly something for everyone. But today I’m not talking about beauty. I’m talking about My Dream For 2015.

Yesterday, I received horrible news: my Dad had been diagnosed with cancer. I took a deep breath and absorbed the news. This was something I wasn't expecting to hear at all -- parents are supposed to pass away when they’re old. He’s only 59.

I’m the oldest of my Dad’s kids and have forever held the role of being the strong one. The calm one. Okay, okay, I thought to myself, we can get through this. I was forming a plan in my mind for the questions I wanted to ask his doctor, plans to discuss treatment options and more as my sister kept talking.

But there was more bad news to come. It was followed by THE most horrible words: he has six months to live. Six. Months. There will be no treatment. No. Treatment. I kept hearing these words echo in my mind over and over. These words had overtaken the place of my hopeful plans and had developed a near-deafening buzz. These. Words.

The daze I was in after hanging up the phone disappeared when I was suddenly snapped into focus by the door banging and my dog, Charlie Brown, barking. I had friends coming into town to celebrate their birthdays at that moment and celebrating was the last thing I wanted to do.

Because my friends are amazing, they were willing to cancel everything to stay in and comfort me. But I insisted that we go out and celebrate, that maybe it would help a little. During the course of the evening, I raised my glass to give a toast and the words “celebrate life” stumbled out of my mouth. It was an epiphany. Celebrate. Life.

These words have now taken over the horrible ones and are now my dream. These words!
And so when I sat down to finish my original draft of this post, I erased it all to share this story because "celebrate life" is now my dream. I will celebrate life with the time I have left with my father. Every single moment. I will celebrate his life when he is gone. I will celebrate life with my loved ones -- every single moment. I will no longer take life for granted. Instead, I will celebrate. I hope you do, too. This is my Dream for 2015.

--By Elle from ElleSees

[Photos via We Heart It]

Man Candy Monday.

Good Monday morning, friends! Can you believe it's March already? I don't know about you, but I've been counting down the days until spring since New Year's -- we've only got 18 days to go now! And speaking of good things, a few of you have requested today's guy, and who am I to deny such an awesome choice? In fact, I couldn't agree more! His sense of determination over the years is nothing short of inspiring. He doesn't care what people think. And he's quite possibly the smartest mind of our generation...


"Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Have a fun weekend

Happy Friday, friends! Got any fun plans this weekend? I'm dying to catch the finale of How To Get Away With Murder, which is just waiting for me on the DVR. Also, thanks for all your kind words on my Disability Q&A posts. You can read parts one, two and three, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. I hope you all have a great weekend, and here are my favorite finds from the wonderful Web...

Wise words on the future.

"How I kept a 373-day productivity streak unbroken."

These winter layering essentials will come in handy.

Weird writer habits, ranked.

Do you include your blog on your resume?

How American sign language speakers sign Internet and pop culture slang.

So, about that dress...

Would you ever eat glow-in-the-dark ice cream?

Speaking of New York Fashion Week, actress Jamie Brewer is the first model with Down syndrome to walk the runway!

How to deal with being overwhelmed.

Casual and classic is ALWAYS a fashion do!

Yummy: Five great food blogs.

Taylor Swift gives the best breakup advice, of course!

Haven't we all been in this love situation.

Would you take a one-way trip to Mars.

Powerful stories from people who attempted suicide.

20 fun facts about Back To The Future, one of my all-time favorite movies!

Live long and prosper, Leonard Nimoy!

Fab finds under $40 -- what's not to love?

Oh, Ed Sheeran...

And as always, feel free to connect with me on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and now YouTube! See you there, friends! xoxo

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Graze Snacks Giveaway!

Confession: I'm a snacker. A pretty big one, actually. Granola bars. Chocolate. Those tiny packs of peanuts you used to get on the airplane. I've always enjoyed a good "mini meal," as I like to call it.

Enter: Graze, the amazing snack subscription service that offers all sorts of yummy treats, including nuts, seeds, juicy dried fruits, tasty crackers, dips and dippers and natural treats. The company was founded by seven friends who were tired of boring snacks like chips and candy. They wanted to reinvent snacking, and that's exactly what they did -- even down to the handy algorithm they designed that allows you to customize your boxes.

What makes Graze so awesome is that it's such an easy process: Simply sign up, choose the types of snacks you like and a hand-picked box will be sent right to your doorstep! Each box costs $6.99 and includes four snacks. Once you sign up, you'll receive a box every week or two, depending on your location.

The variety of treats (90 to choose from!) is pretty incredible -- everything from caramel apple dippers to summer berry flapjack to fruit blends to mint chocolate chip gelato and the ultimate cheese mix.

Seeing as how there's nothing I love more than trying a new snack, you can imagine my excitement when Graze sent me two boxes of sample treats to try. My boxes included fruity mango chutney, apple and cinnamon flapjacks, Garden of England fruit mix and booster seeds, just to name a few. My favorite? The flapjack, of course -- the perfect combination of soft granola and sweet fruit.

Graze is giving three (3) boxes to one lucky reader! For your chance to win, simply visit Graze, and leave a comment below, telling us your favorite snacks! For additional entries, you can (please leave a separate comment for each entry)...

*Fan Graze on Facebook
*Follow Graze on Twitter
*Follow Graze on Instagram
*Fan So About What I Said on Facebook
*Follow So About What I Said on Twitter
*Follow So About What I Said on Pinterest
*Follow So About What I Said on Instagram
*Follow So About What I Said via GFC (see right-hand sidebar...)

You can also Tweet about the giveaway -- just make sure to mention @melissablake and @grazeusa in your Tweet!

A winner will be chosen at random on Thursday, March 12th, so you've got two weeks to enter. Happy snacking, friends! xoxo

(This post is sponsored by Graze, though all opinions expressed are my own. Thanks so much for continuing to support So About What I Said's wonderful sponsors!)

**Please note that Graze is not suitable for people with allergies, as our snacks may contain traces of gluten, wheat, eggs, nuts, peanuts, soy and milk.

My disability Q&A: On following your dreams

What advice would you give to high school students with various about following their dreams?
The most important advice I'd give them is to find something that they're passionate about. Whether it's sports or painting or volunteering, find what you're good at and do it. You'd be surprised what you can do when you put your mind to it. Plus, if you're going after something you love doing, it doesn't feel like work at all. Also, don't be afraid to ask for help. No one can do everything by themselves and there's no shame in asking for help. I credit much of my independence to my parents, who taught me never to let my disability define me. It may have been a factor, yes, but it was only one piece of the puzzle.

Have you had to adapt or make any accommodations to reach your goals?
I couldn't go away to college, but at the same time, I never really wanted to. I'm sure accommodations could have been made, but I felt more comfortable staying close to home.

What would you say to students who feel there are impassable roadblocks to their dreams?
Everyone -- disabled or not -- has something that they feel is an impassable obstacle when it comes to their dreams. And sure, there are just some things I'll never do, like become a ballerina or an MVP basketball player, but so what? I've found something I love to do, and that's the key to it. Everyone has a passion, so find yours and be determined to make it happen. It takes work, but you'd be amazed what you can do when you put your mind to it.

Some students may feel like they can't be independent or have any personal responsibility especially if they require assistance in daily living tasks. What is your opinion on this?
Oh, I've definitely struggled with this in the past. Whether I like it or not, there are just some things I'll always need help with -- bathing, getting dresses, meal prep, etc. I used to look at my friends and think they were "so farther along" than I was was and that they were so much more independent than I was. But it's something that I can't change, so I can either obsess over it or realize that it's just something I need help with. Everyone has things they need help with, and those are my things.

What type of personal goals do you set for yourself relating to your blog or to your life in general?
Well, one of my big on-going goals is to continue to be as independent as possible; I'm a lot more independent than, say, 10 years ago. Also relating to life in general, I continue to work through my grief following my father's suicide in 2003. That's taught me so much, like the fragility of everything and the importance of love, family and happiness. As for my blog/writing, I'd love to start pitching to magazines again -- I haven't done that in a few years and would love to be published again. I'd love to see my blog continue to grow and perhaps introduce some new columns into the mix.
Catch up on Parts I and II, and look for the last installment next week, friends. And as always, if you ever have any questions or if there's something you'd like to see on So About What I Said, feel free to email me ANY TIME!!! I LOVE hearing from you!!! xoxo

[Photos via We Heart It]

Disabilities In The Media: Models in wheelchairs hit the catwalk

First, it was Karen Crespo, who brought some much-needed diversity to the runway last September when she modeled a dress made specifically for her. Now, that diversity continues in this month's New York Fashion Week. The FTL Moda's AW15 show was held in collaboration with Fondazione Vertical, an Italian foundation supporting research to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. It featured models with disabilities from around the globe.
"It is a very significant moment in my fashion career, this opportunity to finally open the most recognized runways in the world [Mercedes Benz Fashion Week New York now, and in Milan Fashion Week in two weeks] to these beautiful talents, ready to show that disability is very often just a mental state by performing on the runway next to some of the best models on the scene," said producer Ilaria Niccolini.

I can't get enough of these awesome photos! How refreshing are they, friends? It's so nice to be able to write about disabilities and my burgeoning love of fashion IN THE SAME post! xoxo

[Via Daily Mail]

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My disability Q&A: On overcoming obstacles

**Welcome to Part II of this week's special disability Q&A. Here's Part I in case you missed it...

Can you give us a brief description of what Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome is?
My parents didn't know anything was wrong with me until I was born -- no 3-D ultrasounds back then! It took the doctors (and even my parents looking in a medical book) a few days to diagnose me with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome. It's basically a genetic bone and muscular disorder, and I've had more than 26 surgeries, including surgeries on my knees, hands, hips and spine. When I was born, though, my main problem was my joints, like my hands, feet and knees, which were either contracted or dislocated.

How long have you wanted to be a blogger/writer?
Writing has always been one of my favorite things. Growing up, writing was always a way for me to express myself and explore my world beyond the confines of my disability. I studied journalism in college, where I worked on my school’s newspaper in every position from staff reporter to editor-in-chief. After graduating with a journalism degree in 2005. I began my career as a freelance writer. I wrote a weekly newspaper column for nearly five years; my slice-of-life column covered family, holidays, love and pop culture. I was also a blogger for Psychology Today, where I wrote about living a full life with a physical disability, and also blogged about my search for love with a disability for Online Dating magazine. I’ve also written for Redbook, Glamour, The Frisky, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Parent, Pregnancy and xoJane.

What obstacles have you faced while being a blogger/writer due to Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome?
Actually, I think the opposite has been true in my case. A couple years ago, when my newspaper adviser position was eliminated, I decided to focus on my blog full-time. It was one of the most exciting things I've ever done. Blogging and writing, especially where my disability is concerned, is really the perfect job for me. I can work from home and set up a schedule that works for me. It's flexible, so if I want to stay home one day to work and then head to the library the next day to work, I can do that. It's nice being able to work wherever I want and set my own hours.

Have there ever been any dreams or goals that you feel were not obtainable due to being born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome?
I've always wanted to live in NYC and live the classic life of a magazine editor, but due to logistic -- and of course money! -- that goal just isn't realistic right now. Luckily, my field is changing so much with technology, so nowadays, you don't necessarily have to be in the Big Apple to get published! I've made some great connections through my blog and social media, which is another thing I couldn't even imagine when I started blogging!

Have you ever been in a situation where someone belittle you?
I think we've all met that one person who zeroes in on our Achilles heel and can sometimes just shatter our confidence. In the early days of blogging, I'd get some not-so-nice anonymous comments -- you wouldn't believe some of the things people will say when they can hide behind their computer screens. Some people are just bullies to get a rise out of you, so I learned to just ignore those comments. At first, it was hard to ignore and my confidence was shaken a bit -- I'd wondered if what they were saying was true -- but you get to a point where you just don't care anymore.
As always, friends, I'd love to hear your thoughts!! Love you!! xoxo

[Photos via We Heart It]

How I Feel (In 5 Photos) Wednesday.

"I know you lie...Cause your lips are moving..." --Meghan Trainor

[Photos via My Summer Twist]

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My disability Q&A: On doing what you love

Last year, my cousin Erin interviewed me for one of her education classes. It was great getting to talk about inclusion and how my disability impacted my education, which are two topics I'm pretty passionate about. Well, she interviewed me again a couple weeks ago. This time, the topic was all about doing what you love despite the obstacles of a disability. Hmmm, I think I know a thing or two about that, so I thought it would be fun to share my answers to get questions. Look for more tomorrow, friends!
Tell us a little about your blog!
I started So About What I Said in November 2008. I was also working part-time as a newspaper adviser and freelance columnist, so it felt like the next natural step in things. Before I started actually blogging, I spent some time planning what I wanted to blog about, the title of the blog, etc. From the beginning, I wanted my blog to also serve as my writing portfolio of sorts, so I wanted everything to be really well thought-out. The title of the blog comes from my tendency to sometimes say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and then wishing you could go back and say, “so about what I said..." I've always envisioned my blog -- even from the beginning -- kind of like a magazine, and I've loved writing about such things as love, my disability, fashion, shopping, design, food and home d├ęcor.

What topics do your readers seem to enjoy most on your blog?
One of the things I love most about blogging is the versatility of it. On the same day, I can post about something amazing I found on Pinterest and then turn around and write about my scariest surgery. I've always tried to have a good mix of light-hearted and more serious posts. Some days have been more successful than others, of course, but I think I've done a pretty good job overall. As for topics, my readers love reading about my life, especially about living life with a physical disability. I love being able to show people that despite all my surgeries and hospitalizations, I've never let any obstacle stand in my way. And on my end, I loooove hearing their stories as well -- they're so inspiring, and I love the sense of community my blog has created over the years.

Do you think your blog has had an impact on the readers?
One of my main goals has always been to tell my story honestly and openly. I wanted to show people that I'm just like them, even though I may have had some different life experiences than they did. So in that way, I hope I've had an impact on them -- in the way they interact with people with disabilities and the way they think about disabilities in general.

What is your main demographic?
My main demographic is women in their 20s and 30s, but there are readers who are younger and older than that. I've gotten emails from teenagers saying how much my blog and my story has helped them, and that is the coolest feeling for me. I love interacting with everyone!

In what ways has your blog impacted you?
I don't even know where to begin in describing how much my blog has impacted me. I went into it thinking it would be a fun way to expand my writing and keep me writing every day. It's done that and so much more! It's helped me come to terms with my disability and helped me discover who I am. It's given me confidence and helped me find my voice. I've learned to write honestly, and that's one of the greatest gifts, I think.

Thank you SO much, friends! You're such a huge part of this blog, and you make me smile EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!! I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! xoxo
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