Wednesday, October 31, 2018

#NDEAM: National Disability Employment Awareness Month

I'm a little late on this one, since it's the last day of the month (Happy Halloween!), but October is actually National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). It's a bit of a mouthful of a name, but it's a really important month and something that I wish more people knew about - it actually wasn't something that I'd heard of until this year!

I've talked before about the quick assumptions that people make when they meet me - and one of those is the assumption that I don't have a job. Unintentionally or not, people definitely have a hard time untangling physical disabilities and mental impairment. And it's also absolutely true that the rate of unemployment for people with disabilities is drastically higher than the rate of unemplotment for people without disabilities. So I'm glad that there's a month that can bring awareness to both things - that people with disabilities are underemployed, and that they are more than capable of having jobs and careers.

I had the honor of speaking at Pitt's event for NDEAM, jointly held by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Disability Resources and Services office. This was my first "big" talk about everything that I've been doing... it's easy for me to get it down here, in words, but I was a little more nervous about speaking in front of people. I usually don't stress to much (or rehearse too much) for public speaking things - I want it to sound natural and conversational, and not over-rehearsed. But this time, I was asked to speak for 15-20 minutes, which is the longest, by far, that I've ever been asked to talk! Luckily, the talk went smoothly, and I was able to talk about what I've been doing and answer questions, too. I was really glad to see the topic being discussed, and proud that I was able to be part of it!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

What I'm Loving

Since I haven't been posting as much as usual, I wanted to share some of the things I've bought recently that I love. These are just an assortment of things that I bought to try out on my own, and have used them enough that I feel good about recommending them to all of you.

Technically, this is intended to be used for wine, but I actually love using it for coffee when I'm at home. It has a lid, so I don't have to worry about spilling, and it's insulated so it keeps my coffee warmer for longer. The lid also has room for a straw, which is necessary for me. Plus, it's light enough that it's east for me to lift. Win-win-win-win for me!

Foreo Luna Play Plus
I tried a Clarisonic for a few uses when they came out years ago, but my face did not react well! It was way too rough for my face, which ended up red and irritated and with more breakouts than before. This Foreo Luna Play Plus, though, is the perfect facial cleansing device for me. It's made of silicone, and it's super gentle on my face, but my face does feel nicer and softer after I use it. It vibrates, and feels like it works in my face wash better than I ever could with a gentle washcloth, but isn't at all irritating. I also like that it can't get gross and dirty like a typical "brush" head does. This version uses replaceable AAA batteries - they also sell a more expensive version with a rechargeable battery, but I'm really happy with this one.

Shisheido Whipped Blush
I never thought that I could use anything but a powder blush, because of how oily my skin is - I thought that it would just make things worse. But this being described as "whipped" really is accurate - it's not quite a cream, but it definitely isn't a powder, either. I use a stippling brush (this one) to put it on and blend it in. A little tiny bit goes a very long way, but it blends in really nicely and looks a lot more subtle than powder blush does, in my opinion. It doesn't make me look more oily, and lasts a long time on my skin.

Drybar BrushCrush
I'm obviously a huge Drybar fan - I've used their curling iron and blow dryer, and think both work really well. So it was no surprise to me how much I love the Brush Crush, too. It's a straightening brush, so it's a cross between a regular hairbrush and a straightening iron. I use it on days that I don't wash my hair, and it does an amazing job in making it look smoother and less frizzy, and it also gets out the "line" in my hair from my ponytail holder. Best of all, it's way faster than it would be to use a straightener. It's pricey, but in my mind, absolutely worth it.

(Note: This post uses affiliate links; I may earn a small commission for any purchases you make.)

Monday, October 29, 2018


I don't have the words for a full post about the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill over the weekend - I think there are others who have written much more eloquently and touchingly than I could. But I also didn't want to just post as usual today without acknowledging this horrible, terrible act. So I'll be back tomorrow with a post, but today just want to take a moment to acknowledge and reflect on this tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with all affected.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Favorites

I'm so happy to be back sharing my weekly favorites with you! I think for now, I'm going to stick to a 3 post a week schedule - there's just been so much going on that I have to figure out how to make time for everything that I'm interested in doing!

I'm also really excited that I was able to share my proposal for the City of Tomorrow Challenge with you earlier this week. It's something that I've been working really hard on, and it's so special to be able to share it with all of you, too.
Now, on to this week's favorites.

Nick Kroll and John Mulaney's Autocomplete Interview
I've written about how great I think the show Big Mouth is, and Season 2 came out last week... of course, I've already watched and finished it! I think all of the Wired autocomplete interviews are fun - it's hilarious to see what people are frequently searching for online! Nick Kroll's and John Mulaney's is particularly funny - worth a watch!

Gmorning, Gnight
My love of all things Lin-Manuel Miranda is well-documented, so it's no surprise that I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. Lin is a prolific tweeter, and he's known for his good morning and good night tweets - tweets that start or end your day with well-wishes, or advice, or encouragement. The book brings them together into one place, and is beautifully illustrated. If you're looking for something to raise your spirits, this book absolutely does the ticket.

90210 on Watch What Happens Live!
My pop culture tastes really run the spectrum - I started watching Riverdale because Luke Perry, who played Dylan McKay in the original 90210, is on it. I'm also a huge Housewives fan, and so this skit on Watch What Happens Live was an amazing intersection of all my interests. Two of the Riverdale actors re-created a famous 90210 scene, with Luke Perry watching (and trying not to cringe). Amazing!

No, You Can't Get the Flu from the Flu Shot
This is something that is not news to me, but I love Teen Vogue for writing about it in such a heads-on manner. This is such a huge misconception, so I'm glad they're addressing it without giving any space to anti-vaxxers. If you haven't yet, get your flu shot!!!

(This post uses affiliate links.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Pittsburgh City of Tomorrow Challenge

I know that I've been MIA around here recently, and I wanted to be able to share one of the things that has been taking up so much of my time - my proposal for the Ford City of Tomorrow Challenge.
One of the things that I've talked about here (many times) is accessible ride-sharing for people with disabilities - things like Uber and Lyft. I actually had the chance to ride an accessible Uber while I was in DC, and it made me even more certain how important it was to make this available in every city. It made the night so much easier, and so much less stressful.

After my Ms. Wheelchair USA win, another CMU alum reached out to me to discuss a company that they'd started, Mobility 4 All (M4A). M4A is a Minneapolis-based company who arranges accessible ride-shares for seniors and people with disabilities. They're unique from services like Uber and Lyft, though, in that they have the option to also involve a caregiver in the ride-scheduling process. They're also thinking ahead and considering autonomous vehicles. Drivers that they hire and train right now will still be able to work when the cars no longer require drivers - they'll be trained to do the wheelchair tie-downs and other such things that will still be necessary.

I had already known about the City of Tomorrow Challenge - it's a challenge sponsored by Ford and other companies. They've partnered to put together a call for ideas that improve mobility in select cities, Pittsburgh being one of them. When M4A contacted me, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to bring their idea to Pittsburgh for the Challenge.

You can view my submission here - I'm really excited that my team and I were able to put together such a great idea, and I'm really hopeful that it'll make it to the next round. Part of the process is community support for the process - it's not the deciding factor, but it's something that the judges take into account. I'd love for you to check out my idea, and vote for it if you live in Pittsburgh and it's something that you support! To vote, you have to create an account and then click the heart that "applauds" the idea.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People

I'm back! I took a bit of a longer absence than I thought I would, but I've had a lot going on and just not enough hours in the day. I'll be posting more about what I've been up to in future posts, but today is an exciting day that I didn't want to let pass by.
Image by Micah Bazant
I've talked a lot about social media, and how it's been incredibly helpful to connecting me to other disability advocates - both locally, and across the US. And one of those advocates is Alice Wong. Alice actually has SMA, also, and I've loved following along with her on social media. She is incredibly in tune with everything going on in the world right now, and even had an op-ed published earlier this year in The New York Times.

Today is noteworthy because the book of essays the Alice edited, Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People is being released, and you can buy it here from Amazon. Since it's a collection of essays, it's not a long or difficult read, but it is a really interesting one. There's a great variety of people and topics, sharing a vast array of experiences and opinions.

I was lucky enough to be able to read an advance copy. One of my favorite essays in the collection, by Mari Kurisato, focuses on resisting while staying hopeful, and how to do both at the same time. It's something that's so important, but not often considered - how do you keep working towards something without burning out? What keeps pushing you forward?

It's so easy today to get stuck in our bubbles - we read things that reinforce our beliefs, we associate with people who are like us and share our values. But this collection is a really valuable look at the lives of people whose voices have historically not been heard. And I think now, more than ever, it's important to share those voices widely and loudly.