A Hallmark Moment Tonight – Lyric/Poem

Snow is falling
And my heart is calling
To you tonight.
You are here,
Deep within my heart.
Take my hand, darling –
Open your heart
And listen to our love that is calling
As, outside, the snow is gently falling.
I am so in love with you
As we make our hallmark moment come true,
Tonight.

The snow is falling
And I hear your voice calling
As I gaze out into the night.
Loneliness has been with me
But I’ll be home soon.
So let your love shine bright
On me tonight
And guide me home
Into your arms,
Tonight.

At a tree lighting on a town common
Sit a couple – a lovely sight.
A love that could have been
But never was.
But she’s still his sweetheart tonight
As they gaze into the holiday light.
A century shared in the warmth of a night
As they capture a hallmark moment,
Tonight.

Love is near –
Oh, please let it be here.
A man stands ready
But with a hint of fear
As he waits for the one
And to create a hallmark moment,
Tonight.

Snow is falling
And my heart is calling
To you tonight.
You are here,
Deep within my heart.
Take my hand, darling –
Open your heart
And listen to our love that is calling
As, outside, the snow is gently falling.
I am so in love with you
As we make our hallmark moment come true,
Tonight.

Coach’s Corner – Monday with Matt

Over the course of the past 6 months, I have been writing a weekly column for Hadley Park and Recreation called Mondays with Matt. In these columns, I discuss the role of sports and recreation in society along with coaching lessons, tips and best practices. As Winter comes upon us, the column is taking a bit of a break – also due in part to some personnel changes in the Park and Rec. department. The following is my final wrap up column that was published yesterday.

As the calendar pages turn and the snowflakes begin to drop onto our New England landscape, it is coming to the time of year where we tend to stop and reflect. We look at the world around us and ponder what we have seen throughout the year. For many this year, it has been a challenging year. As I too reflect on the past year and prepare for a likely pause to this column during the seasons, I am glad that I have had the opportunity to have an audience with all of you who read this column.

Coaching, athletics and the role that recreation plays in our lives are things that I care deeply about. I never made it to high ranks in any sports, but I have continually been exposed to it and gleaned bits of knowledge here and there. It is that knowledge that I have sought to share with all of you. I hope that everyone who has read this column thus far has been able to take something away from it.

As one can see from reading these lessons in totality, sports and recreation have a lot to offer us. Not just in terms of pleasure and enjoyment or providing us something to do. Sports and recreation does provide us with that as well, but it offers us so much more. They provide us with a vessel to become the best that we are capable of becoming. Coach John Wooden’s self-crafted definition of success – the peace of mind obtained through giving the effort to be that best version of yourself – was not just for the field of play. On the contrary, Coach Wooden was seeking a way to convey to those around him about what it means to be successful as a person. The lessons that you learn through recreational activities and/or sports help to achieve that goal while also providing skills and ideas that cross-translate into any facet of life. However, like any activity or task, the vessel of learning will only open its doors to you if you genuinely seek to unlock the door, open your mind, keep your eyes straight and steady and actively learn.

Like any activity, sports and recreation require hard work – a lot of it. It requires being a student of the game. It requires a passion – whether that fire that was lit be an acquired interest or a force that simply cannot be easily explained. Learning and developing your inherent character through sports and recreation requires that you learn not only about the game, but about yourself and others as well.

Think back on many of the lessons that we have discussed together over the past half year. We have talked a lot about strategy. We identified what your internal strategy can look like and how that is influenced by – and can help influence – your team’s external strategy and game strategy. We talked about the importance of practicing the fundamentals of your given activity and understanding the tools that allow you to perform that activity. We talked about the importance of having fun, persevering and being creative. We identified the keys to success that will help you be the best athlete possible.

Look back at that last paragraph. Read the words. Not one sport was mentioned nor one activity. I could have been talking about baseball, softball, football, cheerleading or basketball. I also could have been talking about painting, playing music, participating on the debate team or writing. The ideas crossover and are applicable in all parts of your life. Sports and recreation are simply a microcosm of life and a medium through which these skills can be developed and displayed.

For myself, like many others, sports are what opened our eyes to these lessons. For me, all of the lessons mentioned above came to me through baseball. I use them every single day in my everyday life and with my family. But baseball is where I studied these concepts, along with other sports.

For those of you who use sports and recreation as a way to learn, I hope that these tips and lessons have been helpful to you. I hope that sports and recreational activities have opened your eyes to the world around you like it has for me.

As we head into a winter break, I want to thank everyone who has been reading this column and say that I hope to be back with you all soon for our weekly discussions. If you would like to continue following my coaching lessons and columns, you can view the archive – so far – on the Hadley Park and Recreation website and through my website that I am updating at www.mattkushicoaching.com.

Thank you all and Happy Holidays!

https://www.thewoodeneffect.com/pyramid-of-success/

A Lover’s Lullabye – Lyric/Poem

It has been a while since I have written new material. I also wanted to briefly give a glimpse at some of my writing process.

Tonight, I wrote a new piece called A Lover’s Lullabye. I have explained before that I draw from many different places, stories and experiences when writing. While listening to music tonight, I came across a song I had not heard before by Fleetwood Mac called Songbird. It was from the Rumours album with Christine McVie on the lead. It is a beautiful song painted against a piano backdrop along with a subtle acoustic guitar line with a simple message delivered with the right tone. This song stuck with me and eventually the tune started to take on a life of its own in my mind with a few additions. As I listened to the song again, this time without hearing the words, just the sound and the tone, I started writing and this is what I came up with. Complete with editing, this took about 15-20 minutes. I hope that you all enjoy it. I will post a YouTube clip to Songbird by Fleetwood Mac below.

A Lover’s Lullabye
Matthew Kushi

Sunshine
From the dusk of moonlight,
And a lullabye whispers to me.

With you, everything is alright
By you, I can sleep well tonight.
My heart is tucked in, wrapped into your arms.
We are both safe tonight –
Sleep well until the morning light.

I wish that you I could give you all that I have ever owned.
I hope that you feel the sunshine dance across your face
As we pass through the fleeting dawn of the morn’
And the stars wink at us goodnight.

Let me tell you that I love you
And how I want this love of ours to last forever,
Stronger than all of the powers in all of the world.

And with you, the sun will forever shine.
I watch it dance across your face,
And I find myself lost in your loving, smitten eyes.
I find myself wishing you knew how deeply I have fallen.
For the sunshine of my life.

Songbird – Fleetwood Mac


Coach’s Corner: Strategy and Workload Management – A 2 Part Series

*Author’s Note: This 2 part post is part of an initiative the author is publishing in partnership with Hadley Park and Recreation for the benefit of student-athletes and coaches. The first post focuses on strategy. Prior lessons are referenced with the idea being that an athlete’s internal strategy (what they can control) influences their team’s external overall strategy. More traditional topics will be returned to in future weeks as well for those not wishing to read in-depth analysis of sports strategies.

Article 1: External Strategy
Greetings and welcome to this week’s edition of Mondays with Matt! This week, I would like to finish our discussion on athletic strategy. For a few weeks now, we have been talking about this concept of strategy. We have spent quite a bit of time identifying what internal strategy is and why it matters. This week, we will take a look at external strategy – the actual operations of how a game is conducted by both teams and why strategy is important to understand.

The way that a game is played and designed is based on a sequence of strategies and strategic decisions. As we watch games, we notice these strategies. We root for certain strategies to work. We watch a play develop in basketball or watch the sequence of passes to find a good shot in hockey and soccer. We notice how our favorite team is trying to score runs in baseball and softball.

All of these events do not occur in a vacuum. Yes, they do occur by individuals who have mastered the fundamentals and are playing a game. There is luck, chance and basic performance occurring. However, these happenings are also occurring based on a certain mindset that a team has based on achieving their goal of performing better than their opponent. Now, we are not going to dive deep into strategic analysis in this column. There are sports libraries full of books dedicated to different game plans and strategies and why (ie. Football – West Coast Offense vs. Pass Balanced; when to use a 4-3 Base Defense with read options [see Tom Landry] vs. a Cover 2 personnel package. Baseball/Softball: Base Advancement vs. Power Ball; SABERMetrics vs. traditional scouting. Soccer, Basketball, Hockey: Spread Offense vs. Crash Offense; Zone Defense vs. Man Defense).

What I do want to make sure is understood is that a team’s external strategy is based off of many different factors. These include a coach’s values, their preferred playing style, what they value in terms of fundamental skills, an opponent’s tendencies and our own team’s tendencies. What are your team’s tendencies based off of? One, how your team performs as a collective unit. Two, the individuals who make up your team. The internal strategies that make up your collective team.

There was an example that I used last week that I would like to examine further. In basketball, there are many different types of external team strategies that a coach can employ. You can use set plays, post plays and fast break plays among the many options. For this example, let’s look at the fast break. The fast break is an offensive strategy typically used to capitalize on your opponent’s failure to score. The emphasis is moving the ball up the court quickly. In order to do this, you need to have conditioned players who can run. You need to have good ball control and the ability to make quick, concise passes to your flanking teammates as you move down the court. If the members of your team are not fast or don’t excel in those skills, then the fast break will likely not be a key way that that team plays the game. You are looking for a skills match – a consistency in skills and strategy between player and coach. For example, in baseball and softball, the generally accepted offensive strategies are “small ball” (using hits, stolen bases and base advancement to score runs) and a more power-based strategy (homeruns, swing for extra base hits). If you are a coach that values small ball principles, having power hitters all over the lineup may not be a good match-up and vice versa.

So, we have established that there are many different strategies that teams can employ and many different factors go into determining that external strategy. This diversity is fine. However, there is one key to success in all of this where there must be no misunderstanding if a team and its individuals are to experience success: Understanding. Player and coaches alike must understand the strategy. Players must understand and respect the overall team external strategy and understand how their self-regulated internal strategy impacts that entity. Likewise, a coach must understand every nut and bolt of their philosophy and strategy. A coach must also understand his/her players. What are their strengths? Weaknesses? What is their value? How does that add or detract from the overarching team identity? It’s about managing people and managing expectations. Without understanding and respect from both players and coaches, that one team heartbeat becomes fractured.

So, in closing, as a player and a coach, understand your internal strategy and your team’s external strategy. Understand every reason and every nut and bolt of your system. That is how you put yourself in position to succeed. That is why strategy is so important. Not only in sports. Look at the world around you. Life. Work. Sports. They have a lot in common. Even in everyday life, there is this relationship between strategies. Understanding this will help you in any environment.

In closing, pay attention to strategy. But, I would also like to stress as an aside, never forget the basics of what made you interested in strategy in the first place. Never forget the fundamentals of the game you are playing or the task you are performing and the fun that you derive from it. Never forget the basic act of how to do your job – playing a piano, throwing/hitting a baseball, shooting hoops. As Park and Recreation participants, enjoyment of the activity is of the most importance. Understanding strategy is a tool that helps you succeed in adding value to that enjoyment at higher levels.

Article 2: Workload and Capacity Management – Understanding the System

In today’s edition of Mondays with Matt, I would like to have a conversation with you all about workload. While we will be discussing the importance of understanding workload in athletic terms, this is another one of those concepts that translates into everyday life as well. What I want to impress upon you in this week’s discussion is the importance of understanding workload and the idea that workload intensity is not a constant – it is an evermoving variable that impacts how you play the game and perform. For coaches, it is also important for you to understand this concept. As was mentioned in a prior column, as a coach, you are a teacher and a manager. You are not managing just players. You are managing people – adults, kids – who happen to be under your supervision in the role as an athlete. Coaching is about managing expectations and understanding the concept of workload is critical to this.

So why is understanding workload important? Understanding your workload is important because it allows you to understand what you can do and are capable of. As a coach, it allows you to understand what to expect from your players in a given moment given your current situation. In an ideal world, you would be able to benchmark your workload and your capacity based upon how much work you have done or how long you have played. However, that assumes that all in-game situations are alike and constant. The assumption is that all plays and motions that happen within a game during a set time-period are of equal stress. That is where this thinking is flawed. We live in an imperfect world where we are subject to variables and our capacity changes based upon in game context. An athlete’s capacity and workload stress incurred is affected by the situations that they have been exposed to in the game and how they reacted to those situations.

As I was watching this year’s Major League Baseball National League Championship Series, broadcaster (and former player) John Smoltz made a great point relating to this. Smoltz said something noting the impact of high stress plays and situations on a player’s strategy and capacity.

Let’s look at a few examples. Whether you are a player or a coach, you should be able to relate to these examples. Let’s look at fast motion sports such as basketball or soccer. You are trained to run up and down the court and be able to make essential fundamental plays – i.e. pass a ball, shoot a ball and dribble. You also are aware that it is easier to perform these tasks when you are relaxed, confident and in the zone. It is also easier to perform these tasks when you are rested. This is why substitutions exist in these sports.

Now, let’s break that down further. Why is it harder to perform these tasks under certain circumstances? Why are you effective in some games when you have played 30 minutes but are tired after 20 minutes? Shouldn’t the well-rested theory work the opposite way? This happens because of situational play and high stress plays. Let’s say your team is winning and your team is in control of the game. You are confident and can take your time and perform your tasks the right way. You can play 30 minutes and, despite a higher workload, have the capacity to perform. 

Now, let’s flip that scenario. Your team is behind. You are aware of the clock ticking. You need to match the other team and then surpass them to win. You are pressing. This is a high stress situation. You are performing the same tasks and running the same amount as the scenario when you are ahead, yet you are tired and ineffective after 15 minutes of play. Why? Your workload may be lower but the intensity of that workload is higher, resulting in more stress and lowered capacity.

An excellent example that I like to give is pitch counts in baseball. Ignore the arguments on whether pitch counts are too much of a data driven approach – traditional and new school views can co-exist. Let’s look at pitch counts and Innings Pitched. Look past the numbers and the statistical thresholds that people tend to use. There is more to the story. Look at the qualitative context instead. We have two pitchers, each pitching 8 innings and 110 pitches. Which one is more tired? Well, the starting pitcher was ahead in the game and did not let many runners on. Their pitch count was a result of mixing pitches and working the count. They are not as tired and could go another inning, despite the thresholds. The other pitcher? They have been in and out of jams with runners on base. Walks and hits have been an issue. Same Innings Pitched, same pitch count but they are tired. It’s time for a relief pitcher. See the difference? Workload and capacity influenced by high stress situations. Going back to John Smoltz, that was his point.

As you can hopefully see, workload and capacity understanding are critical components to understand as a player and as a coach. The same can apply to an everyday workplace as well. We are impacted by the situations that we are exposed to. Understanding that can help us manage ourselves and others better. This can help you become a better worker, manager and athlete/student-athlete.

If I Asked You To Stay

You told me that you needed to leave,
To get away from here.
You said that you weren’t sure if there was a future here.
I could see the pain of those words in the dawning eve.

I nodded and wished you well.
Told you that I would sure miss you.
Later that night, as I thought of your words
I thought of what I could do.

If I asked you to stay
Would you not go away?
I truly want to see you be happy
But I don’t want you to leave.
If I asked you to stay
Would not go away?
Would you stay?

I don’t know if your future is with me.
I don’t know what the future holds at all
But I know that you mean more to me
Than you realize. More than I realized.
I’ve just been too afraid to let you see.

I don’t know why
But you can make a day bright
Just like a day warmed by the newborn light.
The thought of you leaving brings a tear to my eye.
The more I think of you, the more I realize
I’m not ready to say good-bye.

When I talk to you

If I asked you to stay
Would you not go away?
I truly want to see you be happy
But I don’t want you to leave.
If I asked you to stay
Would not go away?
Would you stay?

THE CHANGING TIDES OF HUMANITY: Our Duty to Lead with Love and Compassion

*This writing was originally posted a while back. In light of the tragic event that took place in El Paso, Texas today – August 3, 2019 – I feel that this piece is relevant and appropriate to share once again. It is a reminder that we should not need reminding of, but one that we have proven that we need to remember.

In light of many events, one cannot help but notice a change that has come over us – us the human race; on a smaller scale, us, the inhabitants of the United States. This change that I speak of is not just about global affairs or domestic affairs – it is that of our human spirit. This spirit is certainly a reflection of events of the past and current times that we live in. We are a humane collection of beings and that will never change. Ultimately, good shall outlive evil. In the final analysis, we will continue on our path of freedom and opportunity – a symbol of hope. However, we must continually remind ourselves of what it takes to reach these goals. As one watches the news, it seems that we are in a period of roiling turmoil where the ideals that lead us to that goal are being drowned out by harsh and angry words. We must look towards our inner compassion and remember who we are and what kind of world we want to live in.

While there is certainly no argument to be made that we have lost our humanity, we have allowed our more hardened sides to be some of the more visible sides that are portrayed to the public via the news. Every day, there are just as many – if not more – uplifting stories that play out day to day on every scale in this country – whether they be broadcast to the public or private eye. Yet, what we allow to dominate the headlines is our anger – whether it be political anger, ignorant hatred or a tragic event fueled by these two forces of evil. Thus, our reactions become fueled by a fountain of negativity rather than a ray of hope. Why? We are better than this. We know better than this – we are good people at our core as demonstrated by countless acts of humanity every day. A while back, I wrote a little bit about humanity in regards to an event shrouded in darkness. The words are still relevant now. Whether we are living in a time of positivity or in a time where the sun seemingly is lost behind the clouds, let us always remember these lessons.

“Anger. Who instilled this bitterness, this hatred in us? Who allowed this disease to fester within us? We can do better than what this evil force commands. We are humans. We are better than this. We have been born into an imperfect world where reality is often cruel and enigmatic. This world can also be one where the where the crisp blue sky and sun warm us a little deeper when filled with humanity and our love – it all depends which side we choose to listen to and believe in.

As humans, we have often had a contradictory paradox. Throughout human civilization, we have been the source of many dark moments. What has kept us going are our times of humanity – of love and compassion. In our hours of darkness, let’s not give in to the same hatred that has led to events such as these, as imperfect as we are with fleeting moments of darkness at times. Instead, let us take the road of humanity. Let us open our hearts and let our true selves show – the spirit of the human being that believes in the light that follows the darkness, the spirit that is full of compassion and love. We should not be a hateful and spiteful people by nature; rather, we should be a loving and caring people – that is how we move forward. That is how we survive.

As a race – the human race – we are better than what we have become, or at least what we have allowed to become the face of who we are. The vast majority of us are kind and loving people. We are not the people who make the news. Perhaps if we focused more on our good qualities rather than the qualities of those corrupted by hatred, we would not let hatred become such an instinctive reaction to life’s many situations. Perhaps if we realize the fact that most of us follow that virtue of goodness, than we will realize that we can rise up and defeat the hatred that some in our world feel and act upon. If we lose that battle, we are bearing witness to the end result that will become more frequent to those who follow us in this life – anger, hatred and violence. We must not allow that result to come to pass. We are better than that. As a human race, we have not lost our collective humanity yet, though one can’t be blamed for thinking so by looking at some recent events or the history of human civilization. If you believe in humanity, it will not be lost on you all of the stories of human compassion that go along with these stories of tragedy.

Let us not give in to lawlessness. Let us not give in to hatred. Let us not allow the bitterness of anger to seep into our everyday lives until we become the very force that we believe that we can defeat. We are better than that. Let us keep our open minds and open hearts. Let us keep on believing and acting upon the virtues of love and compassion as we know it is the right way to go.”

How do we, as a country and as a world, bind our wounds and heal ourselves in our darkest of hours? The answer lies within in us – for the answer is us and the love and compassion that we are capable of deep down inside of us. Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Let us look into the love that exists within our own hearts and let us believe in the power and value of a fellow man. Let us take action and start a positive ripple of hope that will spread over us and defeat oppression. We can co-exist in a world where race does not matter, gender does not matter, status does not matter and orientation does not matter. We are all one and the same on this Earth – a human being. While we will always have our differences, it can never be at the gain of one people and the oppression of the rest. We cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by fear – for our fear is not of the man who is different but of the idea that is unknown.

Let us keep on believing and acting upon the virtues of love and compassion as we know it is the right way to go. It is who we are at the core and what should be truly represented in our affairs, our public image and in our actions. We must recognize and realize our humanity – it is there. We only have to believe it. We are defined by this humanity – not the negativity that we see and react to publicly from day to day. Let our humanity shine through and guide us to the path of hope, freedom and opportunity. We alone have the power to make this world a better place – we always have.

American Princess

Girl, you are a princess to me.
You had me from the day you whispered
Those sweet words of “I love you”
And made me forget everything that I wanted to say.

Every day I’d swear to myself
That I’d make myself a little better
So that I could stay by your side.
Then I’d see you and suddenly everything we were was ok.

Now, lying here with you close to me,
My heart’s singing me a thousand lullabies.
When you look at me with those pretty eyes,
You know you make me feel like the man I’ve always wanted to be.

I look out on the balcony
And, my, you sure are a sight to see.
I realize that my dreams are all that you are
When we’re wrapped in each other’s arms.

Now my heart’s beating fast.
Darling, I know that you are my last.
I’m down on one knee asking to be your prince
And I watch as your eyes tear up as we bind our love with a sapphire ring.

How did we get here?
A boy and a girl so deeply in love.
I’m burning on the inside
Because I know I’m so in love
with my American Princess.

American Princess

My Brother’s Keeper – My Sibling Story

“It is hard to explain
So how can I help you understand
When you don’t know what I go through?
How could you?
It’s a world that is not yours
But we carry each other through it all
Until the bell tolls and we answer the final call.

If only you knew.
If only you could see the world through my eyes.
I want you to see the world through my eyes.
You don’t know what it’s like
To live the life that I do.
Let me show you the world through my eyes.”

~ Matthew Kushi – The World Through Your Eyes

What am I talking about in this lyric/poem? Would you believe me if I told you it was me? This is a reference to one of my identities – a sibling.

Many of us have siblings. Each of our family relationships are unique to us. Like many others, my family relations and my role as a sibling has helped define me. That in and of itself isn’t unique. What makes my story unique is the nature of my sibling relationship. Like some siblings, I have a sibling who has to live his life under a different set of circumstances than myself – the circumstance of disability.

Now, I have been reluctant to write a piece on this for many different reasons, including comfort level and how others receive it. So, as a disclaimer, I would like to note that I don’t perceive the story I am about to tell to be a negative. However, I feel that it would also be unreasonable to assume that the circumstances that my brother and I have gone through has not shaped us through it being a different experience. This is my story.

So, let me tell you about my big brother, Joe. Joe was born in the early 1980’s when medical technology was not what it is today. Joe was born 13 weeks premature and was quite small at birth – only 2 lbs. In order to save Joe’s life, he had to be given oxygen, which resulted in a brain bleed. As a result, Joe has had Cerebral Palsy and Intellectual/Development disabilities all of his life. However, that does not define who Joe is. I am often asked what Joe is like. Joe and I have similar temperaments. It’s just that our temperaments are expressed in different ways. You see, Joe is blind, non-ambulatory and can make vocalizations but does not speak as you and I do. He has to express himself differently. However, there is no mistaking what his intents are most of the time.

So, what is it like being a sibling? Well, in many regards, it is the same as any other sibling relationship. It is the same in that you are two humans from the same blood with distinct personalities. You fight with each other. You console each other. You have fun with each other. It is also different in many ways. In my life, growing up meant helping my folks out with Joe. It meant sometimes doing, or not doing things, differently than others. When I was younger, I would assist where I could in various small tasks. Nowadays, I help as needed in any task. This can mean lifting Joe into his chair or assisting him to the dinner table. This can mean helping with meals or helping get him situated in the bathroom.

As a sibling, you are exposed to what true love of another human is as your family tries to work out the best situation for all. You learn the values of empathy and compassion. You tend to grow up and mature faster than others, but you are the better for it.

But there is another side as well – a side that is not as storybook and that has only recently been talked about. There is a human element, as in all things, for a sibling and it can be extremely complex. There are those who judge you, your family and your sibling without meeting them. You can be bullied in school for your family being who they are. For some, it is the internal battle that is the most draining. You can feel caught between feeling things that are completely normal but that you ashamed for feeling. Suppression of feelings is common – even with the knowledge that there are SibShops out there. Sometimes, as a sibling, you don’t want to rock the boat. Sometimes, you just can’t explain what you are feeling – how you wouldn’t change a thing about someone but how you wish you could at the same time. For those who don’t understand and those you are not sure if they want to understand, it is difficult to explain the strange sense of survivor’s guilt or anger that you may feel. It is hard to explain the fear that you may feel – the fear of the future and the fear of whether your efforts will be enough. Sometimes, even if you want to talk, you are not sure how to make others understand because it is a world that is not theirs.

That lyric/poem that started this article? That was my way of expressing these thoughts. Read them again. This is an issue that I tend to talk about but not talk about as I am in this article. It is hard to explain to others because it is not their life.

So, as can be seen, much of the above applies or has applied to me. Even now, I have a strange pendulum that I balance. On one hand, I would not change a thing about my brother. This is our life. On the other, I would give anything in the world to give him the ability to walk, talk and see. I would. It is that strange world in which we live in.

So, again, is our brotherly dynamic is different due to what Joe has been through? Yes and no. All sibling relationships are unique and special. Ours just has a different scenario. Joe and I, we have our own path on which we journey due to the circumstances. In the final analysis, we are brothers and have the same bond and experiences that countless other siblings do. You see, the disability may be what people notice on the outside but it is the ability of the person as a human that defines them. You do not judge a person by their cover and by what is outwardly noticeable about them. You realize them for who they are as a person.

In Joe, I could not ask for a better brother and a better friend. I can only hope to educate, inspire and make as much of a positive difference in others’ lives as Joe has. People have told my family that they became nurses because of Joe. Was this the way that it was supposed to be? The younger brother taking care of the older brother? I don’t know but it is our life. It has been different and challenging at times. But not negative. On the contrary, I see the positive impacts. As a sibling, it is one of the defining factors in my life. This is my story.

 

The Right To Be Respected – Disability Awareness

This is the article that started it all – my venture into article writing.

*Variations of this article appeared in both the Hawks Claw – the Hopkins Academy school newspaper – in 2005 and in UMass Amherst’s Massachusetts Daily Collegian in 2008/2009.*

In the long struggle for equality for people with disabilities, there has been good news and bad news. The good news for disability advocates is that there has been great ground gained in disability awareness and equality issues. However, there is still work to be done. Namely, it is the language we use that concerns people with disabilities.

‘Stop being such a retard.’ This line sounds awfully familiar doesn’t it? It is a line that is used day in and day out by people everywhere, not just on the premises of this campus.

Every time I hear a person utter this line I cringe. I cringe when I hear the word ‘retard’ in a hurtful manner because I know that the intent is to degrade a person that has just done something perceived as stupid or wrong.

When you say that a person is a ‘retard’ or is ‘retarded,’ you are basically saying that the subject of the word is lowering themselves to the level of somebody with mental retardation, now known as an intellectual disability. That isn’t right.

The word is being used in an offensive slang manner that degrades fellow humans, both the person that the slur is directed toward and people with intellectual disabilities.

Have people with intellectual disabilities done anything to deserve this? No. People with intellectual disabilities are the same as you and me. They just have some obstacles in their lives that we don’t.

Than why do we so frequently use a word as offensive slang rather than what it really means?

To give you the correct definition of the word, it is, according to Answers.com, ‘to cause to move or proceed slowly; delay or impede.’

Critics of this article may be wondering if I think that I have all of the answers. They may think that I am too politically correct. That I am portraying myself as a self-righteous wonder who sees all of the world’s wrongs. My answer to both criticisms is no, I am not.

In fact, I used to be a person who used the word in an offensive manner before I stopped. However, since I am in a position to take a stand against the word, I plan to utilize my opportunity.

The argument over the word ‘retard’ and ‘retarded’ used in a negative tone is an argument that I have engaged in many times.

This past summer, I took part in an online forum discussion on the movie Tropic Thunder on Abcnews.com. Several disability groups had taken offense to the movie over the negative use of the word ‘retard.’

In the argument that I was having with one gentleman, I had the line thrown at me that I was overreacting because words have no value.

Right. Let’s expand on that thought shall we? If words don’t have value, then why am I writing this article? Why do we have language? So, in my dear little friend’s world, a word is just a word, a life is just a life, a person is just a person ‘- not a very logical argument.

You see, words do have value. It is how we live amongst one another. When you tell someone that you love them, you are telling them that they mean something special to you. When your family tells you that they are proud of you, they are telling you that they are happy for what you have done.

Why do I attack this subject with such tenacity? If you know me personally, or have read any of my previous articles on disabilities awareness, then you know where I am coming from. I have a family member who has an intellectual disability.

I know that this article is not going to stop people from using the word ‘retard.’ However, if I can stop one person from using the word inappropriately, then I will consider what I have said a success, no matter how small that success may be.

I am aware that not all people, with or without disabilities, find this word offensive. What I represent here is the voice that claims the usage of the word to be at fault.

If after reading this, you still don’t have a picture in your mind of the people that you are insulting by using the word ‘retard’ as an offensive slur, I would like you to think on this line.

The line comes from the movie Tuskegee Airmen. The line not only exemplifies what these African American World War II fighter pilots were thinking at this time, but really what all suppressed people in this world think.

The line reads as follows, ‘There is no greater conflict within me. How do I feel about my country and how does my country feel about me? Are we only to be Americans when the mood suits you? A fair and impartial opportunity is all we ask. Nothing that you yourselves wouldn’t demand.’

Let us give people with intellectual disabilities a fair and impartial chance. Let us stop using the word ‘retard’ in an offensive manner.

In Your Arms

The night slowly comes along
And the magic of love comes alive in my heart
As I can hear the music of a love song.
In your arms is where I belong tonight.

Girl, take my hand,
Let me sail you to a star-lit land.
Now, our hearts move as one as we sway to the beat.
I’m lost in this moment in time with you
Because all I want to do
Is slow dance with you in my arms.

Listen to our hearts as they sway to the music
And watch as our feet drift along.
Feel it now, our love is strong.
With you, there is no way to be wrong.
Love as it should be, in your heart where I belong
As I slow dance with you in my arms.

Oh, forbidden fruit never tasted so fine.
Still can’t believe that out of all of the hearts
You want mine.
Never knew a love like this,
Living my life searching for a heart like mine.
I was a prisoner and you set me free.

In the dark of the night
We don’t need a light to feel so right,
For our love lights up the darkest of nights.
We are a true lover’s sight
And know what it’s like to love somebody.
I’m where I belong in your arms tonight.

Take my hand
Let me sail you to a star-lit land.
Now, our hearts move as one as we sway to the beat
I’m lost in this moment in time with you
Because all I want to do
Is slow dance with you in my arms tonight.

Listen to our hearts as they sway to the music
And watch as our feet drift along.
Feel it now, our love is strong.
With you, there is no way to be wrong.
Love as it should be, in your heart where I belong
As I slow dance with you in my arms.

I can hear the music of a love song.
In your arms is where I belong tonight.