Does Telling Your Story Come With a Price?

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Last night, I felt this funny feeling inside my stomach as I was staring at my computer screen.  Then it finally hit me, and with a blink of an eye, it all made sense.  The moment I have been waiting for is slowly approaching: the launching of my Memoir.

I thought I had planned for everything.  But this confusion of mixed emotions washed over me, filling me with doubt, increasing my uncertainties, and raising many questions.  Will people enjoy the book? Will they judge me? Will they even buy it?

I have told my story before, but putting it into writing for the rest of the world to see terrifies me. I give talks and I write these blogs, but being open as a book (no pun intended. . . or maybe it is) was something I didn’t prepare myself for enough.

And maybe I was avoiding this exact moment.  But this week when I started looking into book designers, photo shoots, and finding the perfect title. . . all of that made me realize this book launch is finally going to happen.  It felt like a wake-up call to reality.

I’m trying to plan the perfect wedding for my book (or at least, that’s how it feels).  In the end, I want this book to look as pretty as any bride would want to look and feel on their special day (cliché, I know. . .).

And I know you may be scratching your head thinking, “it’s just a book.”   Well, for me it’s my story.

Rome sure wasn’t built in a day and neither was my memoir.

Some days it was about re-living some of my darkest timesover and over. I laughed and I cried. I felt angry, upset, guilt, and on my worst days, even shame.

I read the script a million times to make sure it was a good enough balance between funny and real.

So now, the moment I have been waiting for is near.  However, there are still many moments when I am taken over by my negative self-talk and anxiety over what people will make out of my story.

To be sure, no one ever forced me to write a book about my life.  I wanted to do it; in fact, I had to do it.  So many people have helped me throughout my path and I wanted to pay it forward and help or inspire someone else.

Let’s face it, stigma, that’s the one big reason I am going to tell my story.  The book will discuss how I conquered blindness, depression, and anxiety.

My story isn’t written to be compared to someone else’s.  We all have a story and I am choosing to tell mine not because it’s more important but because this is my experience and my journey, only.

This book is for me, for the people I love, and for you, the readers.  For some of you, it will offer consolation.  Others will realize after reading this that they are not crazy.  The book is not meant to hurt or undermine anyone who shaped who I am.  This will be my experience and my experience only.  I don’t have anything to apologize for.

Be kind, be educated, open-minded and have an open heart and get excited to pre-order a copy of this incredible memoir by the end of the year. Please check out my website to stay tuned and find out when you can order your copy.

Take this journey with me.

And as far as those who will be quick to judge? Well, in the end, it will be the ones that stick by my side that will matter the most. My mother, my friends, and my two four-legged friends, I love dearly.

Let’s face it, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”

Mariagrazia Buttitta

Copyright © 2017 Embracing Your Differences, All rights reserved. 

A Sneak Peek Into My Transgender Life, by: DJ Scheibe

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Guest Blogger: DJ, Scheibe.

I was creating a life in a town that I regarded as my hometown––even though it was a 45- minute drive from where I slept. I even knew where to park for free. That morning when I woke, I hoped to have more events to attend where I could wear a formal dress. Lucky for me, that wish was granted. I had a dance at the Community College where I currently work. This event was hosted by their LGBT alliance. I always got a warm feeling when I attended in the past, and also, everyone there could be themselves. This time around, I wanted my hair to have a formal look to match my dress.

Without wasting more time––I drove off to a salon. This was the first time going to this privately own salon recommended by my local friends, they said this was a friendly welcoming place. As soon as I arrived, the owner began styling my hair, I felt a bit nervous, but the salon’s staff was very welcoming. My last haircut was done four-years-ago. Therefore, I was worried my hair would have to be cut shorter due to damage. Luckily, she said my hair wasn’t as bad as I feared, and this time, I only needed a trim. She asked if I had any style in mind, I said, I wanted something different. Glancing over the wall size mirror in front of me––we decided on a look. Minutes later, my hair had curls and volume perfectly held up by hairspray and pins. I then put on my dress and the rest of my outfit in the back room. The dress was black with pink flower patterns. I left the salon with a boost of confidence loving my hair and dress; it made me feel beautiful.

I arrived at the dance party earlier to help with decorations and see if they needed a hand to set up. As I entered the dance hall; my friends saw me in my new dress and hairstyle–––they started clapping. I was overwhelmed and flattered. I thanked them for their kindness and love. That night, I too, could be myself. I was surrounded by a wonderful, loving, and welcoming group of people. I didn’t have to worry about my safety or being judged. That night was beautiful––filled with friends, music, and food.

The dance was fun. I loved being able to dance with my friends in my 5-inch heels. Not to brag, well maybe, a little––I looked stunning.

The only thorn that night for me was being single, especially, during slow songs; however that night was different. My other single friends found out that an astronomy night, open for the public, was also happening that night.  About six of us went. As we waited for our turn we found others from the dance party waiting too. I did not have any bad vibes from the astronomers running the event or from the general public also in line. We finally got our turn to use the telescope, and we looked at the moon’s cratered surface and a twin-star system. That was a fabulous way to end the night.

This amazing fairy-tale was interrupted by a cruel reality. I needed to take off my dress and wash my hair. I removed the hairpins, and then, I had my old look back. I wished more of my hairstyle could have made it through the shampoo. The following Monday I went back to work; dressing simply, dressing in my birth gender.

I am glad I was able to make such happy memories.

Learn more about the Transgender terms.

***

About DJ Scheibe:

DJ Scheibe: works as a professional math and physics tutor. They live in the NY, NJ borderlands. They officially volunteer their free time at different LGBT events; from participating in education outreach programs to just lending a hand.

Copyright © 2016 Embracing Your Differences, All rights reserved. 

Age is just a “Number”

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I was 13 years old when I obsessively fantasized over the days so-called “future.”

According to my imaginary crystal ball, 28 would be the year filled with surprises: love, marriage, children, home, and a steady job (and possibly the year I won the jackpot, okay, maybe not…)

But, instead, here I am today, a few weeks away from turning 28. I ask myself, where have I’ve gone wrong?

What was supposed to be a happily ever after ending may have turned into a disaster. One I was not ready for.

  • Diagnosed with an eye disorder called cone dystrophy
  • Single
  • And still in graduate school

Talk about winning a jackpot? And even when I try to not think about it for too long, social media reminds me that my biological clock is ticking. Newsfeeds are filled with marriage proposals and pregnancies.

All which has led me to feel insaneabout to have my third panic attack thus far. “Now or never” thinking has been my worst enemy.

I am not happy with life, not because I am not married or because I don’t have the dream job. I am unhappy because it took years to realize how life doesn’t come with planners and things happen naturallyno matter what age. In other words, we have no control over our lives.

The minute I stop associating age with events, I’ll start living life the way I should have always lived itone day at a time.

And this year, I only wish to spend my birthday with family, friends, and my (two) four-legged friends.

I’ll treat myself to a couple of Martini’s, blow my candles, and accept 28 as it is. Maybe I’ll never completely understand life, but one thing I know, I’m done putting a number on thingsyou bet I am.

“Attitude is the true measurement of age.”

~Mariagrazia Buttitta

Copyright © 2016 Embracing Your Differences, All rights reserved. 

How Writing Changed My Life 4 the Better

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I was five years old when my determined self decided to go on an adventure: I took a tall chair and jumped up to see if my hand could reach the journal and pen my Mother always kept in the upper shelf of our kitchen.

At that age, my writing didn’t make much sense, but soon it became a daily habit and a friend that I could rely on forever.

Since then, writing has been an essential part of my life. When life becomes challenging, writing allows me to cope with and process any mixed emotion.

Soon, however, I would have the opportunity to share my story and writing with others.

Approximately three years ago, I was in front of my computer when I saw a Facebook page that caught the corner of my blurry vision. It was entitled, “The Gospel According to Josh” By Josh Rivedal.

My curious self decided to scroll down and see what this page was all about.

I noticed a post titled, “The I’Mpossible Project.” In his post, Josh was seeking ordinary people to write their own inspirational stories of overcoming obstacles in life. I knew I had overcome a great deal in my own life, so I took the opportunity as it came…without even thinking about it from a publishing perspective but rather as a way to share how I overcome my own obstacles.

Being diagnosed with an eye disorder, Cone Dystorphy, had also blinded me from seeing beyond my limitations, and I soon slipped into my own depression and anxiety. I knew this was my chance to share my talent and story with the world. I sat in my chair and began typing away, and who would have thought that those five minutes would forever change my life.

Two years later something magical happened. A book came out with my story in it. All these inspirational stories were gathered and put into one book titled: “The i’Mpossible Project (Volume 1 Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You by: Josh Rivedal & 50 authors (including me).

The book includes authors who share their own inspirational stories of overcoming many life’s challenges.

And now, what started off as a simple blog turned out to be a book that has helped me rediscover myself and has motivated me to want to keep sharing my own writing.

Let’s be realistic, I also needed long term therapy and medication too. However, with the help of my journal, my incredible Mother, my friends, and my four legged friends, life became worth living again!

Writing has given me the power to speak up about issues that matter to me––and I hope that by reading my story and those of the other authors in this incredible book, you too can find your hidden voice and speak up about what matters to you!

To order your copy of “The i’Mpossible Project (Volume 1 Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You) please visit the link below.

http://www.iampossibleproject.com/one.html

 

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”

––Gustave Flaubert

~Mariagrazia Buttitta

Copyright © 2017 Embracing Your Differences, All rights reserved. 

Screen Addiction; Is it Even a Real Thing?

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With most of my family in Europe, I love how technology gives me instant gratification. All I have to do is pick up my device and connect with family from miles away [any time my little heart desires]. I love to hear the excitement in my nephew’s tone as he takes his first baby steps. I love that technology allows me to be a part of his life.

But I’ll be completely honest: this world of technologyfrightened me a bit a few days ago.

I was at my doctor’s office waiting for my appointment when I noticed a mother and child sitting beside me and my own mother. A few minutes later, the child screamed, probably bored and overwhelmed with the number of people surrounding us. I know I was.

But what happened next made me change my point of view on technology. The mother handed a tablet to her screaming child to quiet her down.

I looked directly at my mother and felt extremely blessed that she allowed me to play with toys, run around outdoors, play in the rain, and didn’t mind when my sister and me made a house (mess) out of blankets, chairs, and pillows. In that moment, I felt extremely blessed that I didn’t own my first phone until I was 15 years old. I am thankful my mother spent quality time with me. When I cried she gave me affection, she read to me and played games with me.

I know we live in other times, but I don’t like what technology is doing to our psyche.

Learn more about how modern technology is changing the way our brains work.

Do I really need to wake up and reach for my phone first thing in the morning? Do I really have to check my e-mail a hundred times a day? And look what social media has led me to feelanxious, depressed, and angry (most of the times.)

Social comparison has become a real concern for my generation. Social media can feel like a marriage commitmentone I never signed up for.

And now I wonder if I, too, am spending more time behind a screen than I am outdoors and with people I really care about.

So yeah, screen addiction seems to be a real concern for my generation and the one to come.

And after writing this blog, it makes me want to disconnect from my devices for a while. But before I do, I want to leave you all with this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7dLU6fk9QY

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

 Mahatma Gandhi

~Mariagrazia Buttitta

Copyright © 2016 Embracing Your Differences, All rights reserved. 

Coffee drinkers, this one is for you!

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It was 6:00 a.m. when my obnoxious alarm clock rang every morning for the past four months.  In that moment, I wished it was the weekend and that I could stay under the covers for just a bit longer. Luckily, as a graduate student, I now have the privilege to sleep in an extra few hours, since my classes are in the late afternoon.

But even with the extra sleep, I still need my caffeine intake every single day. Nothing makes my day happier than starting my morning with a cup (or three) of espresso.

I am an Italian girl, so you better believe I never skip a day of espresso!

When I wake up every morning, I immediately open my fridge to reach in and grab my espresso. I cannot imagine living a day without it, and if I did, I would have some serious withdrawal symptoms.  So yeah, I guess I am kind of addicted you would say.

And for years, it concerned me a bit. I didn’t want to give up on my espresso in the morning or my hazelnut coffee in the afternoon.  And it looks like I might not have to after all.

And here is why: forever grateful to researchers.

Read this article coffee drinkers.

Now that I know that coffee is linked with health benefits, such as a healthier brain, mood booster, better metabolism, and much more, I guess, I can start drinking my coffee with more enjoyment, and feel less guilt when doing so.

Okay, maybe moderation is key here.  Keep your intake to about two coffees a day and avoid drinking after 4: 00 p.m. if you want a good night sleep, and if you have an anxiety disorder, like I do––well . . . then you better reduce your caffeine intake.

But other than that––go ahead, and drink your cup of coffee guilt-free today!

Enjoy!

~Mariagrazia Buttitta

Copyright © 2016 Embracing Your Differences, All rights reserved. 

Why I wear my Sunglasses at Night and Indoors; Your Sunglass Selfie Project – #eye4acure

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I have heard it all, from trying to act like a movie star, hiding, or just being too cool to care. But unfortunately, life can be cruel and unfair, I am no movie star. I am not trying to hide my gorgeous ocean blue eyes, and no doubt, I look great in my sunglasses…but let’s face it–– I am not trying to act cool either. So then––why do I wear my sunglasses at night and indoors?

It’s called cone dystrophy, and one out of 30,000 people in the U.S. are affected by this eye disorder. The cones are the part of the eye that receives light–in other words, that’s the part of the eye that people use to see things in daylight or artificial light. My cones do not have that ability, so when my eyes are exposed to light, it’s like seeing the world from underwater.

For years, I have educated thousands of people about my eye disorder, but it is still frustrating. I want to speak up and do something that would help me further explain my eye condition. I want to use this amazing platform, called, the web, to educate the world.

So about a few months ago, I decided to launch a web-based advocacy campaign that educates the public about my eye disorder.  I ask people to: 1) follow me on Instagram at embracingdifferenceseyeonacure, 2) take a selfie wearing sunglasses using the hashtag #eye4acure, and lastly, 3) upload your beautiful pictures. You have the option to e-mail your selife(s) to: embracingdiffrences01@gmail.com (if you do not have an Instagram account) or (if you have an Instagram account) you can post it yourself and tag me.

You can also visit my campaign tab to learn more. My Instagram is also linked to my website, so you can also take a look at the amazing pictures people have already posted of themselves wearing sunglasses.

The goal is for people to learn about my eye disorder. In the long run, I hope to reach out to sunglass companies and work with them to further expand this campaign.

I have never seen my blindness as a limitation, and I hope I can teach others to see me for what I have to offer to this world.  My story is a powerful one, and I hope that by setting as example, I can inspire others who face challenges or disabilities to do the same.

I really want to educate the world, but I’ll need your help!

Time to take a selfie! 🙂

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” ––Helen Keller

 

Copyright © 2016 Embracing Your Differences, All rights reserved. 

It’s Really Not An Everyday Conversation Starter… by: Laurel King

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Guest Blogger: Laurel King

It’s really not an everyday conversation starter. I can still even count the times it’s been mentioned and where. First, in a hallway at work. Next, at a summer pool party. Lastly, on the last day of Abnormal Psychology class. These three conversations wound up being about my Fanconi’s Anemia (F.A.).

I possess a genetic disease in which both parents need to have the recessive gene for in order for this disease to exist. Out of four siblings, I won the Punnett Square roulette when I was born. Since it affects everything in the bone marrow (white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, etc.), I had sleep marathons due to exhaustion, neighbors who were concerned with child abuse because of how I bruised easily and healed slowly, and I had chicken pox twice (which isn’t supposed to happen if you have a functioning immune system). I was not a normal, energetic, healthy kid in any sense.

I got lucky again, though. By ten years old, my parents and hometown raised enough money and found out that a man from Texas was a perfect match for me for a bone marrow transplant (that in and of itself is it’s own story). Having my own hospital room in Minneapolis, Minnesota made my childish world so isolated. I had no one to talk to about chemotherapy, radiation, the tube that led to the needle attached to an artery in my chest, the vomiting, the chronic nerve pain in my legs from being in bed for six months, the hair loss, and other “kid stuff.” Instead, I watched the sun rise every morning. I wanted to enjoy the moment, even if it stemmed from the development of insomnia. I may no longer wake up at dawn, but I still wake up, and that’s special.

There’s one symptom I never thought about with a life-threatening disease. One day, my younger sister decided to write a research paper on F.A. She wanted me to proofread it because her heart is big and her writing is atrocious. The first symptom she wrote was: failure to live. That brought me back to the mailing list my parents subscribed to, the one that listed the people who died from F.A. I knew the faces to some of those names (may they all always rest in peace).

I never thought of myself as a survivor until then. Just a small, feisty tomboy who is quiet, (sometimes) observant, dark-haired, dark-eyed, and was born close to the edge of something I cannot control. At the same time, I truly want to get over trauma, social and personal anxiety, and continue to live life.

Now, I am working harder to be a healthy, helpful, and hopeful person. I am still around, alive, and holding on to myself and others, regardless of any other “family dynamics.” For that, I want to be grateful.

***

About: Laurel King

Laurel King: Licensed massage therapist by day and professional humanities tutor by night, living in New Jersey’s Bergen County, and who is also planning on a bachelors in education and masters degree in occupational therapy.

Copyright © 2016 Embracing Your Differences, All rights reserved.

Resolutions for Better Communication, By: Gary C. Woodward

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Guest Blogger: Gary C. Woodward

It’s time for the annual ritual of making promises to ourselves about what we will change in the coming year.  In that spirit, consider six resolutions that would make us better partners in a wide range of communication settings. 

  • Resolve to be a better listener.

Becoming an engaged listener is like losing weight: it’s harder than it sounds.  It requires momentarily giving ourselves over to what another is saying.  That must include minimizing other distractions, turning off the far too loquacious chatterbox camped out in our brains, and accepting the challenge of bringing our full attention to another. We can’t do this with everyone all the time.  Listening for nuance is work.  Start with the people that matter most.

  • Protect your soul by deciding to be a more thoughtful gatekeeper.

We allow a lot of worthless messages into our lives:  junk journalism, junk advertising, aimless web-browsing, mean-spirited trolls and the self-obsessed. As tech writer Farhad Manjoo recently noted in the New York Times, the Internet is “loud, shrill, reflexive and ugly.”  It “now seems to be on constant boil.”   So it takes far more personal discipline to keep this stuff at bay and to hold on to our social equilibrium.

  • Work to put a reasonable limit on the time your children spend with all kinds of screens.

Virtual reality is a desert compared to the natural world.  Rediscover local parks or just the simple pleasures of a walk around the block.  Remember that even young children are naturally weatherized.  Most love to be out and active in the cold.

  • Resolve to save important feelings and information for face to face discussion.

Proximity with others usually brings out the best in us.  Media that act as surrogates for ourselves (even “social” media) offer only selected approximations of the real deal.

  • Listen to more music.

Because it’s almost exclusively the language of feeling, music unites us in ways that ordinary rhetoric can’t.

  • With the possible exception of those strange relatives up in Duluth, resist dividing the world into “us” and “them.”

Human complexities always trump simple binaries.  We just need the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that simple fact.

      Happy Holidays.

Comments: Woodward@tcnj.edu

About: Gary C. Woodward

A Coloradan by birth and a resident of Stockton, New Jersey, Woodward is a Professor, rhetorician, and former Chairperson of the Department of Communication Studies at The College of New Jersey.

He has degrees in communication and rhetorical theory from California State University at Sacramento and the University of Pittsburgh (Ph.D. 1972). A native of Colorado, he has taught in England as well as in the United States, and has undertaken research supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and The College of New Jersey at the LBJ Library, the JFK Library, Britain’s House of Commons, CBS News and C-SPAN. His comments on political topics have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Dallas Morning News, CNN.com, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and other news outlets.

Read more: http://theperfectresponse.pages.tcnj.edu/gary-woodward/

Copyright © 2015 Embracing Your Differences, All rights reserved.

 

Tis The Season To Be . . . (SAD?)

My favorite holiday is finally around the corner—Christmas.  My Christmas tree and decorations are up, my dogs have their Santa suits ready, and shopping is almost done with. Phew!

For Christmas Eve, I enjoy baking butter cookies, and then my mother and I go to Christmas mass at midnight. When we return, we see if Santa left any presents under the tree.  (Santa always finds out if you have been naughty or nice—just saying!).

My family and I gather around the Christmas tree and fireplace, we watch a holiday movie, sing to some Christmas carols, and enjoy some delicious foods and drink wine.  Then we play Truth or Dare.

The next day, things get a little sad for me again.

Winter always gives me the blues. I am home from college, I have excessively much time in my hands, and I dislike the cold weather.

I used to think something was wrong with me, until I read and learned about (SAD) seasonal affect disorder.

Therefore, here is what I do to beat the winter blues:

  1. I write a lot: I find that writing and tracking my mood really helps. Try the Action for Happiness, science have illustrated that writing three positives a day is linked with, “overall satisfaction with life and helps us have an overall positive outlook.”
  2. I surround myself with positive people: my mom, my friends, and my four-legged friends.  I plan some quality time with people I care about…that always puts a smile on my sad face.
  3. I exercise or plan my days with something that will keep me busy: I set my alarm and plan the day with things that will keep me occupied, even something as simple as re-organizing my desk or my closets. However, if things get too bored, I plan my own karaoke party. Hello? Says, Adele.
  4. I make self-care a priority: Therapy and support groups always seem to help me. However, I always try to never go out of style–– I love wearing my green cotton frog patterned socks and my chic fluffy long-sleeved pink flannel pajamas and watch the show friends.
  5. I try to have some fun: a good hike, ice-skating, and shopping can light up a smile. Alternatively, you can always sing in the shower and dance like no one is watching!

Here are more tips from experts: Help Guide.

I wish it was easier to snap out of the blue phase, but with supportive people, even this lousy season shall pass!

In the meantime, live, love, and laugh!

“Don’t let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest; Don’t judge life by one difficult season.”

– Mariagrazia Buttitta

Copyright © 2016 Embracing Your Differences, All rights reserved.