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Respect is the grease that turns the gears of the workplace.

In some offices, workers respect the boss but the bosses don’t respect their employees. In other offices, some groups of workers are given respect while others are not. In a productive office, respect flows freely, from top to bottom, bottom to top, and laterally across colleagues.

Respect is a tricky currency. It can be gained simply through authority. However, the most enduring respect is earned. To earn respect, you must first give respect. This is not an overnight process. It can take many tries and many years. It can take many small gestures. It can also be thankless, with no guaranteed result. Even so, there is a good chance that showing respect will improve your career trajectory.

The Berenstain Bears

Here are some tips to respecting your colleagues:

  • Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
  • Exercise sympathy. Keep in mind that you are seeing only the cover of the book. You do not know that person’s history. You do not know the struggles they have endured to get to where they are. You do not know if they are experiencing personal or family hardships.
  • Be realistic. Some people are already doing the best they can. If you feel you are dismissing people because they do not meet your standards, consider that they may want to help you, but are not able to due to their abilities.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right. If you feel the need to disrespect somebody because they disrespected you first, remember that this cycle will lead to nowhere good. You cannot dig yourself out of a hole by digging deeper.
  • Think of your future. People who you might have conflicts with today could become your best friends a year from now. Approach people in a way that will not burn your bridges.

Finally, despite the title of this post, hate is not a constructive emotion. Work to remove the word “hate” from your vocabulary. Find alternatives to your negative thoughts. Over time, this can improve how you connect to those around you.

Armenoush Aslanian-Persico has worked for New York City since 2013, doing program management and process analysis. She was born and raised in the Bronx and enjoys learning about city operations. Armenoush is currently a student in the Data Analytics (M.S.) program. 

Dear Journal,

Coming from a family of nurses and having been one for some number of years, I feel I have come away with many things by having seen, having been, and having done quite a number of things while working.  I was born into this profession and I always pursued those quiet moments where I realize that at last I have survived, still. One shift at a time and through job experiences, when looking back one would seemingly never quite find the words to really tell it. Let alone explain the many levels of demands you have to dig out from the depths of, before you can say your job is done, and afterwards finally go home. Still, there is that lingering notion in my mind that is forever hoping and praying my efforts, thus far, have been worthwhile (aside from myself that is):

Let me be a godsend

broken me in and out to mend

let me be a godsend

volunteer to the sleepless down here

as guardians of us mere

blimps of time and creation

try to stand test of time, but only in our proliferation

as our lines continue on, equally disappearing

along with the death and dying

but the disturbance on the big ripple that I insert, I will do so with such great forceful shove

that its speed will felt up there, from up above

-Inah Castro

Inah Castro has been a practicing nurse since 2009. She first started out as an LPN and is currently attending CUNY SPS for her BS in nursing. She is bicoastal, as she is licensed in California as well as New York, and has over the years worked on both ends of the country. Inah enjoys writing, cooking, and boxing/kickboxing. 

Have you ever seen that 1990’s movie about a dentist that goes whackadoodle over his wife who’s having an affair with the pool boy? Well I know they don’t really do that but I have an extreme aversion to dentists. In fact, I would sooner let a tooth fall out of my head rather than indulge in going. I never even had my wisdom teeth knocked out of my head. They’re in my mouth living a delightful life. However, years ago I had a bad tooth that eventually cracked but the pain eventually stopped. So when I had an issue a few years back and I was forced to go to a dentist, it turns out they had to extract what was left. This was my first experience that wasn’t a routine cleaning or planing.

To say I would rather eat off the floor of a subway car than to go to the dentist is a pretty bad analogy considering how filthy those carts are. But I can justify that one since people in other countries eat off the floor and they’re okay. What did we do before plates and bowls (cavemen times)? The moral of this story is that I went. They numbed my gums which was painful in itself and then he proceeded to crack my tooth like a nutcracker as my head moved around like I was bopping to a happy beat. I was horrified and traumatized all at the same time.

Needless to say, I avoided the dentist for a few years after that once in a lifetime joyous experience. Recently, actually a week before Christmas, I received the most priceless gift ever! A toothache. Of course it was so bad I had no choice but to seek human intervention. Now, I like this dentist but I can’t stress how long I put this off for. My root canal was just finished a few weeks back, so I literally put off a visit since December. I didn’t show up like twice and I rescheduled like 4 times. God bless them for putting up with me, but I guess the girls know I have a strong aversion to the dentist. Unless I’m dropping dead on your floor, catch me if you can…

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

I tend to think that I’m reasonable. There is nothing that you can’t explain to me that I won’t understand or try to understand. I heed advice because I’d rather avoid the pitfalls of life than go through something that someone can help me avoid. I think I’ve been through more than enough at this stage of my life.

The one thing that drives me insane is that I don’t listen to people who don’t have a leg to stand on. If your a hot mess trying to tell me what to do—your nuts, bonkers, mad—I don’t even want to hear your spiel. Get yourself together first then lets assess.

This isn’t limited to my own parents. It’s not that I’m still holding on to the resentment of the past for essentially raising myself as a teen. But I can’t understand where mostly my father gets off trying to tell me to save for my daughters college—something I’ve done since she was in the womb and he did not do—or anything else for that matter. Kids don’t come with a children for dummies manual. But some things I like to think you can figure out on your own.

My Achilles in life is my daughter. Where I may not have any feelings or emotions towards anything else in life, and my actions might be cold, she’s the one person I whole heartily would do anything for and this includes sacrificing my own peace and happiness to make her happy.

I have a 1,909,093,000 worries right now. So to get a call this morning from the man who helped create this whole that I’ve been struggling to get out of, after I’m helping him, to lecture me on my daughter, is insane. I’m outspoken so of course I said my peace, because my initial reaction was, “How dare you.” How dare you lecture me when I’m the one carrying the burden 15 years after you left me fending for myself. I suppose there is a thin line between reason and insanity… and my life remains in remnants of insanity.

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

There have been so many times when I’ve felt like life was impossible. Whether it was work, home or tough circumstances, facing a wall of doubt and fear isn’t easy. Maybe you’ve also felt this way at some point, but I’m here to share that I’ve learned “impossible” all depends on how you look at it.

In May of 1999 I was finishing up the spring semester at a private university and was 47 credits away from my BA in Health Care Administration—I was on my way to accomplishing a dream—getting my bachelor’s degree! Everything came to a sudden halt that June with the unexpected death of my father. It was a really difficult time for my family and I, and I knew school had to be put on the back burner while I helped my mother and family get through this…and I myself needed to figure out this new life without my dad. Years went by and things moved forward as best they could, but I left the dream of finishing my degree on the funeral home steps that year.

I thought about going back to school for years, but the older I got the smaller that thought became; it just seemed impossible. One day a friend challenged me to find a school, fill out an application and apply. I usually can’t resist a good challenge so I thought to myself, “fine, I’ll just apply.” I hadn’t been in school for FIFTEEN years so going back was impossible in my mind!

Guess what? I was accepted into CUNY School for Professional Studies and fifteen (15) years later, I find myself working towards my BA in Psychology! Psychology of all majors!! Impossible! Truthfully, I was scared to death of what it would be like to juggle a full time job, a hectic home life and school. Perhaps psychology was a perfect choice since I wondered what I was thinking!!

The thought of going back to school seemed impossible, learning how to study again seemed impossible, the hard work seemed impossible, but then I realized it’s just about how I was looking at that word. Impossible. The word impossible itself has motivation built in it—impossible for me became I’M possible!! When I felt overwhelmed and questioned my decision to return, I say to myself DIANNE, I’M POSSIBLE and I’m reminded I can do this and I’m doing it!!!! I’ve now completed 4 semesters and I couldn’t be happier! It’s hard work, but it’s also given me back the ability to dream about the day I get my degree. Impossible is a word of the past!

So, if you’ve let go of a dream like I had, or are just facing a really tough time in your life right now and the circumstances seem impossible, I encourage you to take a breath, say a prayer and remember nothing is impossible—if I’M POSSIBLE then so are you!!!

Till next time……

Dianne

Dianne Galasso is a Brooklyn native since birth! In 1991, she received her AAS in Journalism from Kingsborough Community College. She studied at St. John’s University from 1993-1999. Dianne has had photographic and written work published, as well as has edited for other published authors. Since 1991, Dianne has worked at a medical center in Brooklyn in various job functions, currently as a Manager in the Nursing Education Department. She has coached girls’ softball, volunteered in the women’s and children’s ministry in her local church and is an active resource in the lives of children.  After a 15 year hiatus from school, Dianne is currently a student at CUNY SPS where she is pursuing her BA in Psychology.

Dating With Disabilities by Keith R. Murfee-DeConcini originally appeared on the YAI Network’s blog Voice.

At the end of my last blog, which was about Seeing Beyond Disability, I mentioned a social connection of mine that might progress. Since that post, my relationship has done just that, and I have spent some time thinking about dating and disability.

Online dating has made it easier for people in general to meet each other. However, living in this day and age of online connections, a double-edge sword presents itself. Every day — the ability to be more socially connected or to be more lonely.

Someone can be anyone online—they can be true representations of who they are in person, or they can become a digitalized recreation into some “ideal” image of themselves. As such, they can find and connect with a vast audience that is extremely diverse. Nowadays, people could meet each other in ways not possible a decade ago and in some instances, the internet can be the only way for certain people to meet.

Online connection however doesn’t always meet our social needs or ward off loneliness. Loneliness can feel like one of the worst experiences in life, and hearing well-meaning sayings such as, “You must learn to love yourself before anyone else can,” can only dull the often uncontrollable ache, especially if you hear it time and time again. Learning to love oneself is a lifelong journey after all.

Of course, there can always be a combination of social engagement and loneliness at the same time, especially for people with disabilities, who are often socially marginalized from their peers who don’t have disabilities, or even from each other. There may be more social inclusion and acceptance through online connection today, but isolation, suspicion of and stigmatization against people with disabilities is still a problem throughout society.

Meeting Amber

I met my partner, Amber, through an online dating/social networking site. Soon after we connected, I proceeded to totally ignore her for a week when I went on a meditation retreat. You know, just how all the dating guide books tell you a great relationship should start!

Given that it is the start of a relationship, the “honeymoon phase” as it’s often called, can be very passionate and exciting—with a natural amount of uncertainty. There are a lot of hopes, fears and expectations during this “discovery stage” that may or may not come true.

At the beginning of a new relationship there is hope that the other person will accept, understand, like, and maybe even love us; the hope that they will turn out to be who we want them to be in terms of sharing our values, sense of humor, ways to spend time, etc. There are fears that neither of us will live up to these hopes. There is the expectation that we’ll give each other a fair shot at finding out if we’re a good match. This is a time of exploring our differences and the things we share in common. How does disability impact this?

When one partner has a disability and the other does not, which is the case for Amber and me, things can get very interesting: especially considering that we will probably have to contend with, at one point or another, not only what we are learning and feeling about each other; but with opinions and questions from others that will make us cringe.

Questions about my voice will undoubtedly come up and some people will stare. Although it hasn’t happened yet, friends might ask Amber why she’s with me because in their opinion, she could do so much better. After all, why would anyone want to settle for “less” than they deserve?

While this may be a common experience for anyone becoming a new couple who endures criticism of their partner from friends and family, it can be magnified for people with disabilities, who are often judged on things besides their character, values and other traits that might make them good partners. Disability is an easy target as the deciding factor of the potential success or failure of a relationship, most often failure.

These things may or may not happen, but I have faith that if two people have inner strength, level heads about them and good communication between them, then love has a chance to endure.

Cary and Melissa 

Cary and Melissa are a testament to the idea of steadfast dedication in a relationship. They have been together for two years, and from them I have learned that each phase of a relationship has its ups and downs.

Several years ago, I met Cary at American University in Washington DC while taking a music course. We met in class when the teacher pointed us out to each other and the fact that we both had Cerebral Palsy—in front of the entire class. While that introduction was an unsavory experience, it sparked a lifelong friendship.

He and I shared many things in common besides our Cerebral Palsy, chief among them our fondness for music—and our dating woes. We always seemed to get led on by women, only to get our hopes dashed for a genuine connection. I know that this type of “leading on” or “being played” happens to people without disabilities as well and that guys do it to women, too. People with disabilities, however, are often more easily dismissed. I talked to a woman on the phone that I had met online through a dating site and the following day I asked her through a text message if my voice was what she had expected; she replied: “I expected your voice to be as handsome as you are.” I am still trying to figure out if that is a compliment or not.

Cary had a number of short relationships that ended in frustration and heartbreak before he met Melissa, who had gone through similar experiences. Melissa did not have a disability, but like Cary, longed for a real and meaningful connection. They met online through a dating site and started talking. Cary mentioned on his profile that he had Cerebral Palsy and Melissa, who had no idea what that was, looked it up. She was curious about him, having been attracted to his sense of humor, and decided to take a chance by meeting him in person. That was over two years ago.

I had lunch with Cary and Melissa the other day and, after sharing their story, Cary said to me, “I think people with disabilities often have idealistic expectations of what it means to be in a relationship and what I have learned is that being in a relationship is a lot of hard work.” Melissa smiled and nodded in agreement.

Things are not always easy for Cary and Melissa. Sometimes when they are out, they experience stigma and downright discrimination. One time at a bar, a man got up from his seat to go to the bathroom and when he returned to find Cary in his seat, he said to the friend he was with, “I can’t believe you gave my seat to a cripple!”

This made both Melissa and Cary understandably angry and reminded them that ignorance and fear of difference unfortunately persist.

The Disability Factor

The dating dilemma that many people with disabilities find themselves in, more often than not, is that they are not given a chance to date. People without disabilities are simply not open to it. As one of my cousins pointed out to me the other night, “When people think about dating and the dating culture, they don’t really think about people with disabilities, and if they do, it is often how to exclude them from dating. The thought of them [people with disabilities] dating, makes us [people without disabilities] uncomfortable.” While this is not always the case, it is common enough to mention.

In some ways I understand the notion behind the fear of dating someone with a disability. There’s the common misconception that the partner without a disability will end up being a caregiver more than an equal partner, and the view that disability is a weakness rather than a strength. A former partner of mine said that she thought that women were probably intimidated by my disability and what it implied about my needs as a partner, and that they did not know how to get past their fearful reaction.

Having a disability should not be a deterrent to emotional connection, especially in the romantic sense. A person with a disability might want to date someone who also has a disability, for reasons such as mutual attraction and shared understanding. Or they might want to date someone who does not have a disability for the same or other reasons.

The common assumption that two people should date because they both have disabilities, or that they are dating because they both have disabilities, is very annoying. It’s like assuming that two people who are tall, for example, should date or are dating because they are tall. A person with a disability should have the freedom to date whomever they chose—and experience the same risks of heartbreak and love and everything in between—just like everyone else.

To be desired and to feel loved is one of the cornerstones of what it means to be human, and it should be available to everyone, regardless of difference, be it an accent, walking style, learning style or something else. Humans have had this very unhealthy obsession with sameness for far too long, and any difference has been met with fear and has been demonized as a result.

Yes, to be in a relationship with someone with a disability requires taking a chance and giving that person a chance. But the same is true in regards to any relationship. Dating someone with a disability may or may not have more, or maybe different challenges, but that does not make the relationship or the partner any less worthy of taking a risk and trying to make a meaningful connection.

It takes strong people to look beyond disability, and to have the emotional fortitude to look within to see that we all have talents, limitations and the ability to offer love.

Keith R. Murfee-DeConcini is a graduate student at CUNY School of Professional Studies in its Disability Studies program and a disability advocate. He is also an intern with YAI Network where he regularly contributes to their blog Voice. Born in New York City, he’s lived all over the country. When not in New York, Keith resides in Tucson, Arizona, where he’s getting a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Arizona.

Seeing Beyond Disability by Keith R. Murfee-DeConcini originally appeared on the YAI Network’s blog Voice.

A few months ago, I was having coffee with a friend from CUNY, telling her about this internship and I mentioned the slogan of YAI, “Seeing Beyond Disability.” She took issue with it, commenting that people should not have to see beyond disability, they should just see disability and accept it as a part of the person. Ideally, yes that should happen; however, we do not live in an ideal world. Sometimes people have to see beyond disability first, in order to be able to come back and accept disability.

I remember a few years back, I was having lunch with a very dear friend of mine near Lincoln Center when we saw a couple dressed up, on their way to what we assumed was their prom or some other formal event. What was striking about this couple was the young woman, who was wearing a bright red dress, had a metallic prosthesis for her left leg. She could not have been older than seventeen or eighteen and yet the confidence in the way in which she walked arm in arm with her date was stunning.

In a conversation with another friend, my disability came up and my friend said, “I can’t believe people call you or think of you as disabled! I don’t.” When I asked her what she considered “being disabled” meant, she said she considered it being human. Her answer has stayed with me ever since because that was the first time someone had said something that bold, that it started to shift my view of having a disability to one of having a shared experience in relating to disability, especially in seeing the hidden disabilities in others around us.

I was finishing up a lunch meeting with my pastor in Tucson, Arizona, and as we were walking back to his car, he echoed the same statement of not considering me disabled. Now, it is important to point out that neither of them considers disability as something negative, something that should be feared and avoided. They could see my disability as a part of me, rather than being all of me; which is what most people see when they see a person with a disability. They see only the disability and not the person who happens to have a disability. A disability is a part of a person but it does not make up the person.

I like to meet new people whenever possible and recently a close connection was formed through a social networking site. When the topic of my voice came up, through promoting last week’s blog post, I asked the person if she could get used to my voice, especially if our connection progressed. She said, “Your natural accent is a part of what makes you who you are and that’s beautiful.”

Seeing beyond a disability is not hard to do, it allows a person to see another person’s full potential while being aware of all the parts that make up that person. Seeing beyond is not ignoring. It is about accepting, even if that acceptance is not right away in some cases. So if you are struggling with the “seeing beyond” concept or know someone who is, as a person who has experienced both stigma and acceptance, I offer this advice: Take a risk, see the whole person, and plan to be surprised.

Keith R. Murfee-DeConcini is a graduate student at CUNY School of Professional Studies in its Disability Studies program and a disability advocate. He is also an intern with YAI Network where he regularly contributes to their blog Voice. Born in New York City, he’s lived all over the country. When not in New York, Keith resides in Tucson, Arizona, where he’s getting a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Arizona.