I will not be owned

What the world does to you as a woman is something to ponder. As a young girl, I was soft and sweet. It was what society expected of me, but it was also my sensitive personality. As time went by, I had to fight, even though I didn’t always want to. It became necessary to survival. When I was sexually abused as a child, a part of my soul was silenced. When I went to college and learned to drive at the same time, after already working for many years, I had to stand on my own. When I left my cult religion, I had to leave everything I had ever known behind. When I became a mother, I had to face the world that considered me and my beautiful gift illegitimate. When I worked to raise my daughter, and balance the world on my shoulders, I also had to teach her how to survive this life as a woman. When I finally escaped every controlling and abusive situation, and there were many, I had to rebel against the system at hand. When I became an advocate, I had to use my own voice, even though people didn’t understand it – so I often spoke alone, though knowing there were others out there who were hearing me and knew they weren’t alone. When I have had to fight because society doesn’t understand how to deal with traumatized, depressed, grieving survivors, I had to know I was enough even though I was told that I was broken. And now as a scarred, tested, wise woman, still not even old, I am this. I will not let anyone beat me into submission, fuck with my mind, tell me what I can’t do, strip me of my dignity, steal my rights, or hush me with their ignorance. I am a woman who has been through the alleys and the valleys, and I may be tired and heartbroken, but I will not be owned. I will not be owned by you for any reason, especially not your desire to kill my spirit as a woman and mother, disabled person, or survivor of poverty and violence. I will not be owned.

Reflections on my daughter going to college

I’m both ready and not for my daughter to leave for college. I know she’s going to the best place, a truly wonderful place, where she will be able to spread her wings and fly. And I will be able to work on my empty-nester bucket list, that has been in the works since I became a mom at 18, and enjoy some of my own newfound freedom. I’m excited because I know that she will be able to chase her dreams, meet so many people from around the world, and expand her world. I hope that she will find her sense of home and community. All of my motherly worries are wrapped up with joyful anticipation into a giant knot of mixed emotions in my stomach. This moment is what I have prepared her for all these years: a successful launch into adulthood. It’s a time that has always been very abstract, that never felt like it would really happen. But now that it’s here, I attempt to process it. Although I know that this won’t really begin to happen until I watch her walk away from me – with more permanence than waving goodbye on the school bus to kindergarten, the first venture to camp, or those early play dates. She will be back, but it won’t be the same. In my heart, I know that she will carry my love with her, and it will be a light to help her find her way in her life and lead her back to me. She will always be my sweet, funny, curious, precocious little girl who taught me about love and life. That is why it is both so hard and beautiful to let go in such a big way.

Disability Viewpoints: My Daughter is a Cohost

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Disability Viewpoints is a great platform for the disability community and last night we had an amazing show about Partnership Resources (PRI) and the ReelAbilities Disability Film Festival. I hope a lot of you can attend June 11-14. It’s a celebration of disability and our shared human experience through film, put on with a huge collaborative effort involving many groups and advocates. Art can change the world and touch our hearts in a powerful way like nothing else can. It’s going to be magnificent!

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Imani’s guests said she made them feel comfortable and she was a good listener, so it helped to ad lib in spots to make it more natural. The show’s director, Jo, said that was one of her best episodes. She has been participating for several years now, and like all things, you get a little better every time you try. Everyone seemed to have a great time!

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Help Us Change the World: Apply to the DCA’s Voices Institute

This is a repost of a blog I submitted to the direct care alliance in 2009.

Bridget (third from R) and colleagues at the 2008 Voices Institute training

Download the invitation letter and an application form you can mail or fax(PDF)

Apply online

“I would recommmend this training to anyone who wants to become a leader,” saysTracy Dudzinski, one of the empowered graduates of the 2008 Voices Institute National Leadership Institute.

The Voices Institute is now recruiting direct care workers to become the next class of leaders in a grassroots movement to strengthen and celebrate the workforce that provides vital services to Americans who need chronic care.

I know very well how important we are: I have been a direct care worker for well over a decade. For most of that time, I lacked a sense of having a connection with other direct care workers and felt powerless over my professional situation.

Then I attended the 2008 Voices Institute and found a network of new friends and colleagues. Being united with others who have a background similar to mine, and feeling a kinship and a bond with people who mirrored me, was one of the most inspirational times in my life.

For an entire week we were immersed in the Voices Institute curriculum, gathered together as a collective voice, overflowing with vision and capacity. Upon graduating from the Voices Institute, we were empowered like never before: stronger, smarter, and better-equipped with tools and knowledge to be effective direct care worker leaders.

Nothing else exists which can compare with the Voices Institute. With each new class of graduates from the Voices Institute every year, we will grow in power from the grassroots level.

If we do nothing to elevate the workforce, we will remain fragmented and overwhelmed. Those who graduated from theinaugural class are a lot of firecrackers who are now unstoppable. We are part of the foundation of the grassroots movement that will make transformative changes for direct care workers. True empowerment and professionalization of the direct care workforce require strong direct care worker leadership.

Now is your chance to step up! Whether you are already a leader, an aspiring leader, or just want to learn how you can lead, this is the program for you. I was once timid about taking leadership, but the Voices Institute changed my life and showed me what I can do. I am now coordinating the Voices Institute and nurturing others on their leadership journeys. Here is your chance to tap into your own potential!

The Voices Institute’s National Leadership Institute is now accepting applications for this year’s leadership development retreat, which will take place from September 27th to October 3rd at the DeKoven Center in Racine, Wisconsin. The application deadline is April 30th, so please submit your nominations and applications as soon as you can. We look forward to welcoming you to the leadership ranks!

Visit the Voices Institute page of our website for more information.

Bridget Siljander
Direct Care  Worker Specialist
Direct Care Alliance