Where to start? I wear a lot of hats – literally and figuratively. The first thing most people notice upon meeting me is that I’m physically disabled. I am a part-time (aka “semi-ambulatory”) wheelchair user, though I also get around on double canes and for short distances sometimes I go without mobility accessories if there are things to catch myself on if I start to fall. I have Hypermobility Syndrome which results in most of my major joints randomly slipping out of place particularly while I’m in motion. The literal hats are all with brims to keep overhead lights out of my eyes, as that light source is my primary migraine trigger. I’ve been in chronic pain since around when puberty started, which was more than 30 years ago now. It has shaped me into a master logistician as I made up my mind quite young that I would live a life that I would never look back upon with regret.
Part of that living without regret, for me, was becoming a mother and practicing Attachment Parenting. I have five sons, the first born in 2004 and the last born in 2016. My fourth was born in November, 2012 (for those who can do mental maths, yes, he was a newborn while I was doing my thesis and under 6 months old when I graduated with my MA… and I didn’t start my thesis work until he was 6 weeks old. Yes, I do have some minor superpowers, I also intentionally got pregnant with my 3rd child during orientation week when I started my Master’s studies in a program I switched out of when that child was under a year old and still finished a Master’s in 4 years). I always wanted a big family and, through the help of my wonderful husband, in-laws, and fantastic friends who serve as alloparents, it has actually been easier for me to manage all the chaos than it is for many able-bodied parents of 3+ children. A large part of that ease is the training my disability gave me to ask for and graciously receive help when I need it, before it becomes a desperate situation.
That mindset of preventing desperate situations has shaped who I am as an academic and highly creative individual. My goal is to find the elements in human systems that set people up to become different than they would otherwise have been – for good or ill. If we can locate potential snags and help people (especially, for me, disabled folx, children, and parents in general) adjust to them proactively, then everyone will be more free to be the high-quality society participants we all want to share our world. If techniques that work in challenging situations can be identified and shared, a lot of the work in remedial service needs can be redirected to more pleasant tasks. I don’t only do this as an academic social scientist, but also through several other ongoing projects and actively encourage anyone to test out of my methods generalize effectively into other types of lived contexts.
In addition to being available to collaborate/co-author on academic projects, I am also writing fiction that I plan to publish under a pen name (my first intergenerational-accessible – I loathe the label “young adult” – novel is currently being edited, I have two others in progress that are about 10% written right now, synopses for at least six more, and rough drafts of several children’s stories) and poetry, I’m a 2nd generation professional photographer, constant crocheter, working on starting a non-profit family-friendly maker space in my local community, and designing babycarriers that don’t pop my shoulders out of joint or cause a blocked milk duct, cloth diaper covers, and maternity/nursing tops. Oh and I also have a couple other budding projects – Awesome Tag, Landmark Breastfeeding, and Challenging Expectations (a compilation of experiences of disabled parents and their tips/tricks, for new disabled parents and their supporters) are the ones getting primary attention. No, I can’t actually physically juggle but I’m quite good at doing it metaphorically – I make very productive use of my pain-induced insomnia!