Sunday, June 21, 2009

Not Accepting the Unacceptable

For those of you who’ve read my book Chasing Normal, you know that I encourage people to polish their self advocacy skills. As adults with disabilities, we don’t need to tolerate poor or disrespectful treatment by service providers. We have the right to say “This is unacceptable.”

I have no problem with self advocacy. In fact, I have a bit of a barracuda that dwells inside me. I work hard to keep that side of my personality on a VERY short leash. When it surfaces, it’s generally not attractive. However, I do use it when necessary.

Recently, I decided it was time to call the barracuda into action. My insurance plan allows me 50 sessions of physical (PT) and occupational (OT) therapy per calendar year. My doctor ordered PT and OT to help me regain my strength following some health challenges. My insurance carrier contracts these decisions to another company with PT’s and OT’s on staff. The decision was returned as granting me 4 visits. After another request I was granted 3 more but they stated that they view me as having a chronic condition and that I’m unable to benefit. –Oh really??

Someone who never met me and only barely read the reports is saying I’m hopeless? Then why do I pay for insurance? I found this to be insulting and abusive, not to mention discriminatory! Last year my nondisabled, very physically fit husband was in PT for at least 3 months to deal with an injury. Yet I, a disabled adult, am not afforded even half that time before being deemed “unable to benefit!”

This is precisely the kind of treatment we need to reject loudly and clearly. It is unacceptable to judge a person with a disability by the same standards used to measure the nondisabled. Whether through overt or covert means, discrimination in all its forms, is ugly and unacceptable. My personal decision was to write a very blunt letter detailing my intended actions if they chose to persist along this discriminatory path which would include: filing grievances with the insurance commissioner, my former employer’s insurance ombudsman, as well as pursuing a discrimination lawsuit to include damages for time and strength lost because of their actions.

Following my letter I was granted 2 sessions per week for 5 weeks. It’s not great, but it’s something. It’s progress. And, it’s progress directly related to my refusal to accept the unacceptable. It is said that, for everything, there is a season. There is a season or a reason to fight back when you’re on the receiving end of injustice. It’s time consuming and exhausting and there are far more preferable ways to utilize limited energy. But receiving fair and equitable treatment is the right of every individual. And saying “ENOUGH” and not backing down is, sometimes, the only means to that desired end.

May you know your own strength if/when you need to say “ENOUGH!”

Light and blessings,


Dinah Chaudoir Federer is the Author of Chasing Normal: A Guide for the Newly Disabled and for Those who Love Them which can be purchased at or

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Letting Go...

Every year Spring does eventually arrive. And, at the risk of sounding a bit cliché, it really does (for me) provide reminders of rebirth, renewal, and regeneration. To me, Spring feels similar to the way Friday afternoon feels every week. On Friday afternoon I always feel a bit of excitement at having a whole weekend before me. I think about all the things I could do, should do, and want to do.—Spring is a bigger dose of this kind of creative potential. I think about having five to six months of gentle weather, singing birds, and freedom to travel about more easily. I also always think about all the things I can do differently in this time of rebirth.

This year I’m using Spring to clean closets one day a week with a dear friend who is really good at letting go of things; she’s far better at it than I am. She balances out my pack-rat tendencies and reminds me that, if I haven’t used something in a while, letting it go back into circulation to serve others is a wiser decision. She repeatedly and gently asks “When did you last use this and do you really need it anymore?”

On Saturday my husband and I took a truck load of stuff to a second hand store and letting go of it all felt good! It made me ready to do more! Admittedly, the process of sorting and deciding what stays and what goes is a challenge. But having some empty spaces in my closets feels like fresh air filling my lungs! And, of course, this makes me consider the symbolism in all of this and how this would feel on a more internal level.

If having empty spaces in my house is refreshing, how much more refreshed will I feel as I continue the process and let go of all of my internal build up? As I analyze my fears, my sadness, my wounds that I’ve kept in the closets and shelves of my heart, I now ask myself the same questions. “How does this serve me and do I really need it anymore?” Using this time to review, forgive, and release seems like another level of freedom that I can give to myself.

Boxing things in closets or barricading them in our hearts and minds does the same thing. It adds up to overload and exhaustion. We were never meant to carry millions of pounds of excess stuff in our lives or in our hearts. Clean closets and hearts that have forgiven open the way for fresh air, renewed hope, and creative potential. Letting go of stuff, whether it’s internal or external is like renewing our focus, rebirthing our environment and rejuvenating our outlook. What a great way to welcome Spring!

I hope you consider doing some letting go of your own stuff, both internal and external and see how good you feel!!



Sunday, May 24, 2009

Your Story - A Wand or a Weapon

I’ve been thinking a lot about my personal story. You know “the one”. Your story is comprised of the memories you pull up when someone says “So, tell me about yourself.” Or, your story becomes the memories you retrieve when people begin swapping stories. These are the memories that define you.

I’ve also caught myself retelling/reliving stories and memories from the past in casual conversation. As I’m doing it I’m asking myself “How is retelling this helpful to anyone?” Is it even relevant to the person you are today? Do you want to be associated with these stories anymore?

It occurred to me that my list of stories about surviving health challenges, disability issues, employment concerns, divorce---are both my badge of courage and my liability! Yes, I’m stronger internally because of surviving these things. I’ve gained a broader perspective because of my experiences—all of my experiences—the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. But I’m at a point where retelling them as casual conversation is feeling limiting. Does that make sense?I/we are so much more than our stories and memories. We’re works of art that are forever works in progress! For me, retelling my stuff, is like removing 5 layers of a beautifully crafted, genius-inspired, multi-layered painting and going back to the original sketch over and over. In pondering this and trying to decide if my stories were my wand or my weapon I thought to myself, “all of the broccoli you’ve eaten over the years has made you stronger too but you don’t relive that in conversations! What good comes from the retelling?”

This is when I realized my stories were not my wand. I wasn’t using them to create something dynamic and important. I wasn’t retelling them to build rapport with someone in the same boat. I wasn’t fearlessly facing them to make lasting peace treaties within my mind and heart. I was just playing a tape that was old and tired and had no purpose for anyone. Without realizing it, my stories were becoming unintentional weapons that repelled the very creativity I wanted to nurture in my own life! They were becoming liabilities!

I suddenly became grateful for this flash of insight. Retelling our stories may be absolutely right and eloquent when trying to build rapport with another wounded soul. Reliving the past can be a courageous step toward inner peace if that is the goal. When it’s retold with intent to heal it can be powerful. But when it’s part of idle conversation, or mindless complaining, or just a habitual reaction, it limits me. It stifles my inspirational insights. It slams the door on creativity. It ties me to what was and blocks the millions of paths leading to what could be.

Lets all consider what we could create when we consciously use our words as our wands of creativity!! Florence Scovel Shinn wrote the book YOUR WORD AS YOUR WAND in the 1920’s or 1930’s. She knew 80 years ago what we all need to remember today!!

Enjoy your creations!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Filling the Void

~ How the Book CHASING NORMAL came to be ~

It is said that the Universe does not allow a vacuum. Whenever there’s an empty space, the Universe will promptly fill it. Much to my husband’s chagrin, this is absolutely true in our household. Thanks to me, our closets and previously empty spaces are full, always! I’m the space filler in our relationship.

When asked to discuss why and how I wrote the book CHASING NORMAL -A GUIDE FOR THE NEWLY DISABLED AND FOR THOSE WHO LOVE THEM, I thought “Well, it was meant to fill, what I perceived as, a void or a hole in the rehab system.” I have “atypical” CMT. I grew up walking with assistance of some kind— walking along walls and furniture, holding onto a friend’s arm, crutches, etc. So, as I’ve said in the book, I grew up chasing normal.

At 35 I was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia bilaterally. It’s intense, actually torturous, electrical shock type facial pain. The medication given for this pain is anti-seizure in nature. So, give someone with a neuromuscular challenge a drug that relaxes muscles and nerves and the result is life changing weakness. Suddenly I was dealing with severe chronic pain and a body that wasn’t behaving the way it had for 35 years!

As a veteran vocational rehabilitation counselor for the state, you’d think I’d have been better prepared to deal with loss of functioning, grief, doctors who wouldn’t believe the meds were causing weakness, etc. But, it’s one thing to counsel people through loss and quite another to journey through it yourself. The knowledge in your brain doesn’t stop the pain in your heart! During those initial years I would have liked to have been able to talk to someone else who was, not just surviving but thriving, through pain, weakness and loss. I looked on Amazon and didn’t see much that felt applicable.

I remembered what kinds of things I said to my newly disabled clients as a way of supporting their journey and I tried applying it personally. I returned to my job after my initial diagnosis and med change so I could walk again, and found myself repeating the same things to my new clients. They were the things I had said to my clients before my world collapsed. They were the things I wished someone would have said to me. I was finding myself wondering why these things were not in print.

Ahhh, now we’ve come full circle. We’re back to the void! –There’s another old expression, “as within, so without!” We see in the world that which exists within us. I perceived a void in the rehab system and I intended to fill it. Remember, I’m the empty space filler! And as a result of aiming for the space “out there” I filled in the void in my heart that wondered why I’d been given two disabilities. I reminded myself of the truths I believe in. My goal of helping others with new disabilities to see that life really could be worth living helped me convince myself of that very thing.

So, if you’re a newly disabled person, I wrote CHASING NORMAL for you. If you’re a friend or family member of someone with a disability, I wrote it for you. If you’re a medical or rehab professional serving people with disabilities, I wrote it for you. And by writing for all of you I gained peace of mind and heart for myself! May peace surround your journey too!!


Saturday, March 28, 2009


Sorry to have fallen off the blogging train. So much has happened in the last couple of months that I became more than a bit sidetracked. When I last wrote I was having serious physical challenges and was deciding what to do about my full time job. Well, the challenges persisted and I decided not to return to my job.

I’m working with a life coach, Lisa Dalton. Her web site is (check her out, she’s fabulous!) She made a very astute observation. She said “Dinah, it seems like you need to make a decision between making a living and making a life because you don’t have the physical strength to do both!” That was a pivotal statement for me. As much as I valued my work, I had to admit that she was right. I was a vocational counselor for people with disabilities. I sincerely enjoyed my clients. However, my physical stamina at 45 is not what it was at 25 and it was time for a change. She then said something like “Dinah, the choices and decisions here are pretty simple. They’re not easy, they’re simple when you look at them honestly.” –Another pivotal statement! ‘Simple’ and ‘easy’ are vastly different concepts that I/we routinely confuse.

Yes, I needed to leave my job so that I could take care of and rebuild my body and preserve what I have. That was pretty clear to anyone who knew me. However, as simple and clear as that choice was, it was not at all easy. My job was part of myself definition. It was part of me. Leaving it felt like I was walking away from part of myself.

I found myself wondering about what many people with life changing disabilities wonder about…
“What will I say to people when they ask me what I do for a living?”
“Will people think I’m lazy?”
“What will I do with my time?”
…and on and on….

Well, I’ve been off of work for about 3 months now. Job number 1 has been about healing. I’m no good to any one unless I take care of myself. I’m exploring my options with my life coach. I’m opening up to the possibility that I can be more than my previous definition of who I thought I was. I’m big on reframing things in my head when I realize a thought doesn’t serve me. Why look at myself as “less than” because I needed to make a life change? Why not see this as an invitation from Universal Wisdom to shed previous limiting definitions and become “more than”!! I’m more than a job title. I’m more than a self imposed definition. I/WE are possibilities in motion when we allow ourselves to be that!

I invite you to open up to your own possibilities regardless of where you think you are in life. You too are more than your self-talk and so much more than your current definitions of who you think you are. Possibilities abound for all of us when we can open our eyes and say yes! –It’s so simple and practicing it can make it easier every day.

Blessing to you!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy New Year!

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! This year is starting out with a new book to celebrate and some old challenges to contend with. Doesn’t everything start as a mixed bag of old and new? It has been said, “where ever you go, you take ‘you’ with you.”

Well, I’m starting another year taking ‘me’ with me. I’m currently on medical leave from my job of 18 years. I need to decide if I have the strength to continue with full time work or not. Truthfully, I never planned on leaving work on disability. Winning the lottery, starting my own business, finding an oil well all seemed like good alternatives to full time employment but not disability. But my body and Universal wisdom may have other plans for me. Between fatigue, weakness and periodic bouts of trigeminal nerve pain I seem to be running out of steam.
Anyone with a disability grapples with their plans being trumped by the Universe’s (or the Divine) plan. There is fear, sometimes terror in this process. I’ve been experiencing bouts of this myself. Yesterday when weakness (related to medication I took for the nerve pain) made me question whether or not I could put my dog’s dinner dish on the floor safely without falling, I had an impossible wave of terror. My ego was panicking and screaming “Oh my God, am I falling apart?”

That was my cue to stop!! Stop panicking, stop thinking, and stop my head from running foolishly in energy wasting circles that only deplete what energy I do have. I got on my exer-cycle and repeated my daily affirmation to busy my silly brain with something productive! I’ve been repeating this affirmation: “I am whole, healed, healthy and strong. My arms and legs are strong and I walk with ease, and grace and joy!” This affirmation helps me to calm down.
Then today I had an insight into the fact that I am lacking in love and compassion for my physical body. Judgment and fear come so readily when my body doesn’t respond the way I want it to but I realized nothing is healed by judgment. When we want to “grow” something whether it’s a plant, a project or a person, love is the only thing that nurtures growth. Have you ever seen a person respond favorably to criticism? So why would our bodies? I’ve known this at a surface level for years but today something clicked at a deeper level. Today I realized I had to do more than SAY I loved my body. I have to really DO IT!!! I have to love my body when I don’t feel good, when I don’t feel strong, when I question my own abilities….If I really want to be whole and healed I have to love first!!!!

So I’m taking ‘me’ into this new year but my goal is to do it with love. I want to love first and leave judgment and panic behind. For all of us life and healing are journeys that are taken a step at a time. Perhaps this journey will enable me take a healthier path and learn to have love and kindness be my ‘default’ thought toward my body and toward everything else life has to offer.
I hope you’ll consider being more loving toward yourself and your own healing path as well. Try it and see what grows for you too.

Until next time…

In the light


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Welcome to the Chasing Normal Blog

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the Chasing Normal Blog. We’re a work in progress, learning as we grow. Let me give you some background. A few years ago I wrote a book designed to provide help and support to the newly disabled. Being a disabled adult myself, with a full-time job, my energy levels are limited. Consequently, the task of publishing the book once it was finished became quite daunting. It sat as an oversized paper-weight on my desk for quite a while.

I remember saying out loud to God one day, “Well, I wrote it. I did my part. If you want it to get out there you need to help make it happen because I’m tired.” That was my less than eloquent way of giving it to God. But, I don’t think God requires eloquence, just an open heart with clear intent.

I had read a book by Joe Vitale titled “Zero Limits”. In this book, Joe describes a therapist named Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, who healed an entire ward of mentally ill criminals without seeing any of them professionally using a technique called Ho’oponopono. In June of 2008, I saw that Dr Hew Len was doing a Ho’oponopono workshop in Iowa. I felt I had to be there, HAD to go. So 3 of my friends and I drove the 6 or so hours to the training venue and deepened our understanding of this really beautiful process.

While we were there, a gentleman (Jim) came and sat with us and started talking. He too had been at the training. The subject of my oversized paper-weight came up and he suggested I offer it as an e-book.

–“A what??” I asked, totally lost (All of our family technology talents went to my siblings). I didn’t know what an e-book was. He explained it and later offered to help me make it happen. When I asked him why he was offering to help a total stranger, he said that he was trusting his instincts, trusting the direction he felt he was getting. He didn’t know he was answering my previously mentioned clumsy prayer… but in very short order, I did.

Ho’oponopono says we’re either living from memory (a very stuck place) or from inspiration. We need to clean the memories so we can be open to inspiration. When we’re acting on inspiration we go to trainings 6 hours away. We sit down and talk to people and make connections that are life changing. Inspiration can come in ways and at times we’d never expect!!

Chasing Normal started as an e-book. The printed version will be available Dec 21, 2008. But we’re not stopping there. Our goal is to connect with the disabled community and with rehabilitation professionals through webinars and other training modalities to support people with disabilities in their journey and to provide the professionals in the field with support in their processes as well.

I’m new to the whole blogging thing but I’ll learn. I’m going to do my best to post regular updates on our progress. Check back for info on program development. I’m also going to include updates on my personal journey and personal musings on life with a disability. Whether disability is part of your experience or not, what we all have in common is that life is full of twists and turns. If we support each other and remember we’re in this together, there’s no limit to the good and beauty we can create in this world so desperately in need of conscious kindness.
Whether you’re a person with a disability or a professional in the field please share your thoughts with us. Let us know where the needs are and we’ll do our best to incorporate your ideas into our training programs. If we can’t fill the gap we’ll try to give you suggestions on where you might also want to check for your answers.

If you like what you see and would like me to come and present to your group let me know. We’ll try and work something out.

Let’s stay connected and enjoy the journey, remembering that all the “some days” we've been waiting for are built by every one of our “todays”. Let’s make every today something to be happy about!