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I had an amazing time taking Gutless & Grateful to Hawaii as the keynote presentation for the Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability and Diversity April 25-26th, 2016.  Learn more about the event in the press release here.

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“The Pacific Rim International Conference, considered one of the most ‘diverse gatherings’ in the world, encourages and respects voices from “diverse” perspective across numerous areas, including: voices from persons representing all disability areas; experiences of family members and supporters across all disability and diversity areas; responsiveness to diverse cultural and language differences; evidence of researchers and academics studying diversity and disability; stories of persons providing powerful lessons; examples of program providers, and; action plans to meet human and social needs in a globalized world.”

From the TODAY Show to Living For TODAY!

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If you had told me four years ago, that I would performing the same song that was so kindly written for me by Kathie Lee Gifford and David Friedman on the TODAY show, when I was on as a guest in 2011, in Honolulu as a proud disability advocate and keynote speaker, I never would have believed you.

But now, I couldn’t be MORE Grateful.  And yes, I’m still Gutless by the way. Apparently you don’t need a stomach to survive.  (Did I mention I can inhale a large pizza in nanoseconds?)

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After performing Gutless & Grateful, I got to talk about #LoveMyDetour, and why it’s so important for us ALL to share or own unique “detours” in life – wanna catch the video I played at the presentation? Check it out here.

What I’m Sharing by Singing and Dancing about Overcoming Adversity

My one-woman musical, Gutless & Grateful, empowers others to move forward and spark a sense of rejuvenation, renewal, and hope.  As we enter the new millennium, the world is faced with massive challenges as well as opportunities to solve them. Let’s share dynamic, creative ideas and sustainable solutions which can be adopted in our world.

Why am I sharing my “detour?” It takes “guts” to talk – and sing – about my sexual abuse ,my anger, my guilt, how I lost hope in things ever getting better.

But I share to show that things DO get better with patience, trust and resilience.

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Me with Charmaine Crockett, the amazing organizer of the event.

“More Than Able” Advocates

This conference was filled with extraordinary individuals who were so proud to stand up for their own personal truths.

Just like the passionate “ABLE Club” run by the students at Fulton Montgomery Community College, performing my show here introduced me to people beautiful inside and out, striving for inclusion.

I think “inclusion” might be my new favorite word, by the way.

The “differences” that make us unique are precisely what brings us together in solidarity.

Together, we’re stronger.  ALL of us.

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I was so fortunate to meet so many inspiring people who attended my presentation. It means the world to me that my story can affect others.

That’s why we ALL need to tell our stories.  

With every obstacle, stories help us find a new opportunity. Stories saved my life.  Sure, I have wounds, scars, and some medical issues that still haven’t been resolved. But if I took away all of the setbacks, hurdles, frustrations and detours, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  Telling my story made me realize that.  That’s what inspired me to share my story with the world, and call this my “beautiful detour.”

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Let’s help everyone reclaim their voices, of all abilities, ages, demographics, circumstances and lifestyles.  A simple story can change our lives.

Now it’s your turn…

  • How do we create a community that supports every individual in their own process of healing?
  • How can we reach out to others and what is the benefit, for them, as well as for us?
  • What are the effects of stigma?  How can we de-stigmatize “detour”, illness, or struggles that many people don’t share?
  • How do we heal when we start sharing them?
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Chatting with fellow disability advocates from Manoa University at the Poster Session

Based on my own personal experience surviving ten years of medical interventions, 27 surgeries, a coma, sexual abuse gastrectomy and PTSD, I’m giving others empowered approach to mental health in Gutless & Grateful with storytelling, music, and mental health advocacy and education.

Together we can make a difference by showing others that we can make things happen for a reason in our lives.   With creativity, passion, and that little spark, anything is possible. 

It starts with one story, a very gutless and grateful one, and then the power of stories are unstoppable, then a plan unfolds that can be something even greater than what we anticipate.

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If you’d like to share your “Detour” story, click here!

Thank you, Pacific Rim, Thank you, Hawaii, and Thank you to the amazing Disability and Diversity Advocates who heard my own story, shared their story with me, and have put their whole hearts into creating a compassionate world to live in for all of us, simply by speaking their truth.

That’s what INCLUSION mean to me – speaking your truth and allowing yourself to hear and to be affected by the truths of others.

What does INCLUSION mean to you?  Comment here or send me a note.

Here are some more fun pictures from the conference!

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