2014 Year in Review

This past week I turned my focus to 2015. Yes, I know 10 days remain in 2014. I’m using those final days to position me towards a successful 2015. Given so, I thought today marked an ideal time to look back on the past 355 days.

Up until last month I viewed 2014 with a negative cogitation. Early heartbreak weighed heavily on me. In January my incredibly supportive aunt received a grim leukemia diagnosis, beginning a 10-month emotional rollercoaster ending with her passing away in October.

Then on February 1st I lost a good friend to suicide, something which caught me completely by surprise. The aforementioned grief understandably halted my typical production rate with putting out content, whether to my blog, vlog, or to freelance clients. As time passed though, I found my production rate staying stifled.

In my November video “Happy Thanksgiving from Author Zachary Fenell” I refer to dealing with “entrepreneur burnout,” admittedly self-diagnosed following deep reflection on my effort put forth into my freelance business.

2014 marked my fifth year since graduating Notre Dame College with my BA, alas also my fifth year freelancing. There exists a glaring gap between where I am after five years freelancing (still living with my parents and bringing in a weak income) and where I believe I should stand (fiscally independent with a viable business).

Certainly mistakes made during my first few years freelancing helped lead me to my current situation. Lacking self-discipline and ineffective time management sure played a role too. Put bluntly, I’m failing as a freelancer. That reality overwhelmed me, causing my burnout.

Thankfully I’m an optimist at heart! Last month I forced myself to counter each negative from 2014 with a positive from the year. Over the last six months I established and maintained a regular exercise regimen, leaving me feeling my best physically since I stopped receiving weekly physical therapy (a nine-year period).

Finally taking my goal to walk a half marathon seriously aided my ambition to maintain my exercising routines. Actually I planned to walk my first 5k (a short-term goal within my long-term half marathon goal) in September 2014. Unfortunately minimal registration led to the race getting cancelled. A delay in receiving my refund and my tight budget prevented me from registering for another race before winter arrived. Now I’m eyeing spring 2015 for my first 5k.

Plus despite my lackluster freelancing efforts I enjoyed professional wins throughout 2014. Handicap This Productions (HTP) promoted me from Guest Blog Coordinator to Online Relationship Manager. With Think Inclusive I received a pay increase. Podcasters inquired me about coming onto their shows. For instance, The Inclusive Class and Sarah Sweeney’s Differently Abled. Obviously for all my business mishaps, I too did some things right.

Most importantly yet, I continue to better understand the person I am. Emotional investment in people proves more important to me than my financial bottom line. Financial standing bothers me merely because society necessities so.

Mannozzi Ceremony Reading

I honor Mike’s father’s memory at his wedding with a reading Photo: Howard Reese

Flying out to Arizona and making final in-person memories with my aunt means more to me than a viable business. Witnessing my good buddy James (described in my memoir Off Balanced as the “real life Zack Morris”) get married to his “Kelly Kapowski” provided me value. Same with serving as best man for my best friend Mike Mannozzi back on October 10th when he wedded the wonderful Jemema. Their happiness brings me happiness.

Surely, to progress in society I need to learn to balance what I find important with honing greater business skills. Earlier I stated “I’m failing at freelancing,” but I’m no failure! In fact thanks to my 2014 I’m stronger, more likely to succeed. In 2014 I reached a new low. Considering my difficulties with time management and self-discipline I could justifiably quit on my pursuit to make a living freelancing. Internally say “I don’t have the right attributes to be successful at this.”

Instead I feel determined, and determination trumps all. Enough determination makes any task possible. 2014 I persevered through, surviving, growing tougher. That can only bode well for my 2015.

What about you? Leave a comment sharing how you fared in 2014. Happy Holidays!

 

Becoming an Author Changed My Life

December 13th represents my publishing anniversary. On December 13th, 2011 my memoir Off Balanced hit the e-book market (Kindle and Nook). Last year I commemorated the occasion by reflecting on the publishing process.

This year I want to explore how becoming a published author changed my life, really in unforeseen ways. Thinking back these changes could only occur unforeseen. In 2011 I focused on staying the course with the publishing process. If you watched the embedded video above, you know that means marketing my book.

Belief in Off Balanced’s ability to empower others with cerebral palsy and educate their parents, teachers, classmates, friends, etc. left me fully concentrated on promotion. No thought entered my mind about how becoming a published author could change my life.

Webinar panelist Zachary Fenell

Sound checked and ready for “Finding your Way: Transitioning from High School to College.”

As the time passed though, I began noticing changes both professionally and personally. Professionally the changes proved multiple. Opportunities came to me due to Off Balanced. For example, last December Parent to Parent of Georgia asked me to serve as a panelist for their webinar “Finding your Way: Transitioning from High School to College.”

Another change manifested through learning new skills. Social media played and still does play a vital role in getting Off Balanced out there. Subsequently I ended up enhancing my social media skills, especially with Twitter and Youtube. Without my online book marketing experiences I never become qualified to hold a position like Online Relationship Manager for Handicap This Productions (HTP).

Plus, who knows what my relationship with HTP or author/motivational speaker John W. Quinn looks like without Off Balanced. Going back to early 2011 I read about Handicap This and John, looking up to them awed by their stories. Upon my inquiries both Tim Wambach from HTP and John agreed to read Off Balanced and provide promotional blurbs. Those inquiries seem like pivotal moments leading to stronger connections with people I possess utmost respect for.

Now the aforementioned offers a solid transitioning point to discuss personal change. Receiving respect back from those you look up to supplies a confidence boost. So does writing a book warmly received by readers. The average reader review for Off Balanced stands at 4.5 stars. Awesome for a five-star system!

Possessing such confidence boosts helps to maintain confidence, not always an easy task since life hits hard. As star power and mushrooms aid Mario, my confidence boosts aid me to keep going during trying circumstances.

To anyone out there contemplating writing a book, I recommend you pursue the ambitious endeavor. From my experience your hard work will pay off in rewarding ways.

#CPChatNow Hits One Year Milestone

#CPChatNow

Graphic (put together by Sarah Wambach) used to promote the first #CPChatNow

This past week the live cerebral palsy Twitter chat #CPChatNow reached the one year milestone! Yes, one year passed since John W. Quinn, Handicap This’ Tim Wambach, and I hosted the very first live #CPChatNow discussion Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013.

As public figures in the cerebral palsy community we welcomed people with CP, their family members, caregivers, and whoever else to come ask us questions about CP. Demands for another live #CPChatNow chat rose leading #CPChatNow to quickly turn into a weekly deal.

Each week new and familiar faces alike joined in. A few months later the demographic shifted to mostly people with CP evolving #CPChatNow into a support group. Every Wednesday at 8pm EST we took to Twitter to announce exciting news, vent our frustrations, and bond over experiences others with CP could best understand.

The connections we made transcended Twitter and the Internet. Two young women with CP who actually attended the same elementary school (albeit grades apart) re-connected due to #CPChatNow. Through their travels Handicap This met different #CPChatNow regulars in-person.

So far I personally enjoyed meeting in-person Blake, a young man with much potential. 2015 should see me getting the chance to meet more #CPChatNow kin in-person. No matter what 2015 brings though, the aforementioned demonstrates the real, meaningful connections made by the live chat.

Now the year also saw other commitments leave my #CPChatNow co-hosts John and Tim to step back from the weekly chat. Upcoming events however should stir new excitement within the live chat’s community.

Like the #CPChatNow Facebook page to stay informed. Join the conversation on Twitter every Wednesday starting at 8pm EST. Do so with these three easy steps listed in the following graphic.

#CPChatNow Instructions

#CPChatNow takes place every Wednesday at 8pm EST.

FYI we do still welcome participation from everyone. In other words cerebral palsy parents, caregivers, and curious strangers. Come join us! You might just find our feedback helpful.

How to Gift an e-Book

If you find yourself gift shopping for an avid reader, consider gifting e-books. Both Kindle and Nook books feature a gifting option. As you will see from the directions below, the process proves rather simple.

Gifting a Kindle Book

1. Go to the sales page for the Kindle book you wish to gift.

2. Click the “Give as a Gift” button, located on the right-hand side beneath the “Buy now with 1-click” button.

Gift a Kindle Book

3. A form will load asking for the recipient’s e-mail address and date you wish to have your gift delivered on. Personalize the gift by including a short message 300 characters or less. You can adjust your payment option on the screen’s right-hand side. After you finish click “Place your order” at the bottom of the page.

Gifting a Nook Book

1. Just like the Kindle instructions, go to the sales page for the book you wish to gift.

2. Click “Buy As Gift,” located next to the “Buy Now” button.

Gift a Nook Book

3. Fill out the form which includes the recipient’s e-mail address, re-typing the e-mail address for confirmation, your name, the recipient’s name, and a personalized message (maximum 250 characters). Click “Submit” once completed.

But… what if I don’t know the person’s e-mail address?

Go to the person’s Facebook page. Click “About,” located under the cover image. Scan his or her “About” page for an e-mail address. Or, create a rouse so you can ask the person for his or her e-mail without giving away the real reason behind the question. For example, say you want to forward the person an e-mail you think he or she will find interesting.

On a final note, maybe you will want to gift my memoir Off Balanced to someone.

Off Balanced explores how my mild cerebral palsy affected me socially through adolescence. Checkout the following excerpts to determine if Off Balanced may interest someone on your holiday shopping list.

Watch the Off Balanced cyber reading, highlighting a section from chapter four “My First Crush.”

Read a selection from chapter six “Not Enough” (courtesy Rebelle Society).

View a reenacted scene from chapter eight “Culmination.”

Three-Year Blogging Anniversary

This past week marked the Off Balanced blog’s three-year anniversary. That seems crazy to me. So much from 2011 feels like yesterday. Yet here you and I sit. Well, I’m sitting. Maybe you will read this standing up or lying down. I can’t know that. Enough dickering over such detail though! Allow me to get back on-topic.

Three years ago I stated the following as my blogging goal.

“Blog-wise the title ‘Off Balanced’ still works as a pun, indicating my blog’s goal to throw misconceptions about cerebral palsy and other disabilities off balance. I plan to address these different preconceived notions in detail while also introducing you to various individuals I’ve had the opportunity as a disability beat writer to learn about and interact with over the past few years.”

Happy Three-Year Blogging Anniversary

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Admittedly I lost my focus some. Last year I used my blog here to keep myself publicly accountable for my 2013 New Year resolutions. Good stuff I believe but at the same time mostly irrelevant to cerebral palsy.

My admission brings about questions regarding Off Balanced the blog’s future. Should I re-focus on my blog’s initial goal? Or, do I move forth carrying a more open-ended attitude with subject matter? The latter may lead to moving my blog to www.zacharyfenell.com, which I’m planning a complete makeover for anyways.

Reader feedback will help me make a more confident decision. Give your input by commenting below, letting me know what you prefer to see from me. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Inspiration- A Third Person Concept?

Over the past six plus years I delved deeper into a word which can stir controversy amongst the disability community, “inspiration.” Prior to the past six years I probably like most people did not give much thought to the concept. I found wrestler Tommy Dreamer inspirational for his loyalty to Extreme Championship Wrestling. Additionally I found Cleveland Indians pitcher Charles Nagy inspirational for fighting his way back to the Majors after bone chips in his pitching arm’s elbow sidelined him during the 2000 season.

Inspire

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What started the deeper exploration six years ago? My college professor Sister Karita telling me “Zach, you are an inspiration to anyone who has to overcome adversity.” I never considered myself an inspiration before. No, I just do what I need to do to get through each day.

However Sister Karita’s comment weighed on me. In fact they helped me decide to pen my teen memoir Off Balanced. If Sister Karita could find inspiration from my story, maybe others could too.

A few years later I published Off Balanced (buy for your Kindle or Nook) and yes, inspiration remained among the words readers used to describe the book. Interestingly enough publishing Off Balanced led me to write more about disabilities. Doing so introduced me to individuals in the disability community who rejected the praise “You’re an inspiration.”

Seems funny, right? There exist so many more worst descriptive words to object. Yet a closer look reveals valid points. Foremost, what criteria led the speaking party to utilize the I-word? If the reason entails simply living with a disability that will typically sit wrong with the “inspirational” person.

Why so? Consider the implications. Alternatives to inspiring by just living mean sulking over limitations or taking drastic life-ending action. Should the metaphorical bar for achievement in the disability community stand at smiling and possessing a will to live? I say no.

Honestly I felt hesitant typing “disability community” in the above paragraph because this topic transcends the disability community to multiple demographics. The catalyst for today’s post provides evidence, a conversation with my recently departed Aunt Ellen. My aunt died indirectly from cancer last month. I share her story in the video below.

Back in January when I went to Arizona to visit Aunt Ellen we ended up enjoying a conversation about inspiration. Said conversation went something like this.

Me: I think you’re inspirational.

Aunt Ellen: My friend said the same thing but I don’t get why.

Me: To me it’s because you are not letting the cancer and grim prognosis change your personality.

Aunt Ellen: I’m just doing what I can.

During the conversation Aunt Ellen also told me she considers me an inspiration to which I replied similarly “I just do what I need to do.” Reflecting back 10 months later I see a theme. Inspiration remains a third person concept. We see inspirations in others but we do not in ourselves.

Do you agree? Sound off in the comments section below!

P.S. If enjoyed today’s post, you may also like my video “Calling Someone with a Disability ‘Inspirational.'”

Disability and Asking for Help

A subject reoccurred last weekend spent at my alma mater Notre Dame College (NDC) for their Homecoming & Alumni Reunion weekend, asking for help. Friday evening the topic arose while talking to a face from the past. Saturday during tailgating and at the homecoming football game asking for help surfaced through actions.

On Friday I saw Mrs. Clemson, who happened to teach my graphic arts and fiber design classes back in high school. Turns out Mrs. Clemson graduated NDC in 1970. While talking to her I mentioned a specific part from my memoir Off Balanced (buy for your Kindle or Nook) about a time in high school I faced a physical challenge, three step without a rail. Rather than ask a nearby classmate for help I struggled down these steps on my own. Why? I felt too embarrassed to ask for assistance.

HelpMoving forward to Saturday walking over from the tailgate area to the football field I asked my friend to carry my drink since we needed to go across a grassy area. No big deal. I’m so use to asking friends for a helping hand the task remains second nature, a second nature I still appreciate very much and I try not to take for granted.

Anyways the real interesting asking for help came later on. I stayed outside to eat my hamburger and finish my drink. However, my friend went ahead and found seats. After I finished eating and drinking I headed inside Mueller Field. To sit next to my friend I asked four current female college students if I could get past them on the bleachers. They stood up to let me through.

Tentatively I made my way across, but I found the space still too tight to maneuver around comfortably. So without much thinking I asked “Do you mind if I use your hand?” Basically I asked strangers “Could I hold your hands?,” totally a premise to power an awkward moment. Yet I didn’t even think about the potential awkwardness until after I sat down and settled in. Emphasize potential since the girls obliged without a problem.

No I didn’t think about the potential awkwardness because I remained focused on what I needed. Really the situation speaks to a sentiment I blogged about for Handicap This Productions earlier in the year, eliminating “embarrassment” from your vocabulary. One thought I shared in said post echoes today’s point very well.

“Why is the question embarrassing? I need help and I’m mature enough to realize that.”

The same principal applies to awkwardness. Bottom line and the lesson I learned over the past 10 years, do not allow your needs to make you feel embarrassed or awkward. Ask for help if you need help and do so proudly.

*Above image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net