Thursday, 21 December 2017

Navigtaing the Same Old Questions

For years I have been quite frustrated at how few really understand what OT is. Yes, OK, I'll elaborate OT stands for occupational therapy. It's a profession that requires a university degree in most countries, a few countries have certification from a college. It's part of the medical team and yet, hardly known at all? However, it is an incredibly, amazingly awesome profession. I don't think there are enough descriptive words for just how special this profession is. It gives meaning to life, hope and so much more.

Do you ever hear someone ask what a nurse is? No, of course not! Even kids playing doctor - doctor or hospital - hospital, know what a nurse is. Most people know about a social worker, psychologist, physio, speech therapist (OK not everyone knows that a speech therapist works with swallowing too and some don't know that many also work with hearing. But for the most part, people understand speech therapy.) So what is so unique about OT? How come no-one knows what it is? And how come it is the ONLY member of the medical team that actually SAVES money, time, heartache, frustration and more. Yes, the stats in the research states the financial saving, I am extending that to the other savings that happen from OT.

As a student it was a little irritating but I kept thinking there must be more I need to learn or perhaps once I am qualified I will meet people who understand. 26 years later, I still get most people saying, "occupational therapy, what is that?"

Just a few days ago I was talking to someone about an advert I placed in a local publication. "Yes," she said, "I saw the advert. Very attractive nice advert. But," she continued, "I hate to break this to you, but no-one actually knows what occupational therapy is."

"Yes, I know," I replied. "That is why I have written a book to explain what occupational therapy is. The cover image even appears in the advert."

She nodded, shrugged and said, "but no-one knows what occupational therapy is."

Today someone read the blurb of the back cover and the 3 reviews up so far and said, but it does not explain what OT is. You have to explain in your blurb what occupational therapy is, who it is for and why anyone should know about it.

Sigh! That is what the content of the book is all about. The profession is vast. It can not be condensed into a sentence, with another sentence saying who it's for and another why you should learn about it. That would make a nice and tidy three sentence blurb but I just don't see how to do it. HM, is that a challenge? Actually, if it were possible, all I would need is a three sentence blurb and no book. If that were possible, we'd have ONE definition of the profession instead of numerous ones.

Did you know I spent hours with my editor working on the blurb that is currently on the back of the cover? Did you know that the first blurb had a summary and I was instructed not to cover the contents on the back of the book but to give enough of a tease to make people interested and hence they will open the book to find out more.

Oh well, so the profession of OT is not well understood. Well, that's why I have got into promoting the profession. Everyone needs to know what OT is, because everyone has to be active in life. Why? That is how the world was created and that is just how it is. This is the world of action and we all need to be active. Ok, so there are people who are in comas. Yes I do know that and guess what, OTs works with people in comas too! 

If you could see me now, you'd see I'm having a good chuckle. But of course that is not possible. So I'll love and leave you and hope that you discover enough reason to want to search out what occupational therapy is. Why? Well, it's awesome. It's holistic. It genuinely helps others in meaningful ways. It gives hope to those who have none (a sentence from the back of my book). OT is vast. It's dynamic and evolving and incredible and if that does not get your interest up, then I rest my case and move on to find someone else who will be interested.

Have a great evening and if you have any interest in finding out what occupational therapy is and what makes it so special, check out my book. Purchase a copy and let me know what you think about it. Oh, and sign up for my newsletter where you can find out when the next book will be coming out. It's coming along nicely and yes, it also has some info to help you to understand the profession of OT a little better. Just a tad.

Actually, before you go, I'm preparing to give a series of talks or webinars on occupational therapy. If you are interested, drop me a line, send me a message and I'll add you to the list. Some talks will be in person and others online so, where you live does not matter. Time zone might so let me know what time zone you are in and I can do my best to figure out a good time.

This post is prepared for you by
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer, author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story" and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom".

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Interview with Up and Coming Writer / Engineer

 This has been a very fun interview to do. It took a little time, began when our featured writer was a student and he has since completed a degree in civil engineering. Meet Efose an up and coming writer who is also an engineer.
Shoshanah: "Hi Efose, it's been wonderful to get to know you a bit from Bamidele's writing group and then via FB chat. I particularly enjoy hearing that you are studying civil engineering. Can you share how you came to begin working on freelance writing if you are a student for one of the major professions?"
Efose: "It’s been wonderful getting to know you too Shoshanah.
I got to know about freelance writing when my older brother showed me a post about Bamidele Onibalusi. I have always been a writer before then (I wrote little stories and poems for my consumption and shared with friends) and so I was naturally interested coupled with the fact that I loved the idea of being self-employed. I did some more research about freelancing and my interest has continued to grow since then. I was a writer before I began studying to be an Engineer and I love being both. They are both really about creating wonderful things, just in different ways."
Shoshanah: "How did you select your writing niche?"
Efose: "Already Established writers will tell you to write on things you are passionate about; I simply followed this advice."
Shoshanah:  "When did you begin writing or discover that you have the ability to write in various formats in order to earn an income?"
Efose: "After reading the piece about Bamidele and doing further research, I decided on giving freelance writing a try on Upwork. I remember the smile on my face when I saw my first online earning in my account. It was then I discovered that I had the ability to write and earn an income."
Shoshanah: "Do you have a role model for developing your freelance writing business? If so, can you share either how you find a role model or mentor or your favourite tip gained from your role model?"
Efose: "My role model remains Bamidele Onibalusi. For starters, he’s an amazing writer and the fact that he’s a fellow Nigerian makes it even more inspiring. He makes it his business to help other writers get better and I think this in a way has made him an even better writer."
Shoshanah: "What are your goals as a freelance writer?"
Efose: "I want to keep getting better as a writer, earn better, get featured in major publications such as Forbes Magazine and be a prominent authority in freelance writing."

Thanks Efose, for sharing about how you got into writing and freelance writing in particular. For any readers interested in Efose's writing, check out his guest post:
Efose Ikhalo is a freelance writer and editor currently living in Edo State, Nigeria. His  interests range from writing to reading about: internet marketing, business and entrepreneurship. His is also interested in technology and soccer. Efose writes at

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Do We Need a Name Change?

What's in a name? Actually - everything.

Nobody wishes to be called "Thing". Everyone needs a name. Names have meaning and describe who we are. People are usually named by their parents as babies. The parents have a flash of inspiration and thus select the name of their new bundle of joy. Some parents put more thought into the name they select than others do, but babies usually get named.

It's rather awkward when a baby does not have a name. One of the babies I worked with a baby from birth for most of the first year of his life had this problem. For many months he had no name. His parents simply could not agree on what to call him. His name varied from baby, to bubbela to button. Finally, he received a name and so it should be.

Books need names and much thought goes into the title of a book. Magazines, articles, products - everything needs a name. So it is with professions too.

The current topic of discussion on one of the professional occupational therapy network groups is whether it is time for a name change. Some say we should alter the name, others disagree. What is the reason for those who want a name change? Well sadly, because most people have no idea what occupational therapy is.

I love the name occupational therapy. To me it is filled with meaning. Occupational therapy is all about doing, about occupations. All kinds of occupations, tasks, activities that fill a persons day. We evaluate to determine where a difficulty might lie, as well as your strengths when engaging in occupations or tasks that are important to your life. We also use activities as a medium or treatment. It is through the activity itself that we help you to gain or re-gain function. So I love the name occupational therapy.

Many still have no clue what it means. If you would like to understand Occupational Therapy or OT, that is the purpose for the book I have written. Order your copy TODAY and read for yourself all about this wonderful profession. Or, hire me to give a talk about what occupational therapy is. I give talks in the Jerusalem area as well as online.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Top Mistakes Writers Make When Cold-Pitching

Guest Post by Efose Ikhalo

Cold-pitching is the best way to get freelancing client (don't believe me? Ask Jorden Roper).

Still, an alarming amount of writers find it difficult to land clients even after blasting out hundreds of email pitches to prospective clients.

Why's that?

They are doing (at least) something wrong and have failed to realize it.

Cold pitching has been proven countless times to be the most effective and its results far surpass most other methods of seeking for clients. But it doesn't work just by the snap of a finger.

Like every effective way of doing things, getting clients through cold pitching requires well-planned methods and approaches. It isn't rocket science but it is no kindergarten study either.

Writers that fail to land clients through cold pitching fall into different categories other than those taking the wrong approach with the most stinging of them being that they can't write. Sometimes the pitch is great and the prospective client takes one last step to vet the writer before beginning to discuss terms; they check out writing samples and are disappointed.

Off they go.

The not so good news: This article will not be of help to such a "writer".

Decent writers that find it difficult to get high-paying clients (or any kind of client for that matter) through cold pitching are missing out on the really good stuff in the business because of one of the following reasons:

A. Not knowing who to pitch

This basically is the foundation of failure in seeking for clients.

One fact some freelance writers fail to realize is that not every person or business out there will be a good fit for the services they offer.

This is where specialization; either by niche or services, come into play. A lot of writers do not want to be restricted by niches but even then, their work must be defined by something.

Prospective clients want to see a piece of your work that has the same bearing as what they offer. You probably would get the job done but they don't know that and so they rely more on facts, which means samples of your work.

So pitching to just about anyone or business makes no sense. In fact, this is the exact answer to why a lot of pitches end up in the trash. Imagine a freelancer who writes about sports and has practically all his writing samples built around the subject, pitching to a tobacco company. What happens to such pitch?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Recognizing the prospective clients need for your service and how well you fit into the equation would determine your progress thereon.

Little wonder it is often advised to research prospective clients before reaching out because it is only in doing this that you get an insight into what they are all about and if you stand a chance.

Do not be the accountant applying for an engineering job.

B. Not knowing how to pitch

Knowing who to pitch isn't the Promised Land. If anything, it’s just the beginning of the road to the Promised Land.

A lot of writers chase prospective clients away a lot quicker than they found them by the content of their pitch or the way it was drafted.

For starters, your pitch is the first writing sample by you that the client sees. So even if for some reason you write articles a lot better than you pitch and your pitch is still crappy, it ends up in the trash.

Writing a pitch is easy enough but for a couple of faults writers are guilty of.

  1. Too Long pitch

It is hard enough for readers to go through very long blog posts especially when it does not involve actionable steps or some kind of guide, let alone a busy client going through a very lengthy email when all you mean to say is "I need a job".

Well-detailed pitches yield great results but there's a difference between well-detailed and bulky.

A pitch mustn't be a thousand words to be sound. A sound pitch is concise and straight to the point; serious clients hate it when you beat around the bush.

Good examples of what a right pitch should contain are:

  1. Short salutation
  2. A tiny bit about you (it's not really about you)
  3. Where you saw the job
  4. Relevant experience
  5. Pointer to samples
  6. Why you would be the right choice for the job
  1. Using Templates

Personalizing every pitch can be very tedious but "with great power comes great responsibility".

Writers can easily get a good template on the internet which isn't bad, but sending it out just the way it is, is pure wrong. These clients are aware that such templates exist and for those who deal with lots of email messages every now and then, any email with a trait of being from a template (even if it isn’t one) is quickly jettisoned.

Why do these clients hate templates so much?

  1. It implies that you never researched about the client’s business (even if you did).
  2. It implies that you did not go through the job advert.
  1. Pitch is too formal

Remember how in school you were taught to sound as formal as possible when writing to those you didn’t previously know (especially application letters which this is)?

Jettison all that because informal is the new formal.

Trying too much to be professional in a pitch message just ends up boring 21st-century clients; such pitch is read halfway and tossed away. Being professional is necessary but a little friendliness creates a connection with the client.

Not Knowing When to Pitch

Time really is money!

A lot of writers are guilty of sending out email messages without considering the time zone of the recipients. Most of these writers are advocates of the rule of thumb of not sending out pitch messages on weekends but fail to realize that sending these messages at odd hours is just as damning.

These clients are more or less as employers to writers and one common thing about employers is that they hate to be bugged and getting unsolicited messages at unofficial hours.

Do yourself a favor and research the time zone of your prospective client before shooting a message.

Writers make a lot of other mistakes when pitching

  • Not having relevant samples
  • They don’t pitch enough
  • Failing to track pitches
  • Only pitching to job ads
  • Not proofreading the pitch before sending

    What is your experience with securing writing jobs to develop your freelance writing? 


    Efose Ikhalo is
    a freelance writer and editor currently living in Edo State, Nigeria. His  interests range from writing to reading about: internet marketing, business and entrepreneurship. His is also interested in technology and soccer. Efose writes at

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

When Retirement Provides Opportunities

One of the things I am really enjoying about being a freelance writer is the amount I am learning through searching for suitable opportunities for freelance writing jobs. Yesterday I was reading a certain website in order to decide whether it was suitable for my writing niche when I had the joy of stumbling upon an inspiring OT. In fact, she is one of the pioneers in the profession of occupational therapy.

The title of the article caught my attention. This lady is working at 92 years old. Wow. So many consider retirement age to be 60 or 65 years of age. Even today I read someone's question on FaceBook asking about the limits of retirement.

While for some, retirement is about reducing how much one does, taking it easy, winding down and just enjoying life until you leave this world, for others, retirement is often just the beginning. The beginning of a new phase in life where they have the opportunity to draw on their life experience to continue to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

I have seen this attitude in some of my relatives and now once more in a fellow OT. Barbara Beskind had a love of inventing. As a young girl, her initial inventions were of toys during the war time. By 10 years old she had a desire to become an inventor. As the various articles about her relay, Barbara was told that being an inventor required an engineering degree which was not a possibility for women at the time. She did not give up on her dream though. Her first training was in home economics. From there she signed up for the army and became an occupational therapist. She worked in the army for a few decades, rising up to the level of major. When she retired, she opened a private practice.

Now occupational therapy is an incredible profession that certainly has plenty of scope for inventing. Barbara used her love of inventing to design and patent several items for children with learning difficulties. Then, at the age of 89, she finally landed her dream job. A job with a company that enables her to spend her time doing what she loves most, inventing.

Barabara is not a completely healthy 92 year old. Legally blind due to maccula degeneration, Barbara uses her occupational therapy training and insight gained from her stage in the life cycle together with her visual deficit to design items to assist the elderly and visually impaired. One of the items mentioned is her adaptation of her nordic walking sticks.

In OT, building up grips, marking items in order to enable the visually impaired to identify them is part and parcel of our profession. However, not all OTs are working at 92 years old. What an inspiring OT.

You can learn more about Barbara in this video.





Monday, 19 June 2017

What are Our Goals Regarding Diet or Nutrition?

Have you ever spent much time reading articles or books on how to be healthy or how to live a healthy lifestyle? If you have, have you noticed that there are 3 main ingredients to this recipe of health. Yes, a few others too but 3 main ones.
  1. Healthy, balanced diet
  2. Exercise
  3. Balanced lifestyle
I could go into details but there is something that bothers me with the first one. If we need healthy food in order to be healthy, why is there such a push towards white flour and lots of sugar with plenty of additives.  And while we are at it, why are the meals in hospitals so wrong for patients.

What is our goal here? Is our goal health or keeping patients ill?

Recently I spent some time at a hospital with a relative of mine. There was hardly any food served over a 12 hour period. Fluids were even less.

When food was offered, the first option was a roll made of white flour with tuna and egg on it. Um, "this patient has a severe allergy to egg!" Answer given: "if you want food, eat it, if not not, that is all we have to offer?"

Great, there the patient is in ER and they are offering a food item the person is severely allergic to. How about having a question on the intake form of what food allergies the patient might have.

As to the white bread, well, all the articles, websites, magazines, books on healthy eating advocate whole grain or even another grain such as spelt, rye, oats. Why do we serve ill people food items that will make them more ill?

I posed the question in a group about food. Sadly many had dreadful experiences to share.
A dietician mentioned that when she was hospitalized the food she was given was all full of sugar and too much salt. They did not bother to find out that she is diabetic with blood pressure problems. Oh dear, that is potentially very dangerous! Very dangerous.

Again I find myself asking what is the goal? If it is health, then hospitals need to make sure that people with diabetes or allergies to food items are served food that is safe for them. Unless of course they are wanting to create a ward for patients suffering from reactions to problem food.

Someone else mentioned that when she was in hospital the salad was wilted and stale, the vegetables were over cooked and the rest of the list continues in a similar vein. OY. What is the goal here? Vegetables are healthy, but need to be cooked or served correctly. Do we really want health?

Someone commented that wanting healthy meals in hospitals is too much to ask for. In her words, "hospital food is the worst" and Heaven "help if you have any special dietary needs."

I could continue quoting horror stories and I could continue sharing peoples amazement that I would expect health and nutrition to be part of the diet served in hospitals.

Yes, healthy, nutritious food is what helps people to be healthy. If our goal is health the supermarkets needs to sell food that is healthy. Why is white flour that has been processed and refined more expensive than wholegrain, healthy flour? Why does so much have sugar in it? Where are our goals? Do we really want health?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

What about the food in hospitals? Some complained that the expense of healthy flour is higher than white flour and hospitals have a budget. Well, what about reducing readmission? Readmitting a patient costs too. Another complaint was the work involved in finding out dietary needs and meeting those diets. Oh dear, do hospitals really want to have diabetic comas on their hands or other side effects of diabetes or high sodium by giving the wrong foods? Do they really want patients to have a severe allergic reaction to a meal that contains food they are allergic to?

Treating the effects of reactions to problematic diets has to be considered. Why not start in the hospitals. If our goal is health and a healthy diet is top of the list of how to be healthy, then why not have healthy, nutritious food in hospitals?

This post is prepared for you by
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer, author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story" and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom".

Monday, 12 June 2017

Introducing My Freelance Writing Service To OTs

Approximately 2 weeks ago, I had the good fortune to be chatting to a fellow OT. Shortly into the conversation she mentioned that she had noticed that I am also an author. She mentioned some of her current writing goals and her struggles in meeting these goals due to various commitments. I understood her frustration and shared my freelance writing service.

Initially we discussed the possibility of my writing some blog posts for her. We live in different time zones, so I sent off an email mentioning that if she is interested, I am also offering a ghostwriting service. It was getting late where I am so I left it at that and went off to bed.

The next morning I received the most wonderful email. What a joy and a surprise. She had decided to ask me to ghostwrite her ebook. The project is currently coming to an end. As I complete the final editing I can't help but ponder over this writing project. It has been so enjoyable for me from beginning to end.

The first treat was to work with someone who is punctual and respectful. One would expect that of a fellow OT, but so wonderful to experience anyway.

Our initial interview was informative, productive and focused. It made total sense that it would be. We are both familiar with the subject matter and just had to brainstorm some technical details.The writing too has been very satisfying.

So, I decided to write this short blog to let other OTs know. If you would like to develop your blog, your newsletters or even to get an ebook written, please do be in touch to discuss my freelance writing service.

I'm very much looking forward to hearing from you and to working together to help you to meet your writing goals too.

This post is prepared for you by
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer, author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story" and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom".

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Getting Featured in Celebrating Authors

I have been doing some reading on marketing and promoting for our books and came across a few author groups to join. One of them has some really nice and affordable options for promoting one's book. I am so excited to say that the first of these features is going up on Celebrating Authors, as seen in the badge above.

Keep a look out for some promotion happening for my book "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story". We're working on an author interview. So strange to be interviewed but it's exciting too.

I guess it's time to begin a page on my website of "In the News" or "Press" or some fancy title.

I have a few reviews to add to this blog and am also very happy to say that sales are gradually happening. I have even had a request for my book to go into the library of a university in Australia.

It's all very exciting. I look forward to sharing more developments in the journey of this book.

This post is prepared for you by
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer, author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story" and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom".

Monday, 1 May 2017

Interview with Jess Axelson of Be Verbose

I met Jess in a freelance writing group that I am part of. It has been a pleasure to get to know her, especially through conducting the interview for this Q & A Interview. It is an honour to introduce my readers to Jess Axelson of Be Verbose.  

Q 1) Hi Jess, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog. When did you begin writing or discover that you enjoy writing?

Jess - I’ve been writing since I was a kid, as early as 7 years old. I learned to read very early, and books were the universe I felt I was missing at the time (I was, and still am, a bit of an old soul… I was terrible at being a child, I was too much in my own head to be normal). Writing came naturally after that, when I decided I could create my own universes as well as finding others.

Q 2) Thank you for sharing that. How did you discover freelance writing?

Jess - I had always loved writing, but my life took a lot of turns before I found it again. I had graduated with a degree in Industrial Design because I didn’t trust my ability to write well enough or consistently enough to get published, but I graduated college at the start of the Great Recession, so I was able to use that degree for eight months before the company I worked for went under and my life collapsed with it. I had to move from Washington state to Minnesota because there were no jobs, and even here I couldn’t find anything to keep me afloat or to even live independently (like most in my situation, I had to move back home to avoid total poverty). That’s a very depressing thing to do, obviously, and I had a history of depression since I started going to psychologists at nine years old. It’s difficult to be creative in those depths, or at least it was for me. My creativity left me. I couldn’t write a sentence. I stopped painting, another one of my hobbies. I just survived. When I got diagnosed, it just got worse, and through a series of ups and downs and poor decisions, I ended up where I was when the recession started, seven years later, until one night in November almost two years ago, I got my words back.

My uncle Rolf had Down’s Syndrome and lived in a group home. He had passed away almost a year ago, which was a very humbling experience for me. When he was in the hospital, comatose and septic with Parkinsons and dementia eating away his frontal lobe, all of the workers at his group home kept a vigil at his bedside. They brought him stuffed animals, they wept over him, they told stories about his life that I had never heard. They were his family, really, and with the exception of my father, who had been named his legal guardian after my grandparents moved out of the area, we weren’t. We knew so little about this man. We loved him, sure, but we had very few interactions with him besides holidays and the few weekends my father had free to take him to the farm where we lived and where he grew up. It changed my entire worldview. So when our main state newspaper, the Star Tribune, started publishing articles about the “seedy underbelly” of the adult care system, I took it very personally. These were good people that were getting slandered, and the perspective of all the articles was warped and one-sided. Our family was furious, but there was nothing that they could do. So one night, as I was thinking about all of this and how these poor people get nothing but grief and heartache for loving and taking care of these mentally disabled people, I decided that I could at least try to stand up for them. At 2 AM, inn the space of an hour and a half, and all on my tiny smartphone (the old 5s, with the mini screen and awful keyboard) while lying in bed and crying with anger, I wrote a letter to the editor. I only did one draft of it, and I didn’t expect it to go anywhere. The next day, though, I got an email from the editor saying that my letter would be a full-sized Counterpoint article to be published the following Monday. (here’s the link:

It sounds silly, but it was like I had come back to life. I had always felt like I was supposed to be a writer, but during all of the years when I was lost and struggling, I felt like that part of me had died and would never come back. But that article saved me. The group home where my uncle had lived called to thank me for it. It moved my family to tears (re-reading it now, I’m back in that headspace that made me write it in the first place, it’s really weird and I’m misting up again). I felt, for the first time in years, like I did have a purpose and I could do more than just exist. I had a chance to live again. That’s when I decided that it was time to start freelancing.

Q 3) That is very moving. Would you be prepared to tell us something about your disability. How does the Ankylosing Spondylitis affect you?

Jess - I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) when I was 27, about a year after I started having symptoms. That’s actually less time than the national average; it’s estimated that most people go for about eight years before they get a diagnosis. I’m lucky enough to live next to the Mayo Clinic, and I think that’s why I was diagnosed so quickly.

I apparently had the disease my entire life, and I can think back to many times when I had the pain I’m used to now but dismissed it as growing pains or something I had injured due to playing soccer every year since middle school. It was never a big part of my life until one day I got a sharp pain in my lower back that wouldn’t go away. It got worse daily, and within a month of that first pain, I was nearly immobilized. I could barely walk, and I just sort of shuffled along at a glacial pace to avoid as much pain as I could. I actually had to re-learn how to walk in a way that wouldn’t aggravate my joints. I couldn’t lie down because getting up was so painful. It was as though my spine and hips fell apart when I would lie down, and even shifting or rolling over to sleep would hurt so badly that I would wake up in tears. I wouldn’t be able to get up without allowing my bones to “re-assemble;” it felt like my spine had turned into one of those kids push puppet toys made of string and beads that would collapse into a heap and then come back together when you pushed a button. The process of standing up in the morning was about 20 minutes of sheer agony. The worst part is, since the disease is all internal, I looked fine so a lot of people didn’t believe me. I actually had to start bringing my parents to my doctors appointments so they could assure my doctors that yes, there was actually a very severe problem (that may be a woman thing, too; I hear a lot of similar stories from the women on my support boards).

AS is an autoimmune disease, which means that my body is constantly fighting itself, and it’s also a type of arthritis. The cartilage in my skeleton becomes inflamed, which is extremely painful, and eventually it will cause my cartilage to calcify and fuse the bones together. It’s called “bamboo spine,” which is a beautiful name for an awful disease. A lot of us are fused in a stooped position, with heads pointed down and nearly doubled over. I have to do a lot of stretches to avoid that, and it’s necessary to keep active to stave off the fusing and keep down my weight to keep as little stress on my joints and bones as possible (that part’s harder than it sounds, since almost every exercise I try aside from daily walks ends up with me on bedrest for at least a week, and I tend to eat my sadness when that happens). I got a dog to make sure I would still go outside and exercise, and not hole myself up and wallow in my self-pity. It’s a genetic disease, and after I found out I had it I was able to trace variations of it through my family tree. I found records of my ancestors dying of “arthritis” and having to have amputations because of it. My mother has a variation of it, and her mother was hunchbacked due to another variation.

I still have a lot of pain, obviously, even despite the ridiculous amounts of medications I’m on. Some days it feels like my lower back has pain that I can only compare to having an unfilled cavity. I have to walk with a cane sometimes, which is an odd look at 32 years old. It makes it difficult to sit for very long, so my days involve me being able to sit for maybe 30 minutes to an hour at a time before I have to lie down to alleviate some of the pain. I also have a lot of problems with my sternum, where it will feel for days like I’ve been punched square in the chest. It can hurt to even breathe some days, and with my hands and feet, so sometimes I can only write and type for a little bit at a time. I’m on immuno-suppressants, so I’m susceptible to every cold and flu I come across, and a lot of my medications have severe side effects. I’ve had to start taking medication for blood pressure and stomach problems because of the side effects, and I have to have monthly blood checks of my liver functions to make sure my meds aren’t killing it. One of my heavier meds can cause very fast-growing and un-treatable cancer, so that’s fun to have looming over me.

Q 4) I'm sorry to read of all your difficulties. As an OT, I certainly understand what you are describing. As I mentioned when we were messaging, I am very interested in the potential that I notice freelance writing can offer to those with challenges to their health. Can you share what how freelance writing enables you to earn as someone living with a disability?

Jess - As a disabled person, my options are very limited. I can’t work a normal full-time job like others, so I have very little money. I can’t afford a normal apartment so I live in disabled housing. But I’m too “able” to be considered fully disabled by the state since I can still walk sometimes and I can sit upright, so I’m stuck in a bit of a limbo between sick and well. That limbo is hell, and I don’t intend to stay in it. I have ambitions and desires just like anyone else, and disability in America seems to be set up to get people by only at a bare minimum. That’s not living; there’s no point to sitting around and waiting for things to happen. It feels like your humanity has been stripped away, and you’re nothing but a burden on the state or your family, with no more real worth or potential. Freelance writing felt to me like an open door to get out; like it’s my only option to live a normal life and feel like a person again. I can set my schedule according to how I feel that day, and working around my pain is much easier when I don’t have a boss who isn’t particularly concerned about how I feel (not that it’s their fault, and obviously, running a business can’t revolve around one employee’s health). And the money is far better than working for someone else, even with the tax nightmare that goes along with it.

Freelance writing has also done wonders for my mental health. There’s a proven link between inflammation and depression, and I certainly have major issues with it (I see a therapist and I’m on antidepressants as well), but since I’ve been writing, I’ve been happy again. A few years ago, I didn’t think that I could be happy any more. I struggled with suicidal thoughts for years, but since I’ve been writing again, those thoughts are mostly gone. I’ve started going out and having fun again, which I didn’t do for years due to both the cost and mental state. I feel like I have more energy now, even when I’m in a flare. I started wearing makeup again, when I hadn’t done that for five years. I care more about my appearance. I’ve started talking to members of the opposite sex, instead of hiding myself at the sight of an attractive person like I used to. I’m not ready to date yet, but I think I will be soon. It’s just been a transformative experience in general, and I really attribute that to feeling like I’m doing something worthwhile and good for my future (now that I feel like I have one again).

It sounds weird, but in a lot of ways, I really feel like this disability has been the best thing that ever happened to me. If I didn’t have it, I don’t know that I would be able to be pursuing my dream like this.

Q 5) Thank you for sharing Jess. What are your goals as a writer, you can select short term or long term goals or a combination?

Jess - I have so many ambitions, heh! I’ve got four different fiction books I’m working on writing, and I’m hoping to finish one by the end of the year. I want to do some non-fiction work, since I’ve always loved researching new topics. But short-term, I want to earn enough money for me to get out of disabled housing and feel normal again. I’d love to move back to the West Coast, it’s been hard to be away from the ocean for so long. I want to make enough money to travel, and maybe to get a house with a yard for my dog. I want to be able to be a foster mom, since I’d never have one of my own (I wouldn’t want a child to have what I have).

Mostly, my long and short term goals are to live like a normal person.

Q 6) Who is your role model as a writer? And lastly, what message would you like to leave for readers who also have a disability.

Jess - Role models are tough… I love the work that Michael Crichton did scientifically and I try to emulate the humor of Christopher Moore. But as far as a real literary role model, I’d have to say (and I will sound like every college dude ever but hear me out) Hunter Thomspon. Yes, he was a loose cannon with questionable morals, but the man could turn a phrase in a way that I could only dream of. I would also have to say J. K. Rowling, not because of her books (to be honest, I’ve never read a single Harry Potter novel), but for her, herself. She fought her way up out of nothing, wrote a great series, made a ton of money, and now she turns that money into great things for the world. If I was to get even a hundredth of her success I would hope I would be as magnanimous as she is.

And as far as advice goes, I would say that when you’re disabled, there are roadblocks everywhere and everyone else has their opinion on what you should be feeling and doing. There are stories all over the internet about people who “beat the odds” and “worked past their limitations,” and that’s all well and good, but don’t hold yourself to the standards of others. They aren’t in your body. Respect your limitations as much as you try to push against them. For every inspirational story you hear, there are a dozen more people who think that their life is over because of their disability. It isn’t over, but you don’t owe anyone an inspirational speech or to be a role model for others. Do what works for you. You aren’t a showpiece. It took me years to mourn my lost potential as an able-bodied person, and then several years after that where I felt like a failure because I wasn’t climbing mountains. Every time I tried to push myself too far my body stopped me, and I started to resent it. I have to remind myself all the time that I’m normal, no matter how many left turns I have to take to get where I want to be.

But even more than that, I’d say, don’t stop living. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself, and it’s easy to do nothing. But that’s not living, and even though you’re disabled that doesn’t mean you’re less of a person. Hold on to your humanity. 

Thank you Jess for your very inspiring words. You certainly are a good writer and I wish you much success in developing your freelance writing business. If anyone reading this blog wishes to hire Jess for a writing job, she can be found via her website. If you have enjoyed this post as much as I have, do post a comment and let Jess know.

This post is prepared for you by
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer, author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story" and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom".

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Are You Considering Working from Home?

If you are an occupational therapist have you thought of working privately? There are many reasons that one might consider doing so. Personally, I needed to move to work from home as it is the best way for me to manage my health. The timing was not the best which has posed certain challenges. I would say that I have learned the hard way some ideas to help to overcome these. The way in which I got into working privately is not the ideal. I have searched for years for suitable assistance. Sadly it has taken years to find the help that I needed. Yes, without that direction, I have made some mistakes, but you don't have to go the same road that I have. And if you do go the way I have done, you are lucky, as there is someone who has gone that road before you. Hence, if you follow this blog, sign up for my newsletter and are patient for when my book on work comes out, chances are you wont need to make as many mistakes. At least, I hope not.

I am currently reading an excellent book about setting up a private practice. Stay tuned, I plan to post a full book review and also hope to do an interview with the author. I really wish I had that book about 18 years ago, possibly more. Somethings are worth waiting for and I am very grateful to be reading the book now. It is giving me ideas to improve my practice.  There is much work in store, but it's all good and exciting. 

Have you read much on the topic of starting a private practice? It's so wonderful to see such books coming out.

Providing a therapeutic service is not the only way to work from home. If you have a life situation like I do and need to work from home, there are quite a number of options as to type of work that could be suitable. I am very grateful to have discovered a few and hope to share these too. 

Is working from home important to you? Is this a goal of yours? If so, what are your questions? Where are you in your journey towards working successfully from home.

This post is prepared for you by
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom" and author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story"

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Uplifting the Widow and the Orphan

Uplifting the widow and the orphan and why this is important to me!

When someone is going through a hard time, many find knowing of the hardship uncomfortable. There are many who will find reason to blame the person for whatever they are going through. The kinds of blame vary from presuming the person did not put in enough effort, to the person has been absorbed in victim thinking to a range of other unkind judgements. For many it is easier to judge and then keep their distance. After all, out of sight, out of mind!

Judaism has a very different approach to one who is suffering. Torah teaches us that the world is built on loving kindness and that we have a responsibility to show kindness to all in very specific ways. The kindness outlined in the Torah extends to our environment, how we interact with nature, how we treat animals, how we treat those we interact with and then how we treat the widow, the orphan, the convert and the poor. Torah teaches us that everyone is vulnerable and tragedy can happen to anyone. Instead of falling into the habit of judging the other, Torah teaches to show them kindness. To uplift the other person, especially the widow, the orphan the convert and the poor.

Far from considering turning a blind eye, the Torah teaches us how to do so and to what extent we should assist the one in need. This teaching goes so far as to indicate that it is not that the person being helped is the only one to benefit but in a magical and mystical way, the one who gives receives blessing and protection from being involved in an important and appropriate act of kindness or charity.

These teachings speak to me on many levels, especially the care that one should give to uplift or empower the widow and the orphan. The latter has personal meaning to me. My late father was born an orphan as my paternal grandfather died at the age of just 35 years old, 4 and half months before my father was born. The loss had a major impact on my family. My father, had no father to guide him through life. He was a very talented man e.g. he was able to pass BA level Hebrew at Bar Mitzvah age. One of his many talents was the most beautiful singing voice. He learned how to read from the Torah scroll and would do so in the merit of his late father. My father's dream was to be a rabbi or a prayer leader in Synagogue. Sadly, this dream was blocked when he was offered assistance in obtaining tertiary education provided he became a lawyer and not a rabbi. He did sing in the choir in Shul and his singing touched me very deeply.

My father died when I was still in school and two of the most powerful memories I have of him are his singing in Shul and blowing Shofar. These made such an impact that when I found myself battling a chronic illness, it was my father's singing voice and the knowledge that he had wanted to be a rabbi or prayer leader that drew me to attend Shul and to begin my own Torah learning. Through this I discovered another approach to health and wellness, by incorporating the Torah lifestyle into my life.

My challenge with my health was not just the fact that I developed an infection that turned chronic but the financial drain. Having put myself through university, starting to work did not mean I had the freedom to save towards getting married and beginning my own home. On the contrary, my earnings went on paying off my tuition and health expenses. When I finally did come to marry, this was one time I really needed help and turned to a few I knew who were connected in the Jewish community.

The reception that I had from most was very far from what Torah teaches. The result has been that instead of having a start to my new home, I began married life without beds, with no appliances, with a set of second-hand broken crockery and second-hand worn linen. By the end of the first year of marriage, I had moved 5 times followed by a house burglary leading to another move and a work injury with no compensation. I recognized something more was going on. Using the teaching of Chassidus to find and elevate the positive points, I set to work to begin a service, in the merit of my late father, that would empower orphans, and hopefully widows too. The service includes everything that I needed but did not receive.

We began with just an idea, a vision, some health problems, some financial struggles and a small space in the corner of our strong-room. Over time, the idea began to develop. With much work and effort we began a store from unwanted, donated items. Some of these went to help begin the homes of over 38 couples and some were sold to help to cover expenses. As we progressed, the opportunity arose to add 60 bridal gowns to what we were doing.

Using my background of occupational therapy, I am developing this to become a complete service. One that will provide support, love and care to the widow and the orphan. Our centre aims to share the invaluable teachings of Torah and Acts of Loving Kindness, not only to the widow and the orphan but to others too. We have begun a series of books for children to teach about kindness to animals.  Torah in fact gives importance to every detail and every experience or occurrence. We learn this from the poem of "The Little Leaf" by Yom Tov Erlich z"l. This poem talks about a leaf that had fallen from a tree. After going through a discussion of why and how this might have happened, it turns out that down on the ground was a little worm that had cried out to Hashem due to the heat of the sun. The wind came along and helped the little leaf to fall exactly onto the little worm, thus providing shelter from the harsh sun's rays.

In Pirkei Avot we learn that caring for all aspects of creation has a benefit to the world at large and failing to do so has the opposite effect. This extends to such acts as letting the land rest in the 7th year, appropriate justice and taking care of the poor. Types of repercussions to ignoring G-d's system is the range of disasters such as natural disaster, war and famine.[1]

In every situation we have the opportunity to bring unity, growth and development, or the opposite, G-d forbid. Increasing in the former is one of the main goals of the centre that we are developing.

This post is prepared for you by
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom" and author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story"


[1] Pirkei Avot, Ethics of our Fathers Chapter 5 verses 8-9
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