CINspirational People

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90 Year Old Dancer Inspires

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A note from my friend, Magno Relojo…

At 90 years old, Dr. Aurora Lira, is still winning medals in dance competitions. She and her partner just won a gold medal at the Millennium Dancesport Championships in Orlando, Florida.A 90 yr old lady who happens to love dancing and dressing up, inspires us with her enthusiasm for learning and memorizing her dance routines. At this age these can be difficult tasks to do but it is so amazing to see her mobility in dancing and in her everyday life. We love to tell her story and by chance it might inspire others to be positive about life.

She told me that when she dances it is just pure joy that she feels especially during competitions when there are lots of people watching…she seems to like that. I would too especially when you look good, feel good and are happy about life…you want to show everyone so they feel happy too.

By the way, this lady is my mother-in-law, Dr. Aurora Lira.

She wants everyone to Smile and be Happy

(Aurora and her professional partner are at the Millennium Dancesport Championships in Orlando, Florida – one of the largest events in the world) where they have already won some first places, a gold medal in a senior gold rhythm championship, and some money in a gold rhythm scholarship.)

If you follow my blog, you may remember my post about Aurora several years ago. You can read it here.

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Dan Marshall Never Has Bad Days

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Dan Marshall will tell you, he does not have bad days. He only has character building days.

Seven years ago he stood before a packed auditorium for an Ignite Cincinnati Event, and reminded the young professionals that even when things are going bad, “you are going to learn something from them.”

It is on those character building days, he told them, that he reminds himself of these favorite mantras.
“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
“No matter how bad it seems, ‘it’s come to pass.’”
“Whether I think I can or I think I can’t, I am right.”
and “Do something.”

Dan Marshall is a Cincinnati musician, speaker, and business consultant.He and I go back many years. I actually don’t remember where we first met but our life paths continue to cross through our journey.

Dan is a man of character. He is someone whose hard knocks in life have taught him about resilience, action, self expression, love and a greater sense of humanity. As a father, it is important for him to be a role model to his young children – and to others – in living your best possible life, in giving selflessly, and in seeing the good that abounds. As an entrepreneur, a business consultant, a volunteer, and a speaker, he shares his knowledge to help others succeed.

And through his performances at local venues and events as LoopManDan, he opens up a whole new world of music.
More than just a typical solo acoustic act, LoopManDan conjures up the sound of an entire ensemble before audiences, creating rhythm, bass lines, harmonies and smooth leads using the effects of a loop pedal.

Lisa: Where do you think your positive outlook comes from?
Dan: That really stems from my childhood. I have had some of the most difficult of times, and I have come to know that that is when learning happens. I know that because I have been through worse things. When I was 9 my dad killed himself and that became part of my texture. I have looked my children in the eyes and told them, ‘I promise you I will not die like my dad did.’ I am very focused on seeing the positive in everything. Friends call me all the time and ask me to cheer them up.

Lisa:  What is an accomplishment something of which you are most proud?
Dan:  Definitely my three children and the beautiful people they are, and being part of their life. A couple stories come to mind.

My kids wanted to try out for the soccer team but were nervous. I told them that if they would try out, that I would audition for The Children’s Theatre production of Annie. I ended up being in 20 shows. That was a great lesson for us all. I was proud because I felt like I practiced what I preached, I took a chance, and because of that, I achieved. Even if I hadn’t gotten a role, I would have felt extremely accomplished for the example I set. I believe in stretching beyond your comfort zone and in teaching others to do the same, and that is what I did.

Another time we were all in a car at a drive through when I saw another car half way stuck in a parking space. I noticed an older woman having a hard time. I didn’t think twice about immediately pulling over and walking over to her. She was crying because she couldn’t get her car out of gear so I jumped in and moved her car for her. She gave me a big hug. When I got back into my car, one of my kids said to me, “Dad, you are a really good man,” and the other kids said, “yeah Dad, you stopped the car.”

That brings such pride to me. Some of my most proud accomplishments are when I have helped others.

Lisa:  Tell us about someone who has been a positive influence on you.
Dan: There have been so many people. Definitely my voice teacher and band director at Indian Hill High School. I was in our marching band, sung in the select show choir and performed in school musicals.  Musicians Stan Hertzman and Bobby Sharp are the closest to a local uncle and patriarch type figure I have. I was mentored by Jeffrey Moore, who started the marketing program for Hewlett Packard and authored a book called Crossing the Chasm.

I attended University of Cincinnati for a quarter and the left and got started in business very early and sold cars for eight years. That early exposure really helped to educate me. There have been some really great people who have included me with their businesses and kept sending me for management and sales training. Dean Butler, co-founder of LensCrafters, recruited me to be director of sales for PC Upgrades and was a big influence.


Lisa Desatnik Public Relations

So Much PETential Cincinnati dog training by Cincinnati certified dog trainer, Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, CPBC

 

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Rosemary’s Legacy

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In all of my years of work for social service agencies, I have seen so many individuals and families affected by generational circumstances. There have been those who were born into environments surrounded by poverty, abuse or other hardships; and who have followed in the path of the generations before them, and then there are those who find their inner strength and their personal success, and seek opportunities to lift up others.

Rosemary Oglesby-Henry, founder of Rosemary’s Babies, presented an award of appreciation to Dr. James Williams, president of Mt. St. Joseph University, for the school’s support.

Rosemary Oglesby-Henry, founder of Rosemary’s Babies, presented an award of appreciation to Dr. James Williams, president of Mt. St. Joseph University, for the school’s support.

Rosemary Oglesby-Henry understands better than many. When she became pregnant at age 16, she was to become one of many teen parents in her family including her grandmother, her mother, her sister and her brother. But Rosemary was determined to stop that pattern with her. “You change it by saying, there is a problem,” she told me, “then you can act to change the problem. And I have. I am the last person in my family to be a teen parent.”

And she is the first in her family to pursue a career and education, earning her Master of Science Degree in Organizational Leadership from Mt. St. Joseph University. She did all of that while working through so many other personal setbacks – financial, medical and family hardships, not to mention the difficult challenges that come with being a young parent on her own.

Rosemary has a quote she came up with that speaks to how she sees and lives life: “No one can beat you down lower than you, but no one can lift you up higher than you.”

Life is very different for Rosemary these days. Now 37, a proud mother to a 16 year old son and a daughter who is a junior at Muskingham University, and a loving wife to Charles, Rosemary looks for opportunities to give back. And one of the greatest avenues for that has been her new organization, Rosemary’s Babies, that offers 24 hour confidential support to teenage parents. Young mothers and fathers can reach out to her, or one of her team members (many of whom were teen parents themselves), through social media or by calling 513-813-TEEN.

Rosemary serves on numerous boards and committees including the Board of Tender Mercies, Inc. and the Mt. St. Joseph University Alumni. She has been recognized many times including in 2016 with the Withrow University Distinguished Humanitarian of the Year Award, as a Cincinnati Business Courier 40 Under 40, and as a Gateway College Outstanding Supervisor of Human Services Students.

I asked her a few more questions.

Lisa: What was your inspiration behind starting Rosemary’s Babies?
Rosemary: I am a huge philanthropist, and am passionate about giving back. My daughter is my big inspiration. She tells many stories of her mom that are so cool. “My mom didn’t know what to do all the time but she didn’t give up on me,” she says. I always tell her that, that I didn’t give up on them. Teen parents need to understand that. Nobody knows all the answers. Within my program we are attacking true life issues. There are plenty of pregnancy programs but there is nothing to impact the person – how do I manage the bills, etc. Pregnant teens are kids forced to be adults. They are not taught about health insurance. They may go on government benefits but don’t know how to use those channels. We work on true life skills and problem solving to support them.

Lisa: Of what are you most proud?
Rosemary: Definitely my legacy. My nieces, nephews, and my daughter have overcome more than our family has seen. They have broken generational curses. They have gone to college. I see them go out and see the world and be better people, financially and emotionally, and all give back – and I know I helped to do that. I helped to change what my family structure looks like. My son goes to school inside Aiken.

As a mother working two jobs, when my son struggled in school and his education was still a huge priority for me. He needed a different way of learning, so I homeschooled him from 7th to 9th grade. Sometimes you need to step out of the box to make sure your child gets what he needs. After homeschooling him, followed by an alternative education program, he is now doing well in school.

Lisa: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Rosemary: My teacher Gloria Harper at Withrow once taught me that sometimes you have to walk around the wall rather than through it. You have to think first before you act. I live by that.

 

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Disability Does Not Define John

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Through my work promoting the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival, I have gotten to know some pretty amazing people who have impacted me in very meaningful ways. Actor John Lawson is among them. I met and got to know John when I was promoting the 2015 Festival. He was a volunteer and a spokesperson with whom I spent a lot of time. Now living in the Los Angeles area for his acting, John is coming back to Cincinnati to join us next month as one of our 2017 Festival VIPs.

Actor John Lawson shares his story: disability does not define him.What I remember so much about my time with him two years ago was how John could make me laugh, but also, John is an incredible listener, an encourager and a leader. He went out of his way to let me know my work and contributions were valued, and he did that with everyone I saw him come in contact with. At our Film Festival, he spoke with eloquence and humor in spreading our message. He included people. He inspired not because he is someone who has a disability but because of who he is as a human being.

Below are two different posts John had written on his Facebook page awhile back (I am reprinting with his permission) about his story. Since they had some duplication, I cut out part of the second post. I hope that you will take a few minutes to read his words. They just may change the way you see and think about difference.

John Lawson’s Story (in his own words)

Feb 4, 2015

Wow, 28 years ago today February 4, 1987 is the day that I truly will never forget. I guess the cynical smart-ass side of me wants to write that I’ll never be able to forget for there is always someone coming up wanting to know how I lost my arms or who are very quick to remind me how “lucky” I am to be alive. I don’t know that I agree with their assessment of a measure of luck apportioned to me. I started playing the piano at age three, then began lessons at age four and studied classical piano for 17 straight years. At age 30, I had spent over half my life learning to play piano and now would spend the rest of my life without hands. That doesn’t sound very lucky.

I have been lucky to raise three wonderful, smart and somewhat “well adjusted” kids (hey I was their Dad) and had the very lucky chance to marry the love-of-my-life. Unluckily, the cancer won and I lost her too.

I spent five months of my life at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill North Carolina. My left hand and most of my arm below my elbow was amputated that day. My right hand was amputated above the wrist approximately one month later. As the burned skin debridement surgeries stopped and drugs wore off, I assumed a new role I never wanted to audition for as an upper extremity double amputee; a man with no hands left only to watch others play music.

While at the Burn Center, I received the best-specialized medical burn care from some of the world’s leading doctors and nurses. It was there that I decided to do my best to recover all aspects of my life. It was explained that losing limbs is similar to losing a loved one and you should experience the same emotions. While at the hospital, I never felt that I went through all the steps normally associated with a life changing experience such as my accident. If I did, I did them in my sleep, because from early on I realized I had to unconditionally accept my new role. I did find out, that since I never displayed the emotions expected, the psychiatrists that visited my room over the months noted in my chart that I was a “classic case of denial, and would suffer a catastrophic mental breakdown with in five years.”

Again, wow; twenty-eight years gone by and I’m still waiting for that mental breakdown. I think I would enjoy the time off.

Probably the most helpful wisdom I received after my amputations was by an unknown author, but passed on by my mother, “No one ever finds life worth living—you have to make it worth living.”

I am not special in the things I have done, with the conditions I have to deal with to do them. I could not control the circumstances that burned my body and resulted in the amputation of both my hands, but I can control what happens after the flesh has healed. I can control my attitude.

Early in my acting career, someone gave me a coffee mug with a saying printed on the outside, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”

Those six words carry a powerful meaning. We only get to do this once and no matter what or where our stage, this is our one and only performance. I do not know what roles in life I will have to play in the years ahead, but I do know I will always chug along with the same attitude as the little blue engine pulling the long heavy train in the book read by my mother to me so many times as a child, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

Jan 10, 2017

I need to say I am not here to inspire you. I have lost count of strangers that approach me in public while grocery shopping or pumping gas to tell me that I am an inspiration. I guess they mean well, but to me they are just congratulating me for remembering to put on my pants before I left the house. There is nothing inspirational about pumping gas or grabbing a can of green beans off the shelf. You have been lied to about life with a disability.

Most people believe that because you have a disability that your life is worse; that being a person with a disability is a bad thing and that if you live with the disability, it makes you exceptional. Living with a disability is not a bad thing and it certainly doesn’t make you exceptional or inspirational.

Life as a person with disabilities can be difficult and we do have to overcome some things. But it’s not the things that you may think. It’s not the things to do with our bodies that we have to overcome. I believe that disability is caused by the way society is structured, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. If society looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for people with disabilities, then disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives. Of course I’m in a profession where the industry creates barriers that 95% of the work for characters with a disability are given to an able body actor. It’s these societal barriers of the industry that restrict the choices and control of my career.

So February 4, 2017 I will start using prosthetics for longer than I had my hands. Half of my life wearing hooks. Do they replace my hands? No, but they are a tool I’m forced to use for maintaining my independence in a society designed for able body people; a tool for me to pump gas or load my grocery cart. I’ve learned to use my prosthetics to best of my ability, so I know when people tell me “I’m an inspiration,” that they mean it as a compliment. I do understand that, but the reason it happens is because of this lie that’s been sold to the public that disability makes you exceptional and makes you inspirational. I’m sorry; but honestly, it doesn’t. I really believe that this propaganda that we’ve been sold is the greatest injustice and makes life hard for us.

Oh, and that quote about “the only disability in life is a bad attitude,” is total bullshit. It’s just not true. No amount of me smiling at a piano keyboard with a positive attitude will allow me to play as I used to touch the ivories with ten fingers.

I hope in my lifetime to live in a society where someone with a disability is not the exception, but just accepted as a norm. I hope to live in a society where a man stuffing a grocery cart is not an inspiration just because he is using prosthetics. I want to live in a society where we don’t have such low expectations of people with disabilities that we hire able body people to do jobs they are capable of performing. I hope in my lifetime to live in a society where we place value on genuine achievement by people with disabilities.

 

 

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Grace Shares Life Lessons

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Today I have such great pleasure in sharing the story of a very dear person and friend. Grace DeGregorio has been editing Hyde Park Living for 20 years. And, for about 15 or 16 of those years I have been writing a pet behavior column for her. I love that my work brings such incredible people into my life. Grace is such a positive soul. She too loves what she does for the connections it has brought her and the personal stories she has been able to share. Now the tables are turned and I get to share Grace’s story. I so much appreciate her openness in talking about a part of her and her family that is deeply personal, and how that experience has touched and impacted her perspective on life and relationships.

Grace DeGregorio, editor of Cincinnati's Hyde Park Living, shares her storyLisa:  So many people (including me) know and admire you in Cincinnati. We’d love to learn more about you.
Grace: I was born and raised in Massachusetts.  I earned my bachelor’s in psychology at Emmanuel College in Boston, a private liberal arts school, and my master’s in vocational rehabilitation counseling at Boston University.  I worked several years at Harvard Medical School as an assistant to the registrar before my marriage to Edmonde DeGregorio, whom I met when he was a law student in Boston.   He was from Cincinnati, where we moved after our wedding 39 years ago.  I worked for 10 years as manager of a social service program, helping people with disabilities become employed.  When our sons Anthony and Joe were born, I left to become a full-time mom.  As they were starting school, I was given the opportunity to write for Community Publications, Inc., and soon after was named editor of Hyde Park Living – I’m still there 20 years later!  Almost four years ago I also began a freelance position as publicity coordinator with Matinée Musicale, a nonprofit organization that hosts an annual recital series.

In my personal life, my main passion is doing things with my family.  We have a timeshare condo on Longboat Key, Florida, where we visit twice a year.  Edmonde is a model train enthusiast, and we go to his train club events and train shows.  We shared numerous activities with our sons as they were growing up (more on that later!) In 2014, Joe brought his wonderful wife Kristina into our family, and on June 15, 2016 our joy was magnified when their daughter Giuliana Lynne arrived.  I LOVE being a grandma!!!   I also love reading (bios/autobios and history are my favorite topics), crafts (knitting/crocheting and cross-stitching), watching sports and traveling.

Lisa: As editor of Hyde Park Living, you have shared so much wonderful news and stories. What do you enjoy most about your job and have there been any stories that have really touched you?
Grace: I always loved to write and once considered studying journalism.  So I guess it was meant to be!  As my sons were young at the time, I was delighted to have a job that allowed me to work from home and make my own schedule, and I loved the creativity it afforded me.  I still love those aspects of my job.  But what I love even more is meeting interesting, accomplished people who constantly teach me.  Their stories are memorable – and humbling:  a teenager who convinced businesses to participate in a shoe drive for a charity; a family that discovered their dad was a war hero when asked to accept a posthumous award on his behalf; a person who survived multiple bouts with cancer while still managing a thriving small business; senior adults who meet weekly to sew quilts for hospitals; very busy professionals who volunteer many hours visiting schools to mentor and encourage students.  These are just a few of countless stories we’ve told.

My favorite story?  I got a call one day from a woman who started our conversation with, “I don’t know if this is a story, but…,” prompting me to pay close attention.  She went on to tell me her inspiring personal odyssey discovering her heritage that took her several years and through several states, then all the way to Europe.  Her story, which started with her being plagued with gross misinformation and so many questions and apprehensions, ended with great joy as new relationships began and she gained a clearer sense of who she was and where she came from.  By far, this story received the most reaction from readers.  Stories like this enrich all our lives, and I’m so blessed to be able to help share them.

Lisa: You so often talk about your family.  Share some thoughts about them and their importance in your life.
Grace: In the 1980s Edmonde and I experienced three excruciating years of heartbreaking pregnancy losses:  two miscarriages and a full-term baby delivered stillborn.  We were told there was no connection between the losses and no medical reason pointing to why it was happening – the diagnosis was “bad luck.”  We also were told in situations like ours it was regrettably common that couples move apart.  But we remained totally solid in our commitment to each other and to becoming a family.  We joined a peer support group, Reach Out to Grieving Parents, which helped us onto the path of healing.  We applied for an adoption which, at the time, was a painstakingly slow process.  I got pregnant again.  On August 2, 1988 Anthony was born; Joe followed on April 12, 1990.  We got a call from the adoption agency when it was time for our home study, and we let them know we had become parents.  We became volunteers with Reach Out and continue 30 years later, doing all we can to help others onto their paths of healing.

We have never taken for granted our sons or our relationship with them.  It was our greatest pleasure to devote ourselves to them as they were growing up.  It annoyed us to hear other parents whine about getting no sleep at night because the baby cried – we remembered getting no sleep at night because of the silence after our baby died; or about having to drive the child to activities – we scheduled our lives around activities we once feared we’d never experience.  And, boy, did we experience!  As kids, our sons played sports and took piano lessons.  I was active in their schools and Edmonde arranged frequently to be at school events most dads sadly missed.  During their high school years, I was active in so many groups one day a teacher said to me, “Why don’t we set up a little room for you where you can take a nap while you’re here?!”  We were in the stands for the boys’ football games; lugged heavy instruments when Anthony was in the band; froze at Joe’s hockey games and at the stadium in Canton when he was a wide receiver on the football team that won State in 2007; attended numerous parent meetings and events.  In college years, we drove to Dayton for Anthony’s concerts (he majored in music) and for parties Joe and his friends threw during parent weekends (he majored in communication).  Every minute we spent with or for them, and every memory we made, we treasure.

Our sons are now adults, and our relationships with them remain close, warm and honest.  They both work hard at their jobs, have friends and personal interests.  Joe is married and is a wonderful husband and dad.  Anthony has dated a lovely young lady for two years.  Edmonde and I are so proud of them and what they are accomplishing.

Lisa: What is one of your greatest life lessons?
Grace: When our babies died, we learned to put things in perspective.  It’s so easy to get caught up with and react to everyday stresses that seem overwhelming.  You don’t know what overwhelming is until you are faced with something you are helpless to change, something you never dreamed could happen and becomes your worst nightmare, something that saps every ounce of emotion out of you and leaves you feeling totally vulnerable.  While we’re not perfect, we do find we are better able to weigh the relativity of life experiences – things that once might have bent us out of shape we find we can handle better.  Also, because of our experience, we find we’re more compassionate and tolerant of others.  You never know why someone is in a nasty mood – there may be something terrible they’re dealing with.  It’s easier to make allowances and be forgiving.

Lisa: What is something that people may be surprised to learn about you?
Grace: I used to study Middle Eastern (translation:  belly) dancing!  I started with a friend in Boston and continued for a few years with my sister-in-law when I moved here.  I now take Pilates, and my “muscle memory” from those dancing days has thankfully returned as Pilates requires a lot of core strength!

Lisa: What is something which you are looking forward to in 2017?
Grace: We are so excited to watch Giuliana grow.   Our plans are for the whole family to go to our condo in Florida this summer, and we can’t wait to introduce her to the beautiful Gulf water and the beach, maybe take her on a boat ride and just show her off to our friends at our resort!  Everything is new and exciting when you’re with a little one.

 

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