Marine Biology and Whale Watching with Shari Bookstaff

January 14, 2024 00:54:05
Marine Biology and Whale Watching with Shari Bookstaff
Disability Empowerment Now
Marine Biology and Whale Watching with Shari Bookstaff

Jan 14 2024 | 00:54:05

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Show Notes

S3 Ep 16: Shari Bookstaff had fulfilled her lifelong childhood dreams and was a tenured marine biology professor near San Francisco. She was thriving in her career and her personal life when sporadic dizzy spells and nausea led to a diagnosed benign brain tumor. Even though this was a large tumor that had to be removed immediately, it would be an “easy, routine surgery.” Then, the unthinkable happened. A 9-day hospital stay turned into 9 months of grueling rehabilitation. A stroke following the surgery took away Shari’s ability to breathe, eat, talk, hear and move. After several weeks in the […]
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Episode Transcript

Keith Murfee-DeConcini: Welcome to Disability Empowerment Now, Season 3. I'm your host, Keith Murfee-DeConcini. Today I'm talking to Cherry Bookstock, a biology professor and brain tumor survivor. Cherry, welcome to the show. Thank you, Keith. So tell us a bit about yourself and the impact of empathy. Shari Bookstaff: Impact of empathy. Well, as you said, I'm a biology professor. I'm actually a marine biology professor. As you can see, I have lots of whale and dolphin stuff around, around me. And then 17 years ago in 2006, I had just started getting dizzy and nauseous out of the blue. It took four months for doctors to take me seriously enough to send me for an MRI. And they found a tumor that hadn't been removed right away. They said that it would be an easy tumor to remove. They actually called it routine. But then something happened, probably a stroke after surgery, and I was not able to recover as quickly as I thought, and I've gotten, I've had lifelong disabilities to deal with since then. Impact of empathy came about when I wanted to make an impact on healthcare people, on healthcare workers and professionals, because some of them were not as giving of empathy as I felt they should have been given my situation. So what I did was I founded a non-profit, Lifetime of Impact, where I went, went, and I still operate that non-profit. I go to school. and go to classes of health care students and talk to them and share my story and, and give them practical tips for connecting to patients immediately. And then later I found an impact of empathy, a business to expand on that expression of empathy to, you know, healthcare professionals and everybody like leaders, leaders who should leave with empathy. Anybody who has and then you contact other humans to really be able to work in empathy into their daily interactions. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: So, I think you already answered this, but just to double back, how did you come up with the name impact of empathy, and could you explain it in more depth, if there is more depth to that title? Shari Bookstaff: There's not a whole lot of depth. I mean, I do, I love the word. I think that empathy is something that Everybody in our society needs to exhibit. And I think, and empathy can have a huge impact. When I first came up with a lifetime of impact, where that came from was in a moment of care, a healthcare professional can have a lifetime of impact. I'm telling stories now from medical professionals who, you know, 17 years ago, did something that positively influenced my life. And it's a forever kind of impact. So it really is a lifetime of impact. So where that came from was, you know, in a moment of genuine care, you can have a lifetime of positive impact. And that impact comes from expressing empathy. So the impact of empathy came naturally from lifetime impact. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: Again, just to double back, why did you choose medical professionals as the target of the program? Right. Shari Bookstaff: Well, the experiences that I had when I was, you know, a brain surgery patient, some of the nurses were really nice and kind, and some actually scolded me for pressing my button too much, or they didn't like it. Some of the doctors would come in and do really invasive, painful, you know, tests on me and then leave me in an uncomfortable position and not caring what I was going to be left with. And, you know, and I had a lot of that. Unempathetic treatment, and I had some, you know, really great treatment, but I thought that it was enough of an unempathetic treatment, and when I started talking to other people, other patients, and I'm sure you've experienced it too, that some medical professionals are just not very empathetic, and I thought that that was a really critical, you know, skill for them, for them to have, and to be able to express empathy, because patients, you know, are so vulnerable and so helpless and so much pain and, you know, and I came through this brain surgery, having a voice. And I felt like I had a voice. I've been a teacher for 30 years. I had a voice. I do not have a fear of speaking. And I really felt like I wanted to make an impact for other patients who don't have that voice. So I want, that's mainly what I wanted to do is make an impact. Not a community that I could serve. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: Very good. So let's transition to, you're not only a biology professor, you're a marine biology professor. I always loved to know What triggers for lack of a better word, people's passions, like, what is the genesis, what is the inception of it? When a person first encounters their passion, and when did they know it was their passion, and not just something, Oh, that looks interesting. And so, please talk about what really empowered you to pursue marine biology. Shari Bookstaff: That's actually a really good question, because I grew up in Wisconsin, and in case somebody doesn't know the geography of the United States, Wisconsin is pretty much landlocked in the middle of the country. And there's not. There is a lake there, but there's no ocean and there's certainly no whales. And that's what my passion was. So when I grew up, I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist from the time that I was seven years old. And what we did, my parents would take me to Chicago to an aquarium every year on my birthday. We'd go on vacations and I would be able to go to the beach, but I didn't grow up near an ocean. So I didn't grow up knowing what I wanted to do with marine biology. I just knew that I loved it. Whales and dolphins and wanted to learn more about them. So I, you know, grew up like that. My parents were very supportive. They, you know, had me learn how to scuba dive and let me go off scuba diving when we were on vacation. Which is tough to let your, you know, teenage daughter go on this boat with strangers. But they would let me do that. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: Wait, why is that tough for parents to rub their teeth? That's a joke. Shari Bookstaff: Oh yeah, yeah. I'm gonna have my daughter, well, I won't tell you when my daughter's done, but yeah. I usually tell her, tell me afterwards, after you're safe. But you know, they let me do that. And then they supported me when I came out to California for graduate school, I went to undergrad in Wisconsin, kind of got my basics in zoology and biology, and they came out here for graduate school, and they were supportive of me, you know, leaving home and going to the. Far away from graduate school to learn more about marine biology. And that's where I really, you know, learn more about whales and learn whale watching. And it's also where I discovered that I was seasick, that I got seasick. So I couldn't really, you know, be on a boat researching whales. I had to take seasick medicine. So it just brought up a lot of different challenges. And that, that led me to teaching. And I can teach about whales and dolphins and, and still experience it through whale watching. But with fake medicine. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: So, we talked over email quite a lot and you told me that when and after the brain tumor and stroke happened, you had to re-adjust and really reconfigure how you would teach and still pursue your passion. Right. Right. And when more about that project. Shari Bookstaff: That's great. You know, I was at the time of my brain surgery. I didn't have tenure at this school. So, you know, my job was kind of safe for me to be gone. I was gone for about a year and a half. And, you know, when I came back, I knew I wanted to come back to teaching. And I knew I wanted to come back to being a brain biologist. And that's another story. I'll tell you a little bit more about what really gave me hope that I was able to do that. When I came back, I had to learn how to navigate the campus with my different abilities. I came back and took a class at my school. It was an adaptive physical education class. And the instructor was very well versed in dealing with people with brain injuries. And he got me to walk again. And I really credit that class with getting me back to campus. And I was able to come back to campus and practice. My speech wasn't very good, the practice talking, students were very supportive, and I was able to come back and modify my teaching. I did a lot of online teaching because I did not have the energy to lecture three times a week. I still don't. So I still do a lot of online teaching before it was, you know, cool because of COVID. So, you know, I modified the way that I came back and the way that I teach, but stuck to my goals. And stuff and I stay true to myself and that was one of the mantras that I came up with when I was going through all of this. Don't be afraid to modify your goals, but always stay true to yourself. And I knew I wanted to continue teaching about whales and dolphins, but I had to modify the way that I did that. And that's really helped me come back to teaching and still be true to who I was. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: So, you emailed me, and I'm always interested in how people hear about this podcast, because unfortunately, and it shouldn't be, it's a niche. Market, the brand market. Yeah. If you look at pod and look at, uh, automobile cooking pod stating pod A to Z, you'll find hundreds of thousands. But if you put your disability into the Right search category. More often than not, you get a very medicalized health care view of disability, and then when you go deeper, you only find, comparatively speaking, a very small percentage of disability related centric podcasts. So how did you find disability empowerment? Shari Bookstaff: I actually signed up for this matching service called Podcast TV. And in this you can search for podcasts and you can, you know, pitch the host as I did to you with your story and see if they connect. with you. So I found you through podcast TV and I don't know if that was something that you signed up for or that they actually look for, for podcasts, but I did a search for disability or disability awareness and found you. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: That I will have to check that out because right now I don't remember signing up for that. Maybe someone in my team did. I don't know. I'm just grateful you found me and we started talking. Me too. And do you miss not being able to be on a boat? To be researching water. Right. Yeah, be good. Win. When most people think of marine biologists, outside of teaching, they think you're on a ship or in a research station somewhere researching and underwater somehow. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: Right, right, right, right. So, and obviously you're not. Do you miss that opportunity or did the direction That led you to become a teacher really fulfill you in a way that you didn't expect, but are grateful for. Shari Bookstaff: Definitely. I mean, since I got seasick, I was not ever able to really do research on a boat, but I did have some short term experiences that really got me in tune with that marine biology side. Plus, I always knew that I wanted a family too. So I didn't want to be, you know, at the Galapagos Islands for months at a time. I wanted to be, I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to be with my kids. So, fishing is really the best of both worlds, because I still do go on a boat, just not regularly, not as part of my job, more as a vacation, almost. And I went to Alaska last summer, and had an amazing experience, whale watching, where the whales came right next to the boat, and it was, you know, I wouldn't trade that experience for anything, that was an amazing experience. But that's the kind of experience that I have, I just don't have it every, all the time as much as a researcher would have. You know, it has to be part of me, make it part of my life in other ways. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: So, what do you read to keep up with the research and data in your film? And as a teacher, what do you employ in teaching about marine biology? Shari Bookstaff: Good question. I do actually look up articles. But the way that I find out about the articles I know doesn't sound very scientific, but a lot of it's on Facebook because a lot of the top researchers that I know of that I'm, you know, seen at conferences and I'm friends with post their new stuff on Facebook. So when I see an article that they imagine that posted, they posted an article, a link to our article. I'll go read the article. You get the article before it's ever published, and so you get brand new research that way so that way I keep in touch with. Plus I there's actually a website called happywhale.com, and I know that name doesn't sound very scientific, but happy whale.com is where every researcher goes to find out where the whales are. 'cause what that, what that website does is they regular people, anybody who's out whale watching, take a picture of a whale's tail, upload it to this website, and then the website uses. Algorithms and facial identity and identify that whale. So you can track exactly where the whale is going throughout the world and researchers use that. So every whale that I've ever posted, I actually get updates on when they're sighted again. So that's a great way to just keep in touch with, you know, specific whales that I've seen. Like these whales that I saw in Alaska. I could find out exactly where they go in the winter because I'll get updates. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: So we may have already touched on this, but there's a lot of marine life out there. Dolphins are the first to come to mind. Sharks are second most common. What was it about whales that drew you to that? Pacific speed seeds of marine life? Shari Bookstaff: Interesting question. I'm really thinking back. I mean, it was dolphins at first. At first, it was actually fish. What I liked about fish was that they were so free and they were doing something that I couldn't do. And that's probably where dolphins, and dolphins are just, since they do have to come to the surface, they're more visible. But then they go away. So it's a little bit of a mystery to them. Like whales, and whales too, you only see a little bit of their body. So you're left to kind of imagine what they're doing underneath the water. And I think the curiosity of that, you know, when I look out at the ocean now, even if I don't see anything on the surface, I just know that there's so much going on underneath. And it's the mystery of the, of what's underneath. I think that drew me to this field early. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: That's a very detailed answer and it's not shocking that you started observing fetch and then dolphins and the point you made about the mystery of everything going underneath and wanting to know more about that is for your time. I'm gonna go this way. Bye. I think it's very relatable because humans Like to know. We'd like to know. Curious. We're, we're extremely curious creatures, very social as well, so could, would you mind talking about, about the aftermath of the brain tumor and re emerging, I mean, you talked about it a little with your teaching and that's important, uh, and one of the main focuses, but brain tumor a stroke of any kind, a brain injury, they're no joke, and it takes a lot out of a person, particularly a person to survive that and re emerge in a different way. Right. If you don't mind, would you share some of that journey? Shari Bookstaff: Absolutely. First of all, you should know that I was in the hospital and rehab centers for almost nine months. So this is a long time in the hospital. but one story that I have to tell you about is that one of my speech therapists, because I could barely speak. I mean, for a long time, I couldn't swallow, I couldn't eat, I couldn't move. And one of my speech therapists to work on speech, she would come into my room and instead of having me read words on a card, like random words or random paragraphs, she would have me recite the names of the whales on a poster that I had in my room. So she would point to a whale, and I would say, you know, gray whale, humpback whale, blue whale. And then she would point to the whale again and make me say the scientific names of those whales, the baleen optimus glass. Well, you don't know if I'm saying them right, and she didn't know if Keith Murfee-DeConcini: I'm saying them right. No, but just to interrupt, don't they roll off the tip of your tongue? Shari Bookstaff: Oh yeah, they're easy. But that obviously got my, you know, my speech muscles working. And it, but it did more than just that's what I was talking about when it gave me hope that I would get back to being a marine biologist. You know, that made me remember that I remembered all these whales. I remember their scientific names. I mean, who does that? You know, a whale heard like me. But, you know, I remembered these things. So I was in touch with the marine biology side of myself. And I knew that I would be able to get back to that. At some point. So as I was going through my recovery, you know, getting, being able to walk again, and I started off with just a walker, and then I switched to a cane, then nothing. But going back, I went to a wheel watching boat. Was one of the hardest things that I have that I ever did my first time on a whale watching boat, you know I can barely walk without falling and then you're walking down a dock and the dock is moving a little bit picture a kid coming up behind you and jumping on the docks the dock moves even more and then you gotta step on the boat just getting onto this boat was really really hard and then once you're on the boat and the boat is moving I couldn't run around the boat I couldn't move around the boat at all when I was moving, but I could still bring my big camera. I could sit in one spot and take pictures. And that's what I did. So again, I modified my goals for what I was going to do when I was on the boat, but I stayed true to myself. I love taking pictures of whales and dolphins. Not the best, but I love doing it. So I, you know, still did it. And I still got on that boat and was able to go whale watching. And that, that's, that's really how I got back to my marine biology side, is still going out on the water. And, here in Pacifica, where I live near San Francisco, we've been able to see whales from shore. Almost every year since 2015 we've been able to see whales from shore. So I'll go out and watch whales from, from shore. Just go to the beach a lot and watch the sunset. You know, they just have some connection to my marine biology side. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: Talk more about that, because I've never seen a whale up close just observing them from the beach or not on a boat. How, what is it like observing such an animal? I mean it’s awesome. Shari Bookstaff: You know, first of all, if they're farther away, all they really see is the blow. Which is them exhaling. They're not blowing water, they're exhaling. So all you really see is their exhale which in some of these whales can go up to 50 feet or more. So it's, I've seen them from, you know, from miles and miles away. So, you know, you're just seeing people who've never seen a whale, I see them, you know, really in awe even if that's all they're seeing. The whales that have been coming to Pacifica are here feeding. You literally see them lunge for the surface with their mouth open and then their mouth closed. And you can see little fish jumping out of their mouths. So if they're close enough, which they've been coming closer to shore, you can see body parts. And you can see part of their, part of their jaw. You can definitely see part of their back when they're swimming. You can see their tails when they're diving. So you can see the part of their body and just, um, the knowledge that you're looking at a, you know, 50 foot, 50 ton animal is, and it's eating tiny little fish is just, it's just amazing to think about and to, to realize that, but even if you're not that close to them, getting close to them is a whole different story, but, you know, when you get real close, you can smell their breath, which is kind of fishy, but, but it's great if you're sneezed on by a whale that's amazing. But even seeing them from a little bit further away is just an awesome experience from people. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: So tell me more about how people have reacted to the mention of the impact of empathy. Shari Bookstaff: A lot of po I mean, when I say that, you know, everybody needs, needs to exhibit empathy in any situation. Everybody agrees with that, and I think that. The point with healthcare professionals, I do believe that they have empathy in their heart, because I'm going to assume that they wouldn't be going into this profession if they didn't have empathy, and it's expressing it. It gets tough if they're having a tough day or they have limited time with people. So my workshops are more about how to express empathy rather than how to have empathy because I'm assuming they have it. And my idea too is that expressing it doesn't need to be that difficult. It doesn't need to be complicated and it doesn't need to take a lot of time. It's very simple. It's a smile. It's a hand on the shoulder. It's a, you know, I'm looking with eye contact and listening with eye contact You It's really simple, it's just commenting on somebody's posture in their room, instead of just saying, Hi, can I have your arm for blood? You know, it can be a very simple thing. Like, anything that can positively impact somebody else, I'll call empathy. It's gotten very positive, very positive feedback from my workshops. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: What do you wish that able bodied people knew? In general about disability and people with disabilities. Shari Bookstaff: I would say the first thing is that people with a disability are still able to understand you and you can talk directly to them. I've, and I'm sure you've had too, so many people that talk to the person that you're with and not to you. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: Oh, yeah, yeah. Shari Bookstaff: Right. So I think acknowledging that, acknowledging that you're a person. That you can make eye contact with that person and talk to that person is one of the most, you know, the great, greatest myths of people with disabilities is that you can't, especially if you don't have a smooth speech pattern, that you can't understand them. And that's, you know, the biggest myth is just to be talked to like a person. I had a service dog for several years. He's still around. He's just retired. But he's, when I would bring my service dog with me, people, including healthcare professionals, would talk to the dog and not to me. They would ask the dog if they can pet him or if he's working. And I'm like, and he's like, oh no, I'm not working. You can pet me. You know, he's a dog. They wouldn't talk to me. They would talk to the dog. Another just example of people not acknowledging that you're a human. If you have a disability, and that's the main thing, you still acknowledge that you're a human. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: Hold on, before you go on, I was dumbfounded by that answer. Shari Bookstaff: I can tell by your response. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: Yeah, let's, we've now decoded the canine language into English. Shari Bookstaff: Keith Murfee-DeConcini: Somehow, I can’t form the sentence. What did people think that the dog would actually say that would be comprehensible to them? Shari Bookstaff: I know that really, that, you know, befuddled my mind too. I don't know what people were thinking because it was distracting to them. If I'm trying to like, you know, check out at the grocery store. And I'm holding him, and somebody's saying, talking to him, he's getting distracted, and then I'm distracted from what I'm doing, because I have to, you know, correct his behavior, because he's not supposed to react, if somebody's talking to him, but he's a dog. Of course he's going to react. So, it was, it was, it was very frustrating. And, you know, I would tell people, that's like taking somebody's wheelchair away from them, or taking their walker. Would you walk up to somebody and take their walker away from them? Their cane, or their wheelchair. No. And that's what a service dog, I mean, that's what a service dog, that's what their role is. Their role is as one of your tools that you're using to aid your disability. So why would they take that away from you, by distracting them? And he was happy, that was, that was the comment I got too, that he, that I'm like abusing him, making him work. And dogs, you know, like to work and he was like the happiest service dog. He just, you know, when we're out in public, he's a service dog. And he still is so happy. He loves me. So happy to be with me and help me. And there is no way that this is abusive at all. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: Let's go back to that comment. Because, what would you like to hear that I'm assuming time and time and time again? And then, what do you say to answer that question that is so ridiculous, it defies comprehension. First, they talk to the dog, like the dog can actually understand them and give a response that they can understand. Right, right. And then they turn to you and tell you that you must be abusing the dog, making him walk, because otherwise he's the happiest dog on the planet. I'm really interested in how a person would handle those situations. Shari Bookstaff: It's a tough one, and usually when somebody says something negative like that to you, they say it, and then they run away. You don't have a chance to respond. If they would talk to the dog, I would say, you can talk to me. But again, you know, if I wasn't talking clearly, or talking as quickly as they were, They wouldn't listen to me. It was frustrating. And you just have to kind of shake it off, go write a blog about it, and you know, get your frustrations out in writing. And you can't answer them. Although I have waited for somebody. Somebody once honked at me when I was crossing a parking lot with my dog, because I was walking too slow. And I waited for this person to go park the car. And came up and then I yelled it. So that felt good. You can, once in a while, you can get your, get your, say your piece. But usually, they're gone, and they're faster than me, so they're gone. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: So, beyond those two questions, which still defy comprehension, Anne, what are some other things that you wear that able-bodied people would know and appreciate about a person with a disability. Shari Bookstaff: I mean, I would say understanding that the disability doesn't define you. It's not who you are. It's just one thing about you. And I, you know, after this discussion about whales, you obviously get that that's not. You know, having a disability is not the primary focus of my life. And that's the thing. It's not the primary focus of my life. I take a CrossFit class on Zoom, run, you know, for the disability community. But still, I'm able to go and, and do, do other things and work out. And I think that's what the big another myth is. Also, you know, that I'm not drunk. People think I'm sad. And assume that I'm drunk because of the way that I'm walking. So, you know, having a little bit of just opening your mind a little bit, that somebody with a disability is more than just somebody with a disability. They're also a person. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: I'm sorry, I'm getting animated because I have experienced that exact same thing, except not really. Regarding my walk, but the speech, people often think I'm either drunk or on drugs, or something totally different, and the, the drunk thing, it doesn't help that I'm half Irish. And so, the assumptions people, Me. I mean, some are well meaning, not the ones we're discussing, of course, but you can't paint them all with a broad stroke, but you also shouldn't paint them with a thin stroke, too. Where'd you go from here? Because you said that in You're right. Most of this episode has been about your passion, which is both biology and teaching and combining that with advocating for fostering more empathy towards other humans. What do you do in your free time? You mentioned joining CrossFit. Shari Bookstaff: I do CrossFit one, you know, one hour a day. I really like watching football and basketball, so I watch a lot of like the 49 ERs and the Golden State Warriors. Those are my two teams around here. So I watch a lot of sports and hang out with my family, hang out with my kids. I do hang out with my kids. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: If you don't mind me asking. What's your family like, and I'm sure they were nothing but supportive during the brain tumor and surgery that accompanied it, but how did your friends and family, those that know you the best, react? to the change and how did they help you re emerge into the person you are today? Shari Bookstaff: I mean, it was huge, because first of all, my family, you know, I'm from Wisconsin, my family lives all over the country. So they came in, my sister from San Diego came up a lot when I was in the hospital and, you know, talked to my doctors and really took care of things for me. But, and friends, I mean, I was gone from my house. I was a single mom and all of a sudden left my house. My kids had to go live with their dad. My dogs were here alone. My friends really stepped up and took care of my house and took care of my dogs and took care of my kids. They got my house ready for me before I came home, and installed more safety bars. And at one point there was some sort of a leak. In my like a pipe broke into my backyard. I don't even know the details about it because they took care of it. So they really took care of things while I was gone. And then, you know, coming back, and this is what I would tell anybody who has a disability, or who needs help, don't be afraid to ask for it. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. We all do things for other people. And it's not, it's not a shameful thing to want, need help. And that's a really, really hard thing for most people who are independent who suddenly have a disability. That they suddenly need help with things that they didn't need help with before. And don't be afraid to ask for specific things. And also if somebody offers help, don't be afraid to say yes, please, do that. On the other hand, if you have a friend going through this tough time, offer Specific things. Don't say, call me if you need anything, because they're not going to call you. You know, instead say, I'm going to the grocery store. Do you want to go with and pick some things up? Or do you want me to pick some things up for you? You know, offer something specific. That's harder to say, oh no, I'm okay. Because they're not okay. They need help. So that's another thing that everybody can do. Anybody who's, you know, needing the help, don't be afraid to ask for it. Anybody who's got a friend who needs help. Don't be afraid to offer it for specific reasons. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: So, if there are any inspiring advocates or marine biologists or inspiring teachers wanting to explore their fields more deeply. What would be some advice you would give them as they're just branching out into their respective fields? Shari Bookstaff: One thing that I say is get experience in that field. You know, if you're going to want to be a marine biologist of some sort, it's a tough field to find a job in. But you want to go volunteer for things and see, see what you like. Now go volunteer at a marine mammal rehab hospital. Go volunteer to work on somebody's research project. They all want to volunteer. So, you know, volunteer for things that will tell you whether you like it. And, you know, the person that you're volunteering for, you can look at them and see how they got there. You can use them as a role. Find somebody who's got the job that you want when you grow up. And see how they got there. So look at different people's stories of how they got there and volunteering. With any, any field you want to go into, volunteer. It's going to help you get the experience that you need to get into that field. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: So I'd like to thank that both people with disabilities and those who have yet to discover and embrace their own disabilities, listen to this podcast. It would be naïve to think that both groups take exactly the same things away from every episode I do with my Gads. So as my Gads. What do you hope that people with disabilities take away from everything we've talked about in this episode? What do you hope that and what Sorry about that tech issue. And what do you hope that people who have yet to discover and embrace their own disabilities take away from this episode? Shari Bookstaff: I would say You need to have hope that you can, can stay true to yourself. And the four mantras that I live by, which are also, you can see them on my website impact feelings. net and those are just ways of getting through those tough times and realize that it's okay to have tough times. It's okay to be sad, even depressed, but you don't want to stay there. You want to use the mantras and use whatever tools you have to bring yourself out of it. And realize that you do have, you have a life outside of your disability. And that's, I think, the most important thing. You don't have to be, you are not your disability. You have a disability is one part of you, but it doesn't need to define you. You can be interested in other things. Whether it's, you know, sports, whales, dolphins, um, whatever it is, art. Photography, whatever you love, you can still love after you have a disability. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: What if someone is very adamant that their disability does define them? Right. And that they aren't, that that doesn't bother them. Because there are people who do have a disability. That connection to their disability identity. What do you hope that they take away from this episode? Shari Bookstaff: I think that a lot of people who see themselves as defined by their disability, a lot of the people that I've met, Like that are also trying to educate others about their disability, and they're talking about their disability. So in reality, they're not defined by their disability. They're helping others. That's part of what's defining them. So I think there's always something that you can latch onto. You know, if your disability is what defines you, and there's any way that you can give back to a community of people that have your disability, that's another thing that you're doing that's not part of your disability. Keith Murfee-DeConcini: So what do you hope that people who have yet to discover or embrace their own disabilities take away from everything that we've talked about in this episode? Shari Bookstaff: Right. It's tough, it's a really tough transition. And I will say that I wrote a book about my whole story called When Life Throws You Lemons, Make Cranberries Juice. So if you'd like to You know, see what I was feeling at that time because it was, I had some really dark, dark times and dark days. And I think that it's really important to acknowledge that the really tough transition. But here I am 17 years later, a little bit more, a little bit more comfortable in who I, in who I am and, you know, that part of myself, but that's a really tough transition. I think that acknowledging that. You want to go through that tough time, not swinging it under the rug, but acknowledging that, but also acknowledging that there are moments of levity, even when you're going through that tough time, you can still watch, you know, an old episode of Seinfeld and laugh, and that's something that's not part of your disability. So I think finding any, any break from it. While you're going through this transition, any break from what you're going through will later help you deal with what you're going through. You have to deal with it. It's going to be tough. Breaking it up into sections is going to make it a little bit, a little bit more Keith Murfee-DeConcini: It's going to be tough. Breaking it up into sections is going to make it a little bit, a little bit more manageable. Well, Sherry, I have enjoyed this interview immensely. I feel very honored to know you, and I hope you'll come back and talk to me again. You're well. I'd love to. Journey and your theological on living with a disability and adapting to it and not allowing it in your words to define you have it be important part of your journey. Ju the same, right? Thank you. Did I get that correct? Shari Bookstaff: Yes, and you've actually made me think a lot, because these are questions that I've never been asked before. So it really made me think a lot, and I realized as I talk about it, that it is true. That I don't, I'm not defined by my disability. Nobody would, and then nobody who knows me would say, Oh, that's Sherry, she, well people who don't, didn't know me before might say, She's a brain tumor person. But most people would say, she's a 49er fan, who likes whales. You know, so that, it doesn't define me, and that's one thing that I'm really realizing as I get more comfortable with who I am. Well, Keith Murfee-DeConcini: I very much appreciate this chance to interview you, and I look forward to seeing you again soon. Shari Bookstaff: Thank you very much, I appreciate it Keith. Take care. Take care. Keith: You have been listening to Disability Empowerment Now. I would like to thank my guest, You, our listener and the Disability Empowerment Team that made this episode possible. More information about the podcast can be found at DisabilityEmpowermentNow.com or on social media @disabilityempowermentnow. The podcast is available wherever you listen to podcasts or on the official website. Don’t forget to rate, comment, and share the podcast! This episode of Disability Empowerment Now is copyrighted 2023.

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