S2 Episode 19 with Kat & Heath

April 23, 2023 01:02:56
S2 Episode 19 with Kat & Heath
Disability Empowerment Now
S2 Episode 19 with Kat & Heath

Apr 23 2023 | 01:02:56

/

Show Notes

Kat Stratford and Heath Butrum are two sickeningly cute political activists who have made careers out of trying to create a better world through politics. Kat, who is Deaf but uses hearing aids, is a former candidate for state house and currently works for the City of Tucson in addressing the emergency of houselessness and […]

Disability Empowerment Now is produced by Pascal Albright

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Keith: Welcome to Disability Empowerment Now it's Season two. I'm your host Keith Murfee-DeConcini and I have the pleasure to welcome back to the podcast, my good friend Kat Stratford and her partner Heath Butrum. Kat: Hello! Heath: Hello! Keith: Did I pronounce that right? Heath: Perfect, perfect. Keith: Good, good. So Heath, I've known you in passing, ten to fifteen years yet we never go out for coffee or a drink, that is the one joke. And had I met you when you cold called me you were running a campaign at the time. I later found out we were already friends on social media, but didn't know it. Tell me how you two met. Kat: So this is actually a subject of debate, but I'm right. Keith: Ooh. Intriguing. Tell us more please. Kat: So in 2018, I was just starting to kind of move around in politics. I was working as a waitress but I had really wanted to be involved in the midterms. So a friend of mine and I organized a Ride to the Polls event and for the most part, like if you've ever worked in politics, then you know, most people don't actually need rides to the polls. There are lots of services that do that, but we got two limos and a double decker bus and we thought that it would be a really cool way to give young people a way to Instagram their vote and hopefully get more young people to participate that way. If there's an opportunity for a selfie, you know. So I reached out to the republican party and the Pima Democratic Party and the republican party never called me back. I really wanted to have bipartisan stuff at the event so that it didn't look like I was only fighting for the democrats but unfortunately since the republican party never called me back, I wasn't able to present anything for their candidates. But fortunately somebody from the democratic party did call me back and his name was Heath Butrum, and he was apparently the executive director for the party. Keith: Apparently, okay. Kat: Yeah. So I talked to him and he invited me to go to the party headquarters and just, you know, get all the swag and flyers that I needed. So I did, and the event was a hit. We were on the news and everything like that. It was really cool. And afterwards we decided to go to the official Pima County Democratic Voting Party, to watch the results. And somebody asked me at that event, oh, hey, did you wanna meet Heath Butrum? And I was like, oh yeah, I gotta thank him, and so they walked me over to him and I have to tell you like, he's the executive director of the county party. His name is Heath Butrum. He's clearly a million years old. This is an 80 year old farmer, right? Who's naming their kid, Heath Butrum. So they walk me over to where he is and he's like, got his back to me and then he turns around and I'm like, holy handsome. I was definitely looking directly up because I am four foot 11 and he is six foot five. Small height difference. Keith: Wait, say that height difference again. Kat: I'm four foot eleven and he is six five. So he is literally a whole foot and a half taller than me. Heath: Yeah her chair right now is at its absolute fullest height and I'm on the short chair. Keith: As you should be, if life were fair Heath, if only life were fair. So did you really say holy handsome. Kat: No, it was actually my internal narrator voiced by Morgan Freeman. Keith: Of course, so continue. Kat: Well, so we didn't actually necessarily hit it off, like he was just a handsome guy I met at this thing and life went on. But by the next year in 2019, we actually started working together. I had seen him socially at a couple events. We went to karaoke as a part of a big group once but I didn't really know him very well. We didn't like hanging out or anything but then I was working on a Healthcare Rising initiative and got assigned to his team, so he was my boss. It's not problematic at all. Keith: No. No, of course not. Please continue. Kat: So he actually would go on to be my boss at three different campaigns, including the Joe Biden campaign in 2020 and again, nothing happened. It was completely professional. I actually thought that you didn't like me. I kind of felt like he thought I was like an annoying little sister type. He definitely seemed annoyed with me. He still does. Heath: I thought by the second time I hired you back, you'd figure out I wasn't annoyed by you. Kat: No, I did not. I thought somebody else was in charge of that decision and you just kept getting stuck. Heath: It was me. Kat: But so like five months, so 2020 happens, we win the election, Harrah, and then five months later, Heath finally starts texting me, saying, oh, we're getting together as a group. It should be fun. I'm really looking forward to seeing you. And he sent that message like a couple times. Like he reiterated that he was really looking forward to seeing me. Heath: I got game. Kat: I was like, is this guy trying to ask me out in like the most roundabout way? So finally. Heath: I am from the Midwest. Kat: I don't care! I'm from the Midwest! Heath: There's a lot of passive aggression and you know, like you gotta ask multiple times. Kat: So finally I'm like, I'm just fed up. And I'm like, do you wanna grab a drink tomorrow? And he did want to grab a drink and the rest is history. Heath: The part she forgets in this story is that by 2018 we'd known each other for two years. Kat: No, we had not. You're such a, he's completely full of it. Keith: Well, as I said at the top Heath you and I have known each other for a decade or longer, you have never sent a roundabout text on anything. Heath: That’s fair. Keith: So, Kat I think you are really the one in this situation who’s got game. Heath: Although it's fair that you didn't know, we'd known each other for two years. This weekend we were at an event and came up and just said hi to someone I've known for several years, and they said, what's your name again? And I reminded them about seven, eight times that we'd hung out together. So you're not the only one. Kat: You're just, you have like one of those really forgettable faces. Heath: Fair. Keith: And the jokes keep writing themselves ladies and gentlemen. So you two just celebrated your two year anniversary. Congratulations. Kat: Thank you. Heath: Thank you. Ketih: How has dating in the pandemic been? Has it been different? Has it been the same? Better or worse? Kat: So we technically got together in March of 2021. Our anniversary is March 21, 2021 and so that was like, just as things were like starting to open back up. So like our first few dates we were like slowly, sorry. Heath: We are dealing with family stuff at the same time. Kat: My kid just came out and like held up her phone and said, can I microwave some milk? She's making hot cocoa so. So when we first started going out, like our first date was actually like us walking from different spots downtown and talking. So like things had just started to open up. My child is trying to dance now. It's bad. It's not good. Keith: So guys, you have kids? My dog just came in. Well, okay. There's definitely a party on both sides of the computer screen, hold on. So we are back, so Kat I was about to ask you about your children. Heath: Yes. I have two awful children. Just kidding. I have two, sorry. I have two amazing kids. This is one of them. That's Tori bear. That is her official legal name is Tori bear. She loves to be called that. It's only Tori. So I have two kids. I have a son and a daughter, they are 12 and 13. So yeah, they're currently in middle school, but my son, believe it or not, is starting high school next year. Keith: Wow they grow up so fast, don't they? Kat: It's fast and then at the same time, excruciatingly slow. Keith: Unlike Heath who never grows down. Kat: Yeah. What's up with that? You're totally tall. Keith: The jokes keep writing themselves ladies and gentlemen. Heath I lied at the beginning by the way. So who wanted to become exclusive and when did you know? Kat: Who wanted to become what? Heath: Exclusive. Keith: Yeah. Kat: Oh gosh. I don't know. I don't even know. Heath: Like, it just kind of happened very, like immediately. We just kinda. Kat: Yeah. No, our first date was like, honestly, it's like one of my favorite memories of my entire life. Keith: Wow. That is very high placed. Kat: I know he's gonna have an even bigger head after this. Heath: For someone you didn't realize, you've known for several years. Kat: Nobody. Seen and not heard. We talked about this. But actually like we, by the third date, we were already saying, I love you. It moved so, so fast. I think a lot of our friends and family were watching us going like, this is awfully quick. Like, you guys might wanna slow down a little bit. Keith: Really, really? People actually thought that? Did anyone say that to either of you? Kat: Yes. Your mom actually. Heath: Just being a mom. Kat: Yeah. When I met his mom, Holly, who is just an amazing, wonderful, wonderful person. When I met her for the first time, she did express that she thought we were moving a little quick, and she didn't see it critically or anything, she just said that she was worried. It was still really great. I saw her again over the holidays, or we saw her again over the holidays. We were able to bring one of the kids with us for Christmas in South Dakota on his family farm, and it was just an absolute blast. Heath: Buried in snow. Kat: Yeah. Buried in snow. Keith: So. I am looking at my notes for a second, deciding which way to go since we're having so much fun. I'm temporarily speechless. So Kat, you recently been diagnosed with an ear disease? Kat: Yeah, it's Meniere's disease. I actually got diagnosed in 2020. It's a rare disease that affects the inner ear and in the majority of people it only affects one side. Only about 10% of folks have it in both sides, but I get to be part of that lucky club. I actually, like we first noticed it in 2020 when I was working on the Biden, Harris campaign. I'd been having these dizzy spells and we knew something was wrong but then I came to work one day and I couldn't hear him. I could not hear his voice at all, which resulted in some really funny stories because, you know, it's 2020, we're all masked up. It's the height of the pandemic. There's no vaccine in sight. So everyone's masked, face shields, and I can't hear anything, particularly his voice, like women's voices I could still hear, but men's voices were just gone. So at one point I was marking with painters tape the six feet, you know, so the people standing in line would be six feet apart, and apparently Heath needed me to go to Target to get some kind of supplies and I couldn't hear him. Heath: This is one of our big events. There were like, you know, maybe a hundred people there. Kat: Yeah, yeah. We had Mark Kelly coming down to the office, so we needed everything to be perfect. So he was telling me that I needed to go to Target, but of course I couldn't hear him. Nowadays, I just ignore him, but I couldn't hear, I couldn't hear him. And so at one point he had to shout, “Kat, you have to go to Target.” And so like the volunteers who are in the office, like kind of just watching like, this guy's a dick. Heath: They were alarmed, yes. Keith: So you knew about this disease of the inner ear in 2020. Did it come up as a topic in the early part of your relationship or was it just something that was just, we don't have to deal with this, or, I don't have to deal with this right now, so I'm going to not worry about it. Kat: Yeah, it definitely, I mean, it was definitely a subject of conversation. By the time that Heath and I started dating, my Meniere's had basically gone into remission. So I had, I believe it was my left ear that was the bad one at that point, and it was just like a little bit fuzzy in that ear, but for the most part, I could have normal conversations and you really could not tell that I had any hearing loss yet. But then a few months later in the summer, like late summer of 2021, it came back with a fury and, you know, from there, like my hearing really just went really far downhill. Almost immediately, within like a matter of months I was mostly deaf and then in 2022, in like January, I wanna say I wound up getting hearing aids for the first time. So that's what I use now and without hearing aids, I am really, really deaf. Even things like alarms, like fire alarms or security alarms aren't super audible to me anymore. So, which is, you know, it sounds sad, but like on the other hand, I have no idea if my partner snores. Heath: I can be as loud as I want in the morning. It's not an issue. Keith: Yeah. So how was it Kat adapting to your new way of life, for lack of a better term, how did you cope with your changing circumstances? Kat: I think that's like, that's something that's ongoing because you know, my hearing, my hearing loss journey is still like an active thing, you know? I don't know what tomorrow is gonna look like necessarily and it's definitely something that I have mourned and something that I still experience sadness about. I've always been very into music. I did mention we are karaoke kings and queens and you know, it was really hard because in 2020, Taylor Swift released three albums and I can't hear any of them so. Just stuff like that was really, like, that's, I say that as a joke, but it is actually really hard to like, to have this big part of your life suddenly be gone. And then of course I think there's the big struggle that every disabled person has, which is, shoot, what am I gonna do for work? How am I gonna work? Like, what does this mean for my future financially? And fortunately I have been very, very lucky and, you know, very tenacious about making sure that I am still staying active in the workplace and, you know, on top of it. I have a pretty solid partner and these two incredible kiddos who are all learning sign language and all helping out. We actually, we just went to the store, me and my kids, I picked them up from school. We stopped by the store to grab a couple things for dinner, and when we got to the cashier, they wasted no time. They were like, “hey, just so you know, my mom is deaf but I can help translate if you need anything.” And they just, they walked us through that process and it was just so great. Heath: And I have to say, thinking back to when we were dating early on, cause you know, this is when the pandemic was just starting to ease up and every waiter in a restaurant would have an N95 mask. So they'd come and talk about the specials and I realized very quickly how bad my short-term memory is because normally I'd listen to the specials and then, and then I'd look at her and, you know, carefully say them and she'd read my lips, but I could not remember any of the specials. So it always ended up being like, something with beef, maybe a soup. I don't remember. It was 30 seconds ago. Keith: So how did you two adapt the relationship, you two are obviously very very committed to each other. One just has to see your social media photos or look at your beyond adorable tik tok videos that still melt my heart to see how deeply committed you are, still are. How did the dynamic, particularly in the early process of getting the diagnosis and seeing it evolve, change, challenge, enhance your relationship because I literally have no idea. Kat: Honestly like, you know, like on one of our first dates he actually translated like the specials for me. Like he was saying, his memory was not that great. So it was, you know, kind of half-assed but like, you know, I just loved how considerate he was in translating for me when in these spaces where I couldn't hear and then of course we moved in together, you know, just after a few months of dating. Keith: Wait, wait, hold on. Wait, don't tell me a joke. You moved in together a few months after dating, who suggested that? Heath: I think it just kind of happened. Yeah. We realized we were spending all of our time together again. Keith: Again, it just kind of happened with you two. Wow okay, go on. Kat: Like, cause he and I started dating in spring of ‘21, and, you know, my kids spend a lot of their summer break at their dad's house. He lives a couple towns away. So they spent most of their summer break over there and so during that time, I basically just lived at Heath’s house and by the time the kids came back to start school, I was like, well, I don't wanna leave and turns out neither did they. So, you know, it just kind of worked out perfectly. We also knew that I might run for office in the next year, and that is an incredibly expensive and demanding thing to do, so having one rent to pay instead of two just made sense. Keith: So, Kat when you finally found out Heath’s actual age, he is certainly not an 80 year old man. What was your reaction? Kat: Honestly, I just had a massive crush. I actually, I remember asking, because I went to a board game night that a mutual friend of ours was having, and he was there and I can't remember who it was that I was talking to after the board game night, but I was trying to subtly get information about Heath. It was very, I'm sure it was, Heath: I did not know this. Kat: It was a masterclass in subtlety. I'm sure. Nobody could have ever predicted. It was kind of funny because they told me, oh yeah, he's super wealthy because he has a cattle farm in South Dakota. Heath: I don’t know where that started. I'd love to know! Kat: So I'm like, oh shit, shoot. Sorry, not shit. I was like, oh my gosh, he's super handsome and super rich. Score. Heath: Yeah. Then we moved in together and she saw my credit score. Keith: So, back to the topic. For you Heath, how was it absorbing the news of your partner's condition and as a partner, watching her go through that adaptation which couldn't have been always easy? Heath: Yeah, I think like Kat mentioned, by the time we started dating, I already knew of her Meniere's diagnosis. I already knew that likely in the future it was going to come back and be an issue again. The first few months we dated, like you said, it was in remission and then it kind of came back with a fiery passion later on and I think really just kind of. I was reminding myself, looking forward that there are going to be these challenges, just like any relationship, trying my best to meet it with grace and she meets me with grace when I'm not necessarily the best supportive partner I was striving to be, but realizing that there are challenges there. I think one thing that's really been important in the last few months actually is that Kat takes some time for herself to just turn the hearing aids off, not have to accommodate everybody else, not have to accommodate everyone around her, and just kind of be wholly herself. And I think that also reminds me that that's an important part of self-care, not just for someone with that particular challenge, but for myself also similarly, taking that model and making time for myself to, you know, just kind of take a step back and just be really present. Keith: So what is, or before I get to that, I really, Heath: One quick thing. We talked about my age a minute ago, Kat forgot to tell you one of her favorite tricks when we were working together. So we are the same age. We won't reveal it, for obvious purposes, but we're the same age. But Kat had a fun trick. Every time. So like people would come into the office and like they would see me and they'd be like, oh my gosh, it is so refreshing to see a young lady like yourself, like so young and they would really emphasize young people working in politics. And I was like, oh, thank you so much. I'm actually like, age redacted. And they would be like, oh my gosh, I thought you were like in your early, early twenties. I thought you were maybe still at university and then I would point at Heath and be like, nope, I'm the same age as that guy. Heath: And then the reactions of wow. Keith: It’s totally the beard. Totally the beard. Kat: I told you, you should have worn sun block. Heath: That would've been a good idea 20 years ago. True. Keith: So I'm trying to phrase this next question to Heath delicately because of course, I know the answer. Heath, of course, didn't walk away, and he is Heath, he wouldn’t. But I know so many people who grapple with that fear, like Kat you mentioned earlier. What does this mean for my employment, how am I going to support my family? Was there any shadow of fear, even just for a few seconds, where either of you are wondering, will the other one call it quits, is this the end of our relationship? I know the answer, but I mean so many people live with that fear, and I just wondered if that fear ever visited either of you even for a single gosh darn second? Kat: Actually, yeah, big time. In fact, we had to reschedule this podcast a couple times because I was really, I was going through a period where I was really struggling to make peace with how profoundly deaf I was becoming. And so that was just, that was really challenging and there were a couple moments when I just broke down sobbing and told Heath that he was gonna break up with me. Like, why would he stay with somebody who is deaf? He has hearing, there's no way. And so there's been a few moments where I was just like, there's no way this guy is going to stick around for this. I am a huge pain in the ass at the best of times and these are not the best of times. But he never, he never went away. Keith: So Heath, how was it not only seeing your partner in that state of extreme distress but also hearing that doubt, that fear, that you would walk away or that you would, be better off walking away when people are in extreme states of stress and pain, we say the darndest things we think the darndest things. As a partner, how was it for you hearing those things? Heath: It was very challenging because you know, she, in those challenging moments, she was saying, you're going to leave me. There's no reason you should be with me, but from my perspective, she's, you know, from the very beginning, this is the most wonderful, caring, loving, open relationship I've ever been a part of. So it's never been a doubt for me from that perspective, but it really opened me up to refocusing and being more thoughtful about how I am supportive in those challenges. About, you know, we mentioned learning ASL earlier. I have not been at times on top of it as much as I should to show tangible proof. Keith: Really? Heath: Yeah, and just making sure that even in our relationship with the kids, that I'm always putting that extra level of support in. So if there is a communication challenge ever with the kids, then I'm filling in those gaps. And I think some of that doubt maybe came from me, not for me losing some of that focus, that really is important for her to see on a daily, weekly basis. So it really was an opportunity for me to, like, kind of refocus myself to make sure that we're on the same page all the time about supporting each other. Keith: How have your kids adapted and how has your extended family adapted to your new life? Kat: So that one's a complicated answer. You know, my kids are 12 and 13. I think there were 10 and 11 when the diagnosis first came through, and they are very concerned with the normal things that 12 and 13 year olds are concerned about. They're consumed with Naruto and they are concerned with their friends at school. They are concerned about their grades and you know, whatever drama is happening in their friend group. And having a mom who is sometimes really sick and often very deaf is just like not on the menu of things that they really had planned for their teenage career. So, you know, I think this is actually a pretty common experience when a disability or a sickness kind of comes on suddenly. My kids at times have been kind of resentful of that, and I think that's a really natural feeling because, you know, it's a challenge for them and it can feel like they can't be mad at the disease that has taken my hearing, but they can be mad at me. Like I, they needed something to identify those feelings with and sometimes that is me and that's really normal. But for the most part, even though it was a rough adjustment, they're incredibly supportive. They both have ASL apps on their phone so that they can practice. And you know, like I said, we just went to the store and they were extremely caring with how they helped me move in that space. The rest of my family, I only have my mom here in town and we have dinner about once a week. She has gotten so much better at communicating with me, and she absolutely loves this guy. So, everything's pretty solid there. The rest of my extended family to be honest we just don't talk very often and that's also something that's really common within the deaf community, is within the disabled community in general. But I don't know, a single deaf person who hasn't had a relationship with their family becomes very strained. Keith: So that brings me to my next questions Kat, in going through this life adaptation, what has helped you embrace it? Kat: Honestly, this is gonna sound so silly. ASL song covers have really been so incredibly meaningful to me because, like I said, music has always just been a huge part of my life. To lose the ability to hear it is a tremendous loss. But when I started learning and practicing ASL I started stumbling onto YouTube videos that were song covers, and I found myself able to connect to the music through ASL again and that for me was like something that was really beautiful and inspiring and it just showed me that sign language is, you know, this whole big beautiful thing. That there's a whole community out here that I am joining and even though being deaf can be very lonely and isolating, the truth is, is that I'm truly not alone. And that is something that gives me so much comfort. Keith: So tell me about how it's been and felt for you to walk into and hopefully be embraced by the deaf community here. Kat: It's been, I mean, honestly, it's intimidating. You know, you're going into a space where you do not speak the language and, you know, that's always intimidating, but it is the fastest way to learn but I have to say, like, I've never experienced anything like the welcoming that I have received from the deaf community. I was recently up in Phoenix meeting with some folks from the coalition for the deaf and or Arizona Coalition for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. And it was incredible. Like I told them a little bit about me and they were instantly like, welcome to the family. So that was just so amazing and so cool. Keith: The one line I remember from our last interview near the end is, I told you to tell Heath that I said that he better learn ASL because it is your new love language. Kat: Did you do it? Heath: I am getting there, I am getting there. Keith: Okay good. That was just off the cuff last time. Heath: And, I think one thing with you finding a community is around the same time that you really started to feel empowered by that community. You started to advocate more for yourself in the professional world, but more for yourself and others in the professional world. Even just, you know, you've worked in various government offices, places that have had accessibility challenges, and just to see you step up as an advocate for yourself and others, was really amazing over the last two years. Kat: Aw, thank you. Yeah, I got a really fun crash course in, you know, applying for ADA accommodations and what that can look like. And the reality is that it can be really ugly. Some offices do not want to accommodate even when those accommodations are pretty simple. Keith: Like? Kat: So for example, I worked in a place where I'd applied for ADA accommodations because they had me answering a phone and, you know, I simply wasn't able to answer a phone anymore. Even with hearing aids, like holding a speaker up to my ear just does not work, it has to be looped through my hearing aids. So, but the office I was working at, wasn't familiar with bluetooth technology and hearing aids and even though they had a caption phone, they were reluctant to use it. So it was just, it was a little bit messy and it was, you know, very uncomfortable because like you are having to ask for help and that's always hard to do, but you're having to admit that you can't do something and you need this accommodation. And when employers and like, my story's not unique, this happens a lot, when an employer makes it seem like you're asking for the moon when you're asking for something that's so reasonable. It’s just, it can really hurt, it can be embarrassing. I remember feeling really humiliated by it at first, and then, you know, standing up and putting my boss bitch face on and like saying, I'm gonna do it anyways and I'm gonna keep pushing until like, I get these accommodations. And, you know, I used those experiences when running for office to talk about what folks with disabilities need moving forward and why representation in the legislature is so important. Keith: So you almost won your race last time around. Are you going to run again, have you been encouraged or is it a one and done, not one and done, but for lack of a much better phrase. Because last time it was, you weren’t where you are now as an advocate, and so is there renewed passion, renewed urgency, and energy with running to enhance representation in the Arizona Legislature. Kat: Yeah. I honestly had a complete blast running for office. It was just the most incredible experience and we, you're right, we came so close. 700 votes close and so that was like, it was definitely disappointing to lose, but I'm really, really, really happy where I'm at now. Currently I'm working in homeless outreach for the city of Tucson, specifically for Paul Cunningham, who is our city councilman for Ward two and that is work that's so, so fulfilling. And to answer your question, I'm interested in running for office again, but currently I don't have any plans. I'm just having a lot of fun doing the work that I'm doing. And you know, I'm actually one of three disabled people employed in my office. I work with a guy named Pat who is quadriplegic. And I also work with a man named Chris who is deaf-blind and so it's really cool to work in an office that's that inclusive. And I don't think that a lot of people would think right off the bat, ah, yes, I will hire this deaf person to be my outreach worker. It's not something that a lot of people would think is possible, but fortunately Councilman Cunningham absolutely knew that I could do it. Keith: So, as you mentioned at the top, there's a slight, very slight height difference between you two love birds. How has that been in relation to, I don't know, getting confused in public by other people, I mean, I'm just wondering here, how is that dynamic, while it's hilarious now, was it discouraging at the beginning to like this is never going to go away? Kat: I can tell you there are so many things about his height that are so frustrating. Keith: List them please, please. Kat: So we moved into Heath's house. He didn't move into my house. We moved into his space and I love it here. However, these ceilings are like a million feet tall. Like a million feet tall. So the kitchen is also taller than a normal kitchen. Like the countertops are taller. So when I'm trying to get a glass from the top shelf, it's like I'm climbing the counters and it's just a whole extra struggle. Anytime I'm cooking or baking or anything, I have to have a chair in the kitchen so that I can stand on it and reach the, like, the powdered sugar or whatever. Very frustrating, even like putting away clothes like, because again, the closet is also too tall, so I'm like trying to put away clothes and I'm just reaching for the sky, like. Heath: Yeah, and I'm like, the T-shirts go up here. They just go up here. Kat: Yeah. It's absolutely ridiculous. But then of course there's always, like, at one point one of our cars was in the shop, so he was trying to drive my car. My car is, you know, a cute little Toyota Corolla and you know, the way that, obviously so that I can reach the pedals it's like pulled as far up as you can get and watching Heath try to get in my car after I've driven is absolutely hilarious. And I would invite anyone to watch that, it is so fun. And then of course there's just the constant struggle of like, you know, going out for date night and it's like, let's take a cute selfie together for date night. And do you know how hard it is to get us in the same frame? Keith: I am specifically remembering what your costume was last Halloween. It’s adorable, I was texting you like no tomorrow on the absolute adorableness of it. Please tell me who and how that idea came to fruition. Kat: Actually. Heath: We were holding onto that one for about a year. That was planning. Kat: Yeah. So Heath and I have done a couple costumes together, the first year. Keith: Really? A couple. Kat: Well, because it's really hard to get him to dress up. I do like four to five costumes every year for Halloween. Keith: You Rebel. Kat: And, Heath is not necessarily the costume super fan that I am. Heath: Unfortunately they scheduled a Halloween right around the time of elections. Kat: Yeah. Oh my God. This is a total aside, but he was so mad at me one time because I switched, like we were working on the Biden, Harris campaign. It's Halloween, so naturally I have three costume changes that day. Only three. I only did three. Like, it's so reasonable. That's like a very small number. So like, I came to work dressed as a vampire from the 1800s, and then about halfway through the day changed into Alice in Wonderland. And then towards the evening, I dressed up as the Greek Goddess Artemis. Heath: But the way I experienced that was we all hopped on a Zoom call to talk about, you know, how many volunteers did you have today? And about five minutes late, Kat jumps on exasperated and a great big wig and brand new outfits. Kat: I'm trying to find the problem. I'm searching for it. What is the problem? But so that brings us all the way back to our costume last year, Heath dressed up as regular sized Heath and I dressed up as travel sized version of Heath Heath: You had a wig in everything for it. Keith: That's right there. Heath: My personal favorite was the one from the year before though when we were Groot and Rocket Raccoon, we had just the right sizes for that one. Kat: Also, the costumes were poorly put together and no one had any idea who we were. Keith: So out and about, of course your friends and family know you’re together, that is very obvious. Have strangers or have you gotten weird looks because of your height or have heaven forbid your kids Kat, been mistaken for his kids. Heath: So there are times when we're out with the kids, so I'm the only person in the family that's over five feet tall and people will look very confused. Because look at the three of them. They'll be like, that all fits together. I understand that. And then they look at me very puzzled. Kat: Yeah it's funny and then like, there's been a couple of times when like, we'll be like at an event and we'll be standing next to each other and somebody will be like, wait, are you two together? Like, you're not together. Right? He's too tall. Keith: So what? Okay. Kat: Hobbits deserve to date too. Keith: Exactly. Exactly. Well, so wrapping up, You do have one of the most pure examples of a loving committed relationship that I know personally and you two started it in very stressful circumstances with the pandemic, figuring out each other's ages, the height difference and going through a very serious life adaptation. Not every couple would unfortunately survive that. To ask the most generic question that is unanswerable really, but I will ask it anyway. What's the secret of love? Heath: Oh man. Kat: Oh, I've got this. Heath: Okay, go for it. Kat: So, okay, here's the thing. He's tried to break up with me a dozen times, but I'm really tiny, so I just hide in the closet until he forgets that he broke up with me and I just reappear. That's how you do it. Okay. That's not true. Heath: I think, and we talked about this a few times, I think it really is, you know, even with the disability, it's things are going to come at you in life, whether it's financial challenges, whether it's cancer, whether it's whatever it is, and I think from the very beginning we kind of understood that whatever life brings at us, we're going to address it together. Whether it's raising the kids, making life decisions, all of those things. And this is, and in some ways, this is just thinking about this is another one of life's challenges. We're gonna take it on together. We're in this together. It's something we work on together. It's not something that divides us. And, as we've encountered some of those other challenges, and we will in the future of course as well, I think just keeping that mentality of being a team and even when things are rough and we are feeling a little more distant, understanding that we're still in it together. Kat: God, that was so cheesy, Keith: That's so true. I mean, I was expecting the old adage answer, communication. And while that's certainly true, Heath, you and I both need to brush up on our ASL for our partners and do a double date, and by do a double date I mean we go race car driving or skydiving and leave the women talking because they’ll basically ignore us for two hours. Heath: I love it. Skydiving sounds great. Kat: Yeah. Count me out for that. Keith: Yeah. But seriously guys, I cannot thank you enough for opening up as much as you did about your relationship, how it began, how you both have greeted and faced life adaptations and have encouraged each other through it. I know a lot of couples who would be very envious of you two and I just cannot thank you enough for coming on here, making me laugh more than I have in a while, certainly on this podcast and we still need to do dinner. Heath: Well, we've known each other for a decade and have not had coffee yet. Keith: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, we all know that Kat’s really the one who’s got game. I mean, it's just obvious out of the three of us. But again guys, I cannot thank you enough for coming on here and dropping the truth, hard truth on what it is like dating before and during a disability, acquiring and adapting to a disability. There's no after to this story and thankfully there's no after to your relationship. It's still going strong and may it always continue to be that strong. I wish, I really wish that I could give Heath my height because I am five foot four and it would make life so much easier for Kat. Heath: No more adjusting seats. Keith: But that’s not possible. But I love you both dearly. You are two of my greatest riends and thank you so much. Kat: Thank you so much. Heath: Thank you so much for making space and inviting us on here. Kat: Yeah. Keith: Thank you. Anytime my friends, 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.

Other Episodes

Episode 0

April 09, 2023 00:44:35
Episode Cover

S2 Episode 17 with Ilya Benjamin

Ilya Benjamin is the director of user experience for a medical company. Keith and Ilya have been friends and colleagues for a long time....

Listen

Episode 0

January 28, 2024 00:58:04
Episode Cover

On the Stage with Rachel Handler

S3 Ep 18: Rachel and Keith talk about stage life, starting with how they met on a musical theater production. Rachel talks about her...

Listen

Episode 0

April 03, 2024 01:07:32
Episode Cover

Activism Amplified: Conversations with Kat & Heath

Kat Stratford and Heath Butrum are two sickeningly cute political activists who have made careers out of trying to create a better world through...

Listen