Time Capsule Trees

When I was about 10 or so, give or take a couple years, my younger sister and I came up with a brilliant idea. It was a lazy summer day at our grandparents’ farm and we were looking for something interesting to do. The soil at the farm was not really soil at all, but sand, and there was a spot in the yard, by the field, where my sister and I were permitted to dig for small treasures. Occasionally, we would find little fossils or peculiar rocks, pieces of metal, and fish bones. Other times, we would draw pictures in the sand or add buckets of water to build elaborate sandcastles and sculptures. Well, our brilliant idea that day was to bury a time capsule in our sandy haven.

For some reason, this was immensely appealing to both of us, and we devoted several hours to the endeavor. We both were responsible for writing letters about what it was like for people living in 1998. My sister and I both had pretty grand ideas about who would be discovering this time capsule, and we were convinced that by the time it was discovered, the world would be vastly different. I clearly remember writing about trees. It went something like this: “Dear Person Who Discovers This Time Capsule, The year is 1998. In 1998, we have trees. But people are cutting them down a lot to make paper and by the time you read this, there probably won’t be any left. Trees are made of wood…” You get the idea. I so desperately wanted to preserve the idea of trees for the Treeless Future People who would be reading my time capsule note, that I spent most of the note droning on and on about how to distinguish one kind of tree from the next, what trees grew in what areas of the world, a detailed and very scholarly (for a 10 year old) explanation of the rainforest, etc.

All of this time capsule nostalgia leads me to my point. Change happens, and even as a 10-year-old, I recognized that the world I grew up in wouldn’t necessarily be the world that people in the future would know. As humans, we expect change. We try to prepare for inevitable change. We are agents of change. There is so much criticism and confusion surrounding the way that the state handles funding for individuals with disabilities. There is a call for change, a new structure, a new system, improvements, clear guidelines, and efficiency. If we were to take a snapshot of the current political, social, and economic climate for those with disabilities and preserve it for future generations in a time capsule, what would this look like? Furthermore, what advice can we offer future generations? What hopes would we have for the future world with regard to life for individuals with disabilities?



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Saying Thank You to Volunteers

A Malayan proverb says, “One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind.” I find this to be an especially fitting thought for today, which is the beginning of National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week is a week to recognize those hardworking souls who give their time and efforts to worthy causes.

All through high school, I watched my mom as she sat on various committees at the school I attended and volunteered for various activities at our grade school. She was so involved and, at certain points of the year, her free time was basically non-existent. You could read the exhaustion on her face, and every year, she would say, “I’m not doing this next year.” Of course, next year would roll around and she would volunteer again to chair the committee and I would say, “Why can’t you just say ‘No’?”

I suspect that my mom never answered that question because she didn’t quite know why she couldn’t say ‘No.’ However, I happen to think that she is just hard-wired to be a volunteer. She has the heart of a volunteer, and is attracted to volunteerism like a moth to a flame. Some people are like that. And this week, we recognize those people, who continually put others before themselves.  

I’m convinced that without volunteers, the world would stop spinning. Tangram is lucky to have a small, but dedicated group of volunteers. Some volunteer at our administrative office, some help with our special event, Summer Sizzle, some give their time as board members, and some have made valuable connections with our clients as friends, a role that gives richness to the lives of those we serve.

So, to all of those selfless individuals who proudly serve Tangram and our clients as volunteers, I would like to say, simply, Thank You. I hope you know how much you are appreciated.

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Thinking differently about your brain

     Monday, I got a few small lessons in neuroscience. An article was forwarded to me in the morning entitled, “Your Brain is a Rainforest.” The article, by Thomas Armstrong, examined the nature of the brain and society’s tendency to diagnose the differences that exist among all the brains out there. Armstrong calls for a focus on the strengths that the differences between brains provide to individuals, instead of the negatives that are associated with mental disorders, which only serve to fracture society and stigmatize individuals with disorders or disabilities. “The concept of neurodiversity provides a more balanced perspective. Instead of regarding traditionally pathologized populations as disabled or disordered, the emphasis in neurodiversity is placed on differences,” Armstrong writes.   

     After reading the article (which I strongly recommend), I thought to myself, “That makes sense. No two people are exactly alike, so why should two brains be exactly alike?” What would the world look like if we celebrated the differences between us, instead of trying to diagnose those who don’t fit our ever-evolving and very narrow mold of “normal?” What if we played to the strengths of each individual instead of forcing individuals to perform tasks for which they aren’t suited?

     In order to answer these questions, you may have to step into a different hemisphere of your brain. This is where my second lesson in neuroscience comes in. Monday afternoon, I was forwarded a video of Jill Bolte Taylor speaking to a group of people about how the brain works and the unique opportunity she had to study the hemispheres of the brain. I won’t spoil it by going into detail about her speech, but I recommend that you take 20 minutes and listen to what she has to say. Then see if it helps you answer the questions I posed. I have a strong suspicion that these two concepts connect somehow, and that we could make the world an altogether better place if we took these two small lessons in neuroscience and turned them into actions instead of words.

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Accessible web design

***March is Disability Awareness Month. If you were unaware and find yourself unprepared on this fine first day of March, I have an easy way for you to raise awareness and take simple steps toward a more accessible world. Read on…

This year has been a big year for Tangram, especially where technology is concerned. We recently upgraded to Windows 7 and Office 2010, moved our e-mail to “the cloud,” got a new video, and you may have noticed that our website has a new look.

Last week, as Carol (Tangram’s IT Director) and I met with a web designer for a lesson in content management, I learned a little bit about making a website accessible. Our web designer was giving us practice in placing pictures on the website, when she explained that there are certain fields that must be filled for search engine optimization. These fields are something I, a novice in web content management, typically skipped over because, before last week, I didn’t know what they meant or why they were important. The only thing that mattered to me was uploading a picture and making sure it looked snappy on a page.

Of course, after my lesson, I understood why these fields (like Image Description and Image Title) are important. You see, these fields not only are key components to search engine optimization, but they also allow for a web site to be accessible. For someone using a screen reader, they give a good description of what the photo is. This ensures that everyone is able to understand the content on a webpage. Pretty cool!

If you, like me, skipped over these fields because you didn’t understand their function, I encourage you to go back and fill them in. The more people who can access your web content, the better. This small step will mean more traffic for you and more information about your business for others.  

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Finding Judy Garland in my flowers

On Monday (Valentine’s Day), I received a lovely springtime bouquet of flowers. After unwrapping the plastic and filling the vase full of water (I think it had tipped over in the delivery truck), I trotted back to my desk and placed the bouquet right next to my computer. Since Monday, I have spent countless minutes just staring at the flowers. They are gorgeous—bright yellow lilies, subtly purple daisies, light pink alstroemeria, 2 silky carnations, deep violet limonium, a tulip, and an iris. I also had one cheery daffodil, but it fell victim to the delivery truck.

The more I admired the arrangement, the more I found that my favorite flowers were the ones that were rarest in the bouquet; my solitary iris, the lonely tulip, and the single stem of limonium. Each day I watch these fade and regret that I will eventually only have a bunch of daisies and Peruvian lilies. They don’t seem special or unique if I have dozens of the same thing.

The same is true of people. I have spent a good deal of time trying to conform to the standards of society and the trends of the marketplace, but what I find is that people tend to remember and appreciate my quirky qualities, the ones that make me Lindsey and not a cookie cutter replica of Amanda or Leanne or  Erica. So, today, let’s all try to appreciate what sets us apart from everyone else. Let’s be the iris in a sea of daisies. Judy Garland said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” I think that is good advice.



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A New Perspective on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has never really been a big deal for me.  However, as a youngster, I enjoyed the Valentine’s Day party (complete with mandatory Valentine exchange) in school. I remember sorting through my brown paper bag of Valentines at the end of the day and reading what my classmates had written to me. Some just signed their name—typically the boys who were very uninterested in sharing their feelings with those cootie-ridden girls—while others, like my friends and teachers, wrote personalized messages (i.e. “Thanks for being my friend,” “You are a great student,” and “I like your hair today.”) that made me feel special.

Well, as I learned in grade school, Valentine’s Day is more than just a day about romantic love. It is about telling and showing others what they mean to you. It is a day for parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents, coworkers, siblings, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, friends, the guy who serves you coffee at the café every morning, the postal worker who delivers your mail each day—you get the idea. It’s a day for everyone. It is a day to say “Thanks for being you,” or “Thanks for making my life easier,” or “You make my days brighter.” Everyone deserves to be told, at least one day a year, that they add value to someone else’s life.

This Valentine’s Day, express your love in more than just conversation hearts. Send a Tan “Gram!” It’s healthier than buying chocolates, longer-lasting than flowers, and less painful than having the name of your beloved tattooed on your arm. It’s easy to do:

¨ Visit www.thetangramway.org (or click on the link below)

¨ Click on the “GIVE” button on the left side of the homepage. It will take you to our safe and secure donation page

¨ Enter the amount you would like to donate ($5 per gram).

¨ Enter billing info

¨ Type “Valentine” in the “Designation” box.

¨ Click the box that says, “My gift is a tribute.”

¨ Fill out the notification information so your personalized card reaches its destination.

¨ In the “Comments” box, write everything you want on your card.

We will add your message to a card and send it to the object of your affection! It’s a great way to show your love and donate to a great cause! (Please note that you will need to do a separate transaction for each gram you send)

Send a Tan “Gram”



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Those Summer Nights…

I hear we (those of us in Central Indiana) are supposed to get (another) snowstorm. Every year around this time, somewhere between the end of January and mid-February, I start to tire of the cold weather, the snow, the ice, the salt, the biting wind, the gray days, and the shortened daylight hours, and I begin to dream of the mild, fresh days of spring and the sunny, bright summer.

Those of us at Tangram dream about summer for reasons other than weather, though we do appreciate a break from winter. We long for summer because summer brings June. And June brings Indianapolis’s best kept secret: Summer Sizzle. Summer Sizzle is Tangram’s annual fundraiser, held at Allisonville Nursery in Fishers. Forget your ball gowns—this isn’t a formal event. We will be wearing our breezy summer skirts, golf shirts, khaki shorts—anything to keep us cool, comfortable, and classy.

Summer Sizzle is an evening for friends to get together and enjoy craft beer and fine wines, feast on a delectable meal, dance the night away to the live music of Big Daddy Caddy, and win raffle prizes!

This is your opportunity to mark your calendars! We anticipate a sell-out crowd, so circle June 25, 2011 and make yourself available from 6:30-10:30. You won’t want to miss it!



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