Introducing…DJ Mermaid

February 19, 2016 • Posted in blindness, Blogroll, careers/jobs for people who are blind, technology for people who are blind, Uncategorized, writing by

I published a post here last week about some of the writers I recruited to put together guest posts about love and relationships for Easter Seals (I have a part-time job moderating the Easter Seals national blog). One writer I didn’t mention in that post is the nine-year-old daughter of a health professional I saw eight years ago after I hurt my rotator cuff. This girl was only two years old then, but she remembers visiting her mom’s clinic once when I was there and petting Hanni, my Seeing Eye dog. “She was soft!”

I visited her public school in the suburbs a while back, and she and I have been email pen-pals ever since. She agreed to write a post for the Easter Seals blog about how much she loves her Dad, and after she sent the finished piece my way, I emailed her to let her know I’d be writing a short introduction for it. “Remind me –do you use a walker? A wheelchair?” I asked. “Without being able to see you, I don’t know.”

And here’s where that nine-year-old became the teacher. She wrote back with a question. ”Why do you need to know about how I move? Because this is a Valentine’s Day post and it’s supposed to be about my relationship with my Dad.

The nine-year-old writer with her dad

The nine-year-old writer and her dad

Good question.

I told her I needed to know how she gets around because the place I work –Easter Seals — is an organization that helps people who have disabilities. “So the posts are all about people who have disabilities, or legislation that involves people who have disabilities, or services or treatments that help people who have disabilities.”

I wrote her as if she was an adult. I told her I don’t particularly like thinking of myself as a person with a disability, but my job with Easter Seals pays me. “In general people who are blind have a hard time convincing employers to hire us if we can’t see,” I said, pointing out that over 70% of Americans who are blind are unemployed. “And so, when Easter Seals offered to pay me to moderate their blog, I accepted the job.”

I explained I get paid to lead memoir-writing classes and to write books and articles and make presentations, too, but my Easter Seals job is steady work, and my work writing and doing presentations and leading classes comes and goes. I told her it’s good to have one paycheck to count on week after week, so I accepted the job.

“All to say that I will *totally* understand it if you don’t want me to mention anything about disabilities in my introduction, but if I don’t mention a disability, it won’t qualify to be a post on the Easter Seals blog and they won’t let me publish it there.”

She thought long and hard about all this, and we worked on the introduction together. In the end, the introduction to her post on the Easter Seals blog describes her as an attractive nine-year-old who plays piano, writes stories, and loves to bake. “She has a physical disability that doesn’t stop her from doing anything she wants to do,” the intro says, and that’s absolutely correct! I was happy with the outcome, and even happier to learn a lesson in advocacy from a nine-year-old.

The two of us worked so well together that after her guest post was published on the Easter Seals blog, she asked her mom if she could take a writing class with me. “Not sure how this could work,” her mom wrote. “But she has some time now if you do.” Turns out my young writer is home from school for the next six to eight weeks while they try a casting program — she has casts from her hips down to her ankles, on both legs.

I had time.

My Seeing Eye dog Whitney and I took a train to visit her for our first class a few weeks ago, and after a quick hour of discussing our writing and our goals, I gave her an assignment to write a guest post for our Safe & Sound blog here. Our plan is for her to work on one blog post every week and email it my way when she’s done. I’ll use my talking computer to read through her rough draft, come up with comments and questions, call her every Friday, and we’ll discuss the edits together out loud. She’ll make the revisions she agrees with, email the post back to me, and…voila! This up-and-coming young writer will be published on our Safe & Sound blog. She’s working on revisions to her first piece now. It’s about how she came up with her pen name, and that means you lucky Safe & Sound readers will soon be reading a guest post here written by…DJ Mermaid!

Diane On February 19, 2016 at 9:31 pm

Can’t wait to read DJ Mermaid’s posts!

bethfinke On February 19, 2016 at 10:07 pm

Trust me: you will not be disappointed.


Lois Baron On February 19, 2016 at 9:32 pm

Wonderful story. Look forward to the Mermaid posts.

bethfinke On February 19, 2016 at 10:07 pm

Me, too.


annyrusk On February 19, 2016 at 9:45 pm

Look forward to Ms. Mermaid’s first post.

Paula On February 19, 2016 at 9:49 pm

I’m simply thrilled to hear how you’ll be working with DJ Mermaid. As one who mentors aspiring writers myself, I applaud the time, energy, and expertise you’re sharing with this young author.

bethfinke On February 19, 2016 at 10:10 pm

If you mentor aspiring writers, then you know –we learn as much (or more)from them as they do from us.I’m really enjoying this experience.


Regan Burke On February 20, 2016 at 12:20 am

Outstanding. Every single bit of it.

bethfinke On February 20, 2016 at 6:22 am

Yes. I think your friends at Access Living would approve!


Gigi On February 20, 2016 at 12:43 am

DJ Mermaid is my great niece. I could not be more proud of all she has accomplished in her 9 years.

bethfinke On February 20, 2016 at 6:24 am

Yes, and she is great in more ways than one. Wait until you read her blog posts!


Charlene On February 20, 2016 at 7:57 am

Let Miss Mermaid know I will be so excited to read her posts! Both of you are awesome writers!

bethfinke On February 20, 2016 at 8:05 am

I’ll let her know. And I’ll pass along your compliment, too. Thank you, Charlene.


Monna Ray On February 20, 2016 at 11:29 am

I’m looking forward to it. Monna

bethfinke On February 20, 2016 at 11:45 am

And I’m looking forward to publishing it. Maybe tomorrow? Stay tuned!


Mel Theobald On February 20, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Oh my, there is already so much to appreciate and anticipate, I can hardly wait. I love the mermaid metaphor. It’s simply brilliant. Beth, there is a wonderful poem called “Rainbow” by William Wordsworth. The famous line “My heart leaps up” comes from it. You have always shown us the rainbow. What you have learned from DJ Mermaid beautifully demonstrates what is meant by “The Child is the father of the Man.” Please share this poem with DJ.

“Rainbow” by Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

bethfinke On February 20, 2016 at 4:52 pm

I’ll share it with her –if we hav time! Our get-togethers are only an hour long at a time, and we seldom run out of things to talk about.


Leone Anderson On February 20, 2016 at 4:27 pm

What a great story. I’m anticipating Mermaid’s blog.

bethfinke On February 20, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Yes, and who knows? Maybe DJ Mermaid will start authoring childrens books soon….


ojdohertyJenny On February 21, 2016 at 4:25 pm

She sounds like a very intelligent and interesting young girl!
She is lucky to be taught by you as well.
Beth, I think you’ve just created another job for yourself there, teaching writing classes, even when people can’t come to your class. You could do it online.

bethfinke On February 22, 2016 at 9:07 am

You know, Jenny, others have suggested I consider leading on-line classes. It’s hard for me to imagine doing that without at least initially meeting the writer I’ll be working with face-to-face. I’m not sure my arrangement with DJ Mermaid would be working as well as it is if I hadn’t headed to her house with Whitney the Seeing Eye dog and been with DJ Mermaid personally to speak about her writing goals and other things.

Plus I’m in front of my computer too much now as it is!

I will continue to consider on-line classes, though -thanks for the nudge.


Janet On February 22, 2016 at 2:17 pm

DJ Mermaid definitely sounds like someone we need to know!!

bethfinke On February 22, 2016 at 5:47 pm

She reminds me of Floey, in a way. Maybe the two of them *can* meet someday

Mary Russell On March 6, 2016 at 5:11 pm

DJ. A reader can tell you love to bake. Reading your blog made me VERY hungry, right now, for, just to pick one, chocolate chess pie.

Deborah Darsie On April 24, 2016 at 10:25 pm

What a fabulous lesson from a smart young lady!

bethfinke On April 25, 2016 at 8:01 am

Yes. She has taught me a lot.


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