For biographical info on me, keep reading right here. For info specific to this blog about life with MS, a service dog, and recumbent trike riding in the NYC Marathon fundraising for Team Leary Firefighters Foundation, skip down past all this me Me ME stuff to About WONKYBENT. For my other blog and info about WordPlay, my poetry-in-the-schools project inspired by Dave Eggers and 826 National, go HERE. If, like many people, you met Luke the WonderDog out and about and you just want/need more of him – and, really, who could blame you? – check out this video chock-full of Luke the Service Dog.
I am an educator & advocate, poet & performer, speaker & storyteller who believes in the power of narrative to transform & transport, create & connect. I was the shy, awkward girl who didn’t fit in, was often bullied, happiest with my nose in books, whose best friend was my dog. After being cast in a play in my teens I discovered a way to be comfortable in my own skin, bringing to life the words of a character. Costumed in make-believe, I dared to be more of myself than I ever allowed off-stage. I claimed my voice.
I’ve spent most of my adult life teaching others to raise their own voices, through acting, creative writing, even slam poetry (here and there I consult with nonprofits, businesses and individuals). When the diagnosis of MS intervened in my 30s I had to let go of acting in the theatre, which is why most of my storytelling is now expressed through page and less “formal” interactions with stages. I devote much of my time to kids, teaching them to use words & imagination, developing authentic, resilient, remarkable voices. I endeavor to grow in my students the belief, the truth, that we are all artists & the change-makers in our own stories.
My best friend still has fur & four legs. My mobility assistance dog is my constant companion, teaching assistant & muse to many. Luke is also chief partner in crime; I’m getting a reputation for stealing things. As inventor of a poetic form called klepto-collaborative, I pickpocket words & phrases from others, reshuffling & reshaping the puzzle-pieces into a colorful, storied mosaic of diverse voices. Taking something from every speaker at a conference in real-time, I craft a collective poem that highlights the messages of the day, repurposing ideas & refashioning stories, weaving them together in a manner that never loses the originality & spirit of the speakers’ themes. So while I may be a word thief, I figure being eco-conscious makes up for it.
I’m available to facilitate wordy goodness in your community, school, workplace or play space. I like to think I have way of transforming average meetings into something interactive, cooperative & memorable. Through my klepto-collaborative poems I aim to delight, to ignite conversation, and maybe even incite a little innovation. I earned an MFA from Florida International University, where I edited Gulf Stream Literary Magazine. I’m the founder of WordPlay, a poetry-in-the-schools project inspired by Dave Eggers.
My poetry has appeared in Bloomsbury Review, Cake, Luna, Best American Poetry blog (a collaborative poem with the phenomenal Denise Duhamel), Wicked Good Life, and various anthologies. My non-fiction has appeared in the Miami Herald and my fiction has been nominated for Best New American Voices. Just for fun, here’s a multi-media klepto-collaborative poem comprised of quotes from others about the way they imagine a better world.
This blog was created to tell the story of a rather unique, potentially history-making journey. And on November 7th, 2010, I did. Make history, I mean! Thanks to Team LFF – Leary Firefighters Foundations – who graciously welcome me for two years in a row, 2010 & 2011. I am so grateful to have participated in the New York City Marathon – via recumbent trike as reasonable accommodation for a disability (MS) – and to have had the privilege of raising funds & awareness for this stellar organization which serves firefighters & their families.
This coming November 1st, I’ll be making a long-held dream finally come true: I’ll be participating in the NYC Marathon with Team Fox, raising awareness & funds for The Michael J. Fox Foundation. This dream-goal is a pay-it-forward mission, the “taking action” version of my gratitude for the inspiration & motivation that Michael J. Fox provided me in the early days after my diagnosis of MS. I always vowed that one day I would find a way to do more than offer the words “Thank You,” and now I am finally on the road to fulfilling that vow. I cannot begin to tell you how much this means to me – to make a difference for MJFF – and how excited I am to be a part of Team Fox for this event. #NoOpportunityWasted
Please, if you’re able, join my great adventure, my mission, to make a difference!
I, and so very many others, will be forever grateful for your donation ~~~
More about LFF:
Leary Firefighters Foundation makes it possible for firefighters, fire stations & firefighting training centers to get the equipment & supplies they need.. champions firefighters by providing crucial training, too, but the foundation doesn’t stop at the training itself–LFF has built & outfitted entire training facilities! They also donated a mobile command center to NYC; a state-of-the-art emergency management vehicle for coordinating communication to all first responders & tactical officers during events/incidences threatening public safety.
After 911, LFF raised 1.9 million that went directly to families of the 343 firefighters who perished. Post Katrina, LFF helped to rebuild 11 fire houses & donated a fleet of rescue boats to the New Orleans Fire Department so that never again would there be firefighters ready & willing to do their jobs but with no way to get to the people of their community who desperately need their life-saving skills.
There are many ways to show your support. Tell somebody about the tremendous, much-needed work that LFF does for firefighters & their families–and for all of our communities, by ensuring that firefighters have the training, equipment & other resources required to do their jobs. When we help firefighters, we help our neighbors, we help ourselves.
If you live in the NYC area, the foundation can always use volunteers for various administrative tasks. Or just stop in and say Hi! Tell those LFF folks what a great job they’re doing & how much you appreciate their efforts.
More about the Michael J. Fox Foundation: click HERE. And to better understand why I – a person with Multiple Sclerosis – feel so passionate about raising awareness & funds for Parkinson’s research towards better treatments & a cure for PD, please check out more of the story HERE.
I can be reached via email: moonspeak(AT)comcast(DOT)net
I also have a Facebook community page: Spread The Word About Service Dogs
On Twitter I’m known as TXmoonspeak
Fun fact: I had the privilege of riding part of the 2012 Bike MS Coastal Challenge with one of my heroes, Phil Keoghan. He does so much awareness-raising & fundraising for those of us with MS! Here’s the video. How lucky am I?
Slo Joe Recumbo said:
Congrats on the NYC Marathon and more so for continuing to battle MS.
Read about you wanting to take your dog on a trike. Check out this website. It’s called “dog powered”, so maybe your assist dog could also assist you on your trike.
I’m sure he could adapt something for one dog for your trike.
Avery Jenkins said:
I have a patient that I think could benefit from a mobility dog. Could she contact you to find out how your dog has helped you?
Yes, of course! I’ve been meaning to put my email address on this thing and keep forgetting. Also I have a Facebook page about service dogs that has some info too, “Spread The Word About Service Dogs,”
Thank you! I’m going to look into this. I do have another dog, she’s smaller but just as strong – a pit bull mix. I’ve considered making them mushers, like a kind of trike-sled dog team ;0)
Hey, Denise. Congrats on your marathon! I bought a “Walky Dog” contraption and put it on the headrest stem on my terratrike. Rosie-dog the black Labrador loveslovesloves to trot alongside me on our daily jaunt. I use a harness rather than collar, of course, to reduce the neck strain. Maybe it might work for Luke? It’s fairly inexpensive, I think less than fifty dollars including the harness.
Saundra Maisey said:
So glad I was able to find your site. Thought I might have lost you. Retired from Liberty Mutual as of 12/31. On to new things in my life – mainly the laughter classes and workshops. May take some time to get that going. In the meantime – starting to strip wall paper and paint in the kitchen for a new look. Please be in touch. Love, Saundra
the island traveler said:
I was browsing the web about Galveston Island and your post about the Seawall caught my eye. I was glad to discover it. Your post was such a joy to read and I felt so at home with it. I love visiting Galveston. I grew up in the tropics surrounded by coastlines and beaches . Being in Galveston reminds me of home. Thanks for sharing.
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