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What If I AM the Elephant in the Room? Living Boldly with Visible Scars, with Dr. Anna Sinclair


Mandy [00:00:01] Welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.

Chris [00:00:10] Well, at least we have another Art of Relationship podcast and it's so fun to be able to do this together and talk about all things relationships and all things marriage. And it's just so fun because we can explore so many different topics, right?

Alisa [00:00:25] Exactly.

Chris [00:00:27] We get to do this every week or every other week, and it's just fun. So hopefully you listeners out there enjoy it. Let's send in any questions that you might have to see. Them are taught by all about Edu Slash or Relationships podcast or you guys know where we're at. So you're already listening. Hey, Lisa, one of the funniest things that we get to do too, is have guests. Yeah, and it really becomes a highlight because you and I know all of our stories. We know how to finish our own show.

Alisa [00:00:56] Our listeners know all of our stories.

Chris [00:00:58] First of all, or should.

Alisa [00:00:59] Have a guest, we forget.

Chris [00:01:00] Story. And with that guy Tim you have not around. Sometimes we tell his stories and pretend like they're out and.

Alisa [00:01:08] We've adopted him. We've co-opted his.

Chris [00:01:10] Whatever him and Noreen had issues with. That becomes now our stories. Hey, so we have a podcast like this that really does expand what we do and we have guests and Lisa, we have a great one today.

Alisa [00:01:23] We do. We have a really great friend from our very own Biola University. Her name is Anna Sinclair. And Anna, welcome to the podcast.

Anna [00:01:34] Thank you so much for having me.

Alisa [00:01:35] We are delighted to have you. We have just gotten to know Anna through our friend Tell Me Life. And actually she is a professor here at our university in public relations in the communications division. And Anna, how long have you been at the university?

Anna [00:01:54] So I am starting my sixth year full time. And so then 12 years as an adjunct. So I started part time and then was able to come in the full time scene six years ago.

Alisa [00:02:04] And you were in the corporate world before you came into higher education?

Anna [00:02:08] I was, yes, I was. I did about total of 12 years in the public relations industry, and seven of those was at an advertising agency.

Alisa [00:02:15] So, oh, five years off.

Anna [00:02:17] Experience before coming into the academic world. Alisa [00:02:19] Oh, very good.

Chris [00:02:20] Yes. You finished your Ph.D.. I know. And then you began working. What's it like working with students here? How do you like my all in your experience so far compared to the Outworld?

Anna [00:02:32] It's the students. The people are amazing. I absolutely love the work that they do and being able to come into their lives and equip them with the things they'll need to be successful when they graduate, but also be able to just learn about their stories and hear from them about what's happening in their lives. And I love being able to help see them through some of their challenges and their successes and all those things when they when they come to my classes and office hours. It's just so much fun.

Chris [00:02:56] It is fun. And you get to we get to bring not only our own lives to that or actually start this. We bring our academic experience and your corporate experience to the classroom. But then they look at our lives and that's really both a little scary, right? Yeah, Better to be on our game because students can kind of sniff out, you know, inauthenticity, right, or lack of authenticity. And they're like, you know what? You say that, but I'm not really sure you are that or you believe that. And it is a challenge, but it's a cool part of our jobs, isn't it?

Anna [00:03:30] It really is. It is. And it's it's I think it's it it creates trust and credibility to to for them to know that person and that you have experiences. You have a story as well. You have highs and lows. You have a family that you're taking care of. And the more that you can be transparent and open with them, I feel that they really appreciate that and see you as more than just that figure in the classroom academically.

Chris [00:03:55] You know, I know that that's exactly one of the findings. We did a little research and then we followed up and looked at some other research. The broad overall finding was, that's exactly right. Students recognize and say that their biggest and best learning experiences, their favorite professors, were those that they one trusted, too. They felt they were authentic in what they said they're teaching, for example, or things about that and what they saw them do in life. They would watch more for faculty members' life experiences and listen to that to see if it lined up. And that led to students saying, that's where I learned the most. And that was so, so I'm so glad to share this journey with you and that. And you've been married 17 or so years now.

Anna [00:04:50] Yes, it will be 17 in January.

Chris [00:04:52] And Jeremy does what you said. He works at a well, graphic design, I think.

Anna [00:04:58] Yes, he's the graphic. Designer and web designer for Britain's The Children's Museum down in Irvine. Been doing that for about, I think, almost six years.

Chris [00:05:07] Six years. And you guys live in Huntington. You have two children, 11 and nine. Awesome family.

Alisa [00:05:12] Two boys. Two boys. Oh, boy. I know you're busy, Mom.


Anna [00:05:17] Very busy right now. It's soccer season, so we are doing all the practices and all the games.

Alisa [00:05:21] Oh, gosh.

Chris [00:05:22] Yeah. And I know you're at cross points in Huntington Beach. And let's start with what's unique about your story related to a disability that you have in being born with one arm. So tell us a little bit about what that does in general, what that's like in your experience and its impact on maybe your relationships and even with Jeremy in your marriage? So I know that's a lot there, but let our listeners know about it a little bit.

Anna [00:05:53] Yeah, no, I was born with a below the elbow amputee due to amniotic band syndrome. And that is where amniotic bands can come loose from the wall of the uterus and wrap around different parts of the developing baby. And for me, the bands wrapped around my lower forearm and kind of where the wrist area was and cut off the circulation so there was no more growth that was able to occur. So when I was born, I was born without my lower right forearm and hand. And actually I do I do have little fingers. I do have five little we call them baby fingers, and they're so they're little. And that's just because that's the point at which development stops. So. So I started wearing prosthetic arms from the age 18 months, all the way till I was about 26 years old. And and I was just, you know, really encouraged by my parents and my childhood years to find new ways to do things, adapt. I was 11 years old before I finally figured out how to tie my own shoes. I was in college before I figured out how to do my own hair. I had to. I finally learned that, hey, if I put my hair up on my roommate's bunk bed, I could gather it up and I could put a ponytail in my hair. So I would just I spent a lot of my life learning new ways of doing everyday things. But for me, it was like everyday life because I had to adapt from the beginning.

Chris [00:07:20] Never knew any different.

Anna [00:07:21] Never knew any different. Yeah. So yeah.

Chris [00:07:25] So you started what was that like early on as far as dating or relationships? You what you did wear prosthetic, you said, but then you made a decision at some point not to.

Anna [00:07:37] Right. I did. I was like I said, I had prosthetics most of my childhood and young adult life and was a dancer. So I even had a dancing arm and then a formal arm. And then when I was older, you know, the dancing arm was packaged away and I was just wearing the one. It was a myoelectric prosthetic arm. And it was very heavy because it was electronic. So I had learned how to use that. My brain waves and learns how to open and close the myoelectric arm with the muscles in my little arm in a socket. Oh, wow. And so it was amazing technology, but it was very heavy and it was starting to cause some bone degradation and some skin issues with my arm. And it was so painful that I could only wear it a few hours a day. And this was in my early twenties. I was working at an agency and the pain was so bad that I really didn't think that wearing it was a good idea. The doctors and my prosthetist had made it as comfortable as they could make it without it just falling right off my arm. And I had this moment where God was. I just said, Oh my gosh, I'm wearing this arm only to appear normal because when I wear it, it looks like I have to arm. And and I decided that that was maybe not the best reason to be wearing it. And I had this moment with God. I said, okay, I'm going to really latch onto someone, which ended up being a huge verse in my life at that moment, knowing that I was made intentionally, even in the womb, in that secret place. He saw me being formed and he knew that I'd be born this way and he wanted that way. And so I needed to be more authentic to myself and to into that and to realize that. It was the right step to not wear the prosthetic arm anymore. And so I had I was having these moments of realizing that at the very time I started to date Jeremy and I said, Hey, new boy, that I'm going to start dating. So here's my story and here's where I am, and this might be the direction I take. Are you comfortable with me? Very visibly looking different all the time. And he said, Sure, it doesn't matter to me at all. And that was the first time that someone in that kind of relationship with me was that accepting. And I thought, Well, that's a really good sign for a future for him.

Alisa [00:09:55] So. How old is it? How old were you when you met him when you started dating?

Anna [00:10:00] Yeah, I was 26, so I was a little bit later in life. I didn't. I did date, but not much. Not much. And some of the some of the prior dating experiences I had had before meeting Jeremy were a little bit awkward with with the guys asking really weird questions about the arm or, or not really feeling very comfortable around me and, and I could pick up on it so much that I thought, okay, well, that's not going to be the best fit of Jeremy. He just accepted me 100% from day one. And it was he wasn't fazed by the fact that I was different. And and he he wasn't put off by people staring because that was one of the things I said. And I said, you know, people tend to stare at me all the time, especially kids, you know, and kids, they're so curious and they have no filter. And they'll just come right up to you and say, what happened to your arm? And their parents will be coming, running behind them, saying, No, no, no, you should. Don't say that. We'll talk about it later. And they try to carry them often. But then grown ups can also, you know, want to know and want to ask questions and they'll just they'll just stare. They'll just stare, you know, when we walk by. And I said, Jeremy, are you okay with. Yeah, potentially being in a relationship with someone who's kind of always the elephant in the room. And he said he didn't care at all. And I thought, okay, well, that's another really good sign.

Alisa [00:11:18] Green light.

Chris [00:11:19] Just come back just slightly. What is the tension for those that you have met that might have a similar disability or a disability? I imagine there's a tension there between those that have finally accepted or just lived their life as normal as possible, whether it's with a prosthetic or not. But I imagine when you had to make that decision to take it off. There are some who are like, Why would you do that? Or others, you know? Is there been a tension in that regard?

Anna [00:11:49] Yeah, it's there's been an interesting. I've gone through some great learnings in my life. One of them was when I was in high school. I was a senior in high school and I was in youth group, you know, with my church on Sundays. And there was another boy there. And he was, I think, a year or two younger than me, and we didn't go to the same high school. So I only saw him at church on Sundays and maybe a youth group on Wednesdays. And I noticed that he also had a limb deformity, a limb deficiency. And I was so excited because I finally like, oh, there's someone like me and oh, this is we can relate to each other and we can crack some one arm jokes and it can be really fun. And I come up to him and, and, and I say something about, you know, being one handed or whatever it was, and he did not respond to that. I thought he might. He was not able to connect in that way. And he shied away from me and he walked away. And I can also tell that he was he just wasn't ready to have others see him. And it reminded me that I needed to be very aware because I was already very aware of how others would how others perceived me. But I also it was a learning for me at that moment because I realized that others with disabilities may or may not be at the same place of acceptance or accountability that I'm at, and to be very aware of going into those different situations.

Alisa [00:13:10] How would you, Anna, if there was a listener right now, let's say, you know, high schooler college age and maybe this is something that they're dealing with, they're processing their learning to and working on coming to that point of acceptance. How would you encourage that person that's listening today?

Anna [00:13:35] I would say that going to Scripture was going into the Bible and looking at scriptures that directly directed me to what God's view of us as people are is critical. For me, it was Psalm 139 recognizing that God, you know, He forms each and every one of us intentionally, and he did so in a place of intimacy and love and quiet and solitude and peace. And that he built you. He created you the way that you are for a reason, for a purpose. That you that what happened to make you be born differently. Or it wasn't by accident, it was by design. And to embrace that God loves you and that He He wants you to do amazing things with what he's given you and maybe with what he hasn't given you. He wants you to make a difference for his kingdom. And for me, that was a huge in that moment when I was in my twenties and deciding about whether or not I should stop wearing the armor altogether. That was scary because without the arm I was visibly just 100% different from the onset. So my disability is so visible that you can't you can't hide that really. And it was scary. It was a scary prospect to be seen immediately and to be known as different. And so. Looking at Psalm 139 and realizing that. It was different, but it wasn't unplanned. My God gave me some confidence in boldly stepping out and recognizing that hiding behind for me, hiding behind that prosthetic arm was actually not being genuine or authentic to the way God made me. Was a sign for me as well. And so I hope that that could be encouraging for anyone struggling with how they look or how they perceiving them, how they're perceiving themselves to look towards others, to know that you were made so intentionally and so purposefully for reasons that maybe you haven't even discovered yet.

Chris [00:15:47] You know, it sounds profound for anybody, whether they have a visible disability and internal, you know, mental struggle that no one sees. I know. Imagine that's giving you great insight into. I've heard you used the word known, seeing, heard, understood. It seems like whoever we are, we're dealing with something about us. A past trauma. Yeah, a history, a family that we don't like, a culture that we're embarrassed by a never. It might be that many of us are actually seeking that same thing. And I imagine your insights into the normal human experience, which is just to be seen to be known. And then through that it's to be understood and to be loved. Right? Right. And I imagine this has given you great insight into others and people in general, regardless of the visible illness of a disability or not.

Anna [00:16:50] Is very true. I think that. There's so many instances where we self doubt our abilities. We are self conscious of something about ourselves or we feel like we're not good enough. We don't measure up against what maybe culture and society would say that we need to be, that there's a universality beside, you know, with it, with knowing that my story that maybe, yes, it's very specific in some ways, but it's also so universal in other ways too. And to recognize that we can we can grow in that and authenticity of who we are and God's plan for us down the road. And also to realize that, you know, when I share my story to my students, that they might be feeling the same things only for different reasons. But it can be so unifying to know that we still experience these same feelings and that we can talk about that with each other in ways that connect us in. It doesn't have to be that you have a disability or that you don't have a disability. It could be. And other things that these students are grappling with that really can be a unifying force.

Chris [00:17:57] You know, and it just reminds me there's some very old studies that were done. They're kind of hidden in the literature in our field, in psychology that I think are relevant. I'd love to hear your thoughts on them. It started with the person who ultimately defined something called the Spotlight Effect. And the spotlight effect is people's tendency to believe that they are the focus of everything around them and that what they say, what they weigh or what they do ultimately is what goes through their mind first rather than, you know. So here's what he did to explore it. You had people wear a shirt that had a band on the shirt, let's say, you know, a musical group or a sports team that they absolutely either loved or absolutely hated. So let's say you hate it. I don't know Backstreet Boys and you had to wear a Backstreet Boys shirt, go out into the mall. And they came back and they claimed and they said, well, what was it like to wear this, you know, thing on your shirt that was absolutely, you know, hideous for you, whatever. And they would say, oh, my gosh, it was so embarrassing. Everybody saw it. You know, I just hope nobody saw me that knew me. I felt like people would kind of back away or chuckle behind their breath. And it made me very self-conscious. And then they went out and did something. They interviewed all of the people that they had seen or interacted with, and the vast majority did not even recognize the shirt. They didn't see it. Then they took one last little thing, and I don't know if it was the same research or not. They put a visible scar on them, a scar made by a makeup artist. And when they went out to this, this person that they put the scar on these people, they showed him a mirror and they went, Oh, now that's so visible, that's so difficult, that's so hard. And they let them go out and interact with people. And as they came back, they asked, what was your experience like? And they they said almost all of them came back saying, wow, it was really embarrassing. It was people were they treated me differently. They were distant. They felt like they stared at me. I people weren't comfortable. They didn't interact with me. And I found it very hard. Well, then they revealed that not a single person who went out there was actually wearing the scar. What they did was right before they walked out the room, the makeup artist said, Hold on just a second. There's some glue that I need to push and put on. And they removed the scar that people thought it was still there. They walked out and yet almost every one of them came back saying people were different. So it's known as this Scarface study, for example. I think the the the end the end is we see what we expect to see. And my scars influence the way I interpret people. So. In other words, I'm likely to utilize whatever my scar is, whether it's internal, whether it's a trauma. I have experience, whether it's I feel horrible, my rotten hair today or clothes, and that I interpret other people's behavior based on that. I know that you have experienced and overcome much of this through this scar. And I think the interesting thing about that study, Anna, is that we carry them. Yours just happens to be visible. And I know it's the same point we've been talking about, but our challenge to married couples and to people who are dating is be careful how you interpret the actions of other people as being this or that, especially even strangers, when in reality you're filtering this through what you expect to see. Yeah. And I think the take home for me, Anna was a Lisa. We've been married a long time and it took me any many, many years before I realized I was actually interpreting her behavior slightly more negative because I just assumed some things. So she would say a benign comment. And I go, Well, at least that's just not true. She goes, okay. And I go, But we don't have to do it. That's not I just don't think that's right. And she's like, Well, because that's kind of what I was saying. I'm like, No, you said this. I realized slowly that I was biased and filtering it through a more on this case, a more cynical or critical spirit that I thought she might have had when in reality it was me in it. Give us your take on that and your experiences in relationships related to we all use these cars. It's kind of what someone implies as well.

Anna [00:22:56] Right.

Chris [00:22:57] And what's your thoughts on that?

Anna [00:22:58] That's amazing. That just reminds me of a study that I did with my dissertation, because my dissertation worked with authentic leadership and disabled students in the undergraduate classroom setting, because authentic leadership is the one leadership theory where really it's in the eye of the beholder. The the followers, the observers are watching a leader and they're beginning to understand what the leaders values are based off of what they're saying and what they're doing. Like if you ask a leader, are you authentic? Are you an authentic leader? The leader will always say, Oh, sure, of course I'm authentic. Why wouldn't I be authentic? I'm the best leader ever. But then you ask their their employees or the people that follow them, is this leader is your leader and authentic leader? And they'll have something to say because of what they've observed the leader doing. And it may or may not align with what the leader thinks. And that's a whole nother conversation altogether. But there was a study that I found done in the late seventies where there were a bunch of the participants were disabled individuals and they were given a survey and it was about their quality of life and it was how do you rate your quality of life based off of your disability? You know, do you feel as a you're your. That you're living life to the fullest because of your disability and the and then they also polled a individuals and the ideas that behind it were that the disabled community that were pulled in that survey had a better value of their quality of life. They said that they were not hindered, that they had an amazing quality of life based on what they knew to be true in their particular situations. But it was the able bodied individuals that said, no, their quality of life couldn't possibly be up to par because of their disability. And it was an amazing dichotomy of perception where someone who's able bodied would say to someone, Oh, you don't have the highest quality of life. And the disabled individual would say, Well, what are you what are you basing that off over you? What are you rating of the highest quality of life? Because I feel like I have an amazing life. And so we got to the point where people's perceptions versus realities were different. And almost there was a projection from one group of people to another.

Chris [00:25:05] That's it. That's it. Yeah. It's fascinating how we all fall victim to the it's similar to, I guess, the spotlight effect, right where we're clearly this must be the case because I feel it this way and it must be the case for you that that that's happening to you. It reminds me of happiness research in a to where they find that regardless of your life circumstances, that if you win a lottery, for example, they look at lottery winners and they go, oh, you know, they just won $5 million and they look at their happiness levels. And while there's an an initial spike, pretty soon it goes right back to the same level. It's it's pretty much, you know, or they have a trauma. Something very bad happens and there's a downward spike in their happiness. But it pretty much comes right back up to this level of status that happens. And I think that's kind of fascinating that for you, for example, this is your life, this is what you've done. My happiness level is, you know what it is. Let's then how all of this is related with you And Jeremy, you mentioned very briefly, but how does this start to impact, like even raising children? I imagine you got some great stories.

Anna [00:26:25] Oh, there's so many stories about about the family and the dynamics that having my having the one arm, sometimes it can be challenging, but I think ultimately it's been so rewarding. And that is, you know, early on with Jeremy, I was so nervous to start a family. So I didn't think that with one arm I would logistically and operationally be a good mom. You know, how do you change a diaper with one arm? Well, that's a question that I had to learn the hard way. And I, I finally came to the point that I had to just I used my chin to lift up their legs, and I just had to use every wipe in the box, Like I had to just tell myself that the how I was going to do motherhood was going to be different than other people's view of motherhood. And I was it might be messier, it might take me longer, but I could still get the job done. I could still figure out how to do the diaper or how to, you know, hold the baby, you know, when they're when they're little with with the, you know, with one arm and little arm and finding different ways to do things just was sort of sort of our family dynamic. We just adapt and we just move forward with a new way of doing things. And and that's how we've raised the boys. Something that is so, so important to me is that I never want my boys to be part of any group that's bullying or teasing anyone for any reason at all, because I'm so sensitive to that in my own childhood. And so there will be moments where, you know, Andy will ask me a question, say, Mom, is that that boy over there has a medical condition and that's how he reads it. And I said, Yeah, that I think he hasn't been going on. He goes, okay, I just wanted to make sure. And so they kind of have that. They're sensitive. In fact, Andy, the story of with he was eight years old at this time. We were out and about somewhere with the family and Andy was we were waiting for something in the line and Andy was was fussing with my sleeve. And I was just letting him have fun with it because it was we were waiting and we needed something to keep him occupied. But what he was doing was he was unrolling my sleeve. So on the on my right arm, I wear my sleeves rolled up like you see here. And he was unrolling my sleeve very slowly and he was very quietly tucking that extra fabric into my pocket. And I didn't really know at the time what was going on or why. And he said later that night, he said, Mom, remember when I was unrolling your sleeve and putting it in your pocket? And I said, Yeah, buddy. It was well, I did that because I saw people were staring at you and I didn't want them to I didn't want them to make you upset or to get sad. And so I wanted to make you look normal. Hmm. And I said, eight years old, so.

Alisa [00:28:51] Wow. And so how did you respond to that? What did you know? What was your response?

Anna [00:28:55] I mean.

Alisa [00:28:56] You know, I would. Yeah, I'm going to wipe my tears right now.

Anna [00:29:00] So I was like, I love your heart. You have such a sensitive, genuine heart. You are so observant. And the fact that you saw this happening and that you cared about Mom's feelings, that just I said, thank you so much. And and I said, Buddy, did you did that because you want you want a mom to look more normal in that moment. And so they would stop staring. They said, Yeah, I just didn't want you to feel bad that they were staring at you. Mom, this old buddy, thank you so much. And I wanted to affirm his actions, and then also in a gentle way, let him know that you know it. It's okay, buddy. If people stare at Mom because, you know, they're. You know, I am that elephant in the room, right? Maybe the spotlight. Sometimes it does intentionally come in on me a little bit. And I say, buddy, they're just, you know, don't be upset at them either, buddy, because they were just curious. They probably didn't know what let Mom's arm look like and they were just curious. They wanted to see. So and I don't want them I wouldn't want him to think ill of other people that you know, and at the same time let him know that it's okay if mom stands out a little bit. You know, you don't have to hide me, you know, at the same time is also affirming his actions.

Chris [00:30:01] And Anna, you did the. Oh, I'm sorry. Lis, you go ahead

Alisa [00:30:03] I was just going to say I really I love that because that that ability to see ourselves and going back to something that you said and when you were talking about hold their feet up with your chin. And I was just babysitting our three month old grandson this morning. And so I totally I mean, it's it's hard enough to. Change those diapers with both the able hands because they're squirmy…

Anna [00:30:34] Oh they move.

Alisa [00:30:34] Oh, my gosh. But I loved what you said. You said I finally had to figure out how I'm going to do this. And maybe it doesn't look like the way everybody else does it. Maybe it's a little messier, and that's okay.

Anna [00:30:50] Yeah.

Alisa [00:30:51] I love that perspective because I think even that something you were alluding to, Chris, is that we are we all have things that were that we're self-conscious about. Yeah. You know, I think like for Chris, you mentioned when you were in, I think junior high, elementary, junior high before you got braces, you had a tooth that was out of place. And so you would smile crooked so that you couldn't see that that tooth, right?

Chris [00:31:17] Yeah. Oh, yeah, I did. I was very self-conscious about it, mostly because, you know, people. Yeah. Yeah. Very self-conscious.

Alisa [00:31:25] And for me, it was I had really bad skin growing up, had really bad acne in junior high and high school. Thank the Lord. It finally started clearing up in college. Oh, it was just. It was horrible for me. And so there were things that I would do to cover that up. So I didn't stand out. And so I loved the fact that that what you were saying is, is, you know what? It's okay to be different. It's okay that maybe we don't always fall into the prescribed ways of doing life or the way everything else does. And sometimes it's going to be messy.

Anna [00:32:01] Yeah.

Alisa [00:32:02] And that's okay. Yeah. And I think that is such a wonderful role model for your kids, you know, no matter what their issue, anybody that we might feel insecure about is, you know what, I've got to figure out the way God has wired me. I got to figure out the way he's using me. And it may not look the way that you do. It may not look the way somebody else does it. But you know what? It's unique to me. And that's a strength and that's a beautiful thing. And I think if we can all get to that point where no matter what it is, I don't have to look like and sound like and be like everybody else to be okay and to be acceptable and to even be a firm right.

Anna [00:32:50] Where do we get our affirmation really comes from the Lord. 

Alisa [00:32:52] Exactly.

Anna [00:32:53] And that's I mean that I want the boys to to take away from, too.

Alisa [00:32:57] Yeah. Did you ever worry about them worrying that they had to protect you and take care of you in a way that maybe. Could possibly go beyond, you know, like a normal sensitivity where it might ever cross over into an unhealthy prospect of, I've got to protect mom, I've got to make sure nobody hurts her. I've got to do this. I don't know that kind of. Is there a tension with that or how do you how do you navigate that? And how do you know the different.

Anna [00:33:32] Right. I think that that's a great question. And I think that the boys. There's a sort of that line that I draw where it's like, okay, mom, mom knows how to handle herself. And and and I tell them stories about, you know, being teased and I tell them so many we call them one arm stories. And and I think that the boys. Know that I'm a capable individual because I've learned and I've experienced so many things. So, so far, I haven't had to be concerned about them over protecting. But like in the moment when I think the the the clearest example of of them being aware was was Andy with the sleeve because he was doing that all on his own and he was observing somebody watching me and and I think that that was where I wanted him to say Oh, mom, I see. I see. You know, that was so sweet of you that you did that for mom. And it's okay that people stare. And that's a hard thing for me to say because I've learned over the years that people will want to look and they they want to know, but they're afraid to ask. So sometimes it can make other people awkwardly uncomfortable because they want to respect and they want to understand. But they they also want to know. And they don't know how to ask.

Alisa [00:34:50] How should they ask?

Anna [00:34:52] So a lot of times, I mean, with kids, there's like hardly any filter, right? So the kids are just like, what happened to our, you know, and then the parents and I'll say, Oh, no, that's a great question. Thank you so much for being brave and asking. And so some people will say, Hey, do you mind if I ask you about what happened to your arm? And that sometimes is a nice way to approach it. It's more of a question so that I can say, Oh, yes, I could definitely answer answer that for you. Or Oh, I would love to, but I'm in a rush with my kids. I'm sorry, I can't answer that for you today. And so that sometimes a good way of approaching the situation.

Chris [00:35:23] And I love the interaction with your child on this related to how other people see and perceive. But what stands out to me that could really help anybody is utilizing your filter and understanding it. And what I mean by that is you have a very healthy, positive filter that you use about the public's perception of you. What I could what I'm not hearing is, gosh, people stare because they're rude. They're they're they're unkind, they're pushy, and they just want to know for their own. And they treat me like an object. But what I'm hearing from you is instead a more positive view, I guess, of humanity that at least that you utilize, which is when this person is staring and you're telling your child it's okay. They just want to know they're not bad, they're not mean, they're not pushy. That that's not weird. That's just okay. Like and I that's what I'm sensing from you. And you've developed that. And I would hope and that's what I guess maybe because I want to develop that a much more um, I don't know, accepting positive view of just people being curious versus people being obnoxious or people not, they're not teasing when they look or they're not being mean. They're just, you know, whatever. And that sounds like you've developed, you had to develop that attitude and perception or scar or let's say filter, is that right?

Anna [00:37:03] Absolutely. Because I've had my fair share of super awkward interactions where I'll be walking down the road and someone will come up to me and say, Oh, that sucks. Oh, that's a that's a bummer. Or I was in the grocery store one time and some woman came up to me and said, Oh, your mom took that drug, didn't she? That caused birth defects.

Alisa [00:37:25] Oh my goodness. I know.

Anna [00:37:27] Or I've reached out to shake people's hands before and they just they look at you and they just back away almost in fear because they see that you don't have an arm shake with. So there's been so many awkward experiences, but there's been some really beautiful interactions. Like so your example is last year my family and I went to Great Wolf Lodge, and so we're at the, you know, the water park area, and I'm actually watching the boys and my husband do the wipe out. I think that's a big wave. And you're on the board and you just you know, and I'm thinking videos and we're having this moment and we were there for a little while and we all turned to go walk back to somewhere else. And this family catches us. And you could tell that they had been watching us for a little while. It was a family with like four kids. It was a mom and dad. And one of the the mom was holding a little girl and the family just kind of came up to us all of a sudden said like, hi, like, we just wanted to say hi. And I noticed that the little girl had an arm just like mine.

Alisa [00:38:24] Oh, wow.

Anna [00:38:26] And I just saw this, like, hope in the mom's face. And it was almost as if they were watching and they I could almost see this mom think to herself, look at that. That that mom with the one arm like my little girl. And she has a family. She found a family. You know, she found someone to love her. She has this life. There's hope for my little girl, too. And it was almost like we had this unspoken, like, you're going to be okay because. I'm okay. Kind of a moment. And we just talked for a few seconds. It was like, Oh, it's so nice to meet you. A little girl, so adorable, and she's amazing. And they can just see that. And we just kind of parted ways. But I almost felt like in that moment that young mom was looking at me sort of like the the the version of her daughter 30 years from now, and that it's possible for my little girl to have a future.

Alisa [00:39:17] Full of life. So what would you say to that couple that maybe they are just maybe they just got the news they're pregnant and they've they've discovered through some kind of genetic testing or something that there's some kind of abnormality, some kind of problem. Or maybe like your parents. I think you said that they maybe it was before we were on air, you said that that that nobody knew anything was up until you were actually born. And they told your mom. Yes. And and your dad, I imagine. So. What would you say to that parent that just got this news and maybe. Maybe they they're not. Their response is different from your mom's because you said your mom. Well, tell us, what was your your mom's response?

Anna [00:40:08] They they both looked at each other and then looked at the doctor and said, okay, well, that's fine. You know, my mom said, well, you know, is her heart healthy? Is she is she breathing well? Is everything is she okay from like a you know, from a real medical perspective? And they said she looks healthy. Everything seems fine except just the absence of her arm. And and I said, okay, that's fine. We'll deal with it. And in fact, my dad told me later that his next thought was, how am I going to get my daughter to water ski, which she was an avid water skier. And he did. I was I started water skiing when I was five.

Alisa [00:40:44] Oh, my gosh.

Anna [00:40:45] So I would say I would say in that moment, in those moments where a mom and a dad might be grappling with a diagnosis or the reality that their child may be different in some way, I would say that it's it's not by accident and that it is something beautiful and purposeful from the Lord that he can use in in the lives of the people that they come in contact with, not just their family dynamic. And that to embrace the difference, to embrace the change and doesn't mean that it's not going to be painful and difficult and challenging because it will be, but that it's for a greater purpose and that their child is so special and so unique. All you need to do is figure out the different ways in which you need to do things differently and that you need to break apart from what we think normal is and realize that, you know, a lot of my in my research, my literature review, research on disability, there's this normalcy theory and this idea of saying just because something is not normal doesn't mean that's abnormal. Why is the opposite of normal abnormal? Why is the you know, why is the antithesis of normal the complete opposite of what normal is? And it's the idea of seeing your new reality is going to be different, but it's going to be beautiful and it's going to be something that has redeeming qualities that you may not even recognize down the road.

Alisa [00:42:12] A new normal are different. Normal can. Can I ask one other question? If you would speak to. Let's imagine that there's two couples at the same time. They're pregnant. They're both pregnant. Both are just excited for this new life and all the hopes and dreams that we all have when when we're expecting that baby and what you, you know, are anticipating life is going to be like. And let's let's imagine that one of those couples got word that that there's something going on with the baby. There's going to be some problem, some issue health wise, maybe a mental disorder or a genetic disorder of whatever physical disorder. What would you say to that? Not only that one that you just spoke to that said, okay, there can be hope, there can be a new normal, There can still be a really great healthy life satisfaction and enjoy in it. It just may be different and it's not going to be like everybody else's. Might be a little messy. Going back to what you said, I love that. What would you say to that couple that they're friends with that have the healthy baby? And how does that friend who's feeling maybe guilt. Why is my baby okay? And hers isn't. What would you say to that, to that that couple?

Anna [00:43:45] It's a great question. I would say. To be encouraged that God has a unique plan for each family. And that doesn't mean that even this couple that has that apparent healthy baby isn't going to come across challenges or trials in their life down the road that they can't foresee. And that's idea. We never want to get comfortable in what we think the perfect anything is, because we know that God can give and God can take away. God can. He can bless and He can He can put things in the road for us to have to walk through and walk over. So we'd never want to have that that sense of security and saying, Oh. Our lives are going down this trajectory and theirs are going down that trajectory because we really don't know where our paths are going to go. And so I think that that can provide humility. I think it can provide context and clarity. But I think it really needs to and needs to also come with the idea that we don't know what is in store for our family either. Just like we don't know what's in store for their family. And so you never want to cross compare. And also to in the moments, though, knowing that there might be some delicate things happening with your friends and the other family to be there for them, but also not to shy away from the joy that they have. I mean, with their baby, how can you celebrate and and be sensitive at the same time? And I think those are things that we could all learn, because I think growing growing in the idea that the competitiveness of life just takes away. It robs the uniqueness that God has put before us that we never want to feel like we want to be like these people because their lives are perfect. We have no idea what's going on behind the curtain with those individuals lives. They might be dealing with things that you don't have to deal with, but you don't see that. And so you don't want to you don't want to assume anything when you're going down life together.

Alisa [00:45:40] That's so true.

Chris [00:45:41] That's a great word. And and if people wanted to read your dissertation, heaven forbid, they would read mine, I think. I think it has four checkouts in the library at Colorado State, and my wife is one and my mom was one.

Alisa [00:45:58] I still got to that to the right. 

Chris [00:46:01] Of the other two. But but I mean, and it's such a great story. Your dissertation is on this topic. What if people just said, Gosh, I want to hear more from me? Where can I find out more? I'm so curious and so interested. What would you recommend? And do you have anything that you would you say? Well, I may not be able to connect with you personally, but I try this church group or try this organization I found. Or if somebody just wanted more information or wanted to hear more because I know I'm like, I want to go more to your dissertation. I want to learn more about your study of disabled and how they interpret and see, you know, be and our scene.

Anna [00:46:40] Well, that's a great question. And I, I even even with my disability, I was just scratching the surface of my knowledge until I got into my literature review for a dissertation. And when I really started to go into critical disability studies and the models of disability, the fact that there's a social model, there's a moral model, I mean, there's a there's a physical model of disability. And I saw those come to play where when I was with my students that I was interviewing with, where someone would say to me in, in the interview setting, people think that, you know, that because my disability is, is I was at birth that I've done something wrong or my family has done something wrong for me to be born this way, that's that falls into the moral model of disability, of how people have perceived disability throughout the ages is just was such an eye opening experience for me to dive into the literature. So I would say there are a lot of resources, you know. Love Johnny. Eric Santora, who was with Johnny and friends for a ministry is just it's such an honor, she says. She's such an important figure in the disabled community's representation. She was instrumental with the ADA act that happened into her ministry. Johnny and Friends is just phenomenal, and they have a research institute where a lot of work is being done for disabilities, and so that's a huge resource. I think that that would be the first one I would say to, to look look into for being able to understand a little bit more about the disabled world.

Chris [00:48:09] And then they will have to go to a Google search to find your dissertation.

Anna [00:48:13] Because someone probably has one or two views and those probably both from and for me, because it's so it's so new. And I have I have hopes and dreams maybe be able to start to pen some ideas down that might go into it, that go into a book and and to be able to share the experiences that I've had, but also how they're so they work in so many different contexts and that'd be really fun to be able to.


Chris [00:48:35] Let's do this. And I would love to invite you to do a blog for us, whether it's a series or one or two in all the free time that you have, or raising two children teaching classes full time. But please do that. We'll post it on our Web site and get just to be able to hear you even mentioning, you know, Joanie in her ministry, you know, is what happened to her, you know, diving into just to swim one day. I think she's 15 or 16. I don't remember.

Alisa [00:49:07] Yeah, She.

Chris [00:49:08] Was still young and became quadriplegic. But all of your experiences in that would just be so practical, so helpful. And you're such a great spokesperson in general for what? You know, just all these great ideas of how we view ourselves. But the ultimate thing I think that I'm taking home is we all want to be known. We all want to be seen, we all want to be understood. And we were made with a purpose. As someone 39 says, we are wonderfully made. And that's just such a joy and a lifting knowledge of God. You did this. And even for people who experience things later in life, maybe they don't, you know, they might feel, Did God do this to me? What? Why did this happen to me? What did I do wrong in that moral approach to trauma and even just things like that could be so wonderful to unpack with you.

Anna [00:50:05] I would love to do that. Thank you so much.

Alisa [00:50:07] Yeah, it was just been a delight to get to know you and to have you with us and you just exude joy and hope. And I love that there's just there's so many people that need that hope and that hopeful word that you shared with us today. And we're really glad you came.

Anna [00:50:26] Thank you so much for having me.

Alisa [00:50:28] It's our it's our joy. So I think we're.

Chris [00:50:30] Gonna have Anna back soon.

Alisa [00:50:31] Yeah. So maybe we should have Jeremy come to so we can get his his side of the story.

Anna [00:50:37] Yeah, that would be so great.

Alisa [00:50:39] That would be awesome. But thanks for listening today. We're glad you joined us on The Art of Relationships. This is brought to you by the Center for Marriage and Relationships at Biola University. We hope you'll check out our website at And we will see you next time on the Art of Relationships.

Chris [00:50:59] Yeah, See you.

Mandy [00:51:02] We're very glad you joined us for today's podcast. For more resources on marriage and healthy relationships, please visit our Web site at Seema. Dot Viola, dot edu. We'll see you next time on The Art of Relationships.