I Went To Mass

For the fall semester I had an assignment I really wasn’t looking forward to. In fact I thought about trying to find a way out of it (by playing the D-Card since the vast majority of churches aren’t accessible), but I reconsidered (mainly because everyone knows my intentions in working towards a Master’s Degree and trying to bow out of the assignment would go against that).

The assignment was to attend a church within the Catholic tradition but not of my native culture; basically go to a mass that isn’t celebrated in English (or Latin, since that’s the 2nd language of some Catholics).

Once we chose a church we were to independently research cultural customs in relation to Catholicism to prepare for the visit. Originally I had intended on using friends for research and as “mass buddies,” because I’m not too crazy about walking into new and potentially uncomfortable situations solo.

Instead I found a church that looked like it would be more interesting, and potentially set myself apart from my classmates. But there would be no safety net. In fact when it came to “voice our concerns about our visit” I came right out and said (well typed) that I wasn’t concerned about the language barrier as much as I was the physical barriers.

I did as much research on the physical barriers as much as I could, which was probably more effort than I put into the cultural research. I could’ve called the parish office and asked but decided against it, for one thing being told, “we’re accessible, we just have stairs” is one of the more annoying oxymoron’s ever told, for another, if I’m going to be realistic about my research I need to know what’s out there, even if it’s ugly.

I was lucky enough to find one of the very few churches that has daily mass twice a day (1 English mass, 1 not) so I decided to go to daily mass rather than a Sunday mass, figuring daily mass would have a smaller crowd. I figured a smaller crowd would already be inside when I arrived so I could take my time with the stairs, if there ended up being any.

I arrived at the church prepared to climb a substantial amount of stairs, and there were a few, but there was also a ramp (And the heavens parted). It wasn’t a ramp that required much of a remodel to the building since it went over the existing stairs but it was clear that this ramp was meant to stay since it’s big, sturdy, and at a good angle for anyone that may have to propel themselves up it.

Although the ramp wasn’t at the main entrance it was close enough to the main entrance that I didn’t feel that instant pang of separation as you would seeing a sign saying “handicap access at back of building.” The door looked like a typical stained glass door that you would find at many other churches, except there was a hand plate for an automatic door to the side. I thought, “How much do you want to bet this doesn’t work because it might cause damage to the glass” (which I can understand but then the door should be made of another material). I hit the button anyway, and the door opened, and a choir of angels sang (not really, but they should have).

Although there were no “pew cuts” for wheelchair users or obvious places to safely put mobility aids the aisles were big enough that parking a wheelchair at the end of a pew wouldn’t cause an obstruction to others. Nor were there any rows that were marked as “reserved for the handicapped,” a personal dislike of mine.

It was obvious that this parish community wanted as many people as possible to feel welcomed. How many churches do you know of these days that offer 2 masses daily (in 2 languages), 5 masses on Sunday in 3 three different languages, AND is accessible? (The bulletin is bilingual as well.)

I may not have understood the language and fumbled my way through mass, because I’m still adapting to the “new” responses (it’s only been like 3 years), I still felt welcomed. A feat every church should strive for but few actually attain.

After mass I sat down to write out my assignment, reflect on the cultural differences one can find in the Catholic Church, and I did. However I spent twice as long on the assignment because I kept diverting to other aspects that caught my attention, like the ramp & the automatic door, and how in the end the language barriers didn’t bother me at all because I was in a building that was built at the turn of the century, looked it, and was still nearly barrier-less.

In hindsight I probably should’ve made the case for the fact that the disability community is its own culture within itself.

I went to a church that wasn’t mine & felt truly welcome. I may even go back for an English mass, especially if you consider that I don’t even feel very welcomed and accepted at my local parish.

*A similar version of this post was written on December 17, 2014

Grad School: The 1st Year

I’ve been a grad student for a full year. It’s a cliché to say it’s been a blur of a rollercoaster ride but it’s the truth. I remember (although barely) being sent a blank tracking sheet and being asked to fill it out and email it to my advisor prior to discussing the upcoming year. I had seen it before, prior to deciding which degree program to apply to, but this time was different.

This time was “how am I ever going to take this many classes?”

A year later grades are being added and the next year of classes are being filled in.

It isn’t looking like I’ll be in school forever anymore (although graduation is still far off).

I figured I’d average one class a semester so I wouldn’t get overloaded but once reality set in that plan changed, numerous times in fact.

So I began taking 2 classes a semester. Not a big deal really. I was surprised by how natural it felt to coordinate so many schedules each dictated by another person.

I had a handle on the year until this past semester, and then things went nuts, like giant coconut sized nuts. I thought about dropping my classes but I was too far in to quit now, and dropping classes would just mean having to take them again later on.

So I sucked it up, sometimes barely, and kept going. I put down the movies and fun social events and picked up the books more. School became my escape, although I wouldn’t say I buried myself in my books (but that’s another story really).

I watched my “need to read” pile shrink.

I did in fact read the entire pile except 1 book (and the encyclopedia, I’m not that nerdy). However that’s just the book pile the articles and ebooks is another story.

Last week I turned to the pile to pick up the next book I needed to read and realized there wasn’t one there. I was relieved, and a bit lost to be honest.

I started to clean up the pile that’s accumulated in the last few months, except it’s not just from this semester. It’s from the last school year, which started in September.

It’s been a long year.

It’s time to clean, organize, and put away.

And of course gear up for the next year.

The battery in my mouse is dying, right on schedule.

If I had any skill at all I’d probably make my friends and family a cake that looks something like this because I more than willingly admit that I haven’t been the easiest person to be associated with:

Oh yeah and I started posting on Instagr@m after creating an account who knows how long ago.

Being Mis-Matched

I’ve never thought of myself as a disabled person.

Instead it was a label placed on me and I’ve learned to embrace it.

I came into this world with it and that’s how I’ll leave. It’s normal to me. So if you asked me, until recently, if I saw myself as normal or disabled I’d tell you normal. More than likely I’ll still tell you I’m normal, with a disability.

My disability was not acquired. There was no accident. There was no stroke, Cerebral Palsy can be caused by a stroke but mine was not. I don’t have a story about when my life changed. I don’t have time segmented with before disability and after disability.

Technically I’m handicapped. A handicapped person can be classified as someone who did not acquire a disability but has impairment or some kind.

However if the situation were different I suspect my thoughts on this subject would be different. Would I wear it as a badge of honor as some do? Or would I gripe in my struggles? I can’t really say. I haven’t been there to say. I can tell you all about what I would like to be like, or what I might be like, but those are just guesses at best.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how mismatched I am for the life I see myself having & what makes me the happiest.

Disability has become the more socially acceptable term so I’m subjected to rules, laws, red tape, and type face that does not apply to me, if you’re looking at it though the lenses of the definition of a handicap rather than a disability.

These days the only time you hear the word handicap without worrying about the onset of a riot is in reference to golf or a parking spot.

I’m not putting out a call for a change in terminology, but I am asking you to simply consider this for a minute or two.

I’ve made a semi-offhand comment, on multiple occasions no less, that I missed the memo about people with disabilities being cubical people, because that seems to be the assumption and there is some truth to it.

Unfortunately I’m defining my own truth. Actually how is that unfortunate? If I have to redefine assumptions then so be it. I may not be able to do everything asked of me at any given point, but can you name one person who can? That doesn’t mean I have to sit in a cubicle, or even a corner office, all day and be bored within an inch of my life.

My body doesn’t match what my brain likes to do. My brain doesn’t believe my body shouldn’t do some of the things it probably shouldn’t and even can’t do. And it really is 50/50 as to whether my brain or my body wins the battle.

I’m a born and raised New Englander. I’m less than 2 hours from New York City by train. The Big E is a major event in my life every year & the letter R becomes an afterthought if I’m being too casual or I’m really really angry.

My mother’s lived in the same house my entire life, and so has my grandmother. Everyone pretty much left Ellis Island and liked it here in these parts so much that they decided to stay. My dad’s mother is from Chicago and still managed to make herself a New Englander. So I’m pretty positive none of my folk joined any wagon trains and ventured west.

However I’ve had a fascination with the west ever since I can remember. I’d sit and stare at my U.S. puzzle and wonder just what was out there. New England, a composition of 6 states, is just one puzzle piece. All other states have their own piece. And the western states are the biggest pieces, just what was in each of these places.

My friends would tease me for watching rodeo events on T.V. calling it low class or culture (oozing with sarcasm). I didn’t understand what I was watching the majority of the time but I was fascinated enough to keep watching. After all rodeo is the only sport with its roots in an actual occupation, and that in itself deserves some additional respect.

I don’t remember the first rodeo I watched but it was on T.V. and I’m not sure why I put it on. All I know is when I started watching I thought I was watching insanity on display but by the end I was hooked. By the end I understood the motivation, even if I didn’t understand anything else.

I ventured west on a 757, well maybe not, but it was on an airplane. I had just finished reading a book from the Love Comes Softly series, which I find much more enjoyable than Little House On The Prairie (for the record), so my brain went straight to wagon trains and pioneers. This was my venture west. My family may not have the desire for such a thing, but I did and now it was happening.

I found a new home in the Northwest. I still had my New England accent, did things way too fast, and found the friendliness of people strange for a while. But it became my home. In fact when an administrative assistant asked if I had “grown up here” and I almost said, “Yes.” It wouldn’t exactly be a lie if I had said yes; I mean I did grow up there. “Yes,” would be the short answer, and the long one.

I’d love to live and work in the same place (and to some extent I do, now). I’d take manual labor and the outdoors, or at least an unconventional career path, over a corner office (or telecommuting) and paperwork any day. I’m in love with a lifestyle that’s dying out.

You see, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m mismatched in several areas of my life. But it’s only a matter of time before I find my match. If I don’t find a match, I can always make one. After all isn’t life making something of yourself, and the world around you?

*A similar version of this post was written on May 17, 2009

HAWMC Recap

In April I took part in The Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge this month (also known as #HAWMC). I was supposed to post a recap of the month’s posts, but BADD was yesterday so my monthly review got pushed to today.

I’m not going to lie. This last month has been interesting balancing everything was a bigger challenge than I anticipated, even though I’ve participated in this challenge in the past. One of the biggest blessings of re-launching a blog is that I have a fair amount of previously published material to draw on and republish. Frankly it’s probably the one thing that saved me from throwing in the towel on the whole thing after a few weeks. Doubling your course load and planning to write almost every day for 2 months straight when you can barely manage once a week wasn’t the best idea. But I made it (and I’m ready for a break).

Here’s A Rundown Of Posts:

Wordless Wednesday
The Key To Happiness Is……
Random Acts Of Kindness
A Creature Of Habit
Proudest Accomplishments
My Hero(es)
My Daily Diet
Keeping Track Of Memories
Challenge Of The Day
Comfort Foods
Letter To A Pet Pal
On The 7th Day
(Not Always) A Comeback Kid
“I Feel Best When….”
What Gets Me Excited?
Life Goals Of A 10 Year Old
Tag! CP’s It
Summertime Blues….Maybe
Stress? What Stress?
If I Had Time To Travel
Reflection On Activism
Hobbies In The Lobby
Free Swim
Fitness Friday
Word Cloud
Have A Good Day
Hit The Road Jack
H.E.A.L.T.H.
The Reviews Are In
Hindsight Is 20/20

Blogging Against Disablism ‘15: The “Acceptable” ism

I’ve never been an expert on Disablism or Ableism and honestly I don’t want to become one either. I hope Ableism/Disablism is on its way out before I ever fall into the expert category (another “Hail Mary” of a goal).

But that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself talking about it a lot, and probably more than I should. A little over a month ago I was asked to give a presentation on ableism and how it can affect accessing services, whether from public or private sector.

I like to hope the end result (the presentation) was a success. It was for me personally, if that counts for anything. But the creative process involved in crafting such a presentation wasn’t a breeze; there were moments when it was the last thing I wanted to do (in fact I tried to get out of it once the panic set in).

How do I explain ableism to people who have never experienced it for themselves? Or worse, how do I explain it to people who may have experienced it and might not know it?

I did the most basic thing possible. I started with the definition, just to get everyone in the room on the same page.

But where do I go from there?

I could’ve told a bunch of stories of my experiences with ableism but that wouldn’t be very helpful on a grander scale. Disabilities are too vast and varied for one person to carry the load (thank goodness, I guess).

My next slide was titled “the ism that’s acceptable.”

Yes, I’m still shocked I wrote that, even sarcastically, almost 2 months later.

I wasn’t implying that ableism is acceptable, and I’m still not.

I did it for the shock value; to make an important point.

Ableism is so entrenched in society that even the disabled can’t always tell if/when they’re being ableist.

I catch myself doing it more often than I’d like to admit so I think it’s safe to assume I’m not the only one that falls into this trap.

I don’t often change my stance mid-conversation, and perhaps I should, but I will often replay different situations in my head to see if there was anything at all that I could’ve done differently. I’ll often talk to friends with disabilities about ableist moments, or rather whether something was (or was not) an ableist moment.

One of my biggest challenges when it comes to advocacy is finding a balance between not going all “angry cripple” over every possible thing and letting people “get away with” being ableist (which is hard in itself when you can’t even keep yourself from being an ableist on occasion.

Ableism is never OK no matter how common it is in everyone’s everyday life but putting an end to it is going to be harder than I anticipated. Thank God awareness of ableism is on the rise but ending it once and for all isn’t going to be easy, just like every other “ism” out there.

But one question is in the forefront of my mind.

How are we supposed to rid the world of ableism if even the disabled can be ableists?

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2015