Remembering Jack

From a school in Copper Valley, to a legacy of thousands.

As the story goes a group of Jesuits and some of their Sister friends went to Copper Valley to open a school for Native Alaskan children.

Almost 60 years later the legacy continues to make a world of difference.

One of the Jesuits from that Copper Valley School decided to walk to Bethlehem in the name of peace.

He and his fellow pilgrims arrived in Jesus’ birthplace on Christmas Eve, or so the legend goes.

(Did you think I meant the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania? So do most people when they hear this story)

That same Jesuit joined me in a buffet line one spring in Seattle and invited me (and my community) to a meal at the local Jesuit residence.

Just like people do every day, except this was only the 2nd time I’ve crossed paths with this Jesuit. Typically this kind of gesture, although nice, would seem odd to me.

Except for the fact that this Jesuit seemed to possess a level of generosity and kindness of spirit that I hadn’t encountered before, and haven’t since. I knew he meant it.

This kind Jesuit with a boundless spirit and unforgettable sense of humor has touched many, a goal many reach for but very few achieve.

People thought he was nuts. I’m sure there were times he though his own ideas were nuts too. But he went for them anyway.

I laugh to myself whenever I wonder if I’m about to embark on something people think is nuts. Jack would probably be one of those people too, the only difference is, He’d tell you you’re nuts with a smile on his face, then tell you to go for it.

What the Lord can do with a restless spirit is truly amazing, and only something the Lord can do.

I have been truly blessed by his example.

Father Jack Morris S.J.
1927-2012

“Our human task, if you like, is to not flee from the ill-being but to transform it.”
–Jack Morris, June 2012

*A similar version of this post was written on October 8, 2012 & October 22, 2014

Swimming Half-Naked

I was getting ready to head out to the pool deck. I’ve got a routine that I follow so I don’t forget anything & be quick as possible. However I was having trouble putting my cap on, nothing unusual other than the fact that I’ve been able to put it on flawlessly since June (which I attribute to a flawless haircut by the woman who cuts my dad’s hair).

When I took it off to try putting it on again I noticed it had ripped. I hoped it was a small enough rip that I could still use it. I keep a second (sometimes 3rd of 4th) of everything that could break or rip easily, or be forgotten, in my swim bag at all times.

Everything except a spare cap and the rip was too big to swim with (you can see a picture on Inst@gram), even if I could manage to get it on my head.

“Well I might as well swim naked.”
(I have since been informed that the above statement could be classified as overkill)

I’ve swam with a cap since my first summer at Girl Scout camp; which is so long I can’t even remember how old I was when I went to Girl Scout Camp for the first time. Wearing a cap was a way to identify swimmers by ability and keep copious amounts of hair out of the pool filter.

I started keeping my caps from camp to use during the year. It wasn’t for fashion or style but practicality. It kept my hair out of my face.

I could swim better when I wasn’t trying to see through my hair to get to the wall, or moving my hair out of my eyes once I reached the wall. My goggles didn’t slide all over my head either. (#CurlyHairProblems)

One of the main reasons why I dislike open water swimming is because I hate swimming through and/or around seaweed so I really dislike swimming through my own hair.

I was never the fastest swimmer in the pool, not even close, that’s not a title I’ll ever hold in my lifetime, most likely anyway. But a cap enabled/enables me to have one less thing to worry about and have a chance at swimming faster, even if it was/is just a slight difference.

I thought, for a split second, to just pack up and go home until the sporting supply store opened so I could buy a cap and come back later. But I knew I was being dramatic, and the pool was practically empty, so I put on my metaphorical big girl pants and slid into the pool.

And swam naked.

Was it the big tragedy I imagined in my head? No.

In fact it reminded me how far (and how anal) I’ve come as a swimmer. I remember struggling through lessons for so many reasons, which included but were not limited to, feeling self-conscious both cosmetically and physically.

Do I wish I had a spare cap? Absolutely.

But not because I’m self-conscious, at least not in the same way I used to be, but that’s beside the point, maybe.

I started wearing a swim cap begrudgingly, because it “outed me.” It pointed out that I wasn’t nearly as good as almost everyone else in the pool. I kept and keep wearing a cap, even when I don’t have to, because I realized it has helped me become better at something I truly enjoy. So being without something as simple becomes a big deal.

Isn’t it strange the little things that can toy with us mentally?

After swimming umpteenth laps, and probably freaking out yet another lifeguard for some unknown, and probably unreasonable, reason, I headed to the store to buy at least one new cap (because fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me).

I only found one cap, in white, again not ideal, but this one will be harder to get over.

Anyone care to place a bet on how long it takes for my hair to turn the inside brown?

The Road To Recovery

More than a few years ago, and at the same time it feels like last week, I was lying in a hospital bed recovering from surgery (actually I thought I was dying but that’s a minor point at this point).

I was just beginning my road to recovery.

And having to answer the question, “Did it work” or “was it successful,” for those of your in the healthcare field.

I have to be honest. I’m never sure how to answer this question, especially since a lingering quad strain came into the picture.

Did it work? Yes.

Was it successful? Yes.

All major goals were met and there have been no complications as direct result of the surgery.

But did I get everything I wanted out of the recovery process? No.

I was warned that one of the outcomes of surgery would be uncovering weaknesses that were, in a sense, hidden by my miserable malalignment (yes that is indeed an actual medical diagnosis) and boy were they right.

Sometimes I feel like I have monoplegia instead of diplegia. Which you think would be a good thing but it’s more like my right leg feels more like an added after the fact limb (maybe like a prosthetic?).

Sometimes I feel like I have hemiplegia, because my arm is hell bent, sometimes literally, on trying to compensate for my leg.

I wish I didn’t have to stay in an AFO, never mind even go as far as to get a second one made. Sometimes I feel so defeated by this one fact alone, but it’s really just accepting reality.

I’ve had to adjust to taking prescribed medication on a daily basis. I’m amazed how hard it is to remember to keep up on refills and orders for more refills, for just one medication.

I have more trouble with some of the most basic things, like climbing stairs, kneeling, putting on my shoes easily, etc., than I did before.

But I’m not in nearly as much pain as I was pre surgery. That alone is worth its weight in gold. Yes, I do still deal with pain on a daily basis, but I rarely shrink back at just the thought of running into the grocery store for 5 minutes. I still hate going to the grocery store, but it’s a pet peeve thing.

So when people ask me if “it worked” of if I’m “better” it’s not an easy answer.

It depends on what your definition of “worked” is. Also I will never be “better,” assuming by “better” you mean “cured.” I started my life with CP & I’m going to end it with CP.

I didn’t have the recovery process I envisioned. But it could’ve been a lot worse. The surgery itself could’ve completely backfired no matter how much hard work I put into the recovery.

Although, if I’m being honest here, I do wonder what would have been possible under the original plan. Where I’d have as much PT as my body could take and my outpatient post-op care team was well coordinated as my pre-operative and hospitalization teams. I was facing an uphill battle even if I had had the best possible circumstances so when things didn’t go, and wouldn’t be going, as planned I started to panic.

The recovery process may technically be over but I’m still figuring things out, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the in-between.

Most importantly I’ve seen what it takes to get what you want. It’s not always easy but it’s worth it, one-hundred times over.

The road to recovery is a lot like closure. You want it and work towards it but it never ends up being how you pictured it so you just keep going, because there’s always more road to travel ahead.

Grad School: The Second Summer

This was my 2nd summer as a grad student.

I was looking forward to this summer because last summer was so amazing. I’ve never been a school person but the idea of spending 3 weeks immersed in school was so exciting. I wished there was a fourth week.

By the time I actually started the third week I was more than ready to go home (it was my 3rd locale in a week, who could blame me).

Truthfully I had a minor meltdown when I got to my room and realized how quiet it was. My brain just couldn’t take it, CNMC just shoved my brain into overdrive and it stayed there, I guess. I begged friends to stop by for a quick visit but they were too entrenched in coursework (as I should have been) to oblige.

Have you ever seen an introvert in desperate need of alone time when they finally get it? It’s not always pretty. I think I spent 10 minutes trying to decide what to put in the bathroom and what to leave on the dresser (and trying not to cry about it).

I also missed the blessing dinner for the graduates. This year it was a lunch which I just couldn’t fit in with my over packed schedule. The blessing of the graduates was a highlight for me last year so I was disappointed to be missing it this year. I also have a lot of friends graduating this year so I wanted to say good-bye to them. Luckily I ran into the ones leaving the next day later that night so I got my wish, just not in the way I pictured it.

I knew the 2nd week of classes was going to be the most challenging. Not only was I taking 2 classes but I was registered to fulfill the 2nd part of my formation requirements for the year.

It basically boiled down to 12+ hour days Monday & Tuesday. I wasn’t running on steam before the week was half over, but let me just take a second to publically thank God for great friends and equally great study groups.

I was feeling better about Wednesday. I think because the first two days were so packed and stressful I just let things go. I did what I could the best I could and left it at that. I didn’t worry about not getting to read Humanae vitae or whatever. If I needed to read it, I’d get around to it.

Also after living through my 1st ever tornado warning, complete with sirens and please take cover in the hall, my nerves needed a break.

Funny story behind my history with Humanae vitae, I’ve read it twice previously for fun none the less but I couldn’t remember a single thing about its contents. (Please tell me you find that funny, and not incredibly sad.)

I was also down a highlighter and a pen in spite of bringing more supplies with me this year. I’m thinking this might just become par for the course during the summer.

Wednesday night I ventured downtown with a small group of friends for Symphony Night in the park. Who wouldn’t want to be able to say they’ve heard the Chicago Symphony live, and for free?

I was feeling much better about Thursday and Friday because it meant I had survived the roughest part school wise. At the same time I was getting closer to having to say good-bye to more friends.

One of my classes many graduating friends in it, more than I realized actually, in fact when we were heading to class the first day one said, “oh we’re in the big room.” Not only were we in the biggest classroom available but we filled to maximum capacity, at least comfort wise.

I knew most people don’t stick around for the 3rd week but I was hoping to be surprised, in a good way, by the number of people who did. In the end I think 5 distance learners, my self-included, stayed for the 3rd week (one of whom I never saw so I have no idea if she was even there).

A group of us went out Friday night for one last gathering before departures began first thing the next morning. It was a wonderful time of relaxation and fellowship, and I discovered I do in fact like Thai food and it does like me (although I’m not sure it would ever be my 1st choice).

Basically week two ended with a lot of good-byes followed by self-imposed seclusion over the weekend. Not only was I tired but I needed to take the time to allow a new reality to set in. I was basically alone on campus for two days. It gave me time to reflect, which I needed in order to fulfill my retreat requirement, but it was also very lonely.

I greeted week three with guarded optimism. I was looking forward to class because I’d wanted to learn from this particular professor since I heard him speak at a conference 2 years before. (And people claim I can’t be a patient person?) But I was preparing to spend much of my free time living as a hermit (and finishing Burn N0tice), which I basically did.

The environment of week 3 was so different compared to the first two weeks it took some time to acclimate to; although I’m not sure I can say I ever fully adjusted to it. There was much less socialization between students so I spent time with the girls in the recruitment since we share some important interests.

Halfway through the week I had had my fill of the same theologians and then I realized my classes had some overlapping qualities. You’d think this would be a good thing, but when you’re not 100% of anything you’re learning it can create some worry.

I joked, although not really, that I was going to end up writing my papers all wrong, or I was going to come up with some brilliant insights that were going to change the study of Theology as we know it.

I’m not sure where I ended up with that one; maybe a little of both?

I can hope, right?

Week 3 ended with another good-bye dinner, which I coordinated. Thus making it my 3rd good-bye dinner in 3 weeks (too much, way too much) but I’m glad I got the chance to have time with such good friends, no matter how exhausted I had become.

With that my summer classes ended, but as someone said (and I happen to agree) the work was just beginning.

 

Trust & Disability

Having a disability can create a whole host of trust issues, but I’m not going to talk about any of that. I’m sure plenty of people have said plenty on the subject already.

After an already full day and then hitting the gym I tried not to look like a hot mess (although I probably stank of airplane & gym sweat) I went down to the hotel lobby for something to eat. Knowing my history of stomach issues after a travel day I wanted something small so I settled for eating at the bar rather than a larger meal at the restaurant.

Typically I hang back and people watch before making my approach, especially if I’m in my wheelchair and I have to interact above eye level (like a bar). But I didn’t see anyone ordering or eating at any of the tables so I was on my own.

I ordered my food and told the server (or bartender?) that I’d be at a nearby table when she brought out my food I asked if I should her or at the bar when I was finished. She said something to the effect of, people usually pay when their food arrives, but it was OK because she trusted me.

I didn’t think anything of it in the moment, probably because I’d been running on fumes for hours, but then I thought about it.

She trusted me. Great.

But why?

(Call me a skeptic.)

I watched everyone around me while I ate my meal.

She didn’t seem to “trust” anyone else, nor did any of the other staff.

I couldn’t help but think (and still think) she trusted me because I have a disability; that I use a wheelchair.

Because someone in a wheelchair won’t even think of stealing, never mind actually do it (and full disclosure I did consider “forgetting” to pay when no one was looking just to prove a point, but I had no interest in going to confession the next day so I didn’t).

Someone in a wheelchair wouldn’t think of stealing; just like people with disabilities can’t possibly be attractive.

I’m sure no harm was intended on her part, and many people who read this will probably think I’m being oversensitive, but the reality is she’s been taught in some fashion to believe that people with disabilities are different than those who are able-bodied. And by treating me differently than everyone else who had a bill to pay she’s furthering the misconception that those with disabilities are “different” and/or “less than.”

I have news for you; people with disabilities are capable of stealing too.

We’re capable of a lot of things, just like the able-bodied.

We’re not all trustworthy.

We’re not all nice.

Some of us have left bills unpaid (intentionally and unintentionally).

Some of us can be rude.

Some of us are attractive.

Just like everyone else, because we like to include ourselves in the “everyone else” crowd.

It’s nice when someone extends a kindness towards another person, but if you won’t extend the same kindness to someone else, then please don’t. Everyone desires to be treated equally, regardless of ability.

If you wouldn’t trust an able-bodied person to pay a bill after the fact, for example, then don’t trust a disabled person (whatever your rationale for that might be). Also it’s not the best idea to go against company policy, if there is one, just in case you end up losing your job because you felt bad for someone who doesn’t need the pity.