Arming For The Future

One morning I woke up and got dressed, it’s what I do most days, but this morning in particular was different.

I was planning this outfit for at least a week.


It wasn’t fancy by any means but, for me, it was more important than any fancy dress (or anything else). It was part of the most important presentation of my life (at least so far).

One of the last pieces of my master’s degree was completing a capstone of some sort. Originally, I was going to write a paper. I had been planning it since the beginning, and I wanted to be able to pull something I had written off a shelf in the library at a later date. I pictured future students finding my work and incorporating it into their own, just as I had done, but one sentence changed my mind.

“If you did a project it will have the potential to reach a greater audience.”

I thought back to the final projects I’d done in other courses. What could I use from any of those, if any.

I decided to do a project, but that would mean enrolling in the seminar rather than working by myself (a method I prefer, or at least I thought I would).

Before my project would be finished I would have to workshop it with a small group and then present it during the seminar.

I was, to the best of my knowledge, the only student in my class born with a physical disability. So, I didn’t just have to present my project. I also had to give everyone a crash course in living with a disability.

I put thought into every detail, over and over again. Knowing everyone would go back to their everyday lives I wanted them to come away with more than what they came with, other than how good my project was.

Mainly I wanted them to know that people with childhood disabilities grow up and become adults, that we’re probably not what they thought, that the disabled aren’t looking for pity or continually bitter. I wanted them to see disability from a different point of view.

The outfit was only the last piece of my part of arming my peers for the future.


Get A Job!

At the beginning of my last year of formal education I faced a similar predicament as most of my peers. I had determined pretty quickly that graduate school was not for me; the only post-graduation conclusion I came to faster was religious life was most certainly not for me. I had one choice left.

I needed a job.

A task I failed in such spectacular fashion that it’s only by the Grace of God that I can tell you that there’s hope (and a happy ending) for everybody.

I made the decision to put off applying for jobs until my final semester, something I don’t recommend as a general rule. I knew I was heading into a world of low paying jobs regardless, so why not live in ignorance for a little longer?

I had every intention of going into the entertainment industry, or arts ministry. Neither of which are areas in which your average college career services office can help you with. I think I set foot in career services twice.

Most arts related departments know that they have to fill in the gap. That’s why they have this thing called “lab” or “practicum.” a time when most of the department gets together and discusses work, what you’ve done, what you’re doing, how to do what you want to do. You also spend a lot of time doing seemingly self-centered things, like discussing head-shots and monologue choices (these things do have an actual purpose).

Fall semester of my senior year I had a full load of drama classes. I was also helping put together my classes answer to the Oscars. I was up to my ears in drama, with a capital D. It’s a drama major’s dream, until you’re actually living it.

Living your life at an eleven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. (Spinal Tap, anyone?)

I decided to put off any auditions or arts related jobs for a while, so I focused on long term service applications, until I printed out a couple. I was finishing my passion project and putting together a production. This “job thing” could wait until after graduation.


Yes and no.

I think you should know your limits. If you can’t devote adequate time to something you need to let something go. I like having a full plate but I’m not a fan of getting a bigger plate when the one I have is full.

However, my putting things off until I had more time turned into an unintentional gap year; there’s nothing wrong with a gap year, but when you do nothing productive with it you’ve gone from having a full plate to being stuck in a big hole.

I should have taken the advice given to me. I should’ve taken the help that was offered as well. I should’ve taken advantage of the resources around me while I had them.

I should’ve (at the very least) made a resume!

That disability support services office I had a love/hate relationship with? I shouldn’t have had such an “I can do it myself” attitude (emphasis on attitude) when they inquired about my plans for the future.

I went into the job search process assuming everything would all work out, and eventually it did. But people should learn from my missteps.

I should probably also tell you that I’m not that great at interviewing (I’m even worse with auditions) so I could’ve used the extra practice. Yes, I’m saying I should’ve applied for job I didn’t want/didn’t think I’d get just for the interview experience.

Getting a job (& keeping a job) with a disability should be no different than the non-disabled population. Now that I’ve said that, that doesn’t mean that the process is the same.

There are “extras” to consider during the search & application process:
Can I get there?

-If you don’t drive don’t assume that there are transportation options, even if there are they may not be reliable.
Can I perform the duties asked of me with no (or minimal) accommodations? This Includes “other duties as assigned.”

-The ADA outlines reasonable accommodations but I’m leaning “reasonable is up to interpretation. Therefore, look for jobs that keep accommodations to a minimum, as close to none as possible.

Is the workplace accessible for me?

-My current workplace is not accessible for most people with disabilities. When I used a wheelchair full time post-op I had to rely on my coworkers for a lot. We had to set up a mini office downstairs for me to get any work done some days. There are still days when things aren’t accessible for me, but I make do.

Can I handle the workload?

-If you’re prone to fatigue this is something you have to consider. Can you still do your job after a bad night’s sleep? And all that goes along with it?

Is this a job you see yourself in for the long term or the short term?

-If this is a position you see yourself in for the short term don’t stop looking for the long term. That short term may end up being a long one.

Should I disclose my disability?

That’s up to you. There are situations where you should or shouldn’t (as in don’t need to). Don’t lie. Most importantly whatever decision you make don’t let it be motivated by fear.

The ADA has done a lot for people with disabilities but there’s still a long way to go. You may feel like you have to work twice as hard to get half as far as a coworker. That may be true but you’ll be making it easier for the next person who comes in the door.

A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 5, 2013


I’m Not An Expert, But I Play One In Life

March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness month, as a person with a disability, which happens to be CP, I feel obligated to do my part in spreading a greater sense of awareness; because although CP is common few people really know about it.

I’m not an expert in CP. I have not studied it in textbooks, read studies, or analyzed people with the disability, from an objective standpoint.

I’ve lived more than three decades with Cerebral Palsy; I’m not an expert, but I play one in life.

Lecture halls and textbooks have their place but there’s something to be said for the value of living something day in and day out without the sterility that can come with formal education.

So, what do I have to tell the world, or at least the internet?

It all depends.

I used to put everything out there, or at least that’s what it felt like, now I pick my spots, just because I don’t put it out there doesn’t mean someone else can’t put it out there, or just because it’s not out there doesn’t mean it has to be out there.

Boundaries, they’re a wonderful thing, when used well.

But boundaries can, and do, change.

Every once and a while I relax the boundaries, and it’s mainly for one reason.

I can talk about Cerebral Palsy as much as I want but there’s only so much writing and talking I can do without some sort of feedback. There’s only so much yelling into a void anyone can do before losing their voice?

I’ve done this before, and I want to do it again.

What do you want to know?

What questions do you have?

What possible myths have you heard?

What do you know about Cerebral Palsy?

What do you wish you knew, or even had the slightest idea about?

I know parents of kids with CP & young adults with CP read my blog. Both groups have questions and opinions (I would too if I were in their place).

I may not have all the answers to every question or myth that there is out there, but I believe I can provide guidance and provide inroads.

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m not in expert in Cerebral Palsy, but I do have live experience to draw on, and that’s not something I take lightly.

Grad School: The Final Semester

I’m pretty sure a lot of people never thought I’d reach this point, honestly, I had my own doubts at times.

As far as semesters go this one was fairly lonely, like my first one, except this time I was able to recognize the loneliness. I knew a few people in class but not well, and I really didn’t want to make any new friends (yes, I am that kind of person). I wouldn’t go back to last year if given the choice, but I missed comradery, much like last fall.

You’d think I’d have the whole studying routine down by now, but no, there were plenty of nights when I was clicking submit at the last minute. But there were times when I completed assignments a week ahead of time. So yeah, that time management thing went to both extremes.

Although there were times when I wanted to quit, no matter what semester it was, and return to life as a normal person now I don’t know what to do with myself.

I’ve caught up on Netfl!x, which didn’t take nearly as long as I would’ve thought. So much so that I’ve started and finished watching other things.

I’ve even read a book or two, which I swore I wasn’t going to do for 6 months, at least. And by book or two I mean I’ve read a pile or two of books.

I took a short break from swimming, but it was more of necessity than want. And I regretted it within 2 minutes of getting back in the water, the break from swimming, not the swimming itself.

People keep asking me “what’s next?”

Honestly, I have no idea.

Am I cut out to be a normal person anymore?

My face has been buried in books and writing papers for years. I’ve had to turn down more social engagements than I can count, I don’t care to, really.

School has been my excuse to not do things I don’t want to do, but didn’t want to just say no either, so it worked on a few fronts.

I’m sending out my resume again and seeing what’s out there. I’ve been doing it some in the last year but nowhere near seriously.

But that’s not the part that freaks me out the most, although it is daunting.

What will I do with my free time?

I’ve had projects on the backburner for years, but is it time to give them more attention?

That would require some shifting, for sure.

Should I pursue a career based on filling someone else’s shoes or should I continue to forge my own path?

When I Grew Up

I don’t think I can come up with the full list of things I wanted to be when I grew up. So obviously none of the have panned out. However, I’m still waiting to “feel grown up,” never mind actually be grown up, so something could pan out eventually.

There was that time that my high school guidance counselor assumed that I would become a nurse because my mother’s a nurse. My mother then asked the guidance counselor if she had ever even met me before this one meeting, because if she knew anything she knew I would never be a nurse.

Point: Mom

Then there was that one time I was reviewing my health history with a nurse practitioner when he jokingly asked why I never considered become a physical therapist, my answer was “because I wanted to learn something new,” obviously.

I think I’ve had similar goals for why I wanted to be whatever I wanted to be at any given time.

I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and maybe help them see things a little differently.

It’s hard to say if I’ve achieved this goal but I’m working on it.

I’ve realized I spent a lot of time (probably far too much) trying to be something I’m not. It wasn’t that obvious, it was certainly subtle from my prospective, but with each change I’ve made I feel like I’m getting closer to what I’m supposed to be as grown up.

The funny thing is, if you have a weird sense of humor, I feel like who I’m meant to be as a grownup has been following me around for quite a while just waiting for me to turn around and embrace it.

So, what did I want to be when I grew up?

If you can think of it it’s probably something I thought I wanted to do for at least 5 minutes. None of it has panned out as of yet, somewhat thankfully I admit.

And let’s get real for a minute, I have CP I can’t just have any job I wanted (actually that applies for everyone regardless of ability). So, there were countless things I wanted to be when I grew up that I knew would never happen, so let’s all be thankful I was never interested in Ballet, for example.

I did want to be an Olympian. That was one of the few things I convinced myself I could do, even with CP. I just figured I’d automatically be one of those heartwarming human-interest stories you see between events and commercials.

This was before being rejected from even trying out for the swim team & before I knew there was this thing called the Paralympics for athletes with a variety of disabilities. I don’t want to close the door on my dreams of Olympic glory, but it may be a little late to make a run for Rio (and I’ll probably be too old for Tokyo?)

When it comes down to it I wanted to make an impact on people’s lives. I wanted to make them see things differently or think of something they’ve never thought of before. I never wanted to be someone’s inspiration, but if that happened along the way who am I to disagree.

Now all I have to do is grow up

*A similar version of this post was published on November 21, 2014

Grad School: The Last Summer

This summer was bananas, all kinds of emotions going full throttle bananas.

I can’t believe I’m actually writing about this.

I learned during my first summer than students often mark their time by summers, and there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with saying “this is my last summer.”

I’ve watched many of my classmates go through their last summer, each has been different, each having their own positives and negatives. I knew what I wanted to do and what not to do. I wanted to end on a good note and have the best experience possible.

I even consulted people and made a plan to have a full yet enjoyable summer.

Very little of the plan went according to plan, as is usually the case.

This summer went much like last summer in the respect that a lot of my classmates and I had the same classes so we spent plenty of time together over a short period of time (although not really because we started courses around the same time).

One thing people get wrong about distance learning is that it’s isolating. Yes, there is an element of that but, if it’s a small program you’re anything but isolated. In fact, I think there was only one person I didn’t know before class began (and I kept referring to her as “the new person” which is completely false in terms of remaining course load).

The first week was fairly relaxed, compared to previous years, it was the only time I didn’t have a morning class. A luxury I had been wanting for years but the opportunity never came about & I chose to forgo the meal plan again so while people were down at breakfast and/or hurrying off to class I was still in bed indulging in well overdue Netfl!x binging.

And by noon I was bored out of my skull.

I took care of a few things, like tuition, scholarship requirements, etc. It was nice to get all of it out of the way but it didn’t take very long so it was shaping up to be a long week and it was only day one.

I did the majority of my course work before arriving and my first presentation wasn’t until the end of the week so I was able to watch everyone’s and make adjustments (and practice, over and over).

If you follow me on Inst@gram you saw how much detail I put into my presentation, although it may have come off fairly low-key.

The week closed well but I couldn’t help but keep thinking about my presentation. It could have been better, I think, so there was plenty of work to do before I turned in the final project (hell there’s still a lot to do & grades are in).

The weekend was pretty low key considering how much work lay ahead. I think what helped was the fact that we were all in the same boat so if someone was struggling (which I was, I just didn’t know it) there were other people to pick you up (and in my case 3 or 4, I can’t remember).

Pro tip: Make friends with someone who can pack anything (& nearly everything) in a suitcase without

Because my presentations (or really practicum requirements) were scheduled for the beginning of the week it meant that I had a lot to do in the span of less than a week. I wasn’t a big fan but at the same time I liked the idea of being done on Tuesday, because the 2nd week of classes came with a mandatory early wake up & Theological Reflection at night.

This summer was unlike any of my previous summers for many reasons but mainly because there were many group activities outside of class. Meals, for the most part, were together. We saw more of the outside world, together. Whenever someone was going to do something they asked who wanted to come along. In one way, it was how we made the most of our final time together.

This was the summer I couldn’t wait to have, my “final summer.”  It’s something that gets hyped up in one way or another by everyone, even yourself. There are certain rites of passage that you don’t get to have until that “final summer.” What often gets overlooked as the emotions that come along with it, at least for me.

While I’m not done with school yet the experience is certainly coming to a close. The blessings have been given the good byes (even if just temporary) have been said.

It’s time for a new group to start their countdown to their own last summer.

Grad School: The Endless Spring

This is a hard post to write because the spring semester doesn’t feel over just yet, even though we are well into summer at this point. This was going to be my longest stretch of classes since going back to school. I knew that right off the bat.

That didn’t make it any less overwhelming, in fact it may have made it more overwhelming.

Rather than give you a full rundown or the last 5, yes, I said 5 instead of the typical 4, I’m just going to give you bullet points

-Not taking a 1 credit class between semesters last year ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made in my post grad career. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t have had a single break in almost 4 years.

-Being Catholic is vastly easier than becoming Catholic.

-The Church is full of technicalities that must be given attention and remembered.

-The Church is full of semantics that don’t make sense but you should still follow them.

-If you can’t find the answer you can find someone who either knows it or can find it.

-Support comes in many forms, sometimes in multiple forms at once.

-Ministry isn’t all peace and smooth roads, learning the more technical side of it is like walking barefoot on broken glass

-No one is right 100% of the time, even professors and/or priests.

-One person’s definition of “simple” is often another’s definition of “impossible.”

-It’s OK to lean on other people.

-Other people will need to lean on you.

-You will be on the verge of a nervous breakdown at any given point, so will someone else, that’s what group emails and texts are for.

-If you send a group email make sure everyone in the “to” field is actually in the class you are referring to, or else you will quite possibly be responsible for someone’s unnecessary nervous breakdown.

-Being on the receiving end of a “no” can be even more freeing than a “yes.”

-There is such a thing as too much communication between people.

-Being available to everyone in your life all of the time is impossible, not to mention impractical, don’t try to achieve it the collateral damage will be permanent.

-Very few people know what it means to really say yes to your vocation.

-Finding humor when and where you can can make your life choices worth it.

The Gift Of GIFs

Graduate school has officially taken over my brain. I can’t formulate my own thoughts without consulting some set of instructions and analyzing them to death before doing anything.


And even then, nothing makes sense.


I embark on the assignment anyway praying I’m on the right track furiously texting classmates under the theory that, “if most of us do the same thing, we’re not wrong.”


I still lose my mind the second someone says something that I consider to be criticism.


Then I question every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life.


And then I swear it isn’t worth it.


In the end I get up the next morning & do it all again.



Why I: Joined A Discernment Group

Ten years ago I was looking to make a fresh start after a near crash and burn of my academic career & a list of personal issues. (Side note: The fact that I started college more than a decade ago makes me feel kind of old.)

Here’s what’s awesome about going to a university with an active campus ministry:

There’s always something going on.

It’s almost kind of ridiculous how much stuff you can be involved in (or not).

At the time I wasn’t a practicing Catholic, in fact I was still in the recovery from Atheism phase of things, because that kind of journey practically requires a recovery period. I called myself a Christian but I wasn’t ready to “drink the Catholic k00l aid” just yet.

I steered clear of any organized group outside of the theatre department my freshman year and I was reconsidering that plan for sophomore year. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, so I didn’t want to do the same thing.

There are always plenty of things to do in a theatre/drama department as well. There are always “other duties as assigned” (to put it one way) or a friend is working on some sort of project at all hours so if you want to see them it’s best to go to them (and then you end up helping on the same project, somehow). But I didn’t want to be a “drama kid,” at least not exclusively.

At some point during orientation, sometime after neighborhood orientation, I huddled into the campus ministry office with other new students to hear their “sales pitch”. This was some place I wanted to be involved. I knew that from visiting a friend earlier in the year. The how was the part that needed to be determined.

I’m not a try everything once type of girl but that’s pretty much what ended up happening. The first few weeks the only thing I had second thoughts on was solemn adoration; anything labeled solemn or somber means I’ll laugh uncontrollably. I needed to be better versed at adoration before the sound was turned off.

The first group I showed up for (I think) was women’s group. I loved that group. In fact many of the ladies I met thanks to that group I’m still friends with today (maybe I’ll tell you about that someday).

The next night discernment group would be meeting. I had no idea what “discernment” was but I figured it would be similar to women’s group so I showed up.

I probably should’ve looked up what discernment was before I decided to go to the group. But if I did I probably wouldn’t have gone.

Instead of sitting in the lounge area we met in the prayer room. And instead of one of the campus ministers facilitating there were two nuns, from The Little Sisters of the Poor (an order I knew nothing about, but have come to love dearly).

At some point during the hour I realized I was in a room full of ladies who were considering becoming nuns. I was in the wrong place, but I didn’t want to get up and leave (for fear of embarrassment only).

I may have countless sisters these days, but back then I had only known two, and the impression they left wasn’t one of full warm & fuzzy memories.

I left that night thinking I probably wouldn’t go back (because I wasn’t even in the same hemisphere of that life path) but when Thursday rolled around again I did. I’m still not sure why. The funny thing is I kept going. I think I only missed a few meetings during the year, when being a drama kid had to take a front seat.

I even went the night when we’d be saying the Rosary most of the time. When I grasped even less of it than I do now & I had to borrow a Rosary from the spares that someone always seemed to have on hand.

For me it wasn’t about discernment, at least not at first, it was about meeting people who just might be like minded. When that didn’t work out so well it was about having concrete examples of what I might aspire to. Not to mention meeting some religious sisters who were not only nice, but they went out of their way to invest in others.

I will never ever forget that Sister Mary David told me it was perfectly fine to fall asleep during adoration “because the Lord knows you need your rest.”

Never mind that I had agreed to sit up with the blessed sacrament only to fall asleep face down on a futon that was in our makeshift retreat chapel.

My original intent couldn’t have been any more off. However I think I got a lot more out of it than I realize (yes, even now). I made a mistake in judgment but it was one of the best mistakes I could’ve ever made (especially given my history with mistakes).

Even if I have come to have a love/hate relationship with the discernment process.

*A similar version of this post was written on September 4, 2013

A Deck Of Cards

I was sitting in a prospective student orientation hearing school statistics. In an effort to create a diverse school environment administrators had percentages they tried to maintain. It didn’t take me long to figure out my admission would be a slam dunk.

And it was. I was admitted; attending was another story.

It’s my first memory of thinking that my “different-ness” could be an asset.

It took me a few years to realize that this was indeed a disturbing thought for a 4th grader to have. That doesn’t mean that there were/are situations where this fact holds true.

There are times when I’ve tried to use having a disability to my advantage. Once you let the genie out of the bottle there’s no getting it back in, so you have to be careful..

 Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.”–Josh Billings

 Some time during high school I realized that my life was like a deck of cards. Sometimes my disability can be my ace in the hole. Sometimes it’s a joke(r). Other times it’s just another card in the deck.

I’d like to say that most often it’s just another card in the deck. Honestly that’s what I’d prefer. However that’s not how the world works, at least not now, but maybe someday.

I don’t walk around highlighting the fact that I have Cerebral Palsy. Just uttering the words “Cerebral Palsy” leaves people dazed and confused. It does open the door for educational moments but most of the time I don’t have the time, or the energy.

When it comes to day to day living I keep things as general as possible, but it’s pretty obvious I’m in the “otherwise abled” category. I prefer to see myself as just another one of “the guys” for a lot of reasons; a big one being I don’t want to hold my disability over people’s heads.

Think of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” story we’ve all heard. If I brought up having Cerebral Palsy all the time what would that do? It would raise awareness, but would that be for a greater good? I doubt it.

There have been times when I’ve been looking for employment when I wondered if full disclosure would actually work in my favor. I mean companies put disclosures at the end of applications for a reason (& I’m sure they have quotas to fill, just like that school).

There have been times when I really wanted “that” job so the thought of using my different-ness as an asset crossed my mind. But how does someone do that without the potential for backfire?

I’d rather be the best one for the job when compared to other candidates. Not the candidate that filled a quota. I really don’t want to be the person who can’t do a job that everyone knows was a pity hire. (I’d rather not have a job if that’s how I get them)

Having a disability does leave room for other abilities to develop. It’s one of the best reasons to have a disability, in my opinion. As tempting as it is to broadcast my disabilities/abilities for my own advantage, it’s more important to show what I can do and let the work speak for itself.

Life is a deck of cards. Play them well.

*A similar version of this post was written on March 6, 2013