Telling The Story You Have Ownership Of

During my Q&A in my capstone presentation I was given a piece of feedback that is still sticking to me, like flypaper.

“It would be nice if you incorporated more stories in your website like the ones you just shared with us.”

This wasn’t the 1st time this was suggested to me, so I responded appropriately (or what I felt was) inside I was like this:

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I understand stories need to be told but if they don’t belong to you, you have little, if no right, to tell them.

Although I read it all the time, it makes me uncomfortable when stories are told about someone, a child, sibling, spouse, etc is being told without their consent. I wonder what they would think if they knew?

Mostly I wonder what a child will think about their parent telling everyone about their lives before they ever knew what they were doing.

I understand that stories need to be told, I won’t be a writer if I didn’t, but where’s the line?

I feel like anyone with a keyboard can call themselves a writer these days.

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It sounds great, but what’s the real price tag?

At what point does sharing information become exploitation?

There’s an argument that true journalism is dead. I wonder if blogging has contributed to this. These days it seems like everyone has an agenda, meaning impartiality is gone.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t tell stories. What I’m saying is that you should tell your story, especially when it comes to blogging. A child, for example, is under your care but when they grow up they’ll have to handle what you’ve said about them, because if it’s on the internet it’s quite possible that it won’t go away.

Tell the stories that you have full ownership of, yours.

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Maybe I’m Not An Expert

With March coming to a close so goes my blogging blitz. It never ends up how I think it’s going to and this year was no exception.

I feel like this year was different than the others, for a few reasons, less facts, more stories, for one thing, or is that two?

There were topics I wanted to write about but never got around to or have already written about. When I came up short I dove into my archives, probably more than I wanted to, but it worked. I think?

I’ll get to more stories later on, possibly when the timing is better.

One thing that kept getting my attention this year was the focus on children and the desire to treat, if not cure Cerebral Palsy as soon as possible.

This isn’t new by any means, but it seems to be gaining more attention for whatever reason.

In a way my focus this past month has been more personal because it’s how I’ve grown into adulthood and the different phases of life that people, CP or no CP, find themselves in.

Not every aspect of life comes with statistics, and even those that do come with outliers.

So, for now, and probably in the future, I leave you with more stories than statistics because you can find statistics somewhere else.

Life as an adult with CP is an oddity, a misconception which I brush up against every day, so although Cerebral Palsy Awareness month is over that doesn’t mean my efforts are over, at least not completely.

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All Cerebral Palsy related posts

To Successfully Succeed

Confession: I can’t believe I haven’t written about this before. If I have and someone knows where the post is, would you be kind enough to post the link in the comments section. I’m not that great at virtual organizing so even if I did write something I can’t find it.

 Katy asked,
“How do you define success?”

 My answer to this question has very little to do with the fact that I have Cerebral Palsy, but I’m sure it colors my answer to some extent. I hope my answer gives you more insight into the fact that people with Cerebral Palsy are more like those without Cerebral Palsy than they are different.

This is question that’s like, “Describe your ideal summer vacation,” the answer changes depending on where you are in life. At 5 your ideal summer vacation is going to D!sney World. At 25 you’re just hoping you’ll be able to afford a summer vacation (we won’t go into how I feel about summer vacations these days).

If you asked the pre-college me & new college student me I would define success as being famous and having everything that goes along with it, or at least all the good parts you can think of (not the bad parts).

If you asked my recent college graduate self what my goals were she’d tell you she just wanted to finish the final projects and graduate. I never wanted college to end but I wanted to workload to end. I guess I’ve been a sucker for community longer than I thought.

These days my definition of success has changed a lot. I don’t want to be rich or famous. Nor will I feel unsuccessful if neither of those things happens, especially since that’s not how I chose to define myself anymore.

These days success comes in a variety of different packages.

A work day that involves minimal paperwork and I’ve reached daily goals I’ve set for myself as well as reaching the staff wide goals? Success. Making positive strides to live my word for 2013? Success. Networking to further my business? Success. Being able to pay my bills and have my insurance pay what they’ve promised? Success.

Things seem simpler now, not to mention more depressing now that I’ve written it, but it’s not really. My priorities have changed. It happens with most people, I’m guessing. It would be awesome to be able to travel more or take more “time off” but it’s not in the cards, at least in the recent future.

In terms of concrete things that I would like to be successful at, I would love for my business to do well enough that I’d be able to quit my day job and still be able to support myself. It would be nice to be able to be in a healthy relationship and maybe have a family, but right now I’m not planning anything other than being able to take care of myself. I’d really like to be one of the few small business success stories out there (Inquire if you dare!)

On the first day of classes every semester at least one of my friends would write, “I will do my best to successfully succeed,” it’s been something of a manta ever since. There are days when success is smaller than others, but it’s still success. What I really want is to succeed successfully throughout my life, meaning I want to do well without causing harm to anyone else, self-included.

*A similar version of this post was written on March 20, 2013

Disability & Athleticism

At the beginning of December I was sitting on the edge of the warmup pool debating my cooldown, it’s something I don’t enjoy, if we’re being honest. The warmup/cooldown area at meets is worse than a highway during rush hour which makes my dislike even stronger. The internet memes don’t lie. I literally have to talk myself into the water and keep telling myself to stay in for the good of my body, especially after 1 relay, 4 individual events, and a long ride home.

Before I dropped into the water, my preferred method of entry, I struck up a conversation with another swimmer. I didn’t know her at all (and I still don’t) but our conversation will probably stick with me for a long time (and will make me think again about using the warm down area).

She congratulated the meet organizers on including swimmers like myself in the event, even after I pointed out that it was in the rules that “swimmers like myself” be included in such events, because one must be willing to be an educational moment at a moment’s notice. She then went on to compliment me on how brave I was for being willing to overcome my obstacles and compete regardless.

At that point I just smiled, smirked really, and dropped into the water. There was nothing more I could’ve said at that time to change her prospective (and I don’t think I wanted to put forth the effort at that point either).

Last month I watched a video of various Paralympians discussing various misconceptions about para-athletes and it reminded me of that day in the warm up area.

 

Having a disability, especially Cerebral Palsy in my case, does not mean someone cannot be an athlete.

I work just as hard as my teammates, sometimes harder (according to them anyway), to achieve my goals.

I may be a person with a disability, but I am also an athlete with a disability. Someday I’d like people, who I don’t know, to think of me as an athlete before thinking about my disability first.

 

It’s Not Easy Being Green

When you think of March what color do you think of?

I’m guessing green since St. Patrick’s Day is in March & St. Patrick’s Day is all about green (at least the “rated G” version is).

Guess what color Cerebral Palsy awareness is?

Green.

I believe I have figured out one of the barriers of raising awareness for Cerebral Palsy.

Allow me to take you through my thought process.

October is breast cancer awareness month.

The color for breast cancer awareness is pink.

A color most associated with October is orange, due in large part to Halloween.

Would breast cancer awareness be as big as it is if February were its month?

Something tells me the answer is yes, but it’s still something worth considering (especially for the sake of this argument).

There are too many similarities in the basics of St. Patrick’s Day & CP awareness. There’s not enough curiosity of “check it out” factor to make awareness easier (but that’s just my opinion).

There’s also been talk of why green is the color for CP. Green happens to be one of my favorite colors so I have no problem with it, but I know not everyone is a fan.

I’m curious as to why March ended up being CP awareness month. Let us also remember that the r-word day and Down syndrome day are also in March.  It just seems kind of odd that a lot of disability related awareness is in one month. If this was on purpose then why isn’t March “Disability Awareness Month”, which is actually in October (or has that now been deemed “Disability Employment Month”).

Is the confusion part sinking in yet?

I’m not suggesting that we change CP awareness’ color or its month. It’s too “late” in the game for that. Changing any of those details now would just add to the confusion and just continue to feed into the attitude of “un-awareness”.

So what’s a community to do?

The answer is easy.

It’s the execution that’s more difficult.

The good thing about the CP community is that all its members are used to difficult. It’s practically in our DNA.

The solution?

Be the loudest group.

However, it’s not a “he who yells loudest wins” situation (although that would make things slightly easier).

The CP community needs to be the loudest but it also needs to be the smartest (as well as the stubbornest).

The odds are stacked against the CP community. They always have been, and for way too long.

I think Kermit the Frog said it best, “It’s not easy being green.”

*A similar version of this post was written on March 26, 2014, March 17, 2015, March 17, 2016, March 17, 2017

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.

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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.

Normal Is Nice

Fall means a season of follow ups, and usually a mix of emotions.

The emotions are still there, but I’ll get to that later, or not.

The follow ups are still there, and they will be for the foreseeable future, but they’re different.

I was sitting in an exam room waiting, actually I was staring at the sink, when I thought of a poem.

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Yes, I was waiting a long time. Yes, I do get philosophical the longer I wait.

I remembered waiting to be told I had healed enough that I could stand up, and then feeling pain shoot up my legs as they took on my body weight. It was pain, the very reason why I put myself though all of this, but it was different pain, and I was happy about it.

As the weeks of rehab turned into months my feelings towards standing went from happiness to anger, as happened in every stage of my recovery process.

Every follow up I’d wait, and wish someone would find something that would make me better, a more improved version, faster.

That never happened, at least not yet. And no one ever declared me “recovered,” not officially, that came with some self-acceptance.

I sat in the exam room, again, but with a different expectation.

The expectation of normal.

“Normal is nice,” I kept thinking.

And it was, the follow up went as I expected, and I wasn’t upset or overly happy over it.

It was normal, and it felt nice, to be OK with this (not so) new phase of my life.

Regardless of how you feel about standing, normal is a nice place to be.

Defining normal, that’s the hard part.

Learning To Repeat

My hand touches the wall for what feels like the 100th time. This time I got it right.

Then I hear a voice behind me, telling me what I’ve done wrong, well more specifically, what I could have done better.

I’m disappointed, but only for a second or two, because this is why I’m here.

Doing something once is easy, repeating it is the hard part, I remind myself. It’s a piece of advice I was given when I was relearning to walk but it applies here too.

To the untrained eye a swim practice looks like chaos, (and/or completely boring) even though everyone is following a line that runs the length of the pool countless times. It’s for this reason that people think swimming, or more specifically swimmers are insane.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Here’s the thing, the majority of that definition doesn’t apply to swimmers, except maybe the insane part, but that’s not an all the time thing.

People think we’re doing the same thing, over and over expecting the same result.

In reality we’re making (probably small, seemingly unnoticeable) changes to achieve different results.

Then we have to repeat the process.

The hardest part, the repeat.

I’ve done this before, but never swimming, at least not in this way.

Is it frustrating? Yes.

Is it what I want to do? No.

I wish I had a brain that could compute things once and have my body follow, but I don’t have that kind of brain. Not only is it not part of my package, it’s not part of anyone’s package. But that’s not much comfort when your lungs are screaming for air, your muscles are burning, and you still managed to come up short in some way.

I’ve been here before. These feelings are not new. Oddly enough there is some comfort in this, as weird as it seems.

I’m not learning how to deal with new feelings in new situations. That’s a big plus, that my mental energy is pulled in one less direction.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was wondering if I’d ever feel “normal” like I was truly part of a group of people. So, in a way I’m happy to be frustrated because someone noticed that I could be better and wanted to help.

Learning to repeat isn’t easy and it’s not always fun, but when you finally achieve it it’s almost always worth it.

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.

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.

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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 September 28, 2016

“She’s A Really Good Swimmer” Redemption

When I first told you about my time on the swim team, or rather clear lack thereof, I felt like something was missing. Although I made my point, or at least I believe I did, I was left with negative feelings.

I need to make something clear to you.

I know I’m a good swimmer. I haven’t hit the pool in some time & I probably won’t ever be able to call myself an Olympian (or Paralympian). Regardless, I’m a swimmer.

My father is an Eagle Scout & being his only child scouting was a nonnegotiable. A good portion of your camp day involves water safety also known as swim lessons (grouped with the help of the Red Cr0ss). My 2nd year of camp I was in the “swimmers” unit. The unit that got more pool time in order to put on a water show at the end of the session. It was pretty awesome being able to have such likeminded friends. Plus I really progressed as a swimmer

My next year at camp I chose a different unit & was actually pretty excited about it, until the first day of camp came around & all of my friends from my old unit were in another unit, together. I figured I’d get use to it & see them quite frequently, until I found out where our units were located.

The next day I asked to switch units. It was pretty obvious that I wanted to be with my friends. Everyone in the office knew it, including the camp nurse (a friend’s mom) who probably told everyone before I arrived with my request. However, “I want to be with ALL of my friends” does not count as a legitimate reason. So, I came up with another reason.

“The unit I’m in is so far from the flagpole”
(Which is considered the center of camp)

It wasn’t the most far-fetched reason. My unit was in the furthest possible location, from everything. A portion of camp is located on a mountain, which is where my unit was. It wasn’t that bad really. I had been to that unit location before, years before when I was younger than & not as able as I was making my case. But no one who could O.K. my unit switch knew that.

I used my disability to my advantage. I admit it. But it was one of those times when a girl just needs to pull out the heavy artillery.

I moved to my “new” unit the next day.

We weren’t “the swimmers” unit our second year together but we were very much the same unit, except that our assistant leader was now our leader, and we now had an overlook to our old unit location, and there were maybe 3 new girls.

Typically, each year someone attends camp they have the opportunity to take the swim test to move up to the next level. I was “still” at level 3 at the beginning of my third year (I had started at 2, like most). No one had approached me to test at the end of the previous year so I took matters into my own hands & asked to take the level 4 test.

I had even asked my friend, whose mom was the nurse, if she thought I could pass the test, since she was the best swimmer in camp (councilors, lifeguards & her own mother included). I knew I could pass the test, but assurance is always nice. I was so sure I would pass I threw my swim cap into the trash. I was getting that yellow cap.

The next day I jumped in the pool with the level 4 group. Something just didn’t feel right to me, but I gave it my all hoping what I was feeling didn’t show.

It turned out the night before they changed the chemicals they used to treat the pool and I had a small leak in my goggles, which didn’t help matters.

I was handed a new white cap and told to go back to the level 3 group the next day; on top of an eye infection that developed the next day from the change in chlorine.

It felt like the first day of camp all over again, the day everyone gets checked for lice.

I didn’t understand it. I was ready. I was willing to work hard. Most importantly, I was able.

The only comfort I had in this situation, if you can call it that, was that my friends felt the same way. They knew I didn’t belong where I was. In fact they encouraged me to ask to take the test again at the end of camp, if I wasn’t offered the opportunity.

During the last days of camp, it was announced that there would be camp Olympics (since it was an Olympic year) and many events were to take place at the pool. The former “swimmers” unit was ready for it all.

Someone suggested I be on the relay team.

Me? The girl who less than 2 weeks before failed her swim test. Swim the relay?

I (unknowingly) achieved the dream for every special needs/disability parent out there.

”Her first year of swim team, I think she was an inspiration to her teammates. The past two years, though – and especially this year – I think she’s just another kid to most of them”

I agreed, and swam the first leg. I didn’t want to be the reason for our unit to lose. I’m also no idiot. Everyone knows swimming the anchor leg is an honor, one reserved for your best swimmer.

We weren’t the runaway winners at the “swimlympics” that year, but we put on a good fight when we needed to. I don’t even remember how we placed. What I do remember was that we had the best show of unit pride and teamwork at the pool.

I never officially “made” the swim team (or officially got that yellow cap) but the Pips girls were my team when I needed one.

(I still wish I could make that coach eat his words though)

*A similar version of this post was written on August 28, 2012