And God Laughs
I told God my plans and He laughed. So now I am living, laughing, and loving according to His Plans.

The tags that rub

2:11 PM





As a small child I was hypersensitive to the tags in my clothing. My mother had to painstakingly remove every last reminant of any tag from every single item of clothing before I would agree to wear it. I would hear her grumbling as she picked at seams with sewing scissors after every back to school shopping excursion. But those tags in something new were intolerable to me, I could continually feel them grating against my fragile skin and what to many would be a light touch was magnified to torture. Yet in old hand-me-down clothes that had been through the washer countless times and the tags had been softened with age I did not demand that every tag be removed because they had been softened with time. They were tolerable because they were in something broken in, something that had taken the abuse of the world and worn away the hard edges. It took time for the raw scraping to transfer to a soft and gentle touch; time and wear and use.

I realize after reading comments to my last post that it may come across that I have a huge chip on my shoulder or extremely high expectations when it comes to how others act towards me in relation to my disability. Using a wheelchair, using leg braces, not being able to walk independently - those are all brand new tags in my life. After two years they are not as intolerable as they were in the beginning but they are still no where near as soft and flexible and gentle as the other tags in my life that I have lived with for so much longer. I admit that it stings more when I feel someone react to my using a wheelchair because that tag is still grating on me. I use humor as a huge coping mechanism, and that is why I frequently just laugh at the situations that feel awkward or out of place. I also know that because these tags are not worn soft with time, I need to keep in my heart and mind the fact that most people have good intentions and just generally have limited experience with individuals with different abilities.

But I do also hold society to a high standard, because if we do not have high expectations than nothing will ever change. I will gladly educate and advocate. The inclusion of individuals with disabilities in our mainstream society has come so far, but has so very far to go. Ignorance is not an excuse, as it was not an excuse during the Civil Rights movement, but an opportunity to educate. Sometimes I need to remember that it is an opportunity to educate and ignore the rubbing of the tags. Ignorance is a tag that rubs raw, but it is one that is only softened by education and by teaching those who "don't know any better". It is showing the world what it means, and does not mean, to have a disability. It is working to create a world where having a disability is not equal to having a handicap*.

I hope this post makes sense. I tried so hard to explain what is on my heart in a manner that would be easier to understand.

* A disability is a difference of abilities as compared to a norm. A handicap is when a difference prevents the individual from being able to engage in a desired aspect of society. So it is possible to have a disability but not a handicap, and technically to have a handicap without a disabilty. In the game of wheelchair basketball, being ambulatory is a handicap because you are not used to using a wheelchair and you will struggle to keep up and not end up as roadkill.
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And The Children Shall Lead Them

1:36 AM





I was waiting in line to pay a small fortune for my new KAFO leg braces when I felt a small hand pulling inquisitively at my wheelchair. Before I could turn around, a horrified sounding adult snatched the wee little hand away and admonished loudly "Avery, NO! Don't touch that!" Personally I like it when children are inquisitive about my wheelchair and braces and assorted accessories, so I was a little taken by surprise by the harshness of the mother's reaction. I turned slowly around and caught the deep brown eyes of a child no more than two caught between wide eyed wonder and confusion.

With a truly joyful smile on my face I stared at his Tom Sawyer imp of a face and introduced myself with a resounding "Hi!"
My greeting was returned with a bubbling "hi" and then he decided to get brave. Pointing to my wheelchair he asked "Wheels?!?"
"Yes, my chair has wheels on it. The wheels help me go." I then proceeded to do a few basic maneuvers like a spin and a back tilt much to the delight of Avery.
"Chair has wheels!!!"
"Yes, like a bicycle has wheels."
"Chair has wheels. Bicycle has wheels. Go wheels!"

At that point Avery had decided that this whole wheelchair thing was pretty darn cool and had firmly attached himself to the side of my chair just in case I tried to escape without allowing him a test drive. He was so firmly attached that when the office staff offered him a piece of candy from the creepy germ ridden community candy bowl, they asked me for permission instead of his mother. I quickly cleared up the fact that he did not belong to me, even when he opened his mouth wide to show me the partitally chewed orange pumpkin candy to show me that he had "candy" then "'unkin candy".

By the time Avery left, he had thoroughly explored my wheelchair and asked all of the pertinent questions in his two year old mind. I was no longer a "do not touch" but instead a person with a really cool way to get around. He was fascinated by my wheelchair, but once he got his questions answered and figured it out to his satisfaction he was over it (other than really wanting a test drive) and on to talking about more important things like the pumpkin candies he managed to cute his way into and his new shoes. There was no reason in his mind that my using a wheelchair was abnormal - his mother came close to teaching him that lesson, teaching him a fear of those with differences, fostering a sense of prejudice and discrimination that does not naturally exist in children. I love the way children react to my wheelchair, their honesty and their directness. I love how they get to the point, ask their questions, figure out how it works, and then it just becomes a part of their norm for the person and they go on to other more important things.

In the same arena, my six year old niece also amazes me with her total acceptance and the way she interacts with the fact that I am now using a wheelchair. She asks the most amazing, direct and unfiltered questions and I love her raw honesty and desire to learn, to know, to comprehend. She also really enjoys exploring my wheelchair and figurng out how it all works. We still hang out and play together, and I am still her silly Aunt and she is still my Little Bit. When we are out somewhere she tries so hard to be my helper by pushing my chair or by making sure that people get out of my way, but she also loves when I go downhll and we can race one another. In her drawings of me now my wheelchair is always included just as a part of who I am, and this complete acceptance is amazing to me.

These kids are especially amazing because so many adults can not get beyond the wheelchair to see the person that I am, to recognize that there is more than a disability sitting there. Children do not learn to pity those who have disabilities until they are taught to do so, they do not see a "no touch" sign until it is placed for them, they do not fear differences until someone makes them fearful.

**Photo is of the most amazing almost eight year old boy I have ever had the honor of knowing, one who taught me more than I could have ever taught him.
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Warning: Exposure to Stupidity May Cause Toxic Side Effects

1:19 AM





I couldn't sleep - probably something to do with the two, 2.5 hour naps I took today- so I decided to do a round up of some of the best of human stupidity that I have encountered recently.

*********************************************
At the Target Pharmacy counter a woman has spread a dress in a dry cleaning bag, a Victoria Secret bag, a Bath and Body works bag, and her purse. I am waiting patiently behind her to pick up my prescriptions as she pays for her meds and gathers up her stuff. Then we have the following conversation:

Her: Oh, I am so sorry, I am completely in your way!
Me: Don't worry about it. I am usually the one getting in other people's way, its a gift, so I totally understand.
Her: Oh yeah, because of your wheelchair.

Excuse me? Does she want some Ketchup to go on that foot sandwich? Did she just tell me that I get in the way because of my wheelchair?

*******************************************
I called the local bus company to schedule a special handicap accessible bus for direct transportation.

Bus Operator: Are you in a wheelchair?
Me: Yes, I use a wheelchair.
Bus Operator: Do you have a disability?
Me: Nope, the wheelchair is just a fashion accessory.

********************************************

I had to complete a urine analysis for a bladder infection that is refusing to die. After giving me the very familiar cup to pee in, I had the weirdest exchange with the lab technician.

Tech "Okay so how do you want me to help you?"
Me "Uh, thanks but this is definitely a one person job. I have it under control."

*******************************************

Riding on the bus I had noticed an older woman staring at me, but I figured if she had nothing better to do with her time then she was welcome to stare. My legs were hurting after having been strapped in for a few hours, so I leaned down and unbuckled my foot restraints (I am not wearing braces at this time as they are in the process of being made) and allowed my feet to rotate into their natural position. As my legs and feet moved I heard a gasp from the old woman and looked over to see her turning eight shades of white. Apparently she had assumed my legs did not move and so when they moved it startled her meddling little heart half to death.

*******************************************

Again on the bus, I had the following exchange with the driver.

Driver: "You, the wheelchair, where are you going?"
Me: "You, the legs and loafers, I am going to X."

********************************************

These are just the highlights that I can remember. It is a dangerous world out there, and apparently I bring out the stupid in people. :)
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A Time to Mourn

10:08 PM

This time of year seems to be a very melancholy, introspective one for me. Last year I thought it was because it was full of all of the first "last times" - a year since I taught my kids, a year since I got sick, a year since I was able to hike, a year since I walked independently, a year since I became dependent on a wheelchair, a year since I lost so much. Apparently those anniversaries are just as powerful the second year as the first because I started to get into a funk as October began, and it was the beginning of October when I really started getting sick two years ago. I feel the old emotions creeping back in - the frustration, the anger at my body for betraying me when I had everything I had ever wanted in life (a job teaching special education, awesome friends, and was ironically the healthiest I had ever been before this happened with hiking and teaching all day and doing yoga), the aching longing to have all of the unanswered questions answered and to give this monster a name so I can call it out into the light, the grief for what I lost. Now it sounds like I am sitting around feeling sorry for myself and that is absolutely not the case, but when I least expect it I find these old feelings creeping around again when I thought they were long gone. I guess there is a season to everything and this is my season to mourn. Soon enough it will be my season to dance and celebrate and be joyful. Even in the mourning I am thankful, for in order to feel loss I had to have had some incredible experiences and opportunities and I am forever thankful for them and for the life I have been given. Considering I was never supposed to live beyond my first birthday, every day is borrowed bonus time.
I have another entry that I want to write soon, but this is what came out when I sat down to type so I am going to go with it for tonight and save the other for another day this week. This is more real to what I am experiencing now, a real image of the fact that there are still seasons of mourning two years out and probably ten or twenty years out just as there are seasons of celebration and seasons of joy and season of dancing.

* photo courtesy of iStock Photo
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Job 8:21

"He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy."



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Wild Olive

Wild Olive

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Creative Victory

This is Me

I am a thirty year old enigma who has defied every expectation ever placed upon me and refused every definition created for me. My greatest passion in life is to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs and their families. As a special education teacher I broke all of the unwritten rules to make sure that my kids received the services they needed and had a right to receive. I have never been so proud to be reprimanded before in my life. Now, due to unpredictable twists in life, I am learning first hand what life is like when you rely upon a wheelchair for mobility. I am a medical puzzle with the pieces slowly being identified and put together, and my medical bills alone could fund a small nation. It takes a village to keep me alive. :) However, I am not defined by the genetic misspellings. I am a teacher, a daughter, an aunt, a friend, a dreamer, a reader, an amateur photographer, a writer, an advocate, a star gazer, a world changer. I am stubborn, situationally shy, quick to use humor and wit to make others laugh or cope with a situation, sarcastic, fiercely independent, giving, compassionate (sometimes to a fault), protective of those I love, defiant of arbitrary boundaries, perfectionistic, self conscious, self assured (yes you can be both!), articulate and occasionally dramatic. And that is just what I could fit in two sentences! :)

Who's On First, What's On Second, I Don't Know! (Third Base!!)*

Simple Vocabulary Definitions for those who may not speak fluent medical :)

Undiagnosed Progressive Neurological Disorder- This is the diagnosis that is believed to make everything else fit together. It explains my frequent infections, my muscle weakness and dystonia, my dysautonomia, my cardiac issues, my inability to regulate blood pressure, my dysphagia, my ataxia, my severe fatigue, my extreme nausea, my gastrointestinal dysmotility and IBS like syndrome, my unbelievable migraines, my sensory changes in my arms and legs, my vision issues, my hearing loss (so much for blaming medication), and so much more. Going back to infancy and childhood, this would explain the severe apnea, the significantly delayed motor skills, the reason why I could never keep up with my peers in physical activities, the neurogenic bladder, the malfunctioning thyroid, and my frequent illnesses and vomiting. This is the diagnosis now being used since the DNA testing for Mitochondrial Disease came back odd and I can not afford the expenses of a workup at the Mayo Clinic. We are treating symptomatically.

Pan-Dysautonomia- "Pan" means that it impacts many different systems of my body, "dysautonomia" is a failure of my autonomic nervous system or the part of my brain that does all of the automatic things that do not require conscious thought like telling your heart to beat, regulating your blood pressure, adjusting your body temperature, maintaining balance in space, digesting food, hunger and thirst, etc. It is believed that I have had this from birth based upon my history of symptoms, including severe life threatening apnea as an infant, but the cause remains elusive at this time

Dystonia- abnormal muscle tone and spasticity, including painful spasms, that primarily impacts my feet and lower legs and is now starting to be a problem in my back

Ataxia- difficulty maintaining balance and coordinating/executing movements

Dysphagia- difficulty swallowing due to any number of causes including muscle weakness and poor muscle coordination

Adipsia- the absence of a sense of thirst



Other Medical Issues- Lupus Anticoagulant (autoimmune disease that causes me to tend to form blood clots and has already caused two deep vein blood clots and one mild stroke), Migraines, unknown connective tissue disorder, abnormal gastric motility, allergies, history of v-tach and severe sinus tachycardia, changes to my echocardiagram that include leaking valves and a new murmur, low blood pressure, ataxia, untreated PFO (small hole in my heart that increases the risk of stroke), chronic lymphadema in my left arm, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Narcolepsy/Idiopathic CNS Hypersomnolance (believed to be a result of the dysautonomia and my brain's inability to regulate the sleep/wake cycle), mild hearing loss, malformed optic nerves, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pernicious anemia, vitamin deficiencies


* Title comes from an old Abbot and Costello routine that I chose to memorize in 6th grade and absolutely love.
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