Fili-busted.

Generally speaking, I do not follow politics. Besides a few issues that are important to our family, I just don’t keep up on them. I’m busy keeping up with Dora the Explorer, how I’m going to handle a baby from a wheelchair, and the drama of second grade. If I need to know something, I call my politically savvy cousin, Shekinah. I don’t know who my state governor or Senators are (Shekinah is probably having a heart attack now), and I usually don’t know what we’re voting on until I get the ballot in the mail. I vote, and I have a good understanding of our political system due to paying attention in class, but that’s as far as it goes.

But something came to my attention the other day. As most of us have heard, Wendy Davis of Texas, recently turned to filibustering as a way of stopping a law from passing.  Now, to be honest, when I first heard about Ms. Davis, I did not know what filibustering was. So I researched it and read about it. Even then, I wasn’t sure I had it right. From what I understood, filibustering is when you take the floor and just talk. For hours on end, without stopping, as a way to stall the political process, to stop a law from passing that you do not agree with. That couldn’t be right. Permitted, recognized stalling? In the government? That’s something akin to a 6 year old distracting his parents so his friend can sneak a frog in the back door. So I called Shekinah, and I had understood correctly. Filibustering is a grown up term for stalling.

*For the record, Shekinah believes that filibusters can be a useful tool when used correctly and when necessary, and I agree with her.

The issue at hand was abortion. For the record I do not agree with abortion, and therefore do not agree with Wendy Davis, but if we look past our disagreement, there is another issue at hand.

Ms. Davis’ filibuster was objected when another senator helped her with a back brace.

Filibustering has strict rules. The rules vary for each of the 13 states that allow filibusters, but they are similar. In the state of Texas, the rules are that the senator has to stay on topic, and is not allowed to eat, drink, use the restroom, or sit or lean on a desk or chair.

“During a filibuster, a senator is limited to topics relevant to the bill being discussed and cannot eat, drink or use the restroom during the speech. The rules also prohibit sitting or leaning on a desk or chair under any circumstances when the senator has the floor and is speaking on the bill or resolution.”

Read more at the Hays Free Press http://haysfreepress.com/2013/06/26/what-are-the-rules-of-a-filibuster/#ixzz2XWbecpJ6

There are multiple things that I find wrong with these rules. And it’s not just a matter of my personal opinion; I believe they are unconstitutional. Specifically the phrase “under any circumstances”.  To start with, they don’t comply with the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, which states:

“The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It also mandates the establishment of TDD/telephone relay services.”

http://www.ada.gov/2010_regs.htm

From reading these rules of filibustering, you cannot do it from a wheelchair. If you are not able to stand for hours on end, your attempt will be unsuccessful. As of now, I don’t know of any disabled senators, but that doesn’t mean there will never be one. And we can’t wait until there is one to change this rule. If a disabled senator wanted to exercise their right to filibuster, they would have to wait for the rules to be changed. That would most likely make it too late for the Senator to filibuster the issue at hand.

I believe those are reasonable guidelines for a perfectly able bodied person. But let’s set disability aside. What about a senator with a back problem? Or a knee problem? I’m sure there are a few senators with those. It is unfair and unconstitutional that they would not have the same opportunity. Add on someone with diabetes or hypoglycemia, who can’t go many hours without eating, and I bet we’ve covered 30 percent of the senate. Not to mention the possibility of someone who has bladder or bowel problems, that isn’t able to wait to use the restroom.

I’m not saying that those rules should be done away with completely. I can see why they are a necessary element of the filibuster. What I am saying is that they should be reasonably flexible. Just as any employer would be required to make reasonable accommodations in order for me to work, the senate should be required to make reasonable accommodations to allow a senator with a medical problem to filibuster. “Under any circumstances” should not be a part of those rules.

These rules should be changed to support equality. No person’s lack of physical ability should keep them from taking part in the political process. From being allowed to fight for their beliefs. In a country where we boast about our freedom and equality, “under any circumstances” should not be a phrase found in our government policies referring to physical ability.

These are the thirteen states that currently allow filibusters:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Maine
  • Nebraska
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont

If you were a senator in one of these states, would you be physically able to filibuster under those rules?

As Shekinah would say: Quick! Call your senators!

Filibustering is a common practice at our house, too.

Filibustering is a common practice at our house, too.

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“You know what you do?…You don’t feel bad about it.”

I met someone yesterday that I think may have changed my life with something she said, and she probably doesn’t even know it.

Yesterday my community group (like a bible study group) hosted a barbeque in the park. I almost didn’t go, but since we were doing it to reach out to the community and as an act of kindness, I decided to go. After we arrived, a family arrived that I hadn’t met before. They had seven(!) kids, and one of them was using a wheelchair.

I told her that I liked her chair, and that it looked a lot like mine. I wasn’t using my chair, even though I really needed to, because I haven’t figured out the art of baby chasing from a wheelchair (another post for another time).

The way she sat and her shorter stature made me wonder if she had Spina Bifida, so I asked her mom when she was off playing with the other kids. She does have Spina Bifida, which as I’ve mentioned, one of my best friends, Kate, has, so we got to talking.

One of her friends adopted a child that has CP, so she was asking some questions about it, because her friend is looking for information. It came up that one of the biggest challenges I face is cooking.

I can’t stand in the kitchen long enough to make a meal. I’ve tried bringing my wheelchair in to do it, but the counters and stove are right at eye-level from my chair. Also, it’s hard to get around in the tight quarters in a wheelchair. I’ve tried using a barstool, but that doesn’t work, because you have to move all around the kitchen to cook. What doesn’t help is that I don’t particularly like cooking, so it’s already not enjoyable.

I tend to force myself to try to cook to save money. Eating out is expensive, and my husband, who is a cook, doesn’t wasn’t to come home from work and cook some more. The money thing has never really bothered him, so he doesn’t mind eating out. But our family doesn’t have a lot of extra money, so I feel that I need to save wherever I can.

Also, he is from Mexico, where they don’t eat cereal or a sandwich as a meal, so while my daughter and I are fine with eating just that, he is not. And since in Mexico the women tend to spend a lot of their time cooking awesome food, I somehow feel like I’m not as good of a wife for not doing it.

I know this is ridiculous, especially since he has in no way ever made me feel that way, but like I’ve said, sometimes I’m pretty hard on myself.

Recently, I had an opportunity to save money and have some easy, home-made frozen meals on hand, but it meant I would have to cook 2 meals, and make enough food for about 40 people each meal.

I was reluctant to participate. I can barely cook dinner for my own family; why would I want to try doing it for 40 people? Twice? One of the girls offered to help me, but me cooking usually ends in tears, so I declined her help. Plus, I didn’t see much point in me sitting and directing her on what to do.

I liked the idea of saving money and having meals ready to heat. Being a health nut, I’d rather have home-cooked meals available than fast food anyway. My husband offered to help, so I decided to give it a shot. He did the shopping and came home, but within 10 minutes of cooking I was in tears. When I thought of how much I still needed to do, that brought on more tears. He was sweet and brought me some medicine and my wheelchair, and a coke and chocolate (that always calms me down). Somehow we finished it all, but I was in a lot of pain, and I will NOT be doing that again. Well, never say never; perhaps the trick is to not do it all in one day. It was a busy week, so it just worked out that way.

We were supposed to meet to deliver the meals and play some games that night. After cooking, I took a shower (another painful task) and got into my sweats. I really wasn’t feeling well, and I didn’t want to go. I changed my mind at the last minute, so we all went. I still was in a lot of pain, so we left early. While we were leaving, someone said “Thanks for toughing it out, I know it’s frustrating.”

That comment kind of got to me. ‘Frustrating’ is not the right word. I felt that ‘frustrating’ would imply that I simply did not want to do it because it is complicated. ‘Frustrating’ sounds like I simply chose not to be lazy. In cases like this, I wish pain was visible. I wish they could see it and know. Because I chose to dry my tears and have a smile on my face when we arrived.

I am in pain all the time. Sometimes severe, sometimes not, but all the time. But I generally keep it to myself. I don’t go around with a frown on my face, or complain about it all the time. That’s just my choice. The truth is that I have a lot to smile and be happy about, and I think those things are more important. But sometimes I think my smile makes my pain seem less real to those around me. Some tend to think I’m making excuses or being lazy, or that when my family helps me with something, they are babying me.

I have always done as much as I can for myself. I have always pushed myself to be as independent as I can be. But I do have limits, and I know what they are. I can’t do as much physically as other people. So what is frustrating is when other people question those limits. When they assume I am simply not trying.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind when people ask if I can do something. I would much rather they ask than assume that I cannot. What bothers me is when I tell them I can’t, but they want me to do it anyway. When they imply that if I would just put in some effort, I could do it. Kate had a similar incident on the same weekend, and I doubt we are alone in this.

Okay, enough with my rant and tangent. The person didn’t mean it that way, cooking is just a sensitive subject for me.

So, back to the park. I was telling my new friend about how cooking is a difficulty for me, and she was totally understanding why; a reaction that I usually don’t get. You know what she said? She said “You know what you do? You eat out, and don’t feel bad about it.”

Wow. So simple, so silly, but in my world, so profound. I’ve never had anyone really understand before. Nobody ever just give me permission to spend the extra money on something that’s considered a luxury because, well, that’s what I need to do.

So from now on, I’m going to do what I need to do. I’m going to eat out when I the pain is too much to stand, and I’m not going to feel bad about it. I’m going to listen to my body, and not force it to stand. I’m going to use my chair when I need to, baby and all. The more I force myself now, the less I’ll be able to use my legs later. So I’m going to take care of myself, and not let other people be my guide. I’m going to do my best, and let God do the rest.

So thank you new friend, for giving me permission. Something that I didn’t know I needed, but it has kind of set me free.

Sometimes when daddy's at work, we have cereal for dinner. But we like it that way.

Sometimes when daddy’s at work, we have cereal for dinner. But we like it that way.

The Liebster Award

I was nominated for another award! Maria at Creative Ability nominated me for the Liebster Award. I’m touched that you thought of me Maria, thank you!

Blonde Ambition: My Liebster Award

Again, there are some rules I have to follow with this nomination.

These are the rules:

1. When you receive the award, thank the person that gave it to you and post a link to their blog in

your post. (Done!)

2. Post 11 random facts about yourself.

3. Answer the 11 questions set for you.

4. Choose 11 blogs that inspire you with under 200 followers and link their pages to your post.

5. Create 11 questions for them.

6. Go to your nominees page and let them know you have nominated them.

11 random facts

  1. I speak fluent Spanish.
  2. I love live music, and I have music playing almost 24/7.
  3. I read a lot, but not fiction.
  4. My dream job would be DJing or playing music.
  5. I love summer, I hate winter.
  6. I love the rain, especially downpours and thunderstorms.
  7. My favorite place to be is on my couch with my family.
  8. I see my disability as an opportunity (usually).
  9. But I hate wearing braces and using a wheelchair. I feel confined.
  10. I’d rather wear jeans, a tank top, and a pair of Converse than, well, anything else.
  11. I had a really hard time coming up with 11 random facts.

1. What are your hobbies? Playing the keyboard, learning to DJ, reading, blogging, interior decorating.

2. What’s your favorite TV show? I don’t watch much TV, but I do like to watch new episodes of Switched At Birth. I think it’s awesome that they’re spreading awareness of the deaf community, and now about the troubles of vets returning from war. My brother is an Iraq vet, so it hits close to home.

3. Name something you look forward to each day. My kids waking up. Lest I sound too sappy, I also look forward to them going to sleep.

4. Who’s your real-life hero? My two best friends. They’re amazing. Always there when I need them, and always on my side.

5. What’s your favorite comfort food? Dark chocolate and a coke.

6. What’s your favorite movie? Save the last dance. I can’t dance like that, but I wish I could.

7. What/Who makes you giggle? My kids. They’re so cute!

8. Name something that annoys you. Laziness. This probably isn’t a good attitude, but I’m known for saying “If my handicapped butt can do it, then so can you.”

9. What’s your favorite summer-time activity? Swimming!

10. What is the last good deed you have done? Does teaching kids’ church count? Oh, in the drive thru at Starbucks I paid the tab for the car behind me. I think Random Acts of Kindness are really cool. I aim to do one a day… but I usually forget.

11. What’s your best personal trait? Ummm hold on let me ask someone. Ok my husband says that I’m very kind. Awwww.

11 Questions for my nominees

1. Why do you blog?

2. What are your challenges with blogging?

3. What is your biggest inspiration?

4. When was your last Random Act of Kindness?

5. What is your dream career?

6. What’s a cause that’s important to you?

7. Your favorite quote?

8. A quote you are known for saying?

9. Sneakers or something fancy?

10. Favorite store?

11. Favorite activity?

My nominees

Nicola at View From a Walking Frame

Christin at 365 Days of Thanks

Transforming Everything

D.B. Clark at Just Rollin’ On

It’s only four; I had a few more, but then I realized they had more than 200 followers…

Ready nominees?

Aaaaand go!

The Super Sweet Blog Award

Guess what?!

My blog has been nominated for The Super Sweet Blog Award! Nicolanoo over at View From A Walking Frame nominated me. Wasn’t that sweet of her? I’ve only been blogging for about six months, so I don’t really know how these awards work. I think it’s mostly to say “Kuddos”, and maybe a sticker on your home page. Anyone who knows more, feel free to enlighten me 🙂

So, with the nomination, there are some rules I have to follow.

RULES

Thank the Super Sweet BLOGGER that nominated you. (Done!)

Answer 5 Super Sweet questions.

Include the Super Sweet Blogging Award in your blog post.

Nominate your nominees on their blog.

THE 5 SWEET QUESTIONS

(Please all nominees answer the same questions)

  1. Cookies or Cake? – No preference on this one. As long as I have a cup of milk or coffee. But I do love chocolate frosting.
  2. Chocolate or Vanilla? – CHOCOLATE. I’m an addict. It’s a problem. But I prefer dark chocolate, so it’s healthy, right?
  3. Favourite Sweet Treat? – Iced coconut mocha from Starbucks. Perfection in a cup.
  4. Sweet Nickname – Ali is my nickname… but I don’t know if it’s sweet. Ashmo is probably my favorite though, bestowed upon me by my best friend’s dad.

I am supposed to nominate others as well, so here are my nominees:

AF at Adventure of Yasin – Her stories and feelings about her little brother with cerebral palsy are enough to make you tear up.

Maria at Creative Ability – Maria and I have a lot in common. It’s always nice to find a kindred spirit.

Mom from Living With Superman – Her family is so sweet, and her little boy will be getting stem cell therapy soon. I am excited to see how it helps his symptoms!

Lorna at Gin and Lemonade – She is funny and sweet… and getting married soon!

Since I’m new to blogging and technologically impaired, I could only think of four that hadn’t already been nominated. A cool thing about these nominations is that you get to see who else got nominated, so you are introduced to a bunch of new people and their blogs.

Check out my nominees!

Discrimination

When I was a kid, I had a whole list of things I was sure I wouldn’t have to deal with when I was FINALLY a grown-up. Little did I realize, becoming a grown-up didn’t mean you could make your problems go away, and sometimes, adults act just as badly as children.

Among this list of problems was the issue of discrimination. I’m not talking about open discrimination that says you can’t play on the baseball team or work for our company because you’re handicapped. I’m talking about the kind of discrimination that there are no laws against. The kind that we think doesn’t exist anymore. The kind that we tell ourselves we would never take part in.

Imagine this: I’m 10 years old and in 5th grade. I recently decided to stop spending time with the new girl from Florida that had befriended me. After chasing her and her new group around the schoolyard because they said they were running from ‘the weird kid’, and trying to convince them to stop, I finally figured out that ‘the weird kid’ was me.

Not wanting to spend recess embarrassed, walking around alone, I decided to befriend a new group of kids. Some girls from my class were sitting in a circle under a tree. I decided to see what they were up to. A few of them glanced at me as I drew near, making worried expressions. Adrienne* walked over to me.

“Tiffany* wants to know what you want.”

“I just wanted to come sit with you guys”

Adrienne runs back to the group, relays the message, and comes back.

“Tiffany said no.”

“Why not?” Thinking: Seriously? They’re sending a messenger before I get too close? Like I’m contagious?

Adrienne relays the question and comes back

“Um, I’m really sorry, but she says it’s because you’re too fat.”

“Well, no offense Adrienne, but, um, you’re bigger than I am, and she’s letting you sit with them.”

“Well really it’s because of the way you walk.”

“So?”

“I gotta go.”

*Names were changed. If my blog ever goes viral, I don’t want to be sued for slander.

That is a true story. I don’t remember really feeling like people saw me differently because of my disability until 4th grade, when Tiffany was in my class. She was the first one to ever really be mean simply because I walked funny. Unfortunately, Tiffany was also in my 5th grade class, and she spread her disdain to other girls in the class. Tiffany did not attend my middle school, but it had plenty of its own girls that would treat me as a lower class.

So, since then, when I meet new people, I have always wondered if they will view me differently because I am disabled. It definitely affects my confidence. And I always thought “Well at least when I’m a grown-up, people won’t treat me differently, because they will know better. And kids will just respect me because I’m a grown-up.

I have found that that is not necessarily true. People still treat me differently. Recently, I went to a party. The only person I knew at the party was the person who invited me. Originally, I wasn’t going to go. I knew I wouldn’t know anyone else there, and I would sit there, bored and alone. But I didn’t want to make that person feel bad, and I thought, just maybe, it would turn out to be a good time.

When I arrived, we chatted for a minute, and then she went to socialize with other people. I sat awkwardly alone for a while, while everyone else was talking and laughing and having a good time. I thought “This is stupid. I’m in a room full of people, and I’m the only one sitting alone.” So I went to the table next to me and said hello, trying to make conversation. Big mistake. One of them responded, while the other two just glared with irritation. After a few sentences, we had pretty much run out of things to say. So I started on a different subject. One of the girls answered the question I asked, and then all of them turned around and started talking about something else. I decided that was my cue to leave, so I thanked the host and left.

These women were at least 30 years old. Too old to be holding on to cliques. And I could be wrong about them not including me because of my disability, but I don’t think so. I have seen it too many times. Too many times have I struggled to prove that I am ‘a normal person’ in order to be included. This is only one example, but there are many more.

I believe that everyone is equal. No matter what your job title or salary. No matter where you come from or your family background. No matter if you’re the President or a drive thru cashier. No matter your abilities or inabilities. No one person is better than another. And you know, God is no respecter of persons. But we, in order to make ourselves feel important, count ourselves better than other people.

Another side to this is when people over-compensate. I’ve noticed that when I go to the store in a wheelchair, a lot of people treat me as a small child. They smile at me like I’m cute and call me sweetie. I prefer this over acting like I have leprosy, but I would really rather be treated like any other adult.

I want to live in a world where it’s not weird to say hello. Where people don’t think talking to me is social suicide because my knees are turned in or I’m in a wheelchair. I don’t want to worry that maybe someday my kids will be excluded because their mom walks funny and wears braces.

In this case, I don’t want my disability to change, I want the world’s view on people with disabilities to change. I would love to see a day when whether or not you can walk is as unimportant as the color of your hair.

Recently, a fellow blogger wrote a beautiful post, asking her little brother’s potential teacher if she would be able to see past his disability. Be able to see him for the beautiful person that she knew him to be. Read the full post here

I’m not writing this post to get sympathy or throw a fit. I’m writing this post as a challenge to all of us. A challenge to treat people as you would want to be treated. To see people in wheelchairs or with walkers just as you would see them if they could walk like anybody else. To recognize that people who walk differently or talk differently or have Down’s syndrome or autism are regular people on the inside, even if they appear differently on the outside. Even take it one step further and realize that someday, it could be you in that wheelchair. If it was you, would you want people to treat you differently than they do now?

So I challenge you to take a stand for equality. To decide that no matter what your friends think, you will be all-inclusive. Because equality is there whether we choose to recognize it or not.

5th grade

5th grade

Yep, someone actually said that.

The other day, my cousin, Shekinah, shared an article where people of different races share the inconsiderate things people have said to them or asked them about their race. Having the name that she has, and being Caucasian, people have said some bizarre things to her, and how her name ‘doesn’t match her ethnicity’. My husband, kids and I being a biracial family, people have said some pretty crazy things to us too.

But what really came to my mind were the memories of the crazy things people have said to me regarding my disability. So I figured I’d share them with you and we can all have a laugh.

I’ve divided the outrageous statements, and my reactions to them, into three main categories of who I hear from the most. These are bank customers (from when I worked at the bank), the grocery store, and social gatherings. Ready…. Go!

Bank Customers:

“Why are you hopping around like that?”

After informing him that I always ‘hop around like that’, I excused myself to the restroom.

“Why do you limp? Did you get bit by a dog?”

Seriously wondering what was going through his mind when that was the first conclusion he jumped to.

“Your legs are fake, right?”

Um…

“I saw another girl in a wheelchair the other day. It was kind of strange, because she was pretty like you are.”

Read: It is strange that a girl in a wheelchair would be pretty. Much less two of them.

Um, thanks… I think.

“Tell me the truth. Are you faking the limp to get people to do stuff for you?”

I said yes.

“It sure is nice of them to let you work here.”

Yes, it’s a charity job. I don’t do any actual work.

“Back in my day, you wouldn’t have been allowed to be around the rest of us. You’d have been kept in a special home.”

Well I better thank my lucky stars.

“Where’s the cripple girl that used to work here?”

I didn’t have my wheelchair that day. And yes, he asked me.

Grocery store

“I know a guy that has crooked legs like you. He’s still a good parent, just like you appear to be.”

Because I have defied the odds by having a handicap and being a good parent.

“Do you get good grades? Well, at least you got something going for you”

I was 14. My interpretation? ‘You walk funny and you’re not pretty, but someone will love you for your mind.

“You should probably see a doctor about that. I bet you broke something.”

I laughed out loud. It was a reflex.

“Must be nice to sit down all day.”

He had a cocky tone that implied I was lazy. Oh, if you had any idea…

“You need to make sure you get enough exercise.”

This was said by a complete stranger, who was about 30 pounds overweight. Thanks man, it’s a good thing I have you to keep me on track.

“Wanna race?”

I get that one at least once a month. It’s never as funny as they think it is.

“Do you know you’re in a handicap space?”

I get this almost every time I leave the house. Only occasionally do they actually say it. Usually they just give me dirty looks.

Social Gatherings

“They let you have a driver’s license?”

Read: You are in a wheelchair. You should not drive. It is a danger to society.

“What do you need a car for?”

See above.

“Oh you limp? I hadn’t noticed.”

We had just walked half a mile. This is like starting a conversation with someone of another race by assuring them that you’re not prejudice.

“You have kids? I’m surprised they let you adopt.”

My kids are not adopted.
But I would like to adopt some day. Why the assumption that I could not have kids, and that I should not be allowed to adopt?

I know my friend Kate, who has Spina Bifida, has had similar experiences, so I asked her to share some. To start out with, we’ll never forget the time I was pushing her in her wheelchair through a parking lot, and a lady, who was at least 30 (old enough to know better), was so busy staring at us that she ran straight into a lamp post. We both busted out laughing. We couldn’t help it.

Kate’s response:

20-30 year old guy in a parking lot: “You should let someone who actually needs it use that spot.”

(I wasn’t using my wheelchair.)

Older lady: “Walking is better for you.”

Walking through a parking lot (more than once): “Did you break your leg?”

A few different people: “You can drive?!”

Middle aged man: “Must be great to be lazy.”

Random guy: “You don’t need that.”

(I’m going to assume he meant my chair, but as he just walked away after he said it, I really couldn’t tell you.)

For the record, I ‘m not writing this post because I am angry (though I admit I was irritated by a few of them). I understand that some people were just curious, and did not express themselves correctly. Others were just ignorant and rude.

I choose not to be offended, for the most part. We can take offense at just about anything if we look for it. Personally, that would be a pretty miserable life.

My reason for writing this is so we could all have a good laugh. And maybe to point out that we shouldn’t judge a situation when we don’t know the whole picture. What’s that saying about when we assume? Something about a donkey…

Her response was so funny, I had to share.

Her response was so funny, I had to share.